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the fear of cream

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries & Cream // Delightful CrumbFor many years, I harbored a fear of heavy cream. I know I’m not the only woman with this problem, nor am I the only one trying to escape its clutches. But it’s worth admitting nonetheless—we don’t talk about this enough.

When I began cooking, I avoided recipes with any significant amount of butter or cream or even olive oil, for that matter—afraid, I’m sure, that these ingredients would go straight to my thighs and take up residence there for all eternity. It certainly doesn’t help that the word heavy is in the very name of whipping cream. The restrictive habits I’d picked up in college didn’t do me much good either. And at some point, I think I stopped believing I was worth that kind of indulgence. Other people? Sure! Just not me.

Somewhere along the way, I’d lost the mentality surrounding food that I’d grown up with: nutritious meals, occasional indulgences. I heard people talking. Thin was and is and will be in, and heavy cream and its many fattening companions wouldn’t be much help in that department.

Strawberries // Delightful CrumbBut what about happiness, and celebration? What about relishing life and the people we love, gathering around the table and enjoying all that we’ve been given without worrying about the size and tightness of our pants? How are we to be truly present in our bodies if we are so very distracted by controlling and despising them?

We are quick to coo at a baby’s pudgy hands and dimpled thighs, and yet we scorn the fat on our own bodies. We complement our friends and make desserts to share, but we critique ourselves and abstain. We say that it’s fine, that it’s normal, that someday we will stop worrying about these things.

I was once fixated on being as thin as possible so as not to take up too much space in the world. But I want to take up space. I want to drink up life in unrefined gulps, to grab it with both hands, to relish each moment. I have a long way to go, but I’m closer all the time. Falling in love with the way food brings us together was the first step. Making fantastic homemade ice cream helped a good deal as well. And these biscuits brought me further still, to a point at which I can affirm straight up cream in my dessert bowl.

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries & Cream // Delightful Crumb

Alongside the recipe, Kim Boyce tells a story about the drop biscuits her great-grandmother made for her when she was a little girl. They came from a box, and the presentation wasn’t fancy. But long after bedtime, the two of them would sit on the back porch, summer’s heat heavy in the air, eating biscuits and Cool Whip and sugared strawberries.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I just don’t think this would be a story if the biscuits were replaced with granola and non-fat yogurt, or a big green salad. I think we need a bit of indulgence every now and again. I think we need the reminder that we are worth that—that and so much more.

I was somewhat obsessed with this recipe for several weeks before I made it. This despite the fact that Kim Boyce was directing me to put a big dollop of cream into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. I loved that story, and I loved the fact that she said to nestle the biscuit into the cream and strawberries, which sounds perfectly comforting. On top of all of that, the recipe read as summertime at its finest. Which it is. Summertime at its fullest, most comforting, most joy-filled best. I refuse to be afraid of that.

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries & Cream // Delightful Crumb

Drop Biscuits with Strawberries & Cream

Adapted (just barely) from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

This recipe is pretty much perfect. I sometimes skip a few steps for ease—for example, if you don’t have a sifter, or don’t want to fuss, you can simply whisk together the dry ingredients. And in truth, the strawberries will be lovely even without macerating or sweetening at all, but this is a very nice touch if you’re after perfection. As for the crème fraîche, this helps keep the cream from getting over whipped and provides a bit of tang and shine as well. It’s a lovely addition if you have some on hand.

I’ve been meaning to eat a leftover biscuit with jam, but the cream and berries always taunt so convincingly. Let me know if you give that a try!

Serves: 6

Butter, for the baking sheet

FOR THE BISCUITS

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup natural cane sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup cold heavy cream

TO FINISH

1 1/2 tablespoons natural cane sugar, divided

1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 cup cold heavy cream

1/3 cup crème fraîche, optional

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rub a baking sheet lightly with butter.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that remain in the sifter.

Pour in the cream and, with a fork or your hands, stir until the dough just begins to come together. It will be very shaggy; do not overmix.

Pile the dough into six mounds on the baking sheet, leaving space between them. Use your hands to tuck in the rough pieces of the dough. Sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon sugar.

Bake the biscuits for 34 to 40 minutes, rotating the sheet once halfway through, until they begin to turn golden brown.

While the biscuits bake, place the berries in a bowl and toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Allow them to macerate, uncovered at room temperature, for about 30 minutes, or until the biscuits are done.

Meanwhile, whip the remaining cup of cream, combined with crème fraîche if desired, into soft peaks that barely hold their shape, and chill.

When the biscuits are out of the oven, fill bowls with cream and berries, then nestle a warm biscuit alongside.

Photos taken with iPhone 5 and edited with VSCOcam.

