Thursday, March 28, 2013

Floriole's Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart

Floriole Bakery, Chicago, IL

Though I'm a Midwesterner by birth, having lived in more southern climes for the past five years, I sometimes forget just how bone chillingly cold the northern winter can be. So cold, that long underwear (top and bottom), a hat, scarf, and ankle-length puffy coat are necessary attire even if you're just stepping out to the corner café for a cup of coffee. This was something I forgot once again last month, when, in my thin wool coat and no hat or long underwear to speak of, I ventured to Chicago to embark on a Windy City Pie Tour for an NPR Kitchen Window story.

It turns out, I was in luck for at least that first day of my visit. Though the temperature was soon to plummet drastically, it was pushing the high 40s when I boarded the bus to meet my friend Ryan at my first pie stop--Floriole Café and Bakery.

Coffee Counter at Floriole Bakery
Counter at Floriole Bakery
Counter at Floriole Bakery, Chicago, IL

I've been wanting to try Floriole's baked goods every since my friend Abra started working there, back when it was just a 10X10 stand at Chicago's Green City Market. Since 2010, though, its occupied a 2-level beautiful light-filled brick and mortar space in Lincoln Park and features chalkboard menus listing breakfast quiches, Lottie + Doof-inspired Rotini and Cheese, and Mushroom and Swiss Chard Sandwiches; a full espresso bar; shelves lined with house made jams, wine, and baguettes; and a pastry case stocked with the likes of Orange and Satsuma Tarts, Basque Cakes, and Raspberry-Rose Panna Cotta. As head chef and owner Sandra Holl says, the Floriole approach is "pretty simple baked goods and pastries, made with the best fresh, seasonal ingredients." While "simple" may be selling herself a bit short, particularly for a home baker like me, in awe of her creations, I understand what she means. In each pastry or savory dish, excellent ingredients are the highlight, and they're presented with real care and without pretension.

Lemon, Passionfruit, and Orange Cream & Satsuma Tarts at Floriole
Floriole's Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart
Passionfruit Tart at Floriole

Abra who now runs the savory program, was in the kitchen prepping sandwiches when Ryan and I arrived. She gave us a little tour of the kitchen, and presented us with a large plate of three Milk Chocolate Caramel & Hazelnut Tarts to photograph (and oh yes, sample) for the pie tour story. With our little table by the door filled with the tarts, two sandwiches, a slice of quiche and a Passionfruit Tart and Basque Cake that Abra brought for us to try, we felt like total gourmands. What the other customers walking in the door must have thought! But we weren't complaining.

Lunch at Floriole

Of the savory selections we tried, my hands-down favorite was the B.A.D., a bacon, arugula, almond-date spread and goat cheese sandwich on a yeasted corn bread. I'm gonna have to try to replicate that at home so I can satisfy my cravings between my infrequent Chicago visits. As for the pastries, though it was hard to decide. The Passionfruit Tart was just-tart and light and sweet with a few pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top--good for the morning hour. But the Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart! Just so rich and decadent, though a nice pairing of sweet milk chocolate and slightly bitter dark caramel. Sandra calls it an "adult candy bar," and recommends eating it with a cup of black coffee or Earl Grey tea. Luckily, she shared the recipe so you don't have to immediately jet to Chicago and brave the Windy City cold to try a bite.

Floriole's Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart

Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart

Makes one 10-inch tart or five 4-inch tarts

For sablé (or short crust) dough:
8 ounces (2 sticks) soft butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

For milk chocolate ganache filling:
1 1/2 cups cream
14 ounces chopped milk chocolate

For salted dark caramel/hazelnut topping:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

For the dough:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugar and salt. Mix until well combined and the mixture just begins to lighten.

2. Add the eggs one at a time. Allow each egg to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Add all of the flour at once. Mix on low speed until homogenous.

3. Form the dough into a ball, then pat it out into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least three hours or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle about ¼-inch thick. Place the dough into a 10-inch removable bottom tart pan. Press the dough into the corners and remove excess dough. Chill about 15 minutes before baking.

