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And Now We Rest

strawberriesI’m writing this post to you today on the porch of my mom’s lakefront cabin in upstate, New York. In the past few years, this spot has come to mean summer to me. Sure, I’ve made many wonderful summer memories that dated far before my mom started coming here, but these days I feel like summer really starts on the porch here. Time slows. The daily itinerary involves morning coffee, porch-reading, dock-reading, and discussion of what to do for dinner. That’s basically it. Sometimes this is punctuated by a swim or a run or a soft-serve ice cream cone. Or a long walk down the road. A most welcome change of pace from what our daily itinerary has looked like in Seattle recently (work, work, work, eat, work). Now we’ve arrived happily to the land of lingering. 

You may recall last summer I wrote about the cabin here in Lake George. This year we’re staying for just a touch longer and hoping to allow ourselves to truly enjoy a little vacation. Before we left I cleaned out the fridge and discovered two neat little pints of strawberries I hadn’t gotten a chance to slice up yet. Now before we move on, I should also mention that I’ve developed a recent obsession with the ginger biscuits at Cafe Besalu in Seattle. They’re round, light and fluffy as air and have just a hint of ginger. Last time I was there I chatted with the owner about the biscuits, hoping to learn a bit about what flour they use. It became clear pretty quickly that that information would not be available to me. He said that he milled his own flour. End of story, apparently. I poked and prodded to no avail. O.k., I’d move on to the question of buttermilk vs. cream: surely these were cream biscuits given their texture, yes? The world may never know. So here I was a few nights before we were to leave town, continuing to obsess over these biscuits, staring at the strawberries on hand, and deciding that I’d give it a go. A summery version of Besalu’s biscuits with local strawberries and cream. Lots of cream.

I found just the perfect place to start on Molly’s blog: a cream biscuit by the wonderful Marion Cunningham, a breakfast legend. I just adore her and keep telling myself I should bake all the way through The Breakfast Book; as you’ve probably gathered, there just hasn’t been time for that sort of thing lately. But, my friends, there’s time for these biscuits. They’re quick! And so simple! And light and wonderful and a good excuse to use up extra cream and strawberries.

I will say these didn’t rise quite as much as I would’ve loved and I don’t think that’s so much a symptom of the recipe as it is that I over-kneaded them. The one and only thing the owner of Cafe Besalu did tell me was that their ginger biscuits are so light you have to be careful not to overwork them. Verrrry gentle, he said. I think I could’ve been gentler. I urge you to be gentle. Because these didn’t get as big of a rise as I’d expected and because I cut them into squares, I think a more appropriate name for this recipe is a Biscuit Bar. A Strawberry and Cream Biscuit Bar. Still light. Still fluffy. Just a touch flatter than a classic biscuit, but full of fresh berries, sprinkled with sugar, and laced with lots of fresh cream.

I hope you have a wonderful week and a most restful mid-week holiday. While I’m here at the lake, I’m going to be working on some recipe testing for the cookbook , and I also have a few other things in mind:

Reading: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, re-reading some Laurie Colwin, and dipping into Richard Ford’s newest. Also one of the most recent issues of The New Yorker apparently has a great long piece on Ben Stiller that’s supposed to be pretty insightful. In case you’re wondering what Sam’s reading on the dock: Homer’s Odyssey. It makes me smile every time I look over at him in a sea of women and fashion magazines.

Eating: I have so many recipes I wanted to try while here, but I’m keeping realistic goals considering I do want this to feel like vacation — not to mention the only place to shop for groceries is Walmart which I’ve succesfully avoided so far. But I will absolutely make a blueberry pie. It’s time to make a blueberry pie.  I’m also hoping Sam will make his famous-in-my-world pancakes.

Drinking: Gin & Tonics. And Negronis, of course.

Listening: Design Matters Podcasts with Debbie Millman. Sam introduced me to these and while they’re technically more design-focused, the folks interviewed are fascinating and I think the conversation applies to any creative craft or inclination. Surprisingly, Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s the Thing,  isn’t half bad, either.

Playing: A new-to-us dice game that I imagine old ladies really dig: Farkel. It’s pretty amazing — do you all know this game?! My mom’s friends picked it up at the small local library here, and it’s been our late-night entertainment for the past few nights. We’re going to track one down to bring back to Seattle with us.

Strawberry and Cream Biscuit Bars
Adapted from: Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book (via Molly Wizenberg)
Marion Cunningham calls for 1 – 1 1/2 cups cream in her recipe; I used 1 cup here and they turned out just fine. That being said, if your mixture feels to0 dry and crumbly, drizzle in a little more cream to bring it all together. If you don’t have pastry flours at home, reach for all-purpose flour before reaching for a regular whole-wheat flour which will yield too dense of a biscuit on its own. Cunningham recommends kneading for one minute — I’d just give it a few turns next time — 20 seconds or so.

