You know things are looking up when you’ve only spent two minutes putting the little one down for his nap, when the little one slept EIGHTEEN HOURS–eighteen!!the day before–it was textbook perfect, but so odd for LL that I spent half the day being anxious about why he was sleeping as much as he should. Was he ill? Depressed?–and when you have strawberry shortcake for breakfast.
During the first day of LL back on the “ohmyGAWD-my-child-sleeps-schedule!!” I was supposed to be mowing the lawn. Mind you, we have a push mower, a lawn with craters like the moon and I am more out of shape than I ever have been.
It took me three nap cycles and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to finish 3/4 of the lawn.
So when I spied several ruby strawberries in our patch at 8:45 p.m., I eagerly took a break. And HOT DAMN! The fistful of starts I had planted three years ago were loaded with fruit. Every year I have cursed the runners the plants put out as they attempt to take over the whole bed. I wouldn’t mind, but the berries have never been that fantastic.
Until this year. I quickly swapped the mower for the berry boxes I’d saved and began picking in earnest. Every clump of leaves I pulled apart revealed more tear-drop jewels, and for every two I picked, I plopped one in my mouth.
They are quite possibly the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted. This, from a California girl who used to eat entire flats and break out in hives. I know my strawberries.
And they are overtaking my bed! I could not be happier.
I did the only reasonable thing I could: stayed up way past my bedtime to make shortcake. There was some kind of Hogwart’s magic in the midnight air as I squeezed butter and flour between my fingers. Both the boys were sound asleep and Kings of Leon swooned on Pandora. I dreamt about devouring a hot shortcake before I went to bed, only to realize that we didn’t have any cream. But if I could get LL to sleep, well then, a little lack of cream was not going to deter me–I sent out an SOS (save our shortcake) to my mother-in-law:
And so I made the first part of these one night and resumed the baking when my personal Pink Dot had arrived last night with the cream.
An old college friend of mine happened to be in town for the night. He and his wife have a three-year old and a four-month old, and N, his mama, Corky and I laughed about the “image” he would bring back to his wife: “Yes, Linsey cooked a meal from scratch, dessert from scratch, served N and I a beer on the front porch and the baby slept the whole damn time!”
I kept trying to tell him it was a miracle of miracles, perhaps never to be replicated again, but just then, the four of us hovering over wine and pasta and fried zucchini salad, and N whipping the cream at full force without fear of waking the deep-sleeping LL, and all of us going back for more whipped cream–I tell you, not only did I feel a smidge of my old self just then, but joyful for my new one. For the amazing family and friends in front of me, for the time and energy to do something I love–cook–and for the obscenely adorable monkey asleep in the nearby room.
And for the leftover shortcake I am now eating for breakfast.
**When I’m looking to bake something, I usually turn to either Deb or Joy. This is a version of Deb’s, and it won’t disappoint!
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 pound strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
If you’re snazzy enough to own a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Either pulse or mix with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and pulse or get your hands dirty by rubbing the butter and flour between your fingers (this is my favorite part of baking and one reason I don’t use a food processor–I like the tactile-ness of the cold butter and soft flour) until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and mix until the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather into a shaggy mass. Knead a couple times to make it into a cohesive mass and then pat it into a rough circle about 6 to 7 inches in diameter, and 3/4 to 1-inch thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 wedges and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill for 20 minutes (and up to 2 hours).
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush the tops of the shortcakes very lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar. Bake until risen and golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Turn the pan around halfway through to ensure even cooking.
While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl. Let stand several minutes. (If the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance.)
There was much early debate at our counter whether the berries or whipped cream should go on first: in the end, we decided, it didn’t matter, and several of us did whipped cream, berries, whipped cream. You can’t really go wrong, right?
I wish I had enough wherewithal to capture a picture of the four of us in shortcake heaven, but the only thing on my mind was getting more berries and cream into my mouth. Thus, I give you my breakfast. Not too shabby.
A manual mower? Yikes! Isn’t any garden success just the best! And then, of course, you turn it into something that should be on the Food Network. Congratulations on the having a couple of nights of uninterrupted sleep! Emily waited for two years before she gave us one of those. Luckily she turned into the light of my life so I’ve forgiven her.