strawberry balsamic pie

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I know it’s not quite strawberry season yet, but after the long winter we’ve been experiencing I was in need of a little summer.  Fortunately for me, I still had two bags full of strawberries that I picked last summer in my freezer.  Once I opened up the bag of strawberries– I kid you not, it smelled like summer.  There’s just something about freshly picked berries that are so much more fragrant (even after 8 months in the freezer, apparently) than the fresh strawberries at the supermarket this time of year.  Heavenly.

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Also very fortunately for me, for Christmas I received an awesome pie cookbook by the Four & Twenty Blackbird sisters and wanted to try a recipe from it.

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As with any pie, you start with the crust.  Their all-butter pie crust recipe was slightly different from other crusts I’ve made as it called for a little cider vinegar to be incorporated along with the ice water which intrigued me.  It added a nice little tang to the crust, though once baked was not super noticeable.

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In addition to the main event of strawberries, the recipe called for a baking apple to be grated into the filling.  I am guessing this might be to help thicken it up, since the berries break down to a liquid, and once baked I really didn’t pick up on the apple flavor so the trick worked.

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Into the filling the recipe also called for balsamic vinegar, which is what intrigued me about the recipe since I liked the combination of strawberries and balsamic so much last summer when I made them into ice cream; the recipe also called for a few dashes of Angostura bitters to be added as well.  The authors say they think bitters add a little something to the pie, and though I can’t put into words exactly what that is, I would have to agree.

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Just look how summer-y the filling looks before getting a top put on it!  You can almost feel the warm sun.

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The recipe recommended a lattice crust, but I was short on time so just did a standard top crust (or “ceiling,” as a friend of mine calls it) and carved an “S” for strawberry into it for venting.

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This pie was so good.  I brought it into work to share and it got rave reviews.  I highly recommend making it if you too are wanting to bring a little summer into your world right about now.  If you close your eyes while eating it you can almost feel warm sun on your face, I swear.

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Strawberry Balsamic Pie (adapted slightly from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” by Emily Elsen & Melissa Elsen)

  • All- Butter Crust for a 9-inch double-crust pie (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and quartered (5 to 6 cups) NOTE: I used frozen strawberries and it turned out just fine
  • 1 small baking apple (such as Norther Spy or Golden Delicious)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ground arrowroot
  • 2 grinds fresh black pepper, fine setting
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Have ready and refrigerated one pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan and pastry round or lattice to top.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar over the strawberries.  Stir gently to combine and allow the fruit to macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Peel the apple and shred on the large holes of a box grater.  Drain the strawberries of excess liquid and combine with the shredded apple.  Sprinkle on the balsamic vinegar and Angostura bitters.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, arrowroot, black pepper, and salt.  Gently fold the sugar mixture into the strawberry mixture.  Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell, arrange the lattice or pastry round on top, and crimp as desired.

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes to set the pastry.

Meanwhile, position the oven racks at the bottom and center positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the pie on the rimmed baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry is set and beginning to brown.  Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees F, move the pie to the center oven rack, and continue to bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout, 35 to 40 minutes longer.

Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, 2 to 3 hours.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

The pie will keep refrigerated for 3 days or at rom temperature for 2 days.

All Butter Crust for Double Crust Pie (from “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book” by Emily Elsen & Melissa Elsen)

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup ice

Stir the flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl.  Add the butter pieces and coat with the flour mixture using a bench scraper or spatula.  With a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture, working quickly until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; be careful not to overblend.)

Combine the water, cider vinegar, and ice in a large measuring cup or small bowl.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the flour mixture, and mix and cut it in with a bench scraper or spatula until it is fully incorporated.  Add more of the ice water mixture, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, using the bench scraper or your hands or both) to mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.  Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with more small drops of the ice water mixture, if necessary, to combine.  Divide the dough in half and shape the dough into flat discs, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight, to give the crust time to mellow.

