Monday, April 29, 2013

Away to the Woods, or An Analog Spring

My Spring Home at Camp Wohelo NELP

At NELP, we talk a lot about "interstitial writing." In a student's journal, it's the writing that happens off script, between things--after a class or a backpacking trip, before a solo, when an Emerson essay or Dickinson poem has had some time to filter through her mind and experience and come out on the page in her own voice. It could be personal reflection, or close observation, but it is often the time when the best writing emerges--where the tone is honest, the thought is piercing, and the student is writing like only she can.

I've been feeling like I'm in an interstitial period of my life--on both micro and macro levels. I just turned 30, am 2 years out of grad school, wondering if I should go back, and as a freelancer, in a constant state of flux with projects constantly beginning and ending. That process is something I enjoy--to have an intense project for a spell, then let it go and exist in the world. But I feel that I'm at a place where I'm gathering up and filtering ideas through, observing closely, and thinking hard.

NELP at St. Peter's Rocks Camp Wohelo

Another aspect of this, on a more micro level, is that I am getting ready to go teach in the New Hampshire woods for 2 months, at the New England Literature Program (NELP-- see past posts from/about it here). It's something I've done before--this will be my 4th year as a teacher and I was a student there as an undergrad. While I'm there, I will essentially be off-the-grid, as we relinquish cell phones, computers, recorded music in this 2-month experiment of reading and writing, living communally, making food and playing music and climbing mountains and "living deliberately," as we say, in the Thoreauvian way.

But that means that this space will also be in an interstitial place. While I'll be writing for hours every day and baking regularly, I won't be on a computer or the internet. So in the experiment of that which is NELP, I'm also going to try an experiment here.

Mt. Chocorua at NELP

For the next 2 months, I'm going to be writing my posts long-hand, or typing them on a typewriter, taking film photos (and maybe even developing them--we have a darkroom here), then sending them to a penpal back home, who will post them here, as scanned pieces of paper and photo prints. My friend Morgan of Panda Head has graciously agreed to be that penpal, my analog-to-digital maven.

I'll also be soliciting some posts from friends and collaborating with pie almanac illustrator Elizabeth Graeber while I'm in the woods and galavanting around New England. I'll be sending her little snippets of my adventures, which we'll post here, if they're pie related, on her blog Hand Drawn Bazaar, and saving some for another project.

Thanks for indulging me in this little experiment. I'm not sure how it's going to work exactly, but I'm excited to see what it becomes. For now, jumping off...

Dock Jumpers at Camp Wohelo, NELP Lake Sebago

Friday, April 26, 2013

Birthday Pie for a Gal and Her Dog

Butterscotch Cream Pie with Hazelnut Praline

I'm going to (try to) keep this birthday pie post short, as it happens to be my birthday and I need to venture out on my annual solo birthday hike, as well as finish packing for two months in the woods. But before I do, I want to share these two pies I made for my friend Elizabeth and her dog Chickpea's birthday. Yes, the share the same birthday, which some might say coincidence, but I say is fate.

Elizabeth and I made the Pie Almanac together, and she would occasionally bring Chickpea to our meetings, which was just fine with me. Chickpea is TINY. Every time I see her I'm amazed that she is actually that small. She is also very sweet and verrrry chill (except when there's squirrels around), and her little wiry fur shakes when she's cold. Seriously cute, and the perfect mascot and occasional subject for Elizabeth's illustration work.

When Elizabeth asked if I would make birthday pies for her and Chickpea, I felt fine about the pie for Elizabeth--a Butterscotch Cream Pie with a Hazelnut Praline from Martha Stewart. But I was very nervous about the pie for the dog.

I'd never made dog treats before, let alone a dog pie. But it was something I needed to do for Chickpea. I found this homemade dog treat round-up on The Kitchn and chose one from King Arthur Flour. I halved the recipe and fit the dough into a small 4-inch pie tin, then rolled out the rest and used cookie cutters to make a little doggie treat bag as an added gift. It all came out well, but I was worried that it might not have enough "dog appeal" flavor. Then, as I was whipping the cream for Elizabeth's Butterscotch Cream Pie, I had a dog pie revelation--bacon grease whipped cream!

