Back in the saddle with some old fashioned summer shortcake…

on the plate 2

The saying goes that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” may or may not be true for everyone but when it comes to my blog, I agree wholeheartedly. I am happy to be back blogging and cooking!

I decided it would also be a good time to ‘refresh’ the site a bit too. The new background photo is of an old homestead on Edisto Island, SC – one of my family’s favorite places to spend time, doing nothing – or as close to that as we possibly can! We happened upon this sight when out exploring one afternoon.

Nestled in perfect contentment among a large overgrowth of field and wood, what was once a Lowcountry beauty still radiates a shabby luster in the waning days of a long Southern summer. I seriously wanted to venture in toward the house, but my fear of the Eastern Diamondback, poison oak and deer tick kept me smartly along the roadside. Perhaps if our paths cross in cooler weather I’ll don steel-toed boots, bug repellent, and some courage to check out this place closer. We’ll see.

My recipe is perfect for summer – shortcake. The streusal-like topping adds a subtle twist elevating every mouthful well above the traditional shortcake ,and waaaaay past any ‘off the shelf’ cake. With the abundant weather (rain) experienced this summer in the South we are enjoying a bonanza of local fruits and berries. While it may be past strawberry season most places (except in the Blue Ridge perhaps), there are plenty of plump blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to be found. Peaches make a delicious filling too, so use your favorite or create a combination!

This recipe serves a crowd and makes a lovely presentation when filled whole, but you can also serve as individual shortcakes by creating slices (like I did) or bake in a muffin tin. This shortcake is also a good ‘make ahead’ dessert as the cake stays moist and tender for up to three days – just wrap in plastic after it cools and refrigerate. Allow the cake to sit out and come to room temperature before filling and serving. And by all means use real whipped cream – anything else (well maybe, besides homemade custard) would be a travesty!

The best fruit of summer deserves the best shortcake…don’t you think? 

Mix the streusal topping in a separate bowl. It should be crumbly.

Mix the streusal topping in a separate bowl. It should be crumbly.

Begin the 'cake' by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

Begin the ‘cake’ by cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

Mix all the premixed wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, similar to making muffins or a quick bread.

Mix all the premixed wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, similar to making muffins or a quick bread.

Press the 'cake' into the prepared pan.

Press the ‘cake’ into the prepared pan.

Top with the streusal and pop into the preheated oven.

Top with the streusal and pop into the preheated oven.

After about 20 minutes you'll have shortcake! Allow to cool on a rack before slicing and splitting open - fill with fresh berries, fruit and whipped cream!

After about 20 minutes you’ll have shortcake! Allow to cool on a rack before slicing and splitting open – fill with fresh berries, fruit and whipped cream!

These luscious beauties deserve a great shortcake and real whipped cream!

These luscious beauties deserve a great shortcake and real whipped cream!

Another shot of tonight's dessert. A little bit of heaven on a plate...

Another shot of tonight’s dessert. A little bit of heaven on a plate…

Best of Summer Shortcake

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbl sugar plus extra
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tbl baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt (fine)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup buttermilk (non fat or light)
  • 3-4 cups of fresh fruit, washed and sliced if necessary (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches all work well but use your favorite – or a combo!)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a small bowl mix the brown sugar, ¼ tsp salt and ½ cup flour. With a pastry blender or fork cut in 4 tablespoons butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease one 9-inch square (or round) baking pan. In a large bowl mix remaining flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, ¾ tsp salt, and baking powder. Cut in ½ cup butter until mixture resembles small peas or course crumbles. In another small bowl whisk the egg and milk. All at once stir the egg/milk mixture into the flour /butter mixture and mix until just combined.

Spread this into the prepared pan and sprinkle on the streusel topping. Bake about 20 minutes. Do not over bake. Allow shortcake to cool slightly on a rack and then carefully remove from the baking pan to cool completely on the rack. At this point you could also wrap the cooled shortcake in plastic wrap to finish later.

Prepare your fruit – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches are wonderful or a combination. You may sprinkle extra sugar on your fruit if you like. In a separate mixing bowl whip 1 cup heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside or keep chilled in the refrigerator.

After the shortcake is completely cooled and when you are ready to serve, carefully cut large squares* of shortcake and using a serrated knife spilt each piece of shortcake in two. Place the bottom piece on an individual plate, top with some fruit and a small dollop of whipped cream, cover with the top piece of shortcake and add more fruit and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

*Alternatively if you used a round cake pan, you may use slices OR split the entire cake in half and prepare the whole shortcake using all the fruit and whipped cream. This works great and is quite the showstopper if you are serving a crowd.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this recipe: Best of Summer Shortcake


Field Trip: Most Excellent Edisto Island

Edingsville Road located on Edisto Island, SC. Adjacent Edingsville Beach was once a coastal retreat for well-to-do families in the colonial to pre-Civil War era escaping the heat of summer in mainland SC. All the houses in this part of Edisto Island are gone although broken pottery and other relics wash ashore occasionally.

Edisto Beach is a place for family focused fun. Here I am introducing a fiddler crab to Girly Girl.