Wrapped tightly, the dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

rhubarb, lemon, and vanilla pie

This time of year I’m usually gifted with large bags of rhubarb by assorted friends and family.  I love the stuff but sometimes feel like I’m running out of things to do with it.  Not so.  Though I’ve made several different kinds of rhubarb pie seen here and here and here, I still managed to find another rhubarb pie recipe that intrigued me.

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Lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract along with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg get added to the otherwise typical rhubarb filling.  Genius!  So simple, but so good.  Next time I may actually add a little fresh vanilla bean along with the extract just to deepen the vanilla flavor.

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I had big plan for doing a fancy lattice top to this pie but was short on time so did what my mom calls a “flopover” pie.  You simply fold the edges of the crust over the top of the filling.  I’ve brought this style of pie to dinner parties before and people are always impressed and refer to it as a galette, which sounds much nicer than flopover.  Those French and their fancy words.

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The lemon zest and juice pair so nicely with the rhubarb and the vanilla adds a little extra sweetness.  And it would’ve been so great with the mascarpone ice cream I made last week!  If only there were any left by the time I made the pie…

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Rhubarb, Lemon, and Vanilla “Flopover” Pie (filling recipe from “A Year of Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb (4 1/2 cups), trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425.

Place the chopped rhubarb, sugar, arrowroot or cornstarch, lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract, and nutmeg in a medium-size bowl.  Stir together with a large spoon until well combined.

Pour the rhubarb filling into the prepared crust (see below).  Fold crust over the top of the pie.  Cover crust with aluminum foil to prevent it from browning too quickly.  Remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking.  Bake for about an hour, until the crust is golden and juices are bubbling in the center of the pie.

One Crust Pie Pastry (from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook)

  • 1 cup all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in shortening, using pastry blender or crisscrossing 2 knives, until particles are size of small peas.  Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost leaves side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more water can be added if necessary).

Gather pastry into a ball.  Shape into flattened round.  If desired, wrap flattened round of pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes to firm up the shortening slightly, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky and lets the water absorb evenly throughout the dough.

Roll pastry on lightly floured surface, using floured rolling pin, into circle 3 inches larger than upside-down pie plate.  Fold pastry into fourths and place in pie plate; or roll pastry loosely around rolling pin and transfer to pie plate.  Unfold or unroll pastry and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side and being careful not to stretch pastry, which will cause it to shrink when baked.

ten suggestions for your Thanksgiving menu

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and while I’m sure you all have had your menus planned for a month like I have, I thought I would offer up some suggestions in case you need a little last-minute inspiration.

For starters, how about Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Parmesan Croutons?  It brings a couple of my favorite Thanksgiving flavors together (sage + butternut squash) in a velvety soup that would make a great prelude to the big meal.

Rather than rolls, why not serve slices of Pumpkin, Sage, and Browned Butter Quick Bread?  As its’ name suggests, it doesn’t take long to make which will be very handy if you’ve got lots of other cooking/baking to do.  Better yet, these could be made this weekend and frozen until Thanksgiving day.

Brussels sprouts have become a staple with my family on Thanksgiving.  I’ve made them a variety of ways and one of my favorites is Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts Gratin.  I first had a version of this at a restaurant in NYC and couldn’t stop thinking about them so sought out a recipe so that I could recreate them at home.

Macaroni-and-cheese was a staple of my childhood (mostly of the Kraft boxed variety) but it never made an appearance on T-day.  A friend I used to work with in Detroit whose family was from the south told me they always had it as part of their meal so I  have since incorporated it on occasion, when I felt we could stand a few more carbs.  DuMac and Cheese is the best mac and cheese ever.  And if you wanted to add some bacon/pancetta/salt pork to it I would whole-heartedly support that decision.  And if you also wanted to stick it under the broiler for a few seconds to get a nice browned top on it I would say you and I should be friends.

In case we haven’t used enough cheese yet I would also like to recommend Gratineed Acorn Squash.  It’s simple to make which will free up your time to work on more high-maintenance side dishes.  Also, its delicious.