5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown. If the dough bubbles while baking, lightly press it down with a measuring cup. Let cool to room temperature.

For the ganache:
1. Place cream in a small saucepan on low heat, and bring to a simmer. Put chocolate in heat-proof bowl. Once the cream is simmering, pour over the chopped chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Stir
until homogenous.

2. Pour the ganache into the prepared shell and let set at room temperature. This will take
about four hours.

To make the caramel and hazelnut topping:
1. Combine all ingredients except the cream in a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to boil and cook until the color begins to change. At this point, begin to stir the mixture slowly with a whisk. It will first begin to smoke from the sides. Once it begins to smoke from the center and is a deep amber color slowly add the cream and stir. Be very careful because the mixture will bubble up and can cause terrible burns.

2. Let the caramel cool. It should still be warm but not hot when you pour it over the top of the chocolate. Top the tart with chopped and toasted hazelnuts. Serve at room temperature.

Floriole's Milk Chocolate & Salted Caramel Hazelnut Tart
Thanks so much to Sandra, Kerry, and Abra for arranging the visit and interview, and for hosting us the day of. I'm looking forward to making it back to Floriole, perhaps in the heat of summer. In the meantime, I'll let you know how my B.A.D. experiments go and more dispatches from my Chicago pie tour coming soon...

Related recipe:
Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Pie

This post was featured on Relish Magazine's "Blogs We Love". Thanks, Relish!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Witchin' in the Kitchen's Spanakopita

TheKitchenWitch's Spanakopita
Though I've talked about her before in this space, perhaps you haven't met my friend Jess. She writes the beautiful blog Witchin' in the Kitchen about food and community, art and creativity--and weaves that all together in a way that feels wholistic and mindful, smart and aware. It's her personal compendium of, as she says,"foodstuffs, paintings, memories, and magic spells."

Witchin' in the Kitchen's Spanakopita

Back in January, we decided to do a "blog collaboration" and on one Saturday afternoon, she came over to my kitchen to chat and take photos while I made grapefruit and pepper meringue tartlets. As I whipped egg whites and piped meringue, our conversation turned to the familiar topics of feminism, creativity, and domesticity, and where women's food blogs, including our own, fit into that history and trajectory.

Witchin' in the Kitchen's Spanakopita prep
TheKitchenWitch's Spanakopita fillingTheKitchenWitch Filling Spanakopita 
When Jess shared her lovely film photos and thoughts from that afternoon, it prompted quite a conversation in the comments section of her blog, demonstrating that there is desire and need for much more dialogue about this. One aspect that both Jess and I feel excited about is the fact that blogging is a relatively new medium, with so much possibility and potential energy for growth and action and thinking about how we can celebrate the domestic arts of the women before us, and move them forward in a way that is empowering and positive and supportive, rather than daunting and negative and competitive. Of course, this is all very complicated, but that is perhaps what's most exciting.

TheKitchenWitch filling Spanakopita TheKitchenWitch folding Spanakopita TheKitchenWitch folding Spanakopita
So a few Sundays ago, I paid a visit to Jess' kitchen, for the second part of our collaboration. This time, she was doing the baking--of her mother's Spanakopita, or Spinach Pie. I was so impressed by her graceful, calm execution of the recipe--sometimes I can get so distracted with a friend in the kitchen (I felt rather scattered while making those grapefruit tartlets!), but Jess was so cool and composed. I was mostly behind the camera--though Jess took quite a few of these too, and let me shoot some with her camera to accompany my digital shots and serve as back-up for my manual film camera experimentation. By the way--can you spot us in our respective roles in one of the photos above?

The day before we had both attended an experimental knitting workshop by Icelandic designer Steinnun Sigurd at the Kennedy Center's Nordic Cool festival. She taught us how to knit with our fingers (no needles!) in rhythm with experimental Icelandic pop from the 50s. It was totally fun and wacky and weird, so we talked a bit about that, as well as tattoos and symbology, DC living, Virginia cabins, and old-time fiddle. 

