Strawberry Cream on Shortbread: crunchy, creamy, (in)credible

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Mousse.

No, not the stuff you put in your hair.

And surely not the large, antlered animal drivers here in northern New England worry about meeting some dark night on the road.

I’m talking mousse, as in chocolate. And strawberry. And “easier than you think.”

About a million years ago, when I was working at The Camden Herald weekly newspaper in midcoast Maine, I used to prepare lunch on deadline day – Wednesday – for my fellow worker bees.

As I recall, I charged folks $2 each for a three-course meal: entrée, bread, and dessert. At that price, I wasn’t making a profit, but neither was I going too far into the hole.

I liked to cook; they liked to eat. Win/win.

Out of that labor of love came a weekly column – “In the Kitchen” – my first foray into food writing, after a decade as a sports reporter.

Some years later, I sent a typewritten letter (yes, young’uns, email hadn’t been invented yet) to my favorite flour company, King Arthur, asking if they needed a writer.

They said, “Sure, come on over.” (Things were more informal then; the company only had 5 employees.) And nearly 22 years later, I’m still here at King Arthur Flour, baking, writing, and absolutely loving connecting with all of you, all over the world.

But back to mousse. “Strawberry Mousse in a Shortbread Crust” was something I made occasionally for those Wednesday lunches. It always met with much rolling of the eyes, and sighs of pleasure.

I’ve since renamed this creamy, strawberry-y confection Strawberry Cream on Shortbread – so as not to scare off the mousse-fearing general public. Still, a mousse by any other name is creamy, rich, and the perfect complement to a buttery, tender/crumbly shortbread crust.

Are you ready for fresh strawberries in your neck of the woods?

Let’s make Strawberry Cream on Shortbread.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ square pan.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

10 tablespoons unsalted butter*, at room temperature
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*If you use salted butter, omit the 1/4 teaspoon salt in the recipe.

A word to the wise, before you start: be sure to measure the flour using the “sprinkle and sweep” method. If you don’t, you’re liable to use too much flour, which will make the crust hard to work with.

Mix the room-temperature butter with the remaining ingredients, beating until cohesive. The mixture will seem very dry at first; it may take up to 3 minutes beating at medium-high speed to bring it together.

If it just won’t come together, drizzle in a bit of milk, a teaspoon at a time, until it does.

Pat the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan. For ease in flattening it out, lay a piece of parchment or plastic wrap over the dough, and press it with the flat bottom of a measuring cup. Or, if you have a small pastry roller, this is the place to use it.

Prick the dough all over with a fork. This will prevent it from developing air bubbles as it bakes.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300°F and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, until golden.

Remove the crust from the oven, and let it cool completely.

Next, the filling. You’ll need a 16-ounce container fresh strawberries (about 4 cups), with additional for garnish, if desired. Feel free to use unsweetened frozen strawberries, thawed, in place of fresh.

Place 1/3 cup cold water in a microwave-safe bowl or very small saucepan. Add two 1/4-ounce packages plain gelatin, stirring to combine; the mixture will become stiff and jelly-like. Heat gently, in the microwave or over a low burner, just until the gelatin dissolves, and the mixture liquefies.

Hull the strawberries, but don’t bother slicing them. Place them in a food processor or blender along with 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3/4 to 1 cup granulated sugar. Add the liquefied gelatin. Process until the berries are puréed.

Why the range of sugar? Because some strawberries are sweeter and tastier than others. Make the berry purée a bit sweeter than you think you should; by the time you add the whipped cream, the filling should be perfectly sweetened.

Refrigerate the purée until it thickens enough to mound on a spoon, about 45 minutes. Stir it every 15 minutes, so it thickens consistently throughout; you want to avoid as much lumpiness as possible.

Whip 2 cups (1 pint, 16 ounces) heavy cream until stiff. Fold in the strawberry purée gently but thoroughly. Spoon the filling over the crust in the pan, smoothing the top.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. For easiest slicing, place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes before serving.

