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.

final burst of summer

How can it be Labor Day weekend already?  Didn’t summer just get started?  Just a few weeks ago I bought raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and yes even strawberries at the farmer’s market and now the only fruit I can find there is apples?  What???

No matter.  I didn’t let a little lack of fruit at the farmer’s market stop me from making something I wanted to ever since I saw a picture of it in July’s Bon Appetit magazine: hand pies.  And not just one batch of hand pies– I went full-on and did a double batch for a bbq I attended and made both blueberry and cherry varieties. 

And what does every pie start with?  Crust of course.

I made a lot of crust.  I knew there were going to be a lot of people at the bbq and since the recipe only made 12 individual pies I didn’t want anyone to feel left out so made 24 little hand pies.  What was I thinking?

The making of the crust was pretty simple, as was the making of the fillings.  In general, I find pies to be one of the easiest and quickest desserts to make and the thought of individual pies just seemed so quaint and fun that I couldn’t help myself.

I had visions of wrapping them all cute in individual wax paper bags and serving them from a basket lined with a vintage dish towel with some fun floral pattern on it.  Sounds lovely and charming, right?

A word to the wise: do not make these when you are slightly pressed for time.  Also it’s probably a good idea not to make them the first time you meet your future in-laws, say, or when you’re trying to impress your new boss.  Neither of those things was the case with me, I’m just trying to think of scenarios when it might not be a great time to try something so meticulous as crafting hand pies.

The rolling out of the dough and the slicing up into squares went well.  Dropping filling onto the squares even went pretty well, too.  (Note the below image was the last batch I put together.  The first few go-rounds were definitely not so photo-worthy…)

I’m a generous person and I want everyone’s pie to have a generous portion of filling.  That is not a good way to think when making hand pies.  A little dollop will do in this case.  Anything more than that will ooze out the side of the pie and prevent you from being able to seal it.

Sealing the pie is key.  Above is one of the few pies that actually looked halfway decent.  Below you will see the finished product when pies are not sealed properly.  Not the prettiest, but thank goodness for that parchment paper.  That saved me from having to scrub the baking sheets afterwards.  Thank you parchment  paper!

Fortunately the pies were not so unattractive once peeled off the parchment paper.  In fact, they were even kind of cute.  I ran out of time for the whole wax paper bag thing, but in the end it didn’t really matter– they were a hit at the bbq.  Happy Labor Day weekend and I hope you enjoy these last moments of summer!

Hand Pies (adapted from Blackberry Hand Pie and Cherry Hand Pie recipes from www.epicurious.com)

  • Pastry dough for a double-crust pie (see recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Blueberry Hand Pie Filling

  • 2 ½ cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon tapioca flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons sugar

Cook blueberries, tapioca flour, cinnamon and sugar in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture just boils and is thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a shallow bowl to cool.

Cherry Hand Pie Filling

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted, or about 12 ounces frozen pitted cherries, unthawed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Combine fresh cherries, sugar and salt in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes. Add tapioca flour; bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Hand Pie Instructions

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out half of dough 3/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 16- by 11-inch rectangle, then trim into a 15- by 10-inch rectangle, reserving scraps. Cut into 6 (5-inch) squares. Place a heaping tablespoon of fruit filling in center of 1 square. Moisten edges of square with milk and fold into a triangle, pressing edges to seal. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and press tines of a fork around edges of triangle. Make 5 more triangles in same manner, arranging them 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling, rerolling all of the scraps together once to make 12 triangles total.

Brush triangles with milk and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons raw sugar. Bake, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until pies are golden, about 30 minutes total. Transfer pies to racks to cool.

Pastry Dough (found at epicurious.com)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water (for a single-crust pie) or 5 tablespoons for a double-crust pie evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated. Do not overwork dough, or pastry will be tough. Turn out dough onto a work surface. For a single-crust pie, divide dough into 4 portions; for a double-crust pie, divide dough into 8 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all dough together with pastry scraper. For a single-crust pie, press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. For a double-crust pie, divide dough into 2 pieces, with one slightly larger, then form each into a ball and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. If dough is sticky, dust lightly with additional flour. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour.

life is just a bowl of…

Cherry season!

Cherry pie is my most favoritist kind of pie and while I have made many of them over the years I’ve never actually done so with fresh cherries so thought it best to amend that as soon as possible.  Now, unfortunately I don’t have one of those little tools that helps you pit things like olives and cherries so I did so by hand.  Don’t so much recommend that…

…though apart from squirting a little cherry juice in my eye, the hand-pitting worked out just fine.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m not great with rolling out crust and pinching the ends all fancy and purty.  Don’t get me wrong, the crust tastes just fine, but it usually looks like a hot tranny mess as the kids (used to) say.  There are holes.  Sometimes I have to pull extra dough from the side where the crust is thicker and use it to patch the holes.  But let me let you in on another secret: no one seems to care that they’re not always the most picture-perfect-looking pies ’cause they taste pretty darn good.

With that being said, this is the first time I have ever attempted a lattice crust.

Not bad, but you can definitely see where I had to do a bit of stretching and patching.  But to be honest with you I don’t trust baked goods that look too perfect.  Same thing goes for people, but we’ll save that for a later date.

The lattice crust required me to use a utensil that rarely gets attention in my house:

I’m referring to the pizza cutter of course.  The rolling pin gets all sorts of love chez moi.

And I think the extra effort was worth it!

I promise to get some vegetables or at least savory dishes on the blog soon.  Clearly you see where my preferences lie…

Rustic Cherry Pie (adapted slightly from a recipe found in the Spring ’11 edition of Edible Grand Traverse magazine)

  • 4 cups pitted tart cherries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup flour
  • Pie crust (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with one crust and place into freezer.  Put cherries in a mixing bowl.  Mix sugar and flour together; stir into cherries.  Pour cherry filling into unbaked frozen pie crust.  Top with a full crust or lattice pastry.

Bake for 20 minutes at 425.  Lower heat to 350 and bake for another 40-45 minutes, until filling is bubbly.  In last 20 minutes of baking cover crust with aluminum foil if crust is browning.

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.