Witchin in the Kitchen's Spanakopita triangles
Witchin in the Kitchen's Spanakopita triangles
Now that this first cross-post blog share is completed, we've tossed around some ideas for what comes next (we've already had a canning party!). But for now, here's the recipe for Jess' mother's Spanakopita, which came to her by way of her cousin's ex-busband, who was Greek and a chef. I attest to Jess' assertion that it makes a great lunch--it was mine on that Sunday afternoon, and for a few days after, though it was hard not to eat all the little triangle pies in one sitting.

TheKitchenWitch's Spanakopita TheKitchenWitch's Spanakopita
Here's my mom's recipe for spanakopita, or as she used to call it when we were kids, "spinach pie". I used only 1 lb. of feta instead of 1.5 lbs, but otherwise the recipe is the same. 

Spanakopita (or Spinach Pie)
From Jess of Witchin' in the Kitchen

4 eggs
Package of phyllo dough, thawed completely
3 c. cooked, chopped spinach (or 3 packages frozen, cooked according to the package)
16 oz. cottage cheese
1-1 1/2 lbs. feta
2 sticks (1 c.) salted butter
Small bottle of dill (you will use the whole thing)
2 bunches of scallions

1. Cook spinach either by package directions or as discussed above. Strain, cool, and blot dry.

2. Sauté the chopped scallions (use only the white and light green parts) in olive oil with the entire bottle of dill, or 1/3 of the bottle if you can only find a regular spice jar-sized bottle. Do not brown.

3. Mix the eggs with the drained cottage cheese, the crumbled feta, scallions, and cooled spinach. In the same pan that you used to cook the scallions and dill, melt the butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

4. Lay out the phyllo sheets, and keep the portion that you are not using covered with a tea towel so the dough doesn't dry out. Cut the sheets lengthwise so they're just smaller than the width of your hand. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheets with the melted butter. Drop a spoonful of the spinach mixture onto the end of the buttered phyllo dough column, and fold up the dough (lifting up only 2 or 3 sheets at a time) into a triangle.

5. Arrange the spanakopita triangles on a buttered baking sheet. Brush melted butter on top of the pies, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool completely, then store covered in the refrigerator. To reheat, wrap in foil and heat in the oven at 350 for a half-hour to keep the dough crispy. It's also delicious cold as a snack or for lunch.

Witchin' in the Kitchen's Spanakopita

Photos by Jess Schreibstein of Witchin' in the Kitchen and yours truly

Related recipes: 

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Home Economics Pie Contest

Home Economics Pie Contest Photo via The National Archives

On Pi(e) Day last week, my friend Katy shared this 1920s-era photo with me, via the National Archives's Today's Document. The caption says it's a pie judging contest with Dr. Louise Stanley and Mary Lindsay, from the seriesPhotographs of Nutrition Investigations, 1904 - 1939 from the Records of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics, 1904 - 1939. Being interested in the history of the Home Economics movement, I had to know more. 

While I didn't find much more information about the photo, I did learn that Dr. Louise Stanley was a home economist from Tennessee and an inductee in the National Agricultural Hall of Fame (I didn't know there was such a thing!) for her efforts to establish Home Economics as a crucial aspect of agricultural education and politics. She held a B.S., a B.A., an M.A. and a Ph.D. and served as the Commissioner of the Department of Home Economics at the USDA. And she apparently held (or judged) pie contests. She sounds cool.

If you're not familiar, Home Economics is much more than that middle school class where you learned  how to make corned beef on toast and sew a gym bag (that's what we did). It was in fact, a post-WWI feminist movement that sought to bring value to women's domestic work and implement the field as an academic and scientific discipline. My best friend just created an exhibit on Home Economics for the Hull House Museum in Chicago, and wrote this piece about it here.