A few times in my blog I have referred to “my family beach house” and/or it’s location in Edisto Beach, SC. This week I am enjoying a week here with some members of my family. While I am sure most of you don’t care one iota about seeing family vacation pictures, I thought you may be curious about Edisto, a Sea Island located just off the coast of South Carolina in the USA. There are a good many unique things about this area, none more intriguing than how it has held on to it’s quiet, and for the most part pristine, surroundings.

To get your bearings, Edisto is located approximately halfway between Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. Actually it’s a little closer to Charleston. Technically, there is Edisto Island with the semi-attached Edisto Beach – sitting just across a short man-made causeway on the Island’s southern tip. My family’s beach house is located near the southernmost point of “Edisto Beach” where Big Bay Creek meets the Atlantic.

Here is a dilapidated cottage close to Edingsville Beach, to me still hauntingly beautiful.

Botany Bay, described as “4,000 acres of heaven” this SC wildlife management property is made up of three historical plantations from marsh to maritime forest to the gorgeous, shelled-filled beach seen here. It is simply spectacular!

Edisto Island’s first inhabitants were Native Americans, who fished and worked the fertile soil in the island’s center for thousands of years before Spanish priests established a mission here in the 1500’s and Spanish pirates sailed up the Edisto River. Later, when neighboring “Charlestown” (Charleston) was settled, English-born colonists created plantations growing rice, indigo and famous Sea Island cotton. As you approach from the south along Highway 17 before turning onto Highway 174, the one road that meanders to Edisto, you can still make out what were once rice fields. And catch a glimpse of the house at Myrtle Grove Plantation and several other gated, live-oak-lined drives disappearing toward what surely are spectacular vistas.

Visit in summer to early fall and blue crabs are abundant. All you need is a trap and some chicken “parts”…and maybe some crabby catching skills and patience wouldn’t hurt.

Trinity Episcopal Church founded in 1774 and consecrated in 1881, it was occupied by federal troops during the Civil War, destroyed by fire in 1876 and damaged by the hurricane of 1893. The sanctuary was rebuilt and features beautiful interior work done by a former slave. The old bead-board and blown glass windows have been lovingly preserved.

Once you reach Edisto Island, you are surrounded by marshy estuary and pass hundreds of live oaks literally dripping with Spanish moss. Watch for egrets, osprey nests and even hawks and bald eagles. The island is also home to bobcat, alligator, fox, owl, deer, and various birds. On a clear night, the stars create their own spectacular show at Edisto, so if you have a telescope, bring it! Be amazed by the bright celestial sights and shooting stars that seem to be so close, you can reach out and grab them.

The tiny Museum of Edisto gives a good introduction to the flora and fauna of this Sea Island and the Lowcountry.

At the Edisto Museum there are always many “relics” from days gone by…like this mustache cup. It was so unusual I had include it. Wonder who (and what!) could have drank from that fancy cup!

A few sights here along Highway 174 are also surprisingly rustic with some native islander’s living conditions less than luxurious. Some of these locals have had family living here for many years and are descended from Africans brought over as slaves to work the plantations. As the Edisto Museum writes, “their skills and labor created great wealth for the plantation owners, while their culture thrived even in adversity.” Some of that culture can be seen in the lovely sweetgrass basketry of local artisans and in tasty Lowcountry treats like Hopp’in John, red rice and Country Captain.

While it may seem odd to see a tiny, weathered wooden cottage standing next door to a coastal “mac-mansion ”, having visited here for many years it seems normal to me. No one here at Edisto feels they should leave their home to make room for the ‘nouveau riche’ or the “old riche” for that matter. Edisto is sort of a place “out of time” you see – change has come slowly here. This is good and bad, I suppose.

Pick up some fresh fish or shrimp or crab or oysters for dinner tonight at Flowers Seafood, right on Highway 174.

On the good side, there are no big real estate developments or even medium-sized ones here. There is very little commercial development – just enough to make both visitors and full-time residents comfortable. For instance there is one grocery store (for Edisto Island and Edisto Beach). There is one golf course (on Edisto Beach) and no real hotel – just one smallish timeshare with condos.

If you want to visit you will be staying in a house, a timeshare unit, renting either of those or camping at the adjacent State Park. On the not so good side there isn’t much work here, so if one needs to make a living AND reside on Edisto, you farm, fish or devise a business that deals with the seasonal tourist industry in some fashion. I use the term ‘industry’ lightly – compared with other coastal resort areas Edisto is minuscule.

One of the best “sights” on Edisto to me is a good book and a marsh breeze by way of a comfortable porch hammock!

However, I think that if someone decides to reside here full-time, or rather has the ability to live here, rather than anyplace else, they probably are not that concerned with ‘making it rich’. It’s the unpretentious, laid back “Edi-slow” lifestyle that’s the draw.

So far, mass commercial development and its ilk have stayed way up along Highway 17, miles from our Edisto. Luckily, various landowners in the surrounding rural areas have also created conservation easements that will protect the land from development, helping to ensure most excellent stargazing for our family for many years to come, and yours too, if you find yourself traveling down the shady, sandy path toward Edisto Island.