As soon as May arrives, I’m ready for fresh strawberries and this one-of-a-kind dessert. I live in a place where farmers’ markets and local produce stands abound, and I’m giddy with joy when strawberries make their entrance as the days grow warmer.
Of course, in today’s world, you can buy strawberries any time you like from the grocery store. I guess it’s possible that it’s all in my head, but to me strawberries just taste better in-season — especially when they come in those little baskets from a little family-owned or local farm stand.
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My love of strawberries began with my paternal grandmother, Grammy. My grandparents, Pop and Grammy, lived their entire lives in Abbeville, Miss., on Woodson Ridge, in the northern part of the state just outside of Oxford, where Ole Miss University is located. In addition to their farmland, where corn, soybeans and other big crops were grown, Grammy had a tremendous garden near the house. If you asked us grandkids what all she grew, we’d exuberantly say, “Everything!” And we all loved helping her pick fresh produce when we visited.
The taste of her fresh strawberries and the homemade preserves Grammy made from them were both just incredible. I’m grateful I got to experience the magic of growing your own food at such a young age. It’s without a doubt where my love of strawberries began, and I’m certain it’s where my love for fruits and vegetables in general began. Because of being with her in her garden, I was excited to try whatever came out of it, even as a finicky kid. I’m sure it’s also why I appreciate farmers’ markets and local produce as much as I do, and why I believe eating what’s in-season just tastes better.
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Strawberry Delight is my mom’s recipe, but it’s still an homage to Grammy’s strawberries because we would measure all strawberries against the ones from her garden. Mom made this every year as soon as fresh strawberries showed up in the markets, the cold days of winter were behind us and all the flowers were in full bloom. It was her way of declaring, “Winter is over! Hallelujah!”
Though cut and served in squares, this dessert tastes like the freshest, fluffiest strawberry ice cream you’ve ever had but with a pecan shortbread crumb that gives it the perfect little bit of crunch. It’s something you simply cannot get enough of even if you tried. You’ll go back for “just one more bite” until you have to make yourself stop. It’s also really pretty — a stunning shade of pink. I promise you this: Everyone who tries it is going to want the recipe.
Gorgeous, fresh strawberries
You actually don’t have to use fresh strawberries. Frozen work just fine, but if you use frozen, allow time to for them thaw.
You don’t have to use cream, but it’s sublimely, supremely delicious if you do.
When I use “real” dairy, I choose a product that is organic and grass-fed. Even though those words seem new (and some may believe they’re simply a way for companies to charge more), it’s the way dairy used to be done before factory farming was a thing.
I grew up around farms and farm animals, and I saw by example that animals should be treated well. Choosing to buy from commercial dairy companies that care about the welfare and lives of animals is a must for me. And the living conditions for the cows used in organic, grass-fed dairies are substantially better than those living in factory settings.
As an alternative, you can also use coconut whipping cream for this recipe, but it must be cold. You cannot use milk or half-and-half. They just don’t have enough fat.
This recipe calls for both brown and granular sugar. If I’m making this for just my husband and myself, it’s common for me to take the sweetness down a bit as we both enjoy “less sweet” desserts.
For us, I replace all the brown sugar with the brown sugar variety of an erythritol sweetener called Swerve. I replace 1/2 of the granular sugar with “regular” Swerve.
I’m not a fan of anything artificial, but I was introduced to Swerve/erythritol and use it from time to time.
Personal choice on this one, but if you do replace some or all of the sugar, make sure you use a product that has the same bulk as sugar.
For this recipe, you can use regular, all-purpose flour or a gluten-free baking blend. As long as your choice of flour is designed to replace regular flour, it will work just fine.
Recipe: Strawberry Delight Squares
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups sliced strawberries
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the “crumbs”: Mix together the first 4 ingredients and bake in a shallow pan for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle 2/3 of the crumbs into a 13x9x2 casserole dish and set aside the rest.
Whip the cream and fold it into the strawberry mixture. (See Cook’s Notes)
Top with the remaining crumbs.
Freeze a minimum of 6 hours before serving.
1. Making the whipped cream
If you’ve never made homemade whipped cream, it’s easy! Here is how to do it:
Use a deep metal bowl to avoid splatter and make sure your bowl and beaters/whisk attachment are cold. My mom used to set her mixing bowl on a frozen bag of peas when she made whipped cream. I have a stand mixer; so after I use it to make the strawberry “fluff” in this recipe, I clean it, dry it and place it and my whisk attachment in the freezer for a few minutes.
For this recipe, specifically, pour 1 cup of heavy cream into your bowl, start beating on low and gradually the increase speed. In just minutes, the cream will begin to thicken. Beat until fluffy.
For other recipes that call for fresh whipped cream (not this one) you generally add sugar and vanilla. The basic rule for sweet whipped cream is for every 1/4-1/2 cup of cream, add 1 teaspoon of sugar and just a tiny bit of vanilla.
2. “Folding in” the whipped cream
There’s an art to it, but it isn’t at all difficult.
“Folding in,” as opposed to “stirring in,” is a way of maintaining the fluffiness of what you’re making by keeping the air in it.
In the case of this recipe, you have two airy mixtures: the strawberry “fluff” and the whipped cream. Use a rubber spatula to gently scrape whipped cream on top of and into the bowl of strawberry fluff. Then begin incorporating the two by making gentle, circular strokes around the bottom and onto the top. Little by little, this will bring the strawberry mixture on top of the whipped cream, and before long, the two will start become one.
Here’s the trick: Once you have “circle-stirred” for a few minutes, you cut through the center. So, that means rather than scraping down the side of the bowl, you make a cut through the center to make a half-moon stir in between your full-circle stirs. This is what gets your mixture thoroughly mixed without taking out the air.
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