Speaking of, she's coming to visit this weekend! We eat delicious food, have a Talking Heads dance party, work on some projects we have brewing, and probably bake a pie. Got any pie baking (or pie judging?) plans yourself this weekend?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte

I've been thinking about shooting film again. In a way, I never really stopped--I usually have my Holga with me for any daytime outdoor adventures, and bring along a crappy 90s point-and-shoot for indoors and night time party time! But I have this 1971 Nikon F that my dad gave me, just sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I think I've only taken 2 rolls of film with it ever. One, which I shot in Ann Arbor, right after graduating college, came out beautifully. The next one, which I took after moving to Vermont, turned out terribly. I blame it on the light meter, but when I showed the prints to my dad, he told me they were the worst photos he'd ever seen. Maybe that's why the camera's been sitting on the shelf...

But recently, I'd been thinking about picking it up again, prompted by my fast-approaching analog spring in the North woods and inspired by other photographers like Jess and Maria who take beautiful film shots. So I loaded it up and fumbled my way through the F-stops (a challenge not only because I was rusty, but also due to that darned broken light meter), and shot an experimental roll, not sure if any would turn out. Many didn't, and despite tearing the film while rewinding, a few did and those were sufficient encouragement to keep shooting.

Meyer Lemons on Cutting Board

I was hankering to make this honey lemon marmalade that caught my eye when we were planning our winter canning party, and had been tempted by the Meyer lemons at the store. I figured that their yellow-orange hue would be a good subject for my film experiments, and snapped a few (along with digital--these you see here are a mix) while prepping the lemons.

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade
Adapted from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook

Makes 5 12-oz. jars

2 1/4 lbs. Meyer lemons
8 3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. honey

1. Scrub lemons and remove buttons at the top of the fruit and cut in half around the circumference. Squeeze the juice into a large bowl and set aside. Using a large, sharp knife, slice the peel, pith and all, into very thin slices. Put the sliced peel in a bowl with the lemon juice and cover with 10 c. water. Let soak overnight and up to 24 hours.

2. Transfer the entire mixture to a large stock pot or preserving pan and bring to a boil. Once mixture is boiling, reduce heat and let simmer slowly, covered, until the peel is tender. This should take about 2 hours, and in that time the mixture should reduce by about one-third.

3. Stir in the sugar and honey. Bring marmalade to a boil, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly until the setting point is reached (or until mixture reads 220 degrees F), at least 30 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and let cool for 8-10 minutes. Gently stir to disperse any scum. Pour marmalade into warm, sterilized jars and seal immediately. Use within 2 years.

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade in Ball Jar

While my Meyer lemons were soaking, I came across this recipe for Alice Medrich's Seville Marmalade Almost-Linzer Torte from Emma of Poires au Chocolate and knew my nascent marmalade had already found its destiny (luckily I still have several jars leftover for more tarts or toasts). The Linzer Torte, similar to, thought likely pre-dating the Bakewell Tart, is thought to be one of the oldest cakes (I'd say it's more tart-like) in the world, dating back to 1653. Emma calls this an "almost-linzer," due to the lack of lattice work on the top and perhaps because of the marmalade substituting for a sweeter jam.

Whatever you call it, I stuck pretty close to Emma's adapted recipe aside from lemons instead of oranges, with just a few adjustments-- more marmalade because I was making a tad larger torte and a slightly different crust technique because I was using a tart pan instead of a cake pan.  It's a very easy recipe once you have the filling and the frangipane-like crust paired wonderfully with the just-tart Meyer lemons and honey combination. As Emma says, it would work with many different combinations of nuts and marmalades or tart jams--Steph from Desserts for Breakfast made a very wintery and amazing-sounding cranberry and clove version.

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Almost-Linzer Torte
Adapted from Alice Medrich via Poires au Chocolat

Makes a 6-8'' torte (I made an 8'' torte, it was just a little thinner)

50g almond meal (or use whole almonds and make your own meal in a food processor)
65g all-purpose flour
75g light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
Big pinch fine sea salt
75g unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp. milk
150 g. Meyer lemon honey marmalade

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine almonds, flour, sugar, ginger, and sea salt until well combined. Add the cubed butter and milk, blending until the dough begins to come together. Wrap a 25g ball of dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

2. Grease and flour a 6-8'' cake or tart pan with a removable bottom and transfer the dough into it. Use your fingers to press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan until it is evenly dispersed and has a little lip on the sides. Place pan in the fridge for 30 minutes, and preheat the oven to 340 degrees F.

