Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bourbon Icebox Pie and the DC Square Dance


I've made a lot of pies with bourbon before. Banana cream pies with peanut crusts and salty bourbon caramel, drunken pumpkin bourbon pies, peach-bourbon ginger hand pies...but I have never made, nor even heard of (but do tell if you have) a pie that is just straight. up. bourbon. Or at least I didn't until this Saturday. Brent and I were drinking coffee in the morning, leafing through the 1972 New York Times Heritage Cookbook, looking for a pie to bring to the DC Square Dance that evening, when we came upon a recipe for Kentucky bourbon pie. For a boy who does not have too much of a sweet tooth, this one really caught his attention. After every other recipe I mentioned..."But what about plum crumble (which I did end up also making--stay tuned)? Jeff Davis? Chess?" His only reply was "Meh. I dunno...that bourbon pie sounds pretty good...and perfect for a square dance."

Swayed by his inclination and old-timey argument (which is nothing new 'round here), along with the simplicity of the recipe, bourbon pie it was. I mean let's face it BOURBON + PIE. Ain't no grave gonna hold that down. The whole thang is essentially bourbon + whipped cream + egg yolks in a pie crust, though a gingersnap or Oreo crust would also be fantastic. The bourbon is uncooked (as is everything else, so make sure you get good, fresh, organic eggs) making it wayyyy boozy. Perfect for a raucous Saturday night square dance, indeed.



Bourbon Icebox Pie
Adapted from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook by Jean Hewitt

Ingredients
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved (a gingersnap or Oreo crust would also be quite tasty)
5 egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. water
1/3 c. bourbon
1 tsp. orange zest
2 c. heavy cream, whipped
1/2 oz. unsweetened or dark chocolate, shaved

Directions
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Using a fork, prick chilled crust all over the bottom. Line crust with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove weights, reduce temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until crust is golden brown, about 20 minutes more. Let crust cool completely.
 
3. To prepare the filling, beat the egg yolks and gradually add the sugar until the mixture is light yellow in color.
 
4. Pour the 1/4 c. water into a small heat-safe bowl or top of a double boiler and sprinkle the gelatin on top. In a medium saucepan or bottom of a double boiler, bring additional water to a boil, placing the bowl of gelatin-water on top until the gelatin dissolves. Add the gelatin mixture to the egg yolk mixture. Using a whisk, mix well and add the bourbon.

5. Fold the whipped cream into the bourbon mixture and pour into the pie shell. Sprinkle chocolate shavings on top and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve chilled.

The (blurry) Capitol City Possum Chasers: Brent Feito (bourbon pie purponent), Aaron Lewis, Paul Brown, Kevin Enoch, & John Schwab

While the bourbon pie was a purrrty good thing to bring to a square dance, it would have probably been best a tad colder--the church was hot with all those warm bodies rippin' & snortin' about! But even in a slightly melty state, the treat was well received by dancers and musicians alike, and it gave our gang a kick in the pants, fueling fiddle tunes and flatfoot steps, then Raven jukebox singalongs and 4am joke telling on a schmancy house party patio.

Wind it up on bourbon pie

If any reader has any information or stories about bourbon pie, its relatives or derivatives, please get in touch!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Pies of Late Summer on NPR


A few months ago I called my ever-inspiring and resourceful thesis advisor and mentor Marcie Ferris for a catch-up and some career advice. In loading me up with contacts, ideas, and encouragement, she said she'd put me in touch with her good friend in DC, Bonny Wolf, a food writer editor of NPR's Kitchen Window, and as I would find, role model and kindred spirit.

We met for lunch, where we shared our backgrounds, foodways interests, and projects, and I was delighted when she asked me to contribute a story to Kitchen Window. I decided to write it on the seasonal pies of the late summer season. The piece came out last Wednesday, with some really great feedback from readers! (It was the third most e-mailed piece of the day before the naked Prince Harry story came out).  If you're a follower of the blog, the recipes and photos for Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, a fig-pistachio tarte tatin, plum & orange flower custard galette, and peach-pecan pie may be familiar to you. If not, now there are two places to find them!

Thanks very much to Bonny for being a wonderful editor and to Marcie for putting us in touch and for generous support, as always. And do follow Kitchen Window--it's a superb site with excellent recipes and corresponding personal food narratives. I'll probably be contributing another piece in late fall/early winter, though this one may not be about pies--branchin' out!

