I had the grandest of intentions: a lovely garden party in my backyard on a sunny Sunday afternoon. My Mom had celebrated a birthday recently, so I wanted to throw her a little bash, complete with tea sandwiches and strawberry shortcake. The flower beds were weeded, grass was mowed down (I even mowed the boulevard!), bathroom was cleaned, wine glasses were polished, plus I pretty much cleaned out Canadian Tire's inventory of citronella candles...It was party prep-palooza!
Truth is I love entertaining and right now my backyard is so lush with blossoms bursting everywhere you look, it would have been the perfect backdrop for a fun afternoon with friends and family. My nieces and nephew could run wild and chase the cats, while us adults sipped some sparkling wine and fought off mosquito's. It was supposed to be this way, but alas, and you've probably guessed the unfortunate part: the sky opened up and decided to rain down on my partay. A few choice words were said, but really, we were at Mother Nature's whim.
If you've been paying attention to this blog, you know my house is small. Like probably the size of your living room small. At just over 550 square feet the house really could not accommodate 12 people, and with 3 little persons under the age of 3, the house isn't exactly baby proof....So Mom offered up her house, and we relocated the party there. And like my sis said, "Ren, there's still going to be food and booze, so what does it matter?" My sister, always thinking on the bright side!
The party was great....I made these tiny cucumber and dill cream cheese sandwiches; garlic crostini with mushroom pate; lots of fresh sliced local vegetables; and Mom provided a little bit of candy for the kids, though I did sneak a few M&Ms too. We sat and snacked all afternoon, and I whipped up a batch of "Foxy Ladies" - sparkling wine with homemade rhubarb syrup. Delicious drink if ever there was one. The night before, I cooked down some rhubarb with sugar and water. Strained it till there was lots of lovely juicy syrup (keep the pulp to add to yogurt, etc). Come party time, I just poured about 1/8- 1/4 cup of syrup in the bottom of wine glasses, topped with chilled Prosecco, and it was divine. We all loved how there was a lovely rhubarb finish at the end...Yum. This is a perfect patio sipper to be sure.
Have you had strawberry shortcake this summer? Yesterday was my first taste - perfect timing too because the local strawberries are ready to be picked! There is no comparison between the strawberries I get at the Strawberry Ranch and those in the grocery store. It's like they were grown on different planets. The real local berries are so juicy and red all the way through. And sweet! God they are sweet! And grocery store berries. Well you know how they are. Saturday was jam packed with stuff to do so I just drove out and picked up 5 pounds of already picked berries for lazy people like me. I have every intention of driving out again and picking them myself, just because the smell is so intoxicating and I love sneaking bites when the supervisor's not looking.
Orangette posted a recipe for shortcake a little while back (it made my list of favourite things!) and I've been envisioning it ever since. I've always loved making shortcake with a biscuit base and lots of sweetened cream and super juicy fruit. Instead of sugar, I used honey to sweeten the cream and it was lovely. The biscuits are perfection, really. Lots of butter and cream, so you can imagine the flaky layers as the perfect envelope for the cream and berries. Handle the dough gently, simply using a fork, then your hands. It makes a big batch, and I'm sure you could either cut the recipe in half or freeze any leftover biscuits. There were a few remaining biscuits that didn't make it over to my mom's, and as a matter of fact not all of the strawberries and cream did either....so I made myself a little strawberry shortcake for breakfast the next day. A little bit of summer in every bite.
Strawberry Shortcake with Honey Whipped Cream
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 pounds of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups heavy whipping cream
liquid honey, to taste
To make the biscuits: preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, add the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, mix in the butter. You want some butter still the size of peas, overall an oatmeal type consistency. Pour the heavy cream over, and using a fork gently stir up into a dough. You may have to use your hands to gently bring up the flour from the bottom, but again, don't over mix. Dough will be soft and sticky. Cut into 10-12 equal portions, and place on 2 baking sheets, baking one sheet at a time. I sprinkled the tops with coarse sugar. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Let cool.
Combine berries with sugar and let stand for about 15 minutes until juicy. In a mixer, whip the cream until thick, squeezing in some honey at the end, to taste. Using a serrated knife, gently cut the biscuit in half, layer berries and cream, top with other biscuit half. Perfection!
4 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup water
1 cup (or a little less) granulated sugar
Prosecco and Voila! Rhubarb is delicious in a wine glass too. Thanks to Julie for another great rhubarb idea!