3. Spread the marmalade evenly on top of the crust and fold the lip of the crust over top. Take the extra ball of dough from the fridge, tear into small pieces, and scatter over the top of the torte. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes until the marmalade is bubbling and the crust pieces in the middle are deep golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, remove from the tart pan and let cool completely. Can keep up to 4 days in a sealed container.

Meyer Lemon Honey Marmalade Linzer Torte

Related recipes:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

D.C. Pi(e) Day 2013!

3.14 Pie for Pi(e) Day

Ah yes, Pi(e) Day. Though I've been celebrating for 5 consecutive years now, I still have those moments, in the midst of publicizing and wheeling a cart full of Whole Foods-donated butter down the street (no wait, that was awesome), coordinating and baking for three days straight, where I wonder why I'm doing it. But then the ol' 3.14 rolls around, and the homemade pies and bakers start to show up, the guests arrive, and we all gorge on pie, work it off in a pi(e) walk/dance, raise a bunch of money for a good cause, and it's all really inspiring and fun and totally worth it. That being said, the next day I did make a beeline to the woods of Virginia for an unplugged cabin weekend getaway with some gal pals. But I'm back and ready to write about it and even starting to think about making pie again...

Washington D.C. Pi(e) Day Spread 2013
Washington D.C. Pi(e) Day Spread 2013

This year's Pi(e) Day was a benefit for Common Good City Farm, a DC-based urban farm and sustainable agriculture non-profit that employees teens during the summer and coordinates other local food-based programming. Because we encourage local and seasonal produce in the pies we make for Pi(e) Day, I thought it would be nice to bring this connection full circle (with a circumference of 2piR). Elizabeth and Anita, employees at the farm, were wonderful to work with and contributed pies, loaned tables, and were a big help with press and recruiting volunteers.

Washington D.C. Pi(e) Day Spread 2013

As was the case last year too, we got some really wonderful press leading up to the event. It was posted on various pages of the Washington Post and the Express, was blurbed on The Huffington Post, Daily Candy, ScoutMob, BYT, and lots of local blogs. American Food Roots even did this sweet little piece in which I make a pie nerd cameo. After all of this came out and we had well over 100 attending on Facebook, I once again started to worry if we'd have enough pie.

Pi Pie for Pi(e) Day 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Pi(e) Day Pie Spread Washington, D.C. 2013

But we did--at least for a good part of the evening. I actually lost count of how many, but I'm pretty sure it was well over 30, with some arriving slowly but surely for much-needed reinforcements when other plates had been cleaned. There was Chile Relleño Pie and Blueberry Ginger Pie, Bourbon Bacon Pecan Pie and Aztec Chocolate Chess Pie, Peanut Butter Honeycomb Pie and Vegan Spaghetti Pie and many more. I made 2 Hoosier Sugar Cream Pies, 2 Butterscotch Meringue Pies, Pimento Cheese-Tomato Pie, Pear & Cardamom Fig Pie, a Chocolate Mousse and Hazelnut Tart, a Peanut Butter Chess Pie, and Chocolate Ganache & Almond Tartlets. I'll post the recipes for just about all of them soon. Though I can't vouch for everything, all the pies I tried were delicious.

Pi(e) Day Washington, D.C. 2013

In addition to all those pies, the evening was set off by the ladies of The Runcible Spoon, who hawked their fancifully collaged food zines and led an AMAZING "What Time Is It? Pi(e) Time!" watch-making craft! I kept mine on for 2 days so it would always be 3:14. Other highlights were when Star, the managing director at The Dunes handed me a beer as soon as I'd finished setting up (she read my mind even before I knew what I was thinking!), the dance-worthy jams by DJ Dianamatic, Carrie Nation, and Bottle Rocket, and the end-of-the-night Pi(e) Walk led by the surprise emcee Grant Dickie! I tried to get people to soul-train for the jar of whipped cream, but to no avail. I don't know why, though, because that jar was beautiful.

