This week I harvested my first homegrown strawberry of the season from my wee pop-up greenhouse in our communal garden. It’s true what they say about homegrown tasting better – I savoured every morsel and eagerly await further harvest. To celebrate the season – and, incidentally, the start of Wimbledon this week – I felt a strawberry recipe would be apt. Frances Quinn’s strawberry hearts make the fruit star of the show: here, the dried strawberries aren’t just pretty decorations but provide a sharp, intense berry hit that cuts through the rich shortbread and tempers the sweetness of the white chocolate. They’re also really fun to make – I will definitely try making other dried fruits now that I know how simple it is. The minimal faff is the prep, then keep the oven low, pottering with other jobs in the kitchen while the warmth works its magic. To make the strawberry hearts, you will need:
50g caster sugar
100g butter, softened
150g plain flour
100g fresh strawberries (about 5 medium-large strawberries)
25g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
5g freeze-dried strawberries.
In a freestanding mixer, beat the sugar and butter together for 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
Sift the flour into the mixture in two batches, mixing each until just combined.
Use your hands to bring the mixture together as a dough, being careful not to overwork it.
The dough is very sticky so tricky to work with, but the final bake is lovely and short as a result. As such, roll the dough between two sheets of parchment to a 1 cm thickness – or even thinner if you dare.
Peel off the top layer and use a 4 cm cutter to cut around 20 hearts. Pull the trimmings up from round about and roll out again between more parchment, using the smaller cutter to cut out mini hearts (about 15). Peel away the excess dough.
Transfer the hearts, on their parchment, onto two baking trays – all the larger hearts on one and the smaller ones on another (as they have different baking times). Chill for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 170C/ 150C Fan/ Gas 3. Bake the mini hearts for 10 – 15 minutes and the larger ones for 15 – 20, until lightly golden at the edges. Leave to firm up on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
Turn the oven down to 120C/ 100C Fan/ Gas 1/2 to make the dried strawberry slices. Lay double layers of kitchen roll on a work surface. Hull the berries and cut into rounds, the thickness of a £1 coin.
Place them on the kitchen paper, lay more on top and press down gently to blot the excess juice.
While the slices are draining, line a rimless baking tray with parchment, then gently transfer the slices to the tray, then gently use the tray to help you slide the parchment directly onto the oven shelf.
Dry out the strawberries for 1 – 1 1/4 hours, until slightly shrunken and deeper in colour – the drying time depends on the size of your strawberries and how juicy they were. Near the end of the drying time, peel each slice back carefully and flip them over so they can dry on the other sde. Remove from the oven and snip into the top of each with scissors to make the heart shape even more pronounced.
To assemble the biscuits, melt the white chocolate and dab a little on the centre of each heart, then stick a dried strawberry slice or sprinkle with freeze-dried strawberry pieces. Be as inventive as you like! Leave to set before serving.
What are you baking this weekend? Have you made strawberry hearts before?