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.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The lady on the left taught me how to bake pies, amongst many, many other things.  Thanks Mom.  You’re the best.  (Incidentally the lady on the right taught me how to bake some awesome banana bread.  Thanks Aunt Sarah, you’re awesome too.)

I’m the blonde child with the giant red Solo cup that is partially obscuring my cousin’s face in this image.  Sorry cuz.  Looks like I was way more into the grape Kool-Aid or whatever that dark liquid is in the background than I was into smiling for the photo.  Sorry about that Mom.  You and Aunt Sarah look great.  You make the 80’s look stylish.

I remember once when my mom was baking a pie (which she often did) and she had some leftover pie dough that she let my brother and I make our own mini pies with.  I don’t remember the exact details but I think we were either short on fruit in the house that day or she was letting my brother and I get creative with the filling as I recall that my brother filled his mini pie with strawberry jam (smart move, bro).  My choice?  Grapes.  Yeah.  Raw green grapes.  Not good.  Pretty sure the family dog was the only one who enjoyed my pie that day…

But I totally appreciate the fact that my mom let us experiment in the kitchen and also just that she was such an amazing baker and mom and still is.

Her standards are peach, blueberry, or apple pies, but she must have made strawberry rhubarb pies back in the day too.  I realized this today when I ate a bite of the strawberry rhubarb pie I made and it totally brought me back to my childhood and tasted like summer all at the same time.

Thanks for always being an inspiration Mom.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • 3 cups 1/2″-thick slices of rhubarb
  • 3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour

Preheat oven to 425.  Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Pour mixture into pie shell (see below for pie crust recipe).  Place top pie crust over filling and crimp around the edges to seal to bottom crust.  Slice vents into top pie crust.  Cover the crust with aluminum foil to prevent crust from burning.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil and bake for 10 minutes more or until crust is golden brown.  Let cool for 2 hours before consuming.

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

  • 2 cups all-purpose or unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
  • 4 to 5 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 two flattened rounds.  If desired, wrap flattened rounds 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 2 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.

a taste of summer in what should be winter

Growing up peaches were always my favorite fruit.  I never thought about this before but it could partially be attributed to the fact that I was born in late summer and that is the peak season for peaches.  And with late summer and my birthday and peaches comes peach pie, which just happens to be one of my favorite kinds of pie.

I realize it’s not late summer right now, even though it feels that way in the upper Midwest.  It’s been at or near 80 degrees for the past week.  It’s nuts!  But it’s the good kind of nuts since normally we’re up to our eyeballs in snow this time of year and riddled with cabin fever.  No complaints about the unseasonably warm temps from this girl, no sir.

While there are “fresh” peaches at the grocery store right now, flown in from who-knows-where, I happen to be lucky enough to have a mother that buys them locally by the bushelful in August and then freezes them in perfectly-proportioned-for-pie-filling freezer bags.  And she shares these frozen fruit bags with me.  Score!

So in belated honor of Pi Day I thawed out some of those beautiful peaches and baked myself a gluten-free pie.  It tasted glorious, like late summer.

Peach Pie

Gluten-Free Dough (slightly adapted from recipe found in “Blackbird Bakery Gluten-Free” by Karen Morgan)

  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • ¾ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons glutinous rice flour (Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour works just fine), plus more for dusting
  • ¼ cup sorghum flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons guar gum
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted cultured butter, diced
  • 3 eggs

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend.  Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Add the eggs and mix on high speed until the dough turns in on itself.  Turn out the dough onto a work surface that has been dusted with rice flour and knead for 3 turns.  Divide in half and form each half into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Remove both disks from the refrigerator 15 minutes before rolling out.  Dust the work surface again with rice flour and roll out one disk to a 14-inch round.  Gingerly transfer the rolled dough to a 12-inch deep-dish pie pan, fitting the dough into the pan and being cautious not to tear the dough, as it is delicate.  (If you do tear the dough, just join the tear together and brush the tear with water; smooth with your finger until the damage is no longer visible.)

Roll out the second disk of dough to a 14-inch round, adding additional rice flour, if needed.  Set aside.

Peach Filling (adapted slightly from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook”)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups sliced peaches (6 to 8 medium)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon together.  Add peaches and toss.  Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Add pie filling to pie pan fitted with bottom crust.  Place reserved top crust over the top of the filling.  Crimp edges of pie crusts together until sealed.  Slice vents in top of pie crust.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Wrap edges of crust with aluminum foil if they brown too quickly.

Let pie cool for 2 hours before eating.

cranberry brie pie

I had a request for the recipe for the Cranberry Brie Pie I made for Thanksgiving so am posting it now.  Unfortunately I could not find the origin of the recipe online as I clipped it from a magazine years ago, which is a shame because a) I’d like to give proper credit where credit is due, and b) people need to know about this recipe and then go out and make it!  Updated 12.15.11: recipe came from Fresh Home magazine.

Like any cranberry recipe (at least any cranberry recipe I’ve tried) you have to first cook the cranberries down to soften them up a bit.  Then you pair them with a little bit of creamy, slightly salty Brie cheese in the shell of a pie and top with a butter/brown sugar/flour combination for a nice crispy finish.  The combination of flavors was awesome– the tart from the cranberries with the savory, salty bite of the Brie, and the sweet of the brown sugar topping.  Awesome.  It was my favorite dessert at Thanksgiving this year but could certainly make a great finish to any meal this holiday season since cranberries are still abundant in grocery stores.  Take advantage!

Last night I had a small Christmas party and spent oh, about 7 hours preparing for it yesterday so am a little bit beat this afternoon.  This week I will be posting some images from the party with tips on how to survive your own holiday shindigs this time of year.  I definitely learned a few lessons myself and am happy to share them so that you do not make the same mistakes I did..

Cranberry Brie Pie (recipe by John McMillan published in Fresh Home magazine)

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz. Brie cheese, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 sheet refrigerated pastry dough (or use One Crust Pie Pastry recipe to make your own below)

Topping:

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup cold butter, cubed

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice, flour and vinegar.  Cook over medium heat until berries pop, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, unroll pastry into a 9-in. pie plate; flute edges.  Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes.

Remove cranberry mixture from the heat; stir in vanilla.  Pour into crust.  Dot with butter.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine flour and brown sugar; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly (cover edges with foil during the last 20 minutes to prevent overbrowning if necessary).  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Refrigerate leftovers.

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 2 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.