Butterscotch Cream Pie with Hazelnut Praline

Before we get too far down the dog pie rabbit hole, I will say that this here Butterscotch Cream Pie (for people) is a new favorite. It's essentially a homemade butterscotch pudding, topped with a candied-hazelnut studded whipped cream. It almost went just as fast as Chickpea's bacon grease.

Butterscotch Cream Pie with Hazelnut Praline
Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved

For filling:
3 oz. (6 Tblsp.) unsalted butter
1 c. dark brown sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For hazelnut praline:
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. light corn syrup
1 Tblsp. water
1/3 c. hazelnuts, toasted & skinless
Salt, to taste

1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Pierce the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.

2. Brush edges of crust with egg. Line chilled pie shell with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes just until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven, and take out parchment and dried beans. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes more until the crust is golden brown. Let cool.

For filling:

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter begins to brown. Stir in sugar until it dissolves, approximately 5 minutes. Slowly pour 1 cup of the cream down the side of the pan, stirring constantly until smooth (the caramel will bubble, so be careful!). Remove saucepan from the heat.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch, salt, and milk until smooth. Whisk into the butter mixture until well combined. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes (2 minutes after it comes to a boil).

3. In a medium bowl, whisk yolks until well combined. Pour in the milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until incorporated. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it returns to a boil, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let the custard cool in the saucepan, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

5. Pour the custard into the fully baked crust. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until it is chilled and firm, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

6. Whisk remaining cup of cream until stiff peaks form (I was rushing and went a little overboard--yours should be a little more smooth). Reserve 2 Tblsp. praline (recipe below) and fold remaining praline into the the cream. Spread the cream over the pie and sprinkle the reserved praline on top. Serve immediately.

For hazelnut praline:

1. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat sugar, corns syrup, water, and a pinch of salt until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until deep amber in color. Remove from heat and stir in nuts. Spread evenly on the parchment-lined baking sheet and let cool.

2. Using a chef's knife, cut praline into small bite-sized pieces. Use to top pie.

Butterscotch Cream Pie with Hazelnut Praline and Pie for Dogs

When we placed Chickpea's pie in front of her, she dove tongue-first into the bacon grease top. I was worried she might go for the grease and ignore the pie, but she did methodically nibble on the crust and decorative cut "Cs". Maybe with a little work on some recipes and a new dog pie blog "Nothing-in-the-Dog House," I can expand our nation's favorite dessert to our dog's best friends.

Pie for Dogs
Instagram by @Elizabeth_Draws

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Berger Cookie Pie aka Baltimore Bomb Pie

Berger Cookie Baltimore Bomb Pie

Earlier this week my friend Sara Camp Arnold passed along this Medium article written by the folks at Robicelli's regarding recent press on the bursting of "the cupcake bubble." She directed me specifically to item #7, a response to Jezebel's claim that "cupcakes represent prescribed modes of femininity and our cultural fixation on eternal girlhood." For now I'm not going to get into what I think about that (it's complicated), but the Robicelli's response hit home.

They argue that while lady chefs are common these days, lady chef business owners are not. When the cupcake trend hit in the late 90s, numerous women saw it as an entrepreneurial opportunity. Many opened businesses out of their homes and hired a mostly female staff, catering to a mostly female clientele. This all rings a bell. The idea of women's creative domesticity as an empowering force for entrepreneurship, social capital, and community engagement is a theme I wrote about in my folklore Master's thesis at UNC, where I studied Vimala Rajendran's transition from community dinner home cook to chef and restaurant owner. Running a food business out of a home kitchen is something I've also dabbled in myself--first with Tarts by Tarts and now with Nothing-in-the-House Baking Co. This endeavor has allowed me and others like me to explore my interest in small business, develop my own baking skills, and make connections--creative, social, and entrepreneurial-- in my community. Now that doesn't sound anti-feminist to me.

Berger Cookies, Baltimore

This pie was one that was a special ordered from Nothing-in-the-House by my friend Martha. She had cousins coming to town and wanted to show off some local flavor, so requested a "Baltimore Bomb Pie". The recipe was developed by Dangerously Delicious Pies, and is essentially a chess pie with Berger Cookies embedded in the filling. Never had a Berger Cookie? That probably means you just haven't spent much time in Baltimore, where they're a cultural icon. The rich, generously fudge-topped cakey shortbread cookie is of German origin and was brought to the Baltimore area by George and Henry Berger in 1835. The cookies are now baked by DeBaufre Bakeries and have only recently made it out of Baltimore's city limits--I found mine just outside DC at the Silver Spring Giant, but here's a list of other places where they're sold.