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or regular pastry flour) + 2 tablespoons for berries
1 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup small-diced fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, to top
1 tablespoon turbinado (or any coarsely-ground) sugar, to top

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (If you don’t have parchment, leave it as it is, ungreased. The parchment is just for easy cleanup.)

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Slowly add the cream and stir briefly just until the dough comes together. You can do this by hand if you’re comfortable or with a simple wooden spoon. Gather the dough together; If it feels shaggy or too dry, slowly add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together.

In a small bowl, dredge the strawberries with the 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour to coat.

Place the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 20 seconds or so — you don’t want to overwork the dough. Pat the dough into a large square about ½ inch thick. On one side of the square, lay the strawberries out onto the dough. Fold one side of the square over the top of the berries to meet the other side of the square, creating a little pouch for the berries. Essentially, the berries are now nestled inbetween two layers of biscuit dough.

Working quickly, press the dough down to 1/2 inch thickness once again. Don’t worry about squishing the berries –the flour will absorb some of that liquid and if you work quickly to re-flatten your square, they’ll bake up just fine.

Cut into 12 squares. Brush the tops of each with the melted butter so that all sides are coated. Sprinkle the tops with sugar. Place the biscuits 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Yield: 12 biscuits

  1. Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

    You sound like you’re having a lovely holiday week. I’ve pinned these beautiful treats so I don’t lose them!

  2. Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    This is nearly identical to my scone/biscuit recipe except for the butter – melted?! I’m so intrigued. By the look of these beauties melted is the way to go.
    I hope you are enjoying your time. Selfishly I’m looking forward to your return. :)

  3. megang
    Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Oh, Ashley! I’ll have to check yours out … yes big debate whether to call them scones or biscuits as they’re kind of a little of each! Melted butter just to brush on the tops. Original recipe calls for 6 tablespoons, I believe, which just seemed like waaaaayyy too much to me. We’re having a nice time — trying to soak it all in!

  4. Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

    You’ve just described my favorite way to vacation (my family does this every year in Ontario, Canada). Enjoy the time off!

  5. Posted July 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    sounds and looks yummy, enjoy the time off!

  6. Posted July 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Hope that ya’ll are having a blast! I am super jelly of your awesome vacation.

  7. Posted July 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Your holiday sounds blissful. Especially since here in New Zealand, the wind is blowing the rain horizontal and I have to have an old-lady blanket wrapped around my legs at work to stay warm. The air from the heater isn’t reaching me. I could do with some of those biscuit bars to warm my insides.

  8. Mary
    Posted July 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Megan, your writing is gorgeous. It makes me wish your book was being published tomorrow.

  9. Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    I just started Wild, loving it so far. Enjoy your break, pretty lady.

  10. Posted July 3, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Your reading list reading made me sit up and think “here’s a girl after my own heart”. Wild is on my books to read list, Laurie Colwin – well my gosh, I have all the articles she ever wrote for Gourmet clipped from my mum’s mags from the ’80′s and then her books I bought myself as an adult. She is always on my “who would I invite to dinner list” her passing resonated with me at a young age. Richard Ford, well he’s one of my all time faves, which I find interesting as his works are quite masculine in some ways. Anyway, I have just discovered “you” and love reading and am even happier for our similar taste in books!

  11. Posted July 3, 2012 at 1:10 am

    Enjoy, enjoy! And I’m chuckling at Sam’s vacation reading matter as well.
    You’re plants, however, are doing splendidly. Lots of rain here, so no worries. xox

  12. Posted July 3, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Megan, seems like we have the same summer reading list. I can’t wait to jump into Cheryl Strayed’s book when I go to my family cabin this simmer. I’m a HUGE Laurie Colwin fan. Which book are you reading? I’ve reread Goodbye Without Leaving and Shine on Bright and Dangerous Object so many times they are both falling apart. Let me know what you think of the Richard Ford book. Have you ever read any Richard Russo? If not, I strongly recommend Straight Man and Nobody’s Fool. The latter was a movie, but the book is brilliant.

    Have a great vacation!

  13. Posted July 3, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Megan, I can’t wait for your book to be published. I must admit (except to my boss), I often read your posts from my desk at work, and it’s such a wonderful time to do so – you allow my mind to escape from all the tedious office stuff surrounding me, and escape to flour, sugar, and a lot of love (which you clearly put into everything you make)! I truly love reading your posts. And I can’t wait to try Besalu when I visit Seattle next month!
    Enjoy your vacation!