Also, hello to all the new readers and followers who found Nothing-in-the-House via the NPR piece! Thanks for checking out the pie blog and feel free to get in touch if you have any comments, pie stories, or questions. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out our Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. (featuring a new fall pie CSA for those in DC!).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with an Almond Shortbread Crust


Yes, I know. Strawberries in late August!? Especially after I recently championed the bounty of the late-summer micro-season to a national audience? Though I enjoy and recommend eating with the seasons. I'm not the most diehard, and I assure you, this purchase of California Driscoll berries was for a very good reason. I'll explain.

About a month ago I was out with my fella, his sister, brother, and sister-in-law Luigia, at the Quarry House, a former basement speakeasy and one of the best and oldest bars in the DC area that boasts a great beer selection, whiskey menu, rockabilly/honky-tonk Saturday nights AND Old Bay tater tots. It was indeed, a Saturday night, and we were enjoying our Clipper City Ales, sampling the whiskey and dancing to some real genuine Southern rock. Back at the table, trying to hear each others' jokes over the loud music, all of our phones (except Luigia's) went off at once. We checked our messages to discover that we had all gotten the same text, from, of course, Luigia: "Don't forget my birthday party August 11." I put it in my calendar then and there.

Luigia is a wonder of a gal. She's Italian, and though she learned English within the past few years, she still manages to be utterly hilarious in a language not her own (Quite a challenge as I remember from my study abroad days, where I could only eek out a few lame French puns). She's fun and caring and strong-- just pretty radical all around. I was not gonna miss her birthday. And I was going to make her a birthday treat.

When the party weekend rolled around a month later, I asked Luigia what kind of pie/tart/cake she wanted. She said she liked fruit tarts and loved strawberries. So of course a strawberry tart it was for the birthday girl. When I found this recipe for a strawberry mascarpone tart with almond shortbread (& a brilliant red strawberry simple syrup!) I knew it hit a trifecta of Luigia's loves--the crust especially, as she had really dug the grapefruit-ginger marmalade with almond shortbread crostata I'd made back in the spring. As usual I was snapping these shots in a hurry before rushing off to the party, so please excuse the slight blur, but this recipe is no slouch.


Strawberry Mascarpone Tart with Almond Shortbread Crust
Adapted from Dust Jacket 

Makes 1 11-inch tart

Ingredients
For crust:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
1 c. almond meal (make your own by grinding almonds in the food processor)
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar 
10 Tblsp. (1 stick +2 Tblsp.) butter
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 T. ice water

For filling:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
3 c. mascarpone
2 Tblsp. lemon rind
1 lb. strawberries (3 1/2-4 c.), hulled and halved

For strawberry simple syrup: 
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. strawberries, hulled and quartered

Directions
1. Combine flour, almond meal, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add cold butter chunks to the almond mixture and process until mix is the size of small peas. Add egg yolks, extracts and ice water and pulse just until dough begins to form. Remove pastry dough from the food processor and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour and up to 1 day.

2. After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 11-inch tart pan. Remove the dough from the fridge. Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper and transfer to the tart pan, forming the crust up the sides (dough will be crumbly, so you may have to piece it together). Fold dough over the sides to ensure that the tart will have a strong edge. Prick all over the bottom with a fork. Chill for 30 minutes.

3. Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and pie weights and bake for 10-12 minutes longer until golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.

4. While tart is baking, make the strawberry simple syrup.  Place sugar, water and strawberries in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes until thickened. Strain out strawberries and let cool.

5. For the filling, place cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla bean seeds in a medium size bowl or bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Stir in mascarpone and lemon rind  until just combined.  Spoon mascarpone cream into the cooled tart shell and smooth with a knife or spatula. Top decoratively with the strawberries. When ready to serve, drizzle with the simple syrup.



Looking for more strawberries? Try the Nothing-in-the-House Strawberry Crème Tart or our Strawberry Icebox Pie. Or maybe it's the almond shortbread crust you're after? Then get to this Almond & Grapefruit-Ginger Marmalade Crostata.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. Debut at the DC Meet Market!

After about a week of late-night baking marathons, grocery store runs and just one minor exhausted breakdown, Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. finally made its debut this past Saturday at the DC Meet Market! My lovely assistant and housemate Bobbie and I set up the stand with picnic baskets and wooden library boxes, ticking from America's milltown Lowell, MA, stamped tags and tin pie pans. Then Bobbie and our friend Diana engineered the Nothing-in-the-House banner with clothes pins, stencil letters and twine, and a borrowed stapler from the handy man neighbor at Picnic Gourmet Spreads.


