It took me a while as a young bride to stop feeling defensive whenever she was around - she was that good!
Once I relaxed a bit, we had a lot of fun together, cooking up a storm in the kitchen, picking berries out on the coast, visiting garage sales and sending each other craft ideas. She also taught me how to make her version of strawberry shortcake.
Elna's shortcake is dense, almost like a scone - no resemblance to sponge cake here! She always crushed the berries and served the shortcake crumbled in a bowl sprinkled with a little sugar and splashed with heavy cream. It was a gloriously sloppy mess of soft shortcake with crunchy top bits, sweet juicy berries and rich cream.
I did take liberties with her recipe after I gained confidence. She used vegetable shortening, a flavor I have always found to be flat, so I subbed in butter and, to my taste, it made all the difference. I macerate my strawberries lightly with sugar but don't crush them with a potato masher as she did. But I still do serve them in a bowl with a splash of cream on top and I still think of her fondly every time I dip my spoon into that delicious g'mish.
Elna's Strawberry Shortcake (with slight changes and apologies to her)
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2.2 oz (about 1/3 cup) cold butter, cut into pea-sized pieces
2/3 cup milk
2-3 baskets of strawberries, macerated with sugar to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl. Work in the butter with fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Beat the egg in a measuring cup and add milk to fill to 3/4 cup full. Mix in to dry ingredients with a spoon, gathering the shaggy mass together with your hands if there is extra flour in the bottom. Don't knead too much, just enough to gather it all together, and pat it into a roughly round cottage loaf shape. Place on a pie plate or baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
If you can resist picking the crunchy bits off the top while it cools, you are a stronger person than I. Once cooled (or still warm, for that matter), top with macerated strawberries and a splash of heavy cream or half and half.
Serves 6-8 depending on appetite.