While the cookies are decadent enough, the pie only makes them more so, the 5 eggs and stick of butter  really taking it to a whole. nother. level. I imagine that's the reason for the explosive title.  Considering my generally pacifist beliefs and especially in light of current events, though, that name doesn't sit too well with me. Instead, I think I'll call mine a Berger Cookie Pie. Even by a different name, it'll still taste as sweet.

Berger Cookie Pie, Baltimore Bomb Pie

Berger Cookie Pie aka Baltimore Bomb Pie
Adapted from Dangerously Delicious Pies via Biscuits and Such

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. light brown sugar
5 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tblsp. flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
6 Berger Cookies (about 3/4 of a pack), quartered


1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, retaining extra egg for an egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Place the pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the quartered cookies in the pie crust. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, brown sugar, and flour. Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the butter, stirring constantly. Pour this mixture over the cookies.

3. Brush the edges of the crust with egg wash and bake for 45-55 minutes until the center is golden brown and the top is mostly solid (it should still jiggle a little). Let cool and enjoy!

Berger Cookie Pie, Baltimore Bomb Pie side view

Related recipes:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Interview with Stella Parks of BraveTart

Stella Parks photo by Sarah Jane Sanders
Photos by Sarah Jane Sanders

For the past two months, I've been writing the series "Give Me Some Sugar," on Southern women pastry chefs for the Southern Foodways Alliance & Southern Living's The Daily South blogs. I've interviewed Momofuku Milk Bar's Christina Tosi; Sonya Jones, whose sweet potato cheesecake won over President Clinton (in his pre-vegan days); and Phoebe Lawless of Scratch-- one of my favorite bakeries in Durham, NC. Though I've thoroughly enjoyed conversations with all of the chefs I've talked to, one I was especially excited to have an excuse to chat up is Stella Parks, the pastry chef at Table Three Ten in Lexington, KY and the brain child (bravechild?) behind the superb baking blog BraveTart.

I first found Stella through my friend Francis' twitter and in doing so hit a one-gal gold mine of baking skills, smarts, and quick wit. BraveTart, which Stella publishes with photographers Rosco Weber and Sarah Jane Sanders is a funny, beautiful, well-written, and incredibly helpful blog specializing in updated and creative version of classic American desserts. Think homemade Milanos, Salted Caramel Brown Butter Hazelnut Brownie Chunk Nutella Swirl Ice Cream (yep), and Bourbon Buttermilk Layer Cake.

The profile I was writing on Stella for SFA was just a short little number, but as you can tell from the aforementioned ice cream title, she has a lot to say and it's all worth being said. Though I couldn't use all of her quotes (or just have her write the whole darned thing) for Give Me Some Sugar, I thought all of Stella's musings on gendered flavors, Kentucky sense of place, and "coming full circle" should be shared-- just like her Cookie Dough Reese's Cups. 

This year SFA is focusing on women, work, and food. In light of that, could you talk about how being a woman has informed your work as a pastry chef?

I’ve experienced sexual harassment and gender discrimination in my life, but happily not at work. Obviously, I spend a lot of time “being a girl,” but I don’t think being a girl changes my approach to desserts anymore than it changes my approach to driving a car. 

Someone might say a dessert with malty, smokey, earthy flavors is “masculine.” But I grew up in the middle of a tobacco field, literally a stone’s throw from the world’s most famous bourbon distilleries. Am I making a masculine dessert by pairing tobacco ice cream with bourbon caramel? It doesn’t feel that way to me, it feels like a homey dessert.

On the flip side, someone might say floral flavors are “feminine,” but I grew up watching the jockeys who won Derby have their horse crowned with roses, watching men go to church with a flower tucked into their boutonnière. Is a dessert made with rose flower water feminine? I don’t think so. I don’t think flavors are gendered.

How did you get into baking? Did you always know this would be your path?
As a kid, I’d bake for fun, but a career in food was nowhere on my radar. At 14, I got a part time job in a restaurant, and really enjoyed the work. All along, I wanted to write a book, so my teachers in school pushed me toward an English or Lit major. Throughout high school, I assumed that’s exactly what I’d do.

