With summer in Texas come memories of hot days on red-dirt lanes and entire families, buckets in hand, trampling through the brush to pick sweet, succulent wild dewberries. For a summer dessert that celebrates the dewberry’s special qualities, Judy Willcott, the owner of Austin’s redoubtable Texas French Bread bakeries, has concocted a shortcake that is uncomplicated yet overbrimming with buttery, lemony flavor. “Shortcake is sort of like tuna salad,” says Willcott. “You always want it the way your mother made it. This is a sconelike cake. I think it works so well because it’s not too sweet.” Just as her bakeries excel in authentic baguettes, so has Willcott here created a pure Texas treat crowned with the state’s backroads treasure. Texas French Bread, 3401 Guadalupe, 458-3910; 416 Congress, 477-8046; 3213 Red River, 478-8794; 2900 Rio Grande, 499-0544.
Also known as the trailing blackberry, the dewberry is a vinelike plant with bristles in place of thorns. Around these parts, native dewberries can be harvested through the summer and map even turn up at markets. But store-bought berries (especially at upward of $2 a pint) never taste as sweet as those you forage yourself.
While out on picking expeditions, wear insect repellent, long sleeves, and gloves; wasps, like people, are drawn to dewberries. The sweetest berries will be a bit dull in color and practically dropping off the vine. Harvest early in the day and keep the berries cool and dry after picking; fruit picked on sunny days has the highest vitamin content. Bramble fruits may be frozen unsweetened or in a sugar syrup but will keep only 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Texas French Bread, 3401 Guadalupe, 458-3910
416 Congress, 477-8046
3213 Red River, 478-8794
2900 Rio Grande, 499-0544
Judy Willcott’s Dewberry Shortcake— Recipe