Pi(e) Day baker, Washington, D.C. 2013

All in all, it was a very fun celebration of community, local food, and homemade pie, all in the lofted and light-filled space of The Dunes (the bar helped too). We had about 140 people in attendance and raised almost $900 for Common Good City Farm! We were also part of a network of friends across the country hosting Pi(e) Day events, including Berenbaums in Durham, NC, Dale's Fried Pies in Knoxville, TN, more friends in Harrisonburg, VA, and my aunt Chantelle in South Bend, IN. They were all celebrating pie, math, and community for good causes, even if it was just getting together with a few friends. Though the Obamas didn't come (I invited them), I'd still call it quite a success.

Pi(e) Day baker, Washington, D.C. 2013

I'd like to extend a very special thanks to our Pi(e) Day 2013 Baking Team of Amy, Anita, Bradley, Carolyn, Catherine, Claire, Elizabeth, Emily, Felicity (pictured above, top photo), Jared, Jenelle, Katy, Kara, Kari, Kiran, Liz, Miranda (pictured above, bottom photo), Samantha, Tamara, Teeny, and Yael. Special thanks also to DJs Dianamatic, Carrie Nation, and Bottlerocket, The Dunes, Whole Foods on P St. for donating ingredients, The Runcible Spoon, and Common Good City Farm for being such great partners. And thanks to everyone who came and ate, busted a move in the Pi(e) Walk, and supported local agriculture in our nation's capital. Only 359 days left 'til Pi(e) Day 2014!

But if you haven't had enough this year, make sure to check out the blogs of Pi(e) Day 2013 Baking Team members Catherine, Kari, and Teeny for more DC Pi(e) Day posts and recipes!

3.14 Chocolate Peanut Butter Chess Pie for Pi(e) Day Washington, D.C. 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi(e) Day!

Pi(e) Day 2012 in Washington, D.C. photo by Jen Mizgata
Photo from DC Pi(e) Day 2012 by Jen Mizgata. See more photos from Pi(e) Days past here.

3.14.13 is here! Today folks all across the world will be baking and eating pie, and memorizing its mathematical  constant counterpart to the 50th decimal point, all in celebration of International Pi(e) Day, or more likely, an excuse to indulge in the flaky dessert.

Here in DC, we'll be celebrating with a benefit for Common Good City Farm (find out more about them here) at The Dunes in Columbia Heights from 6-8:30pm. We'll have DJ Dianamatic on the ones and twos, a Pi(e) Walk where you can win a pie to bring home, a make-your-own pie watch craft and new Breakfast Issue by The Runcible Spoon, and oh yes, lots and lots of homemade sweet and savory pie! A $7 donation gets you in the door, and you can find more info here and here.

If you're not in DC, you can check out some friends' pie parties in Durham, Harrisonburg, and Knoxville, or have your own impromptu pi(e) party tonight. Lora and I have some tips on how to do it in this issue of Zenchilada from a few years back. However you spend it, hope you get to enjoy some pie today.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Phoebe Lawless' Rustic Cheese Pie

Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery, Durham's Rustic Cheese Pie

I learned about the Southern Foodways Alliance when I was about to enter grad school at the University of North Carolina. Granted, I'd previously read Director John T. Edge's book Apple Pie: An American Story, but wasn't introduced to the SFA until Bill Ferris gave me a copy of Cornbread Nation when I was visiting Chapel Hill as a prospective student. Though I'm originally from the Midwest and had never lived in the South,  the writing in that book-- with its valuing of food traditions and narrative in both an intellectual and popular format that was smart and fun, historical and personal--had an affect on me. While I'd intended to go to grad school to focus on American folk music, this was the first step in my cross-over to the foodways side of the department.

Ever since then I've kept tabs on the organization via their publications, blog, and documentaries, as well as friends like Lora and Emily who've done freelance work for them. So I was very excited when my fellow UNC Folklore grad Sara Camp Arnold asked if I'd be interested in writing a series on Southern female pastry chefs for the SFA blog. While rad ladies and baking are two of my favorite things, this also aligns with the SFA's 2013 theme of women, work, and food.