Late my senior year, I suddenly wondered what that would make me when I grew up. I wanted to be an author. But getting an English major wouldn’t make me an author. Writing a book would. And writing a book would take time, and during that time I’d need to eat and pay rent and that sort of thing, so I thought how would I make money with an English degree until I wrote my book? 

I had no idea. But I knew I didn’t have a personality suited to teaching, or to journalism, or to whatever other English-majory jobs I could think of. I knew I liked working in restaurants, working with my hands and on my feet. Then I started researching culinary schools, thinking I could work in food service and write on the side.

How would you describe your style/approach to baking?
I don’t ever want anyone to try one of my desserts and think, “oh that was interesting” while simultaneously wishing they’d just had a brownie instead. I absolutely want to incorporate interesting techniques and flavors and textures into each dessert, but I want them to hit the spot. So I always approach a dessert as something that should satisfy whatever craving led a customer to order it. They always deliver a major flavor punch in a format that gives you something to sink your teeth into.

What's your take on Southern food and how does it inform/appear in your baking?
I’ve always used ingredients like buttermilk, sorghum, cornmeal, sassafras and bourbon. I’d never really thought about them being Southern (or “Kentucky”) until I started blogging. Then I’d get these emails form people in New York or Oregon, asking “where can I find sorghum?” or “where can I find stone ground cornmeal?” Then I started to realize how much the experience of growing up in Kentucky informed how I stocked my pantry, influenced my cravings. 

I grew up in a little country town called Versailles, so I have a “Versailles” macaron, which plays on the French/Kentucky dichotomy the name suggests. It’s an almond free cornmeal shell with a sorghum buttercream. 

What makes food "Southern" in your mind? How do you connect to the history of the South (through food or otherwise)?
My sense of Southern hospitality is about unpretentious generosity. I like riffing on recipes that have come down through the generations, like apple stack cake or lady Baltimore. Actually, I picked up a copy of the 19th century novel, Lady Baltimore because I wanted to read it and get a better understanding of what that original cake might have been. It’s a stunning novel, equal parts romanticism and racism and culture and class. It didn’t tell me anything new about the cake, but it gave an incredible look at the “old South” into which it was born. A slower way of life that allowed for a celebratory slice of cake in the middle of the day for no reason at all.

What's your favorite thing to bake? Favorite baked good to eat?
I’m in the throes of a pudding obsession right now. It’s such a little powerhouse. It can stand on its own or form the basis of a cream pie, be used to make an old timey buttercream, even folded with whipped cream to make a cheater’s “mousse.” I’m actually eating Tonga vanilla pudding right now...

What's your most prized kitchen item?
I have a set of plastic measuring spoons that I’ve used since I was about 8; they came as part of a cookbook set my parents bought for me. I dug them up recently at my folks’ house and decided to take them to work. It’s a nice sense of coming full circle. 

Stella Park's Cornmeal Madeleines

I recently made Stella's Oatmeal Cream Pies, which somehow manage to be simultaneously spot-on accurate and better than the original. You can find many more of her recipes on BraveTart, but for Give Me Some Sugar, Stella shared her recipe for Cornmeal Madeleines--another play on the French/Kentucky theme. Though not a pie, I'm thinking they'd make a great whoopie pie base with a chocolate orange hazelnut buttercream sandwiched in between...

Cornmeal Madeleines
from Stella Parks of BraveTart

Yields 18 cookies
Leaf lard adds an amazing richness to the madeleines and makes my favorite version by far. If that’s a problem ingredient for you, or just inconvenient, melted (or clarified) butter will work nicely too.


1 1/2 ounces butter or leaf lard, melted
4 ounces whole milk
1 egg
1 3/4 ounce sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean pod
2 1/2 ounces yellow cornmeal, preferably fine or medium grind
2 3/4 ounces all purpose flour, sifted
optional: coarsely ground cornmeal for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly spray the madeleine mold (it helps the shells brown better with silicon) or mini-muffin tin. If using a cornbread pan, brush the molds with butter or oil and put it in the oven and wait until it’s piping hot before filling. This will give you a great crust and prevent sticking.

2. Making the batter couldn’t be easier. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Let the batter stand for 10 minutes, or until it thickens, before filling each shell 3/4 full (about two teaspoons).