Any way you slice it, though, it’s difficult to get the first piece out intact; that first square is “baker’s treat”!

Serve with fresh sliced berries…

…and/or crushed/sweetened berries.

Want to turn this into a more elegant-looking dinner-party dessert? Bake the crust in a 9″ round springform pan, adding about 5 minutes to the baking time. Fill and finish as directed.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Strawberry Cream on Shortbread.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. "Paul from Ohio"

    OH YEAH – this is a FOR SURE! Strawberry shortcake doesn’t always seem a good option for only two people (as in keeping the shortcake freshy tasting) AND, my mom used to make something like this when I was a kid – oh yeah will be making this soonest as we have good strawberries in our stores now! LOVE IT! Great writing and photos!

    I’m sure you’ll find this quite tasty, Paul – it’s not overly sweet, which is nice. Glad fresh strawberries have already make it to your neck of the woods- PJH

    Reply
  2. elynch3

    It sounds fabulous. My strawberry loving family will love it.

    Bet they will – hope your can find some good, fresh local strawberries soon where you live – PJH

    Reply
  3. gaitedgirl

    Oh PJ, I needed something to make me smile on this sad day (someone very near and dear to me passed away last weekend and I found out today) and this recipe made me smile. Thanks :) Besides, I needed an excuse to use up those frozen strawberries in my freezer.

    I’m so sorry for your loss – glad we could bring a smile to your face today, GG… PJH

    gaitedgirl, so sorry to hear you are sad right now. Warm wishes headed to you. ~MaryJane

    Reply
  4. Anne

    For a lighter (and less work) dessert, I guess I could just serve the strawberry cream without the shortbread – maybe with a cookie on the side, or some fresh strawberries dusted with sugar? I love mousse. There is a bakery in a nearby neighborhood where they have all sorts of fruity mousse cakes – mango, raspberry, lemon, and strawberry are my favorites. I wonder why I don’t make mousse at home more often. This time I have printed this post and will certainly make some mousse soon – perfect timing now that the weather is getting warmer.
    By the way, I got my yogurt strainer last Friday and I have made two batches in the device already. PJ, you are right, the size is not an issue. In spite of its compact design, it accommodates a 32-oz store-bought container. I served the strained vanilla low-fat yogurt with fresh fruits – quite a satisfying snack/dessert.
    Lastly I want to mention I enjoy you sharing with us about how you met up with KAF. That you could combine your interest in food and writing with all the resources provided by KAF is wonderful. But it also tells me KAF is a great company. Readers and visitors to this blog are of course the ultimate beneficiaries. I look forward to more terrific postings from you all!

    Anne, thanks for your kind comments; we bloggers REALLY enjoy what we do here, and we’re so glad you’re enjoying it, too. Definitely serve just the mousse without the crust – any kind of shortbread or sugar cookie is the perfect accompaniment. I just made these sugar cookies yesterday, and they were soooo yummy… Oh, and glad you’re enjoying the Wave, too; I’ve drained 32 ounces of plain nonfat overnight, and will combine with chopped cukes, mint, and a touch of olive oil for some delicious tzatziki. Cheers! PJH

    Reply
  5. Kzookelly

    Thank you so much, I always enjoy reading your pieces and this sounds delicious. Just a quick question re: the sprinkle and sweep requirement for the flour. Do you think you might also offer a weight based recipe option at some point in the future? I have a terrible time on occasion getting the proper amount of flour for recipes, and have found the weight method far more useful lacking any natural knack for how things should feel in the bowl before baking…
    Thanks!

    Sure – all of our recipes are written so that you can toggle among volume, American weight, and metric weight. Simply click on which option you want at the beginning of the list of ingredients. Personally, I use the weight option (either one) most of the time; it’s so much more accurate. PJH

    Reply
  6. Sandy

    Fresh strawberries have been abundant here for about a month now and love finding new recipes to use them while they are fresh and so sweet. This looks like a definite keeper recipe!!! I have a recipe similar to this that uses frozen strawberries only but using fresh is so much better.

