Berry or other fruit shortcake is surely one of this country’s most estimable contributions to the list of the world’s great desserts. Simplicity itself, shortcake is the epitome of good New England country cooking – sweetened biscuit dough, split, buttered, layered with sweet fruit filling and topped with whipped cream.

The only admonition is to use a light hand with the dough lest it become tough.

Herewith are two springtime shortcakes – strawberry, on a classic egg biscuit, and rhubarb, using an unusually delicious ground almond-enriched biscuit. Either would make a nice finale to a July 4 barbecue.

‘U- PICK’ NATIVE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE WITH EGG BISCUIT CAKE

Dead ripe, fragrant native strawberries, whether picked on your hands and knees or bought from a roadside stand or farmers market, are surely one of nature’s priceless seasonal offerings. In a perfect world, strawberry shortcake would be made only from local berries, picked that day, still warm from the sun, and never refrigerated. The “short” egg biscuit – here made into one large cake for an impressive presentation for a large group – is really best when eaten warm, directly from the oven, but all the elements can be made ahead and held for a few hours.

Serves 8

STRAWBERRY FILLING:

2 quarts ripe strawberries, preferably native berries

¼ to ½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons lemon juice

EGG BISCUIT CAKE:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut in about 10 pieces, plus 3 tablespoons softened unsalted butter for spreading on the biscuit

1 egg

½ cup milk

1½ cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the strawberry filling, choose 8 good-looking berries and set aside.

Hull remaining strawberries. Place half of the berries in a large shallow bowl or on a large rimmed plate and crush, using a potato masher or fork. Slice remaining berries and add to the crushed berries, along with sugar and lemon juice. The amount of sugar you use will depend on sweetness of berries. Stir well to combine.

Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature well before using.)

To make the shortcake, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch cake pan.

In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pulse to combine. Distribute the 6 tablespoons butter over the flour mixture and pulse the machine until the butter is the size of peas.

In a glass measuring cup, whisk the egg with the milk. Pour the milk mixture slowly through the feed tube, pulsing just until dough begins to clump together. (To make by hand, whisk dry ingredients together in a bowl, work in cold butter with your fingertips, add egg and milk and stir with a large fork to make a soft dough.)

Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, knead lightly a few times, and roll or pat to an 8-inch round. (The dough can be prepared several hours ahead and refrigerated at this point. To make individual shortcake biscuits, see Note.)

Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, patting it in gently to make it fit. Place in preheated oven and immediately reduce the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 22 to 26 minutes until pale golden on top. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.

To assemble, combine the heavy cream and the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until soft peaks form. Pay attention, because if you over-whip the cream, it will turn to butter.

Transfer the shortcake to a large serving platter using a large spatula. Using a long serrated knife, split the cake horizontally and lift off the top carefully with the spatula. The biscuit is somewhat fragile, but it’s not a big deal if it breaks.

Spread the bottom of the cake with the 3 tablespoons softened butter. Spoon about half the berry mixture over the bottom layer, and dollop half the whipped cream over the berries. Replace shortcake top, spoon the rest of the berry mixture over, and top with the remaining whipped cream. Decorate with the reserved whole berries. Cut into wedges to serve.

Note: To make individual biscuits, roll or pat the dough to 3/4-inch thickness and cut 8 biscuits using a 2½-inch cutter. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes.

FRANK’S RHUBARB SHORTCAKE WITH ALMOND-BROWN SUGAR BISCUITS

My father-in-law, Frank Dojny, was a multi-talented man with a gentle disposition, who was never pushy about anything – except rhubarb. He had a passion for it. He grew it, but he couldn’t cook it, so every spring Frank began to bring me large bunches of rhubarb, and if I didn’t get around to it fast enough, he made it plain that he was beginning to get impatient.

I’d stew up the rhubarb to stock the freezer, and sometimes combine it with strawberries in a pie or cobbler, but after I made this almond-brown sugar shortcake one year, it became Frank’s favorite and most frequently requested rhubarb dessert. He was right. The orange liqueur rhubarb sauce is an exquisite pairing with these richly flavored almond biscuits.

Serves 4

RHUBARB MIXTURE:

1½ pounds rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

ALMOND-BROWN SUGAR SHORTCAKE:

¼ cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut in about 10 pieces

¼ cup milk

Lightly sweetened whipped cream

To make the rhubarb mixture, in a medium-large saucepan, combine rhubarb with the sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender but still holds some of its shape, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the liqueur, and cool to room temperature. (Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated. Rewarm in a microwave.)

To make the biscuits, combine almonds and two sugars in a food processor and process until nuts are finely ground. Add flour, baking powder and salt, and pulse to combine. Distribute butter over the flour mixture and pulse until most of the butter is the size of small peas. Slowly pour milk through the feed tube, pulsing until dough begins to clump together.

Scrape out onto a lightly floured board, gather together, knead a couple of times and pat to an approximate 3/4-inch thickness. Using a 23/4- or 3-inch cutter, cut 4 biscuits, recutting scraps if necessary.

Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet at least 1½ inches apart. (Can be prepared up to 3 hours ahead and stored, loosely covered, in the refrigerator.)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake biscuits in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Cool slightly on a rack.

To serve, split the shortcakes with a serrated knife. Place bottoms on serving plates, spoon about half the rhubarb mixture over, and replace the tops. Spoon remaining rhubarb over, and top with dollops of whipped cream.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny