I would like to announce that Great Pond, in the summer time, is a magnificent place to be. Here are my toes, bearing witness.
It is especially lovely on a Saturday afternoon in July when you've spent the morning at the farmers' market (where there were carrots, no less!), passed mid-day at an ocean beach, and when your best friend is in town from 3,000 miles away. That, people, is the sort of magnificence I'm talking about here.
I would also like to announce that at the end of a day at Great Pond, it never hurts to have a large plate of shortcake on hand. Not strawberry shortcake, necessarily, at least not in a year like this one, but red-white-and-blue, with a box of blueberries and a pint or so of last year's frozen strawberries mixed in. (It does hurt to be a bit tipsy while you're whisking together the dry ingredients, especially if your baking soda goes into the bowl in big clumps, but I trust you already know that.)
Clumps aside, the shortbread making is really no trick at all. The cakes are just flour, butter, sugar, salt, and baking soda, with a bit of milk whisked in. Seriously, that's it. The berries aren't too tricky either—the blueberries freshen things up while the strawberries provide just the right amount of ooze—and then all that's left is the rather substantial dollop of whipped cream on top.
The trickiest thing about red-white-and-blue-shortcake, really, is rounding up the friends. What with the plane tickets and the getting-the-night-off requests and the drives down from Boston, it's much more of a bother to get everyone together than it is to whip up a few shortcakes here and there. But on Saturday night with the friends—the rounded up ones who are able to remember stories that start with the the Fourth of July you made out with a boy in an alley and progress to conversation about the cut of your wedding dress—on that sort of night, red-white-and-blue shortcake is a very good thing indeed.
Just be careful not to wear anything too close fitting, because between the laughter and the shortcake, it might not make it home in one piece.
This is a very versatile biscuit, adapted from Alice Waters' cream biscuits in The Art of Simple Food. They are equally good toasted for breakfast with a dab of butter and jam as they are drenched in berries and juice and topped with a whopping dollop of whipped cream, so it's a good idea to make more rather than less.
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, chilled
just under 3/4 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. (Watch out, ahem, for those baking soda clumps!) Cut the butter into the flour and then, using your fingers, work it into pea-size chunks. Pour in the milk and stir everything together with a fork until just combined. Butter two baking sheets and, using two soup spoons, drop the batter on in lumps roughly 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. (There should be eight in all.) Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cut each biscuit in half and top it with fresh whipped cream and a mixture of half and half blueberries and sliced strawberries. (Frozen strawberries are fine, both since this year's crop hasn't been very good and because they offer up a nice amount of sweet juice, but if you can find fresh strawberries, slice them up, put them in a bowl, and sprinkle them with a few teaspoons of sugar. Within about 15 minutes, they should produce a nice puddle of juice.) Happy July!