    Reply
  7. lindapipes

    Would this work with sugar free gelatin?

    Linda, I’m betting it would – it would turn the mousse bright red, but what the heck, right? You’d want to cut back on the sugar in the recipe. I haven’t tried it so no guarantees, but I think it would be just fine. Let us know, OK? PJH

    Reply
  8. Brenda

    No local strawberries here ’til sometime around the 4th (Of July), but this looks like an excellent use for berries that need to get used up in preparation for this year’s addition to the freezer!

    Reply
  9. takefive34

    Hi, PJ!! First off, just loved learning how you began your career at KAF……….nothing like getting in on the “ground floor” of a company! Congrats to you, also to KAF for recognizing special talent!!

    Can’t wait to try this delicious strawberry dessert, although I’ll have to put it on hold until this summer when we once again make our annual trek from Florida to New England. Haven’t had good strawberries down here for two years or more *sigh*. A group birthday celebration is being planned for the end of August for all those late-summer “babies” – husband and three of our four daughters – and this would seem like the perfect ending to a meal!

    End of August you might be hard-pressed finding fresh local strawberries up here, unfortunately; though sometimes you can get Canadian berries then. At any rate, the birthday celebration sounds like lots of fun – enjoy! and we look forward to seeing you up here in Vermont. PJH

    Reply
  10. czkershner

    I made strawberry mousse for our Easter dessert using whipped egg whites instead of heavy cream … never thought to put it on a shortbread base! That’s inspired! Thanks for all the great stuff you give us!

    What a nice, light dessert for a big holiday dinner – thanks for sharing here. PJH

    Reply
  11. swfoster1

    This looks scrumptious, and I can’t wait to try it. I do, however, have one request. I wish you’d go back to having individual photos (instead of the combinations), as it makes it easier to copy them into the recipe in the proper places when I want to save it to my computer. Thanks for all of the wonderful recipes you post and explain!

    Thanks for your feedback, and your kind comments. Do the pictures not hang together when you copy to your computer? I’m sorry they’re being a pain… we decided to do it that way to cut down on the super-long scrolls that develop with single pictures, as they’re tough for people using smartphones. PJH

    Reply
  12. "Midnite Baker"

    PJ, Can I substitute the “2 1/4-ounce packages plain gelatin” for KAF’s instant clearjel powder or KAF’s signature secrets culinary thickener? And if so, would the amounts be the same?
    This sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing & responding to my question.

    Hmmm, sounds like you want to substitute ClearJel or Signature Secrets for the plain gelatin, is that right? I’ve never tried it, so I wouldn’t know if it would work; neither is capable of thickening as much as gelatin. But, perhaps if you used enough, it would thicken enough. Try mixing ClearJel with the sugar, then stirring it into the strawberries; your goal should be a mixture that’s a consistency that when you add whipped cream, it’s still thick enough to stand on its own. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  13. Tonia

    Just wanted to let you know I made this yesterday — MMMmmmm, yum!! Made it almost exactly as written (never can resist putting my own “fingerprints” on a recipe!) — didn’t bake the shortbread as long [don't like it that brown! ;-)] and used frozen strawberries (worked great!) so could save the expensive fresh for topping and added about 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla (some in crust and some in filling). Can’t wait for fresh local raspberries and I think blackberries and fresh apricots and, ohhh, fresh necterines would be good too! Oh, the joy! Thanks for another great recipe and idea! *grin*

    Reply
  14. Marcia

    My family loved this dessert. I made a graham cracker crust instead of the shortbread.

    Sounds like a delicious variation, Marcia – thanks for sharing. PJH

    Reply
  15. Claire

    I was thinking of using this mousse as a cake filling with a chocolate cake. Do you think half the recipe would be enough for a regular 9” round two-layer cake, with each layer split and filled, or should I make the whole recipe? Or, perhaps I’d just put filling between the layers, like frosting with a normal cake. Either way would work, I think.

