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.

chess pie, take 3

I liked the first two chess pies I made for this here blog so much that when I saw a recipe for a lemon-buttermilk version I decided to try it a third time.

Before you get to the filling part of this pie you first have to make the crust.  The recipe recommended using pie weights or dried beans over parchment paper to keep the crust from bubbling up and since I don’t have pie weights I used some dried pinto beans I had in my cabinet.

It worked like a charm, though please note: I highly recommend making the crust edges taller than you think they ought to be because it shrunk up pretty good when I baked it.  I actually couldn’t fit all of the filling in so had to throw a little out and I never like to throw food out, particularly when involves things like butter and sugar, so take my word for it and make the edges nice and tall!

The filling consists of eggs, butter, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, buttermilk, and cornmeal amongst a few other necessary ingredients like vanilla and flour.  In other words, heaven.

It baked up into a lovely golden brown and was very tasty.  This would be a nice addition to your Thanksgiving pie menu as it’s quite light and the hint of lemon is refreshing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the heavier pies of the season (pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, etc.) but it’s always good to have another option, too.

I plan to get a few more recipes posted before the big day so be sure to check back for more ideas!

Buttermilk-Lemon Chess Pie (from recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

Crust:

  •   2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
  •   1 teaspoon kosher salt
  •   1 teaspoon sugar
  •   3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ cubes
  •   1/2 cup (or more) cold buttermilk

Filling:

  •   1 1/2 cups sugar
  •   1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  •   1 1/2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
  •   1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  •   5 large eggs, beaten to blend
  •   2/3 cup buttermilk
  •   1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  •   1 3/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  •   1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  •   2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •   Pinch of kosher salt

For   crust:

Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add butter; pulse until pea-size pieces of butter form. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk; pulse until moist clumps form, adding more buttermilk by tablespoonfuls if too dry. Form into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 14″ round. Transfer to pie pan; gently press onto bottom and up sides of pan.   Trim dough, leaving a 1″ overhang; tuck overhang under. Crimp edges decoratively. Line with parchment paper or foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake crust until edges begin to brown, 30-35 minutes. Remove paper and weights; bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes longer. Let cool completely.
For filling:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl until well combined. Whisk eggs and remaining 6 ingredients in a large bowl (mixture may look curdled). Slowly whisk in dry ingredients. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until custard is set around edges but jiggles slightly in center, 1 hour—1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.