But what do you care about the decor--let's get to the baked goods! Though I didn't make quite everything I had hoped (a savory tomato galette, clementine curd stuffed doughnuts, and more fried pies were also on the list), we offered a good selection of tarts and doughnuts, whoopie pies and even a vegan & gluten free cookie! Here's the menu:

Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. at the DC Meet Market, August 18th
-Berry tartlets 
-Chocolate peanut butter pretzel tartlets 
-Plum frangipane tartlets 
-Shaker lemon tartlets
-Carrot cake doughnuts with a cream cheese glaze -Glazed 'n' raised doughnuts (with blackberry, caramel & plain glazes)
-Stone fruit & bourbon fried pies
-Chocolate stout & espresso whoopie pies with salty caramel buttercream
-Vegan & gluten-free iced oatmeal cookie


It was a beautiful, mild August day with just a hint of fall in the air. The stream of customers started right off the bat with a fan who had visited the Tarts by Tarts stand at Crafty Bastards and has been looking for our baked goods since! That was a very encouraging way to kick-off the market and over the course of the day it was so wonderful to see a lot of old friends (some I had not seen in years, like Lisa & Sarah!) and meet new folks jazzed about baked goods.

Though I still have to tweak that carrot cake doughnut recipe, and forgot to sprinkle sugar on the fried pies, I was really pleased with everything else and received some great feedback and excitement about future appearances and the pie CSA.


Around lunchtime, my friend Kate arrived, daisies in tow, to help sell, and she did an amazing job, hawking whoopie pies to all the other vendors who were stuck in their stalls! She also bought us delicious Bones BBQ sammiches. Throughout the day we jammed to DJ Dianamatic's French pop tunes, and in the afternoon our friends Clear Blue Sky arrived to play a short honky-tonk set, which went just perfectly with those fried pies.

By 4:00 we were sold out--with that, some money in the pocket, and all the great folks we met, I'd call it a success! Then Bobbie, Kate and I loaded up the car and drove promptly home for a much-needed nap.

I'd like to send a special thanks to all who made this debut possible: Bobbie & Kate for their really generous time and support, Mary for the late-night butter run, Luigia for the tent, Morgan & Kenan for the tables, Marion & John and housemates for the food processor, Kari for helping to get this whole thing 'tarted with Tarts by Tarts, The DC Meet Market, the other helpful & friendly vendors, and everyone who stopped by the stand, bought something, or just took a card, put their name on the mailing list, and said hello. I'm looking forward to doing it again soon (the next DC Meet Market is September 15th!). In the meantime, stay posted on upcoming Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. events and the upcoming pie CSA here. Thank you!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. Debuts at the DC Meet Market!

Almost exactly a year ago, I moved into a beautiful group house of beautiful people (aptly dubbed The Dollhouse) in Northwest DC. One of those inhabitants happened to be my lost soul-sister, fellow baker and look-alike Kari. When Crafty Bastards Arts & Crafts Fair put out a call seeking vendors for their Food Fair last October, we combined our powers (with our powers combined...) and launched the pop-up shop-style baking company Tarts by Tarts.

After that first market, where we sold out in under 4 hours, we served up our goods at Treasury Vintage, offered made-to-order tarts for Valentine's Day, collaborated with the awesome Panda Head Blog and sold Southern-inspired treats at the DC Square Dance. It was a wonderful & inspiring collaboration and we learned a lot and all the while got some wonderful press and feedback from the DC community. Last month, Kari left us for a goat cheese-making apprenticeship in Maine, putting Tarts by Tarts on hiatus, though we hope to team up again sometime soon.

In the meantime, I've decided to forge out on my own and launch the baking business side of this here blog under the name Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. Though I'll be offering more than just pies, the aesthetic will be much the same--valuing seasonal and local products with an eye on tradition and creativity. In the coming weeks, I'm hoping to launch a pie CSA, offer made-to-order baked goods, and sell at future local events.