    Thanks!

    Claire, half the recipe should be fine, I’d think – Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  16. Lori in Iowa

    This looks delicious! I tried to make this, but it didn’t work out quite as well as I would’ve liked. The crust was perfect; the strawberry cream was a bit of an adventure! First my blender broke while pureeing the strawberries, so I used a slicer to grate the berries into a thick puree. The berries (with lemon juice and sugar) were then refrigerated overnight. Next day, I sprinkled the gelatin onto the cold water, stirred it into a thick goop, warmed it on the stove (while stirring) until it liquified…I’m not sure if it dissolved or not. Does gelatin disappear when it dissolves in water (like sugar does), or just no more granules visible, or…? I am a gelatin novice — the only thing I’ve ever made from unflavored gelatin before is finger jello. Anyhow, I stirred my warm gelatin into the very cold, rather thick strawberries, and I could not tell if it was mixing in or not. It was almost like it jelled on contact, and unfortunately, it didn’t mix in well at all. The final result was strawberry whipped cream (which was still quite good) with bits of gelatin “gristle” in it. :(

    I tried to follow the directions exactly, and I would like to try this again. Any words of wisdom for dealing with the gelatin? :)

    Sorry about that, Lori – I think it was a question of hot meeting cold – and my fault for not being more clear. Try warming your strawberry purée to room temperature before adding the gelatin, which should be completely liquid, like water. Not clear, but totally thin/pourable. Stir quickly into the berries. Hope this works out better for you next time! PJH

    Reply
  17. "Paul from Ohio"

    Absolutely top dollar recipe and instructions. Was really simple to make. Since I’d not worked with Gelatin that much, it was new to me to dissolve it in water, then pop into the microwave to warm/gel – and it did so in seconds it seemed, and then into the chilled strawberry purree – worked like a charm. Just follow the directions people! PJ knows what she’s writing. One slight issue came in my “interpretation” of “Lightly grease” the 9″ pan. Instead of using butter, which I would normally do, I sprayed it with Pam. Thinking that the amount of spray might be more than “lightly grease”, I wiped the pan with a paper towel to remove some. Upon serving, the crust stuck to the glass 9″ pan! I’m thinking I too “lightly greased” it! And patting the dough down also perhaps makes for more of the STICK potential. Love it PJ, just love it……stick or no stick.

    Reply
  18. misoranomegami

    Wonderful! I had been wanting to try this recipe out when my dad came home with an early batch of peaches. Some of them had rough spots but I ended up with about 3.5 cups of mashed peaches in juice. Stuck with the regular amount of gelatin because I wasn’t sure if the peaches would be too acidic but it turns out great! If anything I wish I had had the full 4 cups so I could have had a strong peachy flavor.

    Reply
  19. angelica777

    Hi,
    Could I make this in the bite-size cheesecake pan? If so, how long would I bake it?

    Thanks!

    Don’t see why not, Angelica – bake the crust until it starts to turn golden brown. Not sure how long that would be, but keep your eye on it. Once the crust is done, remove the pan from the oven, and cool completely before adding the filling. No need to bake the filling. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  20. Cat

    I’ve made this once and everyone loved it! I want to make it for an event this weekend, but it is supposed to be HOT and it may have to stay in a cooler for a couple of hours before serving. You recommend freezing it for 30 minutes – do you think it could freeze a little longer and then sit in a cooler? Will the gelatin help the cream stay together?

    Yes, and yes – freeze as long as you like, and then keep in the cooler; the gelatin will help it stay firm. Enjoy! PJH

    Reply
  21. lsmania

    could you use the king arthur shortbread cookie mix for the crust? Any tips?
    Yes! You could definitely use the King Arthur Flour shortbread cookie mix for the crust. Follow the instructions on the mix for assembly and baking. Once baked, follow the recipe for the strawberry cream and you’re all set! Happy Baking! ~Mel

    Reply

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