Strawberry Shortcake in Bellingham

Last night my friend Eileen asked how I was doing.  I gave a highly qualified answer about it being well with my soul, but we're going through a lot of transition, etc.  She said, "The thing with times of change is that you end up having to make decisions all the time.  When you're in a routine, you don't have to make as many." Exactly!  Maybe that's why I've felt like such a screw-up lately.  My schedule feels out of whack, many things have languished in my inbox, I left the burner on for several hours the other day (don't tell Yancey).

No matter how unpredictable my life, one of the constants has been strawberry shortcake.  Growing up, I requested it for every June 16 birthday, no exception.  When I was little, it wasn't possible to buy strawberries at Costco whenever you wanted, and I think we were all better for it.  Local strawberries are so yielding and delicate--no resistance when you bite into them, and such sweetness. Costco's December strawberries are more akin to rubber balls, and I guess this is where my "No-Snootiness" pledge wears a little thin.


I took the kids up to Bellingham (my hometown) yesterday, and we hung out with my Mom--in my parents beautiful yard and kitchen, at Joe's Garden (where we bought these berries), and Wyatt and I went over to Bethany's house last night to wish her happy birthday and bring some shortcake.   All in all, a pretty enchanted day for being right in the middle of "Transition Soup," as my friend  Kathy calls it.

And when I think about it, everyone close to me is in Transition Soup--losing jobs or starting new ones, becoming parents or watching kids grow up, getting books published (congratulations, Kathy and Geoff!), starting small businesses, grieving loss, and trying to pay attention in the midst of it all.  The ritual of food keeps us nourished and grounded--we have to eat every day, we have to stop what we're doing to get bread for the journey.  And it really might as well be strawberry shortcake, I think.

Strawberry Shortcake
Serves 6.  This is my longtime biscuit recipe, just made with sugar.  I've had requests for a biscuit tutorial on this blog.  For now, just this.  The other will come along at some point.

2 c. flour
1 Tb. baking powder
pinch salt
4 Tb. sugar
1/2 cup (1 cube) cold unsalted butter
3/4 c. cold milk
1 qt. strawberries, sliced and gently tossed with a couple Tb. sugar (let sit for about 10 minutes before using)
1 pint heavy cream, whipped with 4 Tb. sugar

Preheat oven to 450.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut cube of butter into about 8 pieces, drop into flour mixture, and work in with your fingertips until there are pea-sized lumps in the flour.  You could also use a pastry cutter.

Pour cold milk over crumb mixture, and stir with a spoon until mixture holds together and loosely forms a ball. Don't overstir! Let dough rest for a minute in the bowl.

Turn out onto a floured surface, knead a couple times with floured hands, pat into a rough rectangle, then roll out till about 3/4" thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or the bottom of a drinking glass, cut out rounds.  You'll get 3 or 4 from the first go-around, then have to roll out again for the rest.

Place shortcakes in a pie pan or on a cooke sheet, and lightly brush the tops with more milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes, until tops are lightly browned.

Let shortcakes cook for about 10 minutes, then split.  Top the bottom half with berries and whipped cream, put the top on, then add more berries and whipped cream.  Happy Birthday, everyone!