So for the next 3 months or so, I'll be interviewing a bevy of the South's most talented women pastry chefs, and sharing their profiles and recipes in a series "Give Me Some Sugar" on the Southern Foodways Alliance blog, Southern Living's The Daily South, and a few right here. The first chef is one whose baking I know well--Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery in Durham, NC. Not only is she a Midwesterner and a bona fide pie lady, but she also has an appreciation for all those nothing-in-the-house recipes that inspire creativity out of frugality-- a woman after my own heart. Below, her story and recipe for Rustic Cheese Pie.

Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery, Durham, NC
Photo by Lissa Gotwals

Who: Phoebe Lawless
Where: Scratch Bakery, Durham, NC

“I consider myself more of a baker than a pastry chef,” says Phoebe Lawless, owner and chef at Scratch Bakery in Durham, North Carolina. Having had my fair share of her desserts—her Shaker Lemon pie, fluffy buttermilk biscuits, and signature doughnut-muffins—I’d say this is not a qualitative statement, but an explanation of her approach, which she calls “pretty pragmatic,” and “homey and delicious rather than perfect and gorgeous.”

She says she’s drawn to food traditions that are based on thrift and necessity, where you might open up the pantry, find almost nothing there, and still set out to bake something delicious, using creativity as your tool. While Lawless’s food is lauded as quintessentially Southern, she says that her inspiration is not strictly from the South, but has a broader rural and agricultural foundation. Growing up in Ohio and eventually moving to the North Carolina Piedmont, she found the cooking of the two regions be very similar. Though the produce may vary, both value frugality and adherence to seasonal and local ingredients.

Lawless takes her “homey” approach literally. She said that becoming a parent and more frequent home cook has actually helped her to diversify the menu at Scratch. “I’ve had to adjust my schedule to cook more meals at home, and I didn’t want to be bored with the food I was making, so that has helped me expand my baking repertoire.” She says she’s also learned to favor recipes that come together quickly, so she can bake them with her 8-year-old daughter.
Though she relies on simple recipes, Lawless still challenges herself. She’s known in Durham and beyond for her pies, but said she’s recently found a new appreciation for simple cakes, crumpets, griddle breads, flatbreads, and crackers. While her food may not necessarily fancy, she says she “likes baking things that you have to figure out,” and puts a lot of time into perfecting each recipe. It shows.
Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery, Durham, NC

Though I've seen similar Italian and Amish versions of this pie, Lawless says her recipe is actually French-Canadian, and traditionally contains pork or veal. Her version, though still savory, is meat-free and a great way to make use of, as she says, "all those cheese heels that dry up in the fridge." I made mine sans raisins, and though it's probably not traditional, drizzled a little marinara sauce on top. I ate it with a side salad for lunch and dinner, though it would also make for a great brunch dish, in place of a quiche.

Rustic Cheese Pie
Adapted slightly from Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery

Makes one 9-inch double-crusted pie, enough for 6-8 servings

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
3/4 cup good quality ricotta, drained
2 eggs
2 Tablespoon flour
2 1/2 cup shredded/diced cheese (any combination of parmesan, fontina, tellagio, aged provolone, or anything else robust and nutty--a good way to empty out the butts from the cheese drawer)
1/4 cup raisins coarsely chopped (optional)
Dash freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Chili flakes, if desired
1 large egg, whisked with a few drops of water

1. Prepare Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. In a lightly oiled 9×2-inch round cake pan, place one of the rolled pastry rounds, centering to allow the edges to line the walls of the pan. Fill the pastry with cheese filling.

4. Top with the remaining pastry, tucking the edges into the cake pan to seal the bottom and top crusts. Brush the top of pie with the egg wash and score with a small sharp knife or fork and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden.

5. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out to cool completely before serving.

Phoebe Lawless of Scratch Bakery, Durham, NC's Rustic Cheese Pie

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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