Picking strawberries: an American tradition

IF you could have one culinary wish, would it be to approach a buffet table that featured six or eight strawberry desserts and be expected to sample each one? It might make you feel much like the colonists who wrote, ``We can not sett down foot but tred on strawberries.''

Apparently, there was an abundance of the berries in those early days. William Wood wrote in the ``New England Prospect of 1643'' of ``very large ones, some being two inches about: One may gather half a bushel in an afternoon.''

Americans are still picking strawberries - but for a price - making it a tradition for many families. Young children especially enjoy picking, whether it's wild strawberries or cultivated ones.

To ensure greater success in this tradition, here are some recommendations for the strawberry picking and storing process.

Pick dry, firm berries that are ripe. The largest are not necessarily the sweetest. Avoid berries with large uncolored or seedy areas, indicating poor taste, or those with a dull, shrunken appearance, indicating the start of decay.

Strawberries will keep in the refrigerator three or four days, depending on the initial quality of the berry. Do not clean berries until you're ready to use them. Store them, uncovered, in a shallow container. When you're ready to use them, wash them quickly in cold water, but don't soak them. Strawberry Cream Puffs 3/4 cup whipping cream 1/4 to 1/3 cup sifted confectioners' sugar 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Drop Cream Puff Pastry into 8 equal mounds 3 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 400 degrees F. for 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. Cool away from drafts. Cut top off cream puffs. Pull out and discard soft dough inside. Beat whipping cream until foamy. Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Fold about 3/4 of the sliced strawberries into the whipped cream.

Fill cream puffs with strawberry mixture. Arrange remaining sliced strawberries on top. Replace tops of cream puffs.

Serves 8.

Cream Puff Pastry 2/3 cup water 1/3 cup butter or margarine 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/8 teaspoon salt 3 eggs

Combine water and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Add flour and salt, all at once, stirring vigorously over medium-high heat until mixture leaves sides of pan and forms a smooth ball. Remove from heat. Cool 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon after each addition. Then beat until dough is smooth.

Shape and bake dough as recipe directs. Use at once.

Makes 8 2-inch cream puffs. Strawberry Blitz Kuchen 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup sugar 4 egg yolks, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 cup cake flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 4 egg whites 1 cup sugar Strawberries, crushed 1/2 cup sweetened whipped cream

Cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix in the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, flour, and baking powder.

Batter will be stiff.

Pour into 2 greased and floured layer cake pans. Beat egg whites very stiff, and add the 1 cup sugar. Pour on top of batter in pans.

Bake at 300 degrees F. for 30 minutes. When cool, place one layer with meringue side down.

Cover with crushed strawberries and sweetened whipped cream. Place other layer on top with meringue side up. Chocolate-Strawberry Roll 1/4 cup butter 4 large eggs 3/4 cup sugar 2/3 cup pancake mix 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan, then line with waxed paper.

Reverse the paper, greased side up. Sprinkle with flour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt butter and set aside.

Beat eggs in mixing bowl until light and foamy. Gradually beat in sugar. Combine pancake mix and cocoa.

Fold into eggs alternately with melted butter and vanilla to make batter. Pour batter into pan.

Bake 12 minutes or just until puffed and set. Turn out at once on a towel well sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Remove waxed paper.

Roll cake in towel to cool.

Filling: 3 cups sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping 1 pint whole strawberries, hulled

Unroll cake. Spread with cream, more thickly on one side.

Line berries along one side. Roll up cake, starting with berries.

Place seam side down on tray.

Top with remaining cream and strawberries. Refrigerate on plate until serving time. Magic Strawberry Cake 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced 5 tablespoons fresh orange juice 1 1/4 cups sugar 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup milk 3 tablespoons butter, melted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 9-inch square baking dish. Arrange berries in bottom. Pour orange juice over the top.

Combine 1 cup sugar, flour, milk, butter, baking powder, and salt in large bowl, and blend until smooth.

Spread over strawberries.

Mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Sprinkle over batter. Then carefully pour boiling water over the batter.

Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

Serves 6 to 8. Fresh Strawberry Sour Cream Pie 1 9-inch baked pastry shell 4 cups strawberries, halved 1 1/4 cups sugar 1 cup flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup sour cream 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place berries in pastry shell. Sift together sugar, flour, and salt, and fold into sour cream. Pour over berries.

Sprinkle top with the 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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