To unforgivably botch something great, if all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone, I’m starting to believe that all of Smitten Kitchen’s problems stem from my inability to leave exquisitely simple things like berries and cream alone. Or maybe it’s about me being unable to sit in a room alone with strawberries and cream and not eat them? One thing is clear; I think we know better than to entrust me with the work of great philosophers ever again. I’m sorry, Pascal.
Let me rewind. Because my son has been going to a day camp across town this summer, I’ve had a lot more excuses to swing by the big Union Square Greenmarket on my way back to poke around for inspiration, which is about as close as I’m probably going to get in Manhattan to a summer on the farm. I’ve learned a lot. As I gasped a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even realize the New York grew such great apricots, or that their season is so long. I’d always associated prune plums with late August and early September, but they’ve been out for weeks now. And, most excitingly for me, I always thought of strawberries as a June thing — they come early, leave quickly, and are often good but rarely transcendent. So, it’s been a treat to learn that the best strawberries, the tiny wild ones, show up later in the summer and are, as far as I’m concerned, the platonic ideal of what a strawberry should be — sweet, delicate and fragrant, with no two exactly alike.
It also means that we’ve been on a berries-and-cream kick for dessert this past month. I like that we’re having a bowl of berries each night; my son likes that we’re having a bowl of whipped cream; my husband just likes that we’re having dessert. Everybody wins. But I had another idea; I wanted more. Which brings us back to the beginning — this is where all the trouble begins.
Though hear me out: If there could be anything better to me than strawberries and tangy brown sugar softly whipped cream, it would unquestionably be those two things with bits of cookies on top, graham crackers, specifically. I’m definitely on a crumb kick this summer; once I realized I could separate crumble toppings from fruit crisps and coffee cakes, store them in a jar for weeks so to apply them wherever I wished, whenever the craving struck, I went down a streusel-scattered rabbit hole. There have been buttery cinnamon crumbles, pecan sandies crumbles and now this: honey and brown sugar-scented graham cracker crumbs. They’re ridiculously easy to make. They’re also ridiculously easy to eat. And although you could argue that strawberries and cream need no improvement, I find it impossible to believe that these don’t pull it off.
One year ago: Key Lime Pie Popsicles
Two years ago: Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
Three years ago: Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar
Four years ago: Eggplant Salad Toasts and Perfect Blueberry Muffins
Five years ago: Grilled Eggplant and Olive Pizza
Six years ago: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
Seven years ago: Double Chocolate Torte
Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles
This recipe will yield about 1 1/3 cups crumbs; the cream will yield a little under 1 cup and This whipped cream is adapted from Nancy Silverton’s version, which is genius because the addition of sour cream or creme fraiche ensures that doesn’t deflate in the fridge. I.e. you could make a jar of this and use it over several days. I’ve kept it as long as 4 days without any deflation. I thought I’d won the whipped cream lottery. The addition of dark brown sugar does make it a little beige, but the flavor combination of brown sugar, sour cream and strawberries is one of my favorites, and well worth the compromise in color.
Serves 4 to 8, depending on how large you like your strawberry dosage (the dish shown above would yield about 6)
4 tablespoons (2 ounces or 55 grams) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon (25 grams) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon table salt or twice as much coarse kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 cup (30 grams) whole wheat or graham flour
1/2 cup plus 2 to 3 tablespoons (80 to 85 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy or whipping cream
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30 grams) crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 pound, 2 pints or about 4 cups, stems removed, halved or quartered if large
Heat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up (although the crumbs should not stick if baked without it). Place melted butter in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and honey. Add baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and salt and stir to combine. Add whole wheat or graham flour, stir again, then add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour. Stir until all flour is incorporated and mixture forms large and small crumbles. If needed, add the last tablespoon all-purpose flour to achieve this.
Spread crumbs on baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then stir them around so that they evenly bake. Return crumbs to oven and bake for another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in pan on rack. Crumbs will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for at least a week.
Using a clean bowl and whisk (electric or a regular large one), whip cream and brown sugar until it holds soft peaks. Whisk in crème fraîche or sour cream, and vanilla. Keep chilled until needed. This whipped cream will last days in the fridge without needing to be re-whipped.
Fill a small dish a little over halfway with strawberries, generously dollop on whipped cream and top with a couple tablespoons of graham crumbs. Repeat as needed and dig in.