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the humps no longer seem to have molten centers. I love these cookies best served warm, but they’ll keep for about two days in an airtight container (becoming increasingly perfect to dip into hot coffee or tea). They’re also great toasted, with a dot of jam.

Stella Park's Cornmeal Madeleines

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Orange & Yogurt Tart

Orange & Yogurt Tart

I just got back from a Virginia cabin birthday weekend with some dear friends. These little get-aways, whether at the beach or and old-time festival or for some other occasion, is something our broader circle does fairly regularly, especially because many of us don't live in the same place. But when I thought about what I most wanted to do to celebrate my 30th, this was it.

It took a while to figure out all the details. Initially we had planned for an earlier weekend and then nixed it because it was feeling too complicated. I was stressed about getting ready to go away for the spring and then thought it might not happen at all. Though our original idea was to reserve a cabin in a Virginia state park, we worried we might not have enough room, and mined dozens of Airbnbs and lakehouses for rent-- historic Italianates on peacock farms and treehouse yurts in the woods with saunas and hot tubs. Many were booked and most were out of our price range. In the end, we went back to our original plan, and though there were no fancy amenities and we'd have to squeeze in, we reserved a little (and very affordable) 2-bedroom park cabin on the James River.

Despite most of us encountering some  travel complications on Friday--tornados and thunderstorms and traffic and babies on hunger strikes, the rest of the weekend was just so... easy. We played Madlibs and Exquisite Corpse around the fire, drank homemade micheladas and gin and tonics on the deck, went for walks in the woods, read and played records and took turns making meals. My friends Lora and Alex very cutely smuggled in a homemade birthday cake and frosted it last night, crediting the sound of the beater to the "milkshakes" they were supposedly making.

But it was totally relaxed, nothing pressing, no extravagant plans (though we kept checking in about our "hopes and dreams" for the day/afternoon/next hour)-- and it was just perfect. Though I was pretty stressed about all I had to do when we left on Friday, unsure if I should even be going away, it turned out to be just the check-in with friends and self to feel more sane and relaxed. Perhaps the NPR story I heard that quoted Ghandi--"I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one"-- was foretelling.

Almond Shortbread Crust for Orange & Yogurt Tart

Now I don't want to be too contrived in an attempt at a connection between this Virginia weekend and this Orange & Yogurt Tart I made in DC several weeks ago, but as I sat down with the photos and recipe to write about it, this common feeling came to mind. The idea of something easy, something not too extravagant,  but that's simple and good for you.

When I made this dessert (for the same show as the Grapefruit Chess Pie), I kept telling people, before we tried it, that it "might taste healthy," worried that it might not be flavorful or exciting enough. Sure, maybe it does taste a little healthy, but it's also rich and refreshing, like an orange-topped panna cotta with an almond crust. Sometimes the thing that's the most simple and easy is really just what you need.

Orange & Yogurt Tart

Orange & Yogurt Tart
From Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts

Makes 1, 9-inch tart

For crust:
1/2 c. whole raw almonds
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
6 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

For filling:
2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
2 Tblsp. ice water
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
Pinch coarse salt
3 navel oranges

For crust:
1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse almonds with granulated sugar and salt until finely ground. Add flour and pulse to combine, then add butter and pulse to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan and place in the fridge or freezer until firm, approximately 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool.

For filling and assembly:
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the water and let stand 5 minutes. Pour cream into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. When it begins to steam, add the softened gelatin and stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir the warm cream mixture into the yogurt mixture until combined. Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the yogurt. Chill until set, about 2 hours and up to 1 day.

2. Use a sharp paring knife to slice the ends off of the oranges. Following the curve of the fruit with your knife, cut away the peel, removing as much of the pith as possible. Slice the oranges into 1/4-inch thick rounds, removing seeds. Just before serving, arrange orange slices on top of the tart.

Orange & Yogurt Tart

Related recipes:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette

Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette with Pine Nuts

It's starting to get green around here. I was looking out my window today (procrastinating again), to find that the tree in front of my house has already leafed out with its small, almost fluorescent leaves. Spring is naturally a time of regrowth and renewal, the celebration of the return to life after the cold of winter.

But it has some added import for me. My birthday falls at the end of April and this year it's a big one--my thirtieth (there, I said it). And though I've been away for the past two years, it's also the time when I head to the woods of New England to essentially live off-the-grid, forgoing regular cell phone service and internet and computers and recorded music to read books and write, cook and bake, swim lakes and climb mountains, and teach at the New England Literature Program. Usually this means that I get to see spring green arrive for a second time, and in a way where that transition is a much more present part of our lives.