Another great side dish is Sauteed Parsnips and Carrots with Honey and Rosemary.  Parsnips and carrots go together like peas and, well, carrots.  Actually they go together better than that, especially when partnered with honey and rosemary.  Mmm.  Starting to regret not including this one in my meal this year…

And now for everyone’s favorite side dish… Chestnut, Prune, and Pancetta Stuffing.  This stuffing has something for everyone: a little sweet with the prunes, salty pancetta, tart sourdough bread, hearty chestnuts, and then all of the usual stuffing ingredients that add lots of flavor– celery, onion, sage, chicken stock.

Moving on to desserts, one that will be part of my meal this year is Cranberry Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel Topping.  I love this crisp because it is on the light side which is welcome after a heavy meal and also it is not overly sweet.  This is going to be great with the mascarpone gelato I’m making tomorrow.

This Chess Tart will blow your guests’ minds.  Chess pies are another southern gem and are full of butter and sugary goodness and the vanilla wafer crust on this one is out-of-this-world.  A real charmer.

Finally, what would Thanksgiving be without apple pie?  In Wisconsin they put a slice of cheddar cheese on top of slices of apple pie which I’m not super into, however, Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust is something I can totally get behind because it is crazy delicious.  Trust.

Whatever you decide to make for the big day (aka my most favorite holiday since I stopped receiving toys for Christmas) I hope it is a great one filled with lots of friends and family and tasty food.

rosemary bourbon pecan sweet potato pie

This pie is full of all kinds of things I like: sweet potatoes, rosemary, pecans, bourbon.  What’s not to like in there?

I must warn you that this pie is not for the low maintenance baker wanting to whip up something quick.  There are multiple steps and they take some time.  But the end result is well worth it, and as with the other pies I have posted in recent weeks, this would be great for Thanksgiving.  Especially if it’s the only thing you are responsible for bringing to the meal!

The early steps involve roasting sweet potatoes until they are tender enough to puree.  You also have to candy up some pecans and let those cool while you work on the rest of the pie.  (Try to resist the urge to eat them all or you’ll regret that when it comes time to place them decoratively on top of the pie in a few minutes.)  You have to roll out a crust and fit it into a pie pan and then put that in the fridge until you are ready to fill it.  The one kind of high-maintenance step that is never my favorite to do involves separating the eggs and beating the egg whites until foamy and then folding them in with the rest of the batter.  I don’t know why it’s not my favorite thing to do because it’s really not that difficult but it does add a little extra time to the process.

As I said above though, all the extra steps are well worth it.  The resulting pie is light (which is not an easy feat for a sweet potato pie) and the rosemary adds a hint of savory, while the candied pecans add a nice sweet crunch, and the bourbon and maple syrup add a certain depth to the flavor.  And if you artfully arrange the candied pecans (which I didn’t so much do) it’s also a very impressive-looking pie.  Wow your guests this Thanksgiving!

Rosemary Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • ½ recipe Basic Pie Dough (see below)

Pecan Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Filling:

  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan.  Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively.  Place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the topping and filling.

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Add the pecans, maple syrup, bourbon, and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and gooey.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Prick the potatoes 3 or 4 times apiece with the tines of a kitchen fork.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for 1 hour.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, leaving the oven on and reducing the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Let the potatoes stand 10 to 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle.  Peel off the skins and put the flesh in a large bowl.  Mash with a potato masher until softened and smooth.

Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl until billowy peaks form.  Set aside.

Add the heavy cream and butter to the bowl containing the mashed sweet potatoes.  Whisk until the butter melts and the cream is well incorporated, then whisk in the egg yolks until fully combined.

Place the bourbon in a medium-size saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes, then stir in the maple syrup and brown sugar.  Boil 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the brown sugar melts.

Remove from the heat and pour into the potato mixture.  Whisk until well combined.  Add the rosemary, salt, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and whisk to blend thoroughly.