  14. Posted July 3, 2012 at 8:02 am

    My family plays Farkel ALL THE TIME at my great uncle’s farm up in Oklahoma! It sounds like you’re having a fantastic relaxing vacay, which you need after being so crazy awesome busy! Have a good time!

  15. megang
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Thanks so much, Victoria, for your sweet comment. I’m glad you stumbled upon the site! I really enjoyed Wild … yes I just told my partner, Sam, that Richard Ford writes men really well so I guess we’re in agreement about him. I’m only on page 12, but so far it’s quite wonderful. Have a great rest of the week, ~m

  16. megang
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:50 am

    T- Still raining? Urgh. Well I guess the 4th is tomorrow and you know what that means (apparently)?! The start of summer in Seattle (I/we hope!) Thank you again for your gardening help!

  17. megang
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hi Lori! I’m re-reading Home Cooking and am ashamed to say this is the only Laurie Colwin I’ve ever read. Eek. This must be fixed as soon as I get back and can pop into our library. Which is your favorite? I have read Richard Russo and love him very much. Bridge of Sighs has been on my list now for awhile … seems like such a wonderful summer reading book. Loved Straight Man. Hope you’re having a great summer as well — can’t believe it’s almost the 4th already. Time flies! ~m

  18. megang
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Hi Sara! Oh…when I had a desk job in catering I read many a good blog post. I think sneaking in a little internet “me time” is what keeps you sane during those ong days, yes? So glad you’re enjoying the blog and thank you so much for taking the time to say so! Yes Besalu is a must on your next visit. Honore is also a wonderful bakery in Ballard and there’s a new spot that just opened called Crumble and Flake. We haven’t been yet because they’re still selling out in one hour (!) and the lines have been awful, but if you love bakeries and don’t mind braving the crowds, I’ve heard great things. Enjoy your week! ~m

  19. megang
    Posted July 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Ashley: Hooooray for fellow Farkel players! We’re actually at the little town library now which sells them and we bought two to take back with us to Seattle.

  20. Aunt V
    Posted July 4, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hi Megan – I loved spending time with you on the porch, dock and around the dining room table but am sorry I missed the blueberry pie. Maybe you can ask your Mom to pick up the instant tapioca for you!
    Aunt V

  21. Posted July 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    So glad to have discovered your blog via food gawker. These biscuits look yummy.

  22. Posted July 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Megan,
    We make a variation of this same cream biscuit, and the same flat often surprises me, always when it’s been awhile. I actually find it takes MORE kneading, not less, to raise them to great heights. Though really, it’s more of a swipe and smudge, that mystical fraisage that seems to run counter to all good pastry lessons, yet yields eminently flaky results. My photo is equally flat (http://www.remedialeating.com/2010/11/there-will-be-biscuits.html) — wasn’t until I doubled up on the “kneading”, post-picture, that I got loft and lightness.

    Also, I am haunted by Besalu’s ginger biscuits. Used to drive an hour to fetch a few. Cream biscuits are close, and yet… Magic.

    Have an exquisite, dull break, in the best possible way. You have, by all accounts, earned it.

    xo,
    M

    PS: A wonderful, long-lost friend of mine from years back just tracked me down today, via an internet rabbit hole, that included your site as a key crossroads! Thanks for that.

  23. megang
    Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:11 am

    Molly! More kneading?! I’m going to try it. I know exactly that swipe and smudge you speak of. I think maybe I was being too conservative. Yours look lovely and I’m so glad that the internet rabbit hole worked in good ways this way. Enjoy the weekend! xox

  24. Posted July 6, 2012 at 7:13 am

    These look wonderful . . . I’m going to try them tomorrow for breakfast!

  25. Posted July 6, 2012 at 8:50 am

    The ginger biscuits at CB are a must do whenever I’m in Seattle! My absolute favorite. And these look pretty decent too and I’ll try them out this weekend.

  26. Posted July 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Megan, you sound like you´re having a well deserved vacation after the granola baking days. How great that you´re business is soaring. The pictures from the cabin make me want to be there, eating one of the breakfasts you must be trying for the cookbook!

  27. Sarah
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Just took these out of the oven. They’re GORGEOUS!

  28. megang
    Posted July 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Sarah YESSS!!! Enjoy!

  29. Posted July 11, 2012 at 7:03 am

    Oh, lingering…it’s the best. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed just sitting around in Sicily, staring off into space. When you get in the mode of work, work, work, sometimes it feels like being on a train that suddenly comes to a screeching halt. And then all you hear is the birds :) Can’t wait to see you!

  30. Posted July 14, 2012 at 2:39 am

    I just came across your blog. How have I missed it so far? Happily reading through lots of older posts. I just love your writing style and the stories you share. Happy to become a regular follower.

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