I'll be making my debut at this Saturday's DC Meet Market, happening from 11am-5pm at 15th & P St. NW. Among the offerings will be stone fruit & bourbon fried pies, berry tarts and carrot cake doughnuts. I hope to see you DC readers there, and keep your eyes on this space for more information on future Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. projects and as always, pies!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Andy Warhol's Pie Crust Illustration


Before Andy Warhol painted soup cans, produced static films, and posed as Robin & Batman with Nico (respectively), he apparently made cookbook illustrations. Here's one he did to depict "Fixing the lower crust" of a pie for the 1961 Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cook Book. You can find more of his food drawings via the Flickr set of Crossett Library at Benington College, or in this round-up celebrating what would have been Warhol's 84th birthday. Thanks to The Runcible Spoon gals for sharing this!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Fig-Pistachio Tarte Tatin


The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I lived with a wonderful family in Brittany, France as part of an Indiana University immersion program. During my stay, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my lovely host mom Anny, learning how to make crêpes and galettes and mousse au chocolat (as well as the metric measuring cup system). Though this was before my pie obsession, one of the things we made together was a tarte tatin--the classic French tart where the fruit, generally apples, is caramelized in sugar and butter on the stove, then baked upside-down and flipped after baking. I remember Anny telling me the story of its invention: apparently the two Tatin sisters, owners of the Hotel Tatin accidentally baked a tart upside-down, then out of desperation served it to the guests who much to the sisters' surprise, gave it rave reviews.

I, much like the guests at the Hotel Tatin that night, love a tarte tatin. It's so simple to make, and shows off the beauty and flavor of the fruit paired with rich caramel. Plus you get to use your cast iron skillet! Though the classic tarte tatin is apple, you can really make a tarte tatin with any fresh fruit. One of my favorite pies to make in general is Ruth Reichl's pear tarte tatin, found in Gourmet. I was pleased to find this recipe for a fig-pistachio tarte tatin in the Pieminister cookbook, just as figs are coming into season down here. Since Pieminister is a British pie shop, all their recipes, like those I made with Anny are in metric. Here's my version of their fig-pistachio tartin, with ounce and cup conversions.


 Fig-Pistachio Tarte Tatin
Adapted from The Pieminister Cookbook

Ingredients
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
16-20 small figs or 10-14 large figs
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
3 Tblsp. unsalted butter
4 oz. pistachios nuts, shelled
1-2 Tblsp. honey

Directions
1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Once chilled, roll out into an 11-inch circle, stab it with a fork in several places, and place on a cookie sheet or cutting board between two sheets of parchment paper.  Store in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Trim the stalks of the figs and halve them lengthwise. Set aside. 

3. In a large oven-safe frying pan or cast iron skillet, place water and sugar and heat on low until sugar dissolves. Once sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring sugar water to a boil and cook without stirring until the syrup is thick and has become golden-caramel in color. 

4. Reduce the heat and add the figs--making space so they all fit. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot caramel. Cook until the figs are tender and release juices but still hold their shape. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside in a small bowl.

5. Boil the caramelized juices until they are thick and syrupy, 3-5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts. Scatter the pistachios over the pan and return the figs to it, cut side down, in concentric circles. 

6. Put the frying pan back on the heat until the juices bubble. Put the circle of pie crust on top of the filling and tuck it firmly into the edges of the frying pan to form a crust. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Once the tart has settled for a minute, put on your oven mits and flip the tart onto a plate (prend courage!). Drizzle the tart with honey and a few extra pistachios, if you desire and serve with goat's milk ice cream or Greek yogurt.


The rich flavor of the fig and pistachio, coupled with the sweet, dark caramel makes for a rich and earthy dessert that hints at the almost-impending fall. Though the Pieminister guys suggest pairing it with Greek yogurt, I think it would be just perfect with goat's milk ice cream, if you can find it (or make it!). Tangy frozen yogurt would also do.

Oh, and don't be afraid of the skillet-to-plate tart flip. Just make sure that your plate is slightly bigger than your skillet, protect your hands with oven mitts, and trust yourself--you'll have no trouble. Consider it one of the rites of a baker.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Elizabeth Graeber's Small Fruit Tart

 I was first captivated by the work of DC based illustrator Elizabeth Graeber when I saw the book An Illustrated Guide To Cocktails sitting on my friend's coffee table. Written by his pal, Orr Shtuhl and boasting quirky, imaginative drawings by Elizabeth, it focuses on the history and heyday of classic cocktails, including recipes for at-home cocktail hours.

Then a few months later, I caught more of her sketches in the form of a Sriracha slaw (!) recipe on Morgan Hungerford West's ever-inspiring Panda Head Blog. I checked out more drawings on Elizabeth's website and was pleased to find that the gal is quite prolific, producing beautiful art in the form of Beatles portraits, coloring books, and yes, food drawings, of yes, baked goods, and yes, pies (okay, tarts)!

We're hoping to collaborate on something illustrated and pie-themed sometime soon, but in the meantime, check out more of Elizabeth's food illustrations at Food On Paper and in particular, the Small fruit tart drawing pictured above. All pieces are for sale and would look lovely in any kitchen or dining room!