Add the beaten egg whites to the potato mixture.  Fold in gently with a spatula until the whites are fully incorporated.

Pour the filling into the chilled crust, using a spatula to distribute it evenly.  Arrange the candied pecans decoratively over the filling in a pattern that you like.

Bake in the 350 F oven for 1 hour, until the filling is set and doesn’t jiggle when the pie pan is gently shaken.

Cool at least 50 to 60 minutes before serving, so the pie has time to set up and firm throughout.

Basic Pie Dough (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ vegetable shortening, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.

Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter and shortening when you’re done.)

Slowly drizzle in the ice water and stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats.  The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.

Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a ½-inch thick disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

chai apple pie

I love pie. A lot. I also love that others love pie so much that there are entire bakeries, blogs, and cookbooks devoted to just it without cupcakes or cookies or other filler. One can do a lot with pie.

Recently I purchased one of the aforementioned pie-only cookbooks, “A Year of Pies” by Ashley English, and have tried out a few of the recipes including the star of this post, an apple pie made with chai tea spices. Now I love me some chai tea and it totally sounded like a very clever and logical thing to do to pair it with apples, and boy was it.

The cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper (yes, black pepper!) turn it up a notch and add a little excitement to the classic apple pie recipe. I brought it in to work and one coworker who had a piece told me it was so good she dreamt about it that night. High praise!

Some people have told me they are intimidated about making pies but I really think they are one of the easiest things to make as long as you have an ounce of patience when it comes to making your own crust. It’s really not that hard, I promise! The crust recipe below calls for half shortening, half butter, though you could make it with entirely one or the other if you like. In general I avoid shortening like the plague as it is usually so processed that a tub of it would outlive us all and then some, but I have found an organic, 100% palm oil version from Spectrum that I really like and feel better about using. It does add a nice flakiness to the crust.

Chai Spice Apple Pie (adapted slightly from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 1 recipe Basic Pie Dough

Chai Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon black tea
  • ¼ teaspoon whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Filling:

  • 3 pounds apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced, for dotting the filling

Remove one dough disk from the refrigerator. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch, then place the crust in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Using either a mortar and pestle or a spice or coffee grinder, grind the cardamom seeds (if using), black tea, while cloves, and peppercorns to a powder.

Pour the ground spices into a fine-mesh sieve placed over a small bowl. Gently shake the sieve so all but the larger pieces fall through. Discard the larger pieces left in the sieve.

To the freshly ground spices in the bowl, add the ground cardamom (if using), cinnamon, and ginger. Whisk well to combine.

Combine all of the filling ingredients, including the chai spice blend, in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Using either clean hands or a large spoon, toss until all of the ingredients are fully combined and the apple slices are evenly coated.

Pour the apple mixture into the prepared crust, mounding in the center. Dot the surface with diced butter.

Roll the remaining dough disk into a 12-inch circle. Use a small pastry cutter to cut decorative images in the dough, if desired.

Roll the top crust loosely over your rolling pin and unroll it over the filling in the pie pan, making sure it’s centered. Trim the top crust overhang to 1 inch and tuck the edges under the bottom crust overhang. Crimp the edges decoratively.

Place the pie in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the pie on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil to catch overflow juices and bake at 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperatures to 375 F and continue baking for 30 to 35 minutes longer, until the crust is golden and juices are bubbling in the center of the pie.

Cool at least 1 hour before serving.

Basic Pie Dough (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ vegetable shortening, chilled and cubed
  • ¾ cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.

Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter and shortening when you’re done.)

Slowly drizzle in the ice water and stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.

Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a ½-inch thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

easy as pie

This past weekend was a very gray and rainy one.  I happen to love that kind of weather because it allows me to not feel guilty for staying in and being a bit of a bum– sweatpants, movies on the couch, the whole nine yards.  It also, on occasion, puts me in the mood to bake up a storm which is exactly what I did on Sunday.  I bake three (THREE) pies and am going to share one of them with you now.

