Healthy Cooking: When life gives you bruised berries, make shortcake

Less sugar and more whole-wheat flour transform strawberry shortcake into a healthy dessert (or breakfast). CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES
Less sugar and more whole-wheat flour transform strawberry shortcake into a healthy dessert (or breakfast). CONTRIBUTED BY KELLIE HYNES

There is little I can do about the chaos in our world. The chaos in my refrigerator, however, is another story. With my Type A personality and too much free time, I organized my ice box until the last sticky jar of maraschino cherries was examined and found unexpired. Satisfying? Incredibly. Tinged with regret? Unfortunately. The exercise revealed a collection of strawberries in varying stages of decomposition. It’s never desirable to waste food, and now it feels downright shameful. I picked through each pint, separating the barely bruised from the fearfully fuzzy, yielding a bowl of berries that required immediate use.

If you, too, find yourself at the frantic end of the fruit timeline, may I suggest making a compote? It’s a fancy phrase for a cooked fruit syrup, and it’s just the thing to stretch the edibility of your produce by a few more days. Simply simmer your berries with a splash of vanilla and a spoonful of honey. The compote will keep in the refrigerator for three days, where it’s ready to be enjoyed over pancakes, yogurt and shortcake.

You can make a quick and easy shortcake from ingredients you keep on hand. To improve the nutrition, I suggest swapping half of the usual white flour with protein- and fiber-rich whole-wheat flour. Yes, the whole-wheat flour makes the shortcake denser, and yes, the easiest leavener, yeast, is currently in short supply. To balance the heft of whole wheat, I add an egg, baking powder and buttermilk. You forgot to lay in a supply of buttermilk? Me too. Instead, I sour regular milk with fresh lemon juice. (Vinegar works, too.) Gently combine the wet and dry ingredients, and press the dough into a cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Twenty minutes later, you have a delicious dessert that is nutritious to boot.

This shortcake easily stretches to 10 servings, which is double the number of folks currently loitering in my house. We saved the leftovers and discovered that it tastes even better the next morning, when the strawberries and melted banana whip had soaked into the shortcake. In an upside-down time, a little dessert for breakfast tastes deliciously sensible.

STRAWBERRY WHOLE-WHEAT SHORTCAKE WITH BANANA WHIP

Strawberry Whole-Wheat Shortcake with Banana Whip
  • 1 pound ripe strawberries, quartered
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey, divided
  • 2 large ripe bananas, sliced into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon 2% milk, divided, plus more for dough, if necessary
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (substitute with white vinegar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 scant cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dough, if necessary
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Place the strawberries, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon honey in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, breaking up the strawberries with a wooden spoon as they cook. Remove from heat and allow the compote to come to room temperature. Can be made in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container for 3 days.
  • Arrange the banana pieces on a plate so they aren’t touching. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine 1/4 cup milk and the lemon juice in a mixing bowl and let it stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in the egg, the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup honey until well blended.
  • Sift the whole-wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers to work the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well and pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Lightly knead the dough with your hands until it just comes together. If the dough feels too dry, add 1 tablespoon milk. If it feels too wet, add 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Do not overmix. Press the dough into a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Bake 17 to 20 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool, then cut into wedges.
  • Place the frozen bananas and 1 tablespoon of milk in a blender. Blend on high until it is the texture of whipped cream. Divide the shortcake and strawberries on plates. Top with banana whip. Serve immediately. Serves 8-10.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 8) 289 calories (percent of calories from fat, 31), 6 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 50 milligrams cholesterol, 267 milligrams sodium.

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