Pink Peppercorns

A Summertime Staple Turns Decadent with The Addition Of Pink Peppercorns

Katherine Loffreto
As springtime fades and the true summer season really begins to set in, it’s due time to jump on one of those perineal dessert favorites, the strawberry shortcake. This is one of those things that we all remember loving as a child, and when we have it again as an adult, it brings back floods of happy memories. We’re going to teach you to make a very simple version today, with the addition of a very important and exciting ingredient: the Pink Peppercorn! These tiny pink berries provide the perfect bit of sweet juniper punch as a counterpoint to tart and fragrant summer berries. A couple sprinkled over your next strawberry shortcake are sure to guarantee smiles and lip smacking.
But these “peppercorns” are not really pepper at all! The Pink Peppercorn is a spice anomaly. Not actually a peppercorn at all, but rather a berry from the shrub Schinus, more commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree. Only fruits from the Piper nigrum plants can truly be called a “peppercorn”. In fact, the plant these berries are derived from cashew tree, and can potentially cause allergic reactions in individuals with tree nut allergies. That aside, it’s a stunning and delicious ingredient, that we’re thrilled to shine a spotlight on!
The flavor of the Pink Peppercorn is incomparable. There really isn’t anything else like it. The outer fluorescent shell of the berry sloughs off and inside is the pungent and punchy inner core. Initially, the flavor is quite sweet. Those hints of sweetness give way to a complex flavor profile of juniper and spruce, spiced woodsy notes, and earthy forest flavors. One important note of distinction, this “peppercorn” should not be ground. It’s too delicate for a grinder, and would just end up as a mashed paste. Better to use the berries whole, as a beautiful vibrant garnish, or crushed very gently to release their aromas.
Getting back to the shortcake, the whole preparation couldn’t be easier to make. And that’s the whole point. This is meant to be made a la minute, when you’ve got a pint or two of farm fresh berries sitting on your counter and you’re in the mood for something sweet and simple for dessert. First, slice your strawberries into bite sized pieces, smash them up a bit with a fork to release their juices, and then coat with granulated sugar. Sit the mixture aside and allow it to macerate. Lightly whip heavy cream with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla extract – put that into the fridge.
Now for the shortcakes…
4 c. AP Flour
3 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
¼ tsp. Salt
5 tsp. Baking Powder
1 ¼ c. Butter
1 ¼ c. Heavy Cream

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and mix, then the heavy cream and combine all into a soft dough. Roll it out to about ½” thickness and cut into rounds.
3. Grease a baking sheet and add the cakes. Brush the tops of each cake with a little melted butter. Add a second cake to the top, and bush the top of that cake with a little more butter.
4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
5. Remove from the oven and pull the cakes apart. Brush the inside with a little melted butter. Layer all the components – cake, strawberries, and whipped cream. Sprinkle a three finger pinch of Pink Peppercorns over the top. Eat immediately.
While it may seem like such a strange ingredient is limited in its applications, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The sweet fruitiness of the Pink Pepper immediately lends itself well to dessert and pastry applications – particularly when red fruits are involved. We encourage you to give this unique ingredient a try! It’s guaranteed to quite literally brighten your dishes and contribute a pop of something spectacular and out of the ordinary. Your guests deserve something different, and we’re here to help you give it to them! Happy shortcaking!