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Strawberry Shortcake - dairy-free and vegan

Celebrate spring with a healthier version of classic strawberry shortcake. Use the ripest organic strawberries you can find, local if possible. Make a quick strawberry sauce and spoon it over tender, barely sweet shortcakes. Top with whipped coconut cream and sugar-sprinkled shortcake tops for layers of flavor and texture. You can make 12 servings in just 45 minutes of active time. This strawberry shortcake recipe is  fancy enough for Easter, Mothers' Day, and graduation but easy enough for tea with friends or Sunday dinner.

Vegan strawberry shortcake with whipped coconut cream 

Active time: 45 minutes. Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes. Serves 12. Dairy free and vegan.

1 can full-fat coconut milk, such as Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk
2 cups white whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
4 ounces buttery spread (114 grams), such as Earth Balance Organic Whipped
3 tablespoons chickpea aquafaba, divided
2 pounds fresh strawberries, a little less than 3 pints (900 grams)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Refrigerate coconut milk overnight. The cream will rise to the top and harden so you can scoop it off to make whipped topping. (Once you learn this trick, you may just keep a can of coconut milk in your refrigerator.)
  2. Heat oven to 375°F. Put flour, baking powder, salt, and 4 tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup or 50 grams) in a food processor fitted with a stainless-steel blade. Pulse three or four times to blend. Cut buttery spread into about 8 pieces and put on top of flour mixture. Process until mixture looks like coarse sand, about one minute.
  3. Open can of coconut milk. Scoop solid white cream into a small container, cover, and refrigerate. Put 1/2 cup remaining coconut liquid into a medium bowl. (Use what little coconut liquid remains in curries or smoothies.) Stir in 2 tablespoons aquafaba and then stir in flour mixture just until evenly moist. Stir and handle the dough as little as possible for tender results.
  4. Put a handful of flour on a large clean cutting board or counter top. Put dough on floured surface, flour your hands, and gently knead dough six or so times until it feels and looks like one piece. (If this doesn't seem to make sense, try it and pay close attention to how the dough looks and feels. You're performing baking magic.)

    cutting heart-shaped shortcakes for strawberry shortcake

  5. Set out a cookie sheet, lined with a silicone baking sheet or parchment paper if desired for easier cleanup. Pat dough out into a circle about 10 inches across and 1/2 inch thick. Use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out 12 biscuits, gently gather up scraps and reshaping into a second circle as needed. Form the last bit of scraps into a ball and press to flatten. Don't waste anything.

    sprinkling vegan shortcakes with sugar before baking

  6. Brush tops of biscuits with remaining tablespoon aquafaba and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until tops are golden and cracks appear in sides. When shortbread is done, cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes.

    baked vegan shortcakes are golden brown on cookie sheet after baking

  7. Wash strawberries well. Remove tops and any bad spots. Put half the strawberries in a a blender or food-processor with the stainless-steel blade with 1/4 cup sugar (50 grams). Process briefly to crush. Slice remaining strawberries and stir into crushed strawberries. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Let strawberries soften and get juicy for at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate if you won't be serving within an hour.
  8. Put coconut cream, 1 teaspoon sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip until fluffy using the wire whisk of a stand mixer or the beaters of a hand mixer. Scrape down sides with a spatula as needed.

    Strawberry shortcake with heart-shaped shortcake and whipped coconut cream

  9. Just before serving, use a table knife to cut shortcakes in half horizontally. For each serving, put a shortcake bottom on a small plate or in a small bowl, top with strawberry sauce and whipped coconut cream, and crown with a sugared shortcake top. Keep any extra shortcake in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days or freeze. Refrigerate any extra strawberries for up to 3 days and extra whipped coconut cream for up to 6 days.

Recipe notes

  • Different brands of canned coconut milk have different percentages of cream. I've heard different cans of the same brand may significantly more or less cream. Thai Kitchen has a reliably generous amount of cream. Don't use light coconut milk or boxed coconut drink.
  • Short on time? Skip the kneading and cutting. Just stir dough five or six more times and then drop globs of dough onto the cookie sheets. Rustic and delicious.
  • I keep tinkering with this recipe because it's at the top of the request list every spring. The original inspiration came from my beloved mother-in-law. Get a version close to hers (but with white whole wheat flour) in Wildly Affordable Organic and an early vegan version in Fifty Weeks of Green. Last year's Nearly Naked Strawberry Shortcake updates the Fifty Weeks version.

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