It’s hard for me to accurately describe just how much I love strawberries. They are beautiful to look at, taste fresh, tart and sweet all at the same time, and are incredibly versatile in cooking and baking. If someone were to say they disliked strawberries — and I imagine this strange specie exists — I would look at them with the same incredulity as a person who said they hated chocolate. I mean, how is that even possible? Quite apart from their flavour and appearance, these heart-shaped berries are full of antioxidants and are a great source of vitamin C and manganese. So not only do they taste great, they are also good for you.
One of the things I like to do during strawberry season is buy the berries in big lots, wash them (I mix three parts water with one part white vinegar and soak the berries in the mixture for 20 minutes to remove all the dirt and grime, and then I rinse them well afterwards), hull them and then store them in big Ziploc bags in the freezer. From there I toss them in my cereal, in a pancake mix, in my baked goods and even to make jam. In fact, one of my favourite things to do is to store the strawberries while they are in season and then make jam when they are no longer available; it’s just such a great way to enjoy them well after they are gone from the markets.
There are many flavours that pair well with strawberries and while I do enjoy the chocolate-strawberry combo (a no brainer, right?), there is something quite wonderful about a lemon and strawberry dessert, both flavours complementing each other with their brightness and freshness. Today’s recipe for strawberry-lemon blondies does just that and works equally well with fresh or frozen berries. Just remember that, if you are using frozen berries, use them while they are still frozen (ie do not let them thaw) so that your baked goods don’t end up being overly mushy from all the liquid that is released. These blondies are topped with a simple lemon, strawberry and sugar glaze that really makes them the perfect teatime snack.
These heart-shaped berries are in season so it only makes sense to use them as much as possible
230g butter (at room temperature)
165g caster sugar
55g freshly squeezed lemon juice
305g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
127g fresh or frozen strawberries (diced)
112g icing sugar
1 tablespoon strawberry puree (made using two large strawberries)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Grease a 9x9-inch brownie pan with butter and line the bottom with parchment paper leaving a few inches of overhang on two sides of the pan (this will make it easier to lift the blondies out of the pan when they are done), and pre-heat your oven to 175 degrees C. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the caster sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated, do the same with the lemon juice. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until fully combined. Using a spatula, fold the diced strawberries into the mixture and pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sides are beginning to turn golden brown. A toothpick inserted into the centre of the blondies should be moist but not wet. Remember not to overbake these, otherwise they will become dry and shortbread-like in consistency. Cool the blondies completely in the pan before using the parchment paper overhang to lift them out. Pour the glaze over the blondies, allow it to harden for a few minutes at room temperature, and then cut into pieces.
How to make the glaze: Puree the strawberries for the glaze in a food processor or with an immersion blender and then sieve through a small strainer to get one tablespoon of puree. Whisk the puree with the icing sugar and one tablespoon of the lemon juice to get a nice, pouring consistency and lump free glaze. If the glaze is too thick, add more lemon juice; if it is too thin, you can add more icing sugar.
The writer holds a diploma in pastry from Le Cordon Bleu
Published in Dawn, EOS, March 8th, 2020