Last week my friend Martha of Quicksilver Productions asked me to make a sweet pie and a savory tart for her cousins' visit. More on the sweet pie soon, but for the savory tart, her only request was that is had to be something springy, without potatoes but with onions. Immediately I thought greens-- kale perhaps, but in browsing through Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts, which I've been baking a lot from recently, I found a recipe for this Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Galette. Perfect.

Swiss chard is the same plant species as beets--essentially beet greens, but chard has been cultivated to have large leaves instead of the bulbous red root. The flavor is similar though, and I especially love using rainbow chard, which has different colored stems--golden or pink or red, much like beets themselves. Martha (or her editorial team) says that Swiss chard and pine nut tarts are common in Southern France and Italy, where they're sometimes sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and served for dessert. I think this recipe is best for brunch or as a dinner appetizer.

Swiss Cheese and Goat Cheese Galette with Pine Nuts

Swiss Chard & Goat Cheese Galette
Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies & Tarts

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
12 oz. (about 1 bunch) Swiss chard (I used rainbow), washed, stems removed and reserved
2 Tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 Tblsp. fresh thyme leaves
6 oz. fresh goat cheese, room temperature
3 Tblsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tblsp. pine nuts, toasted

1. Prepare half of the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions, reserving leftover egg yolk for the egg wash. Chill dough at least 1 hour before rolling out into a 10-11 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Put the rolled crust back in the fridge while you prepare the filling. 

2. Slice the chard stems into 1/4-inch pieces. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbslp. olive oil over medium heat. Add chard stems and onion slices, and cook, stirring occasionally about 8-10 minutes or until stems and onion are slightly browned.

3. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stems are very soft, approximately 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until the liquid is reduce by about half, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer mixture to a medium bowl.

4. Heat the remaining 1 Tblsp. olive oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chard leaves, sautéing until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat goat cheese and 2 Tblsp. cream on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in the nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper (my goat cheese was salted, so I didn't need to add any more salt).

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge and arrange the onion mixture evenly over the crust, leaving a 2-3-inch border around the edge. Spread the goat cheese mixture over the onion mixture and top with the chard leaves. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and fold in the edges of the dough.  

7. Transfer the dough and parchment to a baking sheet. In a small bowl, beat reserved egg yolk with remaining 1 Tblsp. cream and brush the dough with the mixture. Sprinkle crust with coarse kosher salt with desired. Bake until crust is golden about 40-45 minutes. Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Related recipes:
Red & Golden Beet and Goat Cheese Tart
Tri-color Potato, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Rosemary Galette

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grapefruit Chess Pie

The other day my friend Mandy posted a quote from Michael Pollan's new book Cooked. It reads, "Is there any practice less selfish, any labor less alienated, any time less wasted, than preparing something delicious and nourishing for people you love?"

With one caveat, I would say that sentence pretty much sums up how I feel about pie baking. My primary motivation is not to develop my own skills, not necessarily for creative expression, or for a blog (sorry), but to make something to make something to share with friends and family. I like to bring pie with me when I go somewhere-- to a friend's house for dinner, a party, a show. It's celebratory, a way to show someone you care, yet still a small, humble gesture. It also explains why I often don't have "cross-section" shots on my blog-- it's not as nice to give someone a pie that's missing one slice.

My one alteration, though, is on the idea of alienation. I get (I think, though I haven't read the book and am only working from this quote), what Pollan is trying to say--that food preparation for loved ones is unalienating because it positions us in connection to the land, to season, to familial traditions or culture, to our farmers, our friends and family. But today and throughout history, I think the actual act of food preparation can still be an alienating experience for many, especially women. I'm thinking particularly of the often lonely experience of the housewife, today and throughout history, and the 1st wave material feminists' all for communal kitchens--what compelled Zona Gale in 1919 to state, "The private kitchen must go the way of the spinning wheel, of which it is the contemporary." Despite these womens' work, much of that lone experience did not change. It's something that still needs to be acknowledged and addressed with creative solutions.

