After more than 20 years in the restaurant business, Don Payne is still serving his mother's classic, old-fashioned strawberry shortcake.
"Mom would mix up a shortcake batter and put it in the oven to bake just as we were sitting down to dinner," he recalls.
"By the time we were done eating, she would have taken it from the oven and covered the warm shortcake with freshly cut berries with plenty of juice.
"It was like no other that I have ever tasted."
Payne tried to re-create his mother's shortcake at his first Family Buggy restaurant in the late 1960s. The dessert was an instant success, and it is now served at the three restaurants he runs in Michigan.
The secret of his mother's shortcake, he believes, is choppin the berries into small pieces and adding sugar to draw out the juice. He still makes the shortcake that way and serves it warm, though the warmth may come from the microwave.
Payne is very strict about serving the shortcake only when the berries are ripe, fresh and of high quality. No hard, green berries for him.
There's no set date for the beginning or the end of the shortcake season. It generally stretches over about three months, with California berries starting in late April or early May and then Michigan berries for the next couple of months. "It depends on the berries," he says.
Family Buggy Strawberry Shortcake
2 pints strawberries, washed,stemmed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups Bisquick
1/8 cup sugar
5 ounces of milk
3-6 tablespoons butter, softened, divided, optional
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
1/2 teaspoon vanilla, optional
Place strawberries in a flat-bottom pan and sprinkle with sugar. Using a pastry cutter or knife, chop the strawberries into small pieces. Stir strawberries and sugar. Sugar will pull juice from the strawberries. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, place Bisquick in a large bowl. Add sugar and milk. Gently mix ingredients with a fork.
It is OK if a few dry spots remain. Scrape mixture into ungreased nine-inch glass pie plate.
Spread with fork, but do not attempt to smooth top; leave bumpy. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch in the center.
Remove from oven and allow shortcake to cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into six pie-shaped pieces. Split pieces horizontally. Brush each lower piece with one-half to one tablespoon of butter if desired.
Place shortcake in a shallow bowl. Cover lower half with strawberries. Add top half, cover with strawberries and plenty of juice. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat heavy cream, and sprinkle with sugar if desired. As stiff peaks start to form, add vanilla if desired. Garnish shortcake with whipped cream. Best if served with shortcake still warm. Can be reheated in microwave if cooked in advance. Serves six.