Birthdays can have their way with you if you let them.
(And not in a good way).
They tend to be viewed by much of Western society as simply markers on the passage of time to a place we’re all headed to known as Older.
And Western society does not like Older.
It’s true, time does speed up the older one gets and with The Big Day (i.e. Moving Day) a mere 15 days away now, I am all the more aware of the passing of time than ever before.
Time did the thing it does and my birthday made its yearly appearance last Thursday. This year I welcomed it cordially instead of trying to body-slam it to the ground as I have some years.
Friends called, loved one’s sent cards and left messages and my parents serenaded from afar.
It was a good day.
Fast forward to Saturday however — the day of official celebration — kicked off with the gang and me spent under a cloudless-ly perfect summer sky picking nature’s candy: strawberries.
Later on we shared each others meals at a local restaurant over oohs and mmms …
Continued our way to Sarah and Jon’s house for homemade strawberry shortcakes courtesy of Ms. Sarah …
Where somewhere along the way — at my brother’s apartment, to be exact — my cupcakes were officially taken. (Thanks for the tee, Niko!).
And by the end of the day, I was reminded that I was a year older and infinitely more rich than I was the year before.
I had family and friends and a year’s worth of experiences and memories with them that I hadn’t had prior to that year.
I was braver than I was the year before. I had started horseback riding back up again after over 20 years. I was definitely a lot kinder to myself.
And I had even made a new friend, Wills.
And I came to realize what growing old gracefully really meant.
Recognizing the blessing and gifts that unfold before you as every year goes by. The blessings that are your friends and family and loved ones that you are still lucky enough to have with you for another year.
Getting to have one more year laughing with them, one more year living, really living, and one more year really learning, loving and enjoying.
Not getting tripped up on a wrinkle you got from laughing so hard or that gray hair that sprouted overnight.
And it’s true. You’re not the same as you once were.
You’re one year better.
Best Homemade Strawberry Shortcakes
It doesn’t get any more summer-y than strawberry shortcake. Here’s how to make a perfect summer dessert the very best. The secret? It’s all in the details.
Adapted from The Science of Good Cooking
Makes 6 – 8 servings
3/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk + 2 tablespoons for brushing over top before baking
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
For Whipped Cream
1 half pint container heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon powdered confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl — using a cocktail muddler or potato masher — mash 3 cups of the strawberries until barely mashed. Slice remaining strawberries lengthwise and add to mashed strawberries along with light brown sugar and lemon zest. Fold ingredients in gently — using a rubber spatula — until well combined.
Cover strawberry mixture with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least a half an hour to let all those flavors meld together.
Adjust oven rack to second-from-the-bottom level and preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cover large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl — using a fork or whisk — whisk 3/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk and egg together until well incorporated. Set aside.
Using a food processor, pulse all-purpose flour, yellow corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, light brown sugar and sea salt together until well combined. Slice chilled butter into your dried ingredient mixture — using a sharp knife — and pulse again until mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Note: The butter pieces should look slightly smaller than pea-size.
Transfer dried mixture to large, clean bowl and add buttermilk/egg mixture and — using a clean rubber spatula — fold gently until just barely combined.
Note: Do not over-mix as doing so will result in rubbery, tough shortcakes (and no one likes rubbery shortcakes).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until dough just starts to come together.
Gently pat dough out into a rough, 9-inch circle — roughly 3/4 to 1-inch thick — and using a floured 3 3/4-inch biscuit cutter, cut out 6 dough rounds. You will likely have extra dough left over; if you do, just gently collect extra dough pieces, gently pat down to same thickness and cut out more dough rounds.
Note: When patting dough out, pat down just enough to where it gets to desired thickness. Don’t be too concerned with a smooth surface appearance. The unevenness is what we’re going for here (see pic for reference). Also, be sure to not twist the biscuit cutter when cutting out the rounds, just gently punch and lift. This will help the shortcakes rise properly when baking.
Place dough rounds onto your parchment paper-lined baking sheet roughly 2-inches apart and — using a pastry brush — gently brush tops with the extra 2 tablespoons of reserved buttermilk.
Transfer baking sheet to middle of second-from-the-bottom level oven rack and bake shortcakes for 15 – 17 minutes or until golden brown, making sure to turn baking sheet halfway through baking.
While shortcakes are baking, prepare whipped cream.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl — using a hand mixer at medium speed — add chilled whipping cream, powdered confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract and beat well for a few minutes until soft peaks form. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
When shortcakes are ready, remove baking sheet from oven and transfer shortcakes to wire cooling rack to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes.
When ready to serve — using a serrated knife — split shortcakes in half and place bottoms on individual serving plates. Top each bottom with several spoonfuls of the strawberry mixture, a dollop of whipped cream and cap with shortcake top. Finish each with another dollop of whipped cream and a strawberry for garnish.
Serve immediately and enjoy!