17 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your past struggles with food. I have the same fears. But I also love making memories and putting in the effort of a dessert to celebrate….nothing marks a special occasion like something sweet! I grew up in the kitchen with my mom and we share so many memories. I strive for balance and want to encourage her in that as well, but when my parents came to visit, we made a point to make a berry pie together and relished every moment together and every bite of that pie!

  2. This is such a touching post. I’m glad you want to take up your space in the world. Amen, girl!

  3. Lovely post. So many of us have struggles – great and small – around food. What it means to us, what it means to our bodies, to our place in the world and how it affects how we treat the world. Those issues are so worth discussing, but they’re scary to talk about sometimes. It’s brave of you to do it.

  4. I think we bonded over the jist of this when we first met at my book signing in SF. I used to not put oil on roasted veg to save calories and had no idea that is was ESSENTIAL in making them wonderful, or even edible instead of pellets of hard veggies. Love your sentiments and honesty here, my friend. Fascinating how we grow and change and learn. We become better cooks when we let go of the *control* a bit…always a process

  5. My favourite part was when you noted how impossible those stories surrounding food would be if they were always centred around low calorie/non fat/non sugar etc items. Those foods don’t nestle. They don’t form into dollops. And they certainly don’t get sprinkled with anything desirable. All of those warm, feel-y adjectives come from a place of celebration and gratitude, not necessarily abandon. So glad there are thoughtful women like you discussing this push and pull, Stacy.

  6. It’s so important that people aren’t scared of fat – a little of what you fancy does you good and straight up whole, unprocessed cream is a million miles better for your body than nasty additives, pretend sugars etc. This bowl sounds absolutely gorgeous and I love that first photo – makes me want to dive right in.

  7. This looks wonderful, though I have to admit I’ve never had a fear of cream or butter. Unfortunately!

  8. Kim Boyce can do no wrong, and I thing that cream is a lovely, lovely thing. Let’s move past the ‘just whizz some bananas in a blender and pretend it is ice cream.’

  9. For something delightfully different, try macerating your strawberries in a touch of brown sugar and a splash of balsamic vinegar. The result is extraordinary on biscuits, and the juice it creates, drizzled over ice cream on a hot, windy Summer day is nothing short of poetic. Biscuits and strawberries are such wonderful companions.

  10. I fear cream and butter too — but I tackle this with moderation and healthy substitution. It’s still a struggle, but a healthy one i guess. Thanks for being honest — it’s tough but someone has to do it.

  11. Love Good to the Grain–can’t believe I haven’t made these drop biscuits yet! (All that will change promptly.) Really enjoyed this post and everything you wrote. Cheers to taking up space.

  12. Stacy, this is such a beautiful and moving post. I, too, had (well, still harbor) a fear of cooking with things like heavy cream and butter. But as my taste relaxes and my sense of self grows, I have begun to savor the distinct flavors they bring to a dish. Thank you for sharing your story, and for sharing this lovely dish. I now have a hankering for berries, scones, and clotted cream. I found your lovely blog through Eat This Poem and am eager to explore your world.

  13. I’ve read this over a few times now, Stacy. Every time it gives good feelings all over thinking about our conversation(s) at Tartine a months ago. Look at us! We said we *should* write about this subject, and look at us go… we went and DID it. Fist bumps for that, friend.

  14. I’m so happy I stumbled on this post (which I found through Eat This Poem). My wife and I had the “stop the madness” talk for the hundredth time last night, and I felt that all-too-familiar war with myself: wanting to enjoy life, to wrap myself up in the immensity of flavor and experience, but also wanting my jeans to fit. For my wife to think I’m sexy (which she assures me she will, no matter what size pants I wear). To feel good in my body. It’s a hard balance to strike, and I really enjoyed reading your manifesto here, your decision to embrace both sides. Thank you, and kudos to you.

  15. what a beautiful post! and it is so good to have something say it out loud. i love cream but am mortally afraid. i use butter but so sparingly that it feels like it is not even there. my father on the other hand always wanted us to be liberal with real ‘fats’. he eats plenty of olive oil and butters his toast every morning. i wish i had inherited that kind of free feeling. i think if we just dialled down all the nutrition talk and ate real food and treats in moderation we will all be fine. but that journey of course is one step forward and three steps back.

  16. this is so true about women. thank you for sharing! I have come to the same conclusion about food and life and happiness.

  17. Just discovered your blog and love it! Cream and butter I have embraced in full force – oh my goodness – it could be a problem soon but cholesterol/weight/blood pressure are all in good form! I don’t need to justify this to myself – I love the richness and mouth feel of full fat dairy, cheese, duck fat – but if other people raise an eyebrow I tell them if you’re going to eat fat, it may as well be the natural, best sort of fat!