A buttermilk pie appears to be a cousin to chess pie which I happen to love and have now made three different versions of.  The main difference is that you add the titular ingredient.  Clearly.

The most difficult part of the whole ordeal is making the crust look pretty.  I’m quite pleased with how the double knuckle crimping action turned out.

After whisking up the buttermilk with some eggs, melted butter, sugar, a little flour, vanilla, nutmeg, and pinch of salt you pour it into the crust.  And then you bake.  And then you get one of the simplest and most delicious pies known to man.

This would definitely make a nice addition to your Thanksgiving menu and so I have tagged it as such.  Note that I try to tag all recipes that I deem worthy of a Thanksgiving spread so that you can easily search for ideas.  I will be cooking/baking plenty more things that fall into this category over the next month since Thanksgiving is my favorite.

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pie (by Tim Mazurek of www.lottieanddoof.com found in the book “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 1/2 recipe Basic Pie Dough (see below)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into the 9-inch pie pan.  Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively.  Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs with both sugars and the flour, making sure there are no lumps.  Add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt.  Whisk to combine.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust and place in the preheated oven.

Turn down to 325 F and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is still a little wobbly.

Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature.

Basic Pie Dough (from “A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies” by Ashley English)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled and cubed
  • 3/4 cup ice water

Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.

Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter and shortening when you’re done.)

Slowly drizzle in the ice water and stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until the flour is fully incorporated into the fats.  The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.

Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

cherry rhubarb pie with old fashioned crust

That I love baking is no secret but what I most love to bake is pie.  Any kind of pie: strawberry rhubarb, apple with cheddar cheese crust, chess, hand pies, even peach pie with gluten-free crust.  I love that there are now blogs dedicated solely to pie and bakeries that make nothing but, there was even a whole week dedicated to the subject on NPR.

There were two things I had always wanted to try with pie but hadn’t up until last week and that was to make crust the old-fashioned way, with lard, and secondly to use a pie bird as the venting method.

Lard is rendered pork fat so is obviously out for vegetarians and vegans and has also gotten a bad wrap for being high in fat, but it turns out it might not be as bad as once was thought.  It actually is lower in saturated fat than butter.  Not that I’m throwing the baby out with the bath water on butter anytime soon but lard might have its place in modern cooking too.  It was easy to find a tub of it at my food co-op and was very easy to work with making the dough.  I will for sure experiment with it more in the future.  The pie bird was cute and also easy to work with but I will likely go back to my mom’s method of cutting the initial of the pie fruit with a butter knife into the top crust.  It’s more nostalgic for me than the pie bird even though they’ve been around for ages.

The filling for this pie consisted of what I had on hand in my freezer which happened to be cherries and rhubarb.  What a great combination!  It’s like when you make soup out of what you’ve got in your veggie drawer and it turns out unexpectedly amazing.  Love it when that happens.

“Best-Ever Pie Crust”  (from www.epicurious.com)

Yield: Makes 2 pie crusts (enough dough for 1 double-crust pie, 1 lattice-topped pie, or 2 single-crust pies)

  •   2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups white flour and ½ wheat flour)
  •   1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  •   1 teaspoon salt
  •   ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  •   ½ cup chilled lard or frozen nonhydrogenated solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  •   5 tablespoons (or more) ice water

Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter and lard; using on/off turns, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add 5 tablespoons ice water and mix with fork until dough begins to clump together, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dry. Gather dough together. Divide dough in half; flatten each half into disk. Wrap each disk in plastic   and refrigerate at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. If necessary, soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Cherry Rhubarb Pie

  •   2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
  •   2 cups tart cherries, pitted
  •   2/3 cups sugar
  •   2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or tapioca flour
  •   Pie crust dough for 1 double-crust pie

Combine all ingredients in bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of pie crust dough to fit into pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate; add filling. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pie. Place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in pastry.

Bake pie for 40 to 45 minutes or until crust is golden.  Cover edges with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning if necessary.  Cool on a wire rack.