But when we think of those meals that have the most meaning, its those prepared alongside friends and family, for friends and family, that we remember.This Grapefruit Chess Pie was one such shared pie I made surrounded by friends, for friends. My best friend Heather was in town from Chicago for the weekend, and I was putting on a show at my house--an old-time string band "battle of the sexes" of sorts, featuring my pals Ariel, Chloe, and Meredith of Locust Honey and Brent, Graham, and Lars as the one-off Cowboy Coffee Drinkers. But before the music, we had an afternoon cookout. Lars grilled hot dogs, Leslie brought a Green Gate Farm kale salad, Brent and Heather worked on the long-awaited smoked salmon deviled eggs, Meredith's family brought a full tray of homemade chicken wings, and I worked on this pie, and a few others.

The recipe comes from the Lee Brothers by way of A Sweet Spoonful. As for what it's all about, think pineapple upside down cake flavor in a custardy base with a sweet rye crust. It's a different rye crust than what I've used in the past, but I like it--it's also really easy to work with and hold it's shape beautifully, allowing me to experiment with a new crust fluting treatment. As the name suggests, it's a classic chess pie with a touch of early-spring citrus, a little something special for the common table.

Grapefruit Chess Pie with a Sweet Rye Crust
Adapted from The Lee Brothers Charleston Kitchen via A Sweet Spoonful

For crust (yields 2 9-inch pie crusts, so wrap and freeze one for later or make 2 pies!)
2/3 c. rye flour
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tblsp. granulated sugar
16 Tblsp. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-6 Tblsp. ice water (I had to use just about all 6)
1 egg yolk

For filling:
2 grapefruits
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3 large egg whites
2 large egg yolks
1/2 c. heavy cream, room temperature
4 Tblsp. (half stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 c. granulated sugar
3 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
2 Tblsp. fine cornmeal, plus more for sprinkling.

For crust:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, salt, and sugar. With a pastry cutter or knife and fork, cut in the butter until the mixture is the texture of cornmeal and peas. Drizzle the vanilla extract over the dough and sprinkle in the water 1 Tblsp. at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to come together in clumps. Use your fingers to bring it all together in a ball. Divide the ball into two flat disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

2. Once chilled, and you're ready to roll out your crust, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out one disk of dough on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a greased and floured pie plate and flute edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust all over with a fork. Place a sheet of parchment paper inside the pie crust and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and take out the parchment and weights. Brush crust with the egg yolk, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and back 5 more minutes.

For filling:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, finely grate the zest of 1 of the grapefruits (it will yield about 1 tsp.) and set aside. Segment both grapefruits by trimming off the top and bottom so each end is flat. Then peel the fruit by placing a sharp knife at the point where the pith meets the fruit and cut with the curvature of the fruit.  

2. Over a medium bowl to catch the juice, cut along the segment membranes of the grapefruit to separate each segment. Strain the segments and reserve the juice and segments separately (you'll have about 1 c. segments and 1/3 c. juice). Whisk the zest and salt into the grapefruit juice.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and egg whites together in a large bowl (I used a standing mixer) until they are light and cream-colored, then whisk in the cream and melted butter. 

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and cornmeal. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in thirds, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the grapefruit juice mixture until incorporated.

5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and arrange the grapefruit segments in the custard (they will float to the surface as they bake). Place the pie in the oven and bake 35-45 minutes until the top has browned and the center jiggles stiffly. Cool on a wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Related recipes:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie

Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie

I'm about to head into the North woods again and see spring arrive for a second time. I'll explain more of what that's all about for me and this space, but in the meantime, here are some old posts from where I'll be). After bouts of very unseasonable weather here in DC-- from freezing rain to above-90 temps, we've finally hit a stride of mild spring air and sunny days, just in time for my last weekend in town for awhile.

It was a good one, headed up with a "Yappy Hour" birthday party for my friend & Pie Almanac illustrator Elizabeth and her dog Chickpea (yes, they share a birthday!). She asked me to make a pie for both of them, and I have to say, never having made a pie for a dog before, I was quite nervous for how it would be received. I'll share the recipe soon, but I have to admit, I think the bacon grease "whipped cream" topping had a lot to do with its success. Saturday afternoon we fixed up our bikes and went for a spin around the neighborhood, with a dinner stop at a Trinidadian roti shop. Then it was off to the lanes for my first duckpin bowling! There's something about the squat pins and shorter balls that make it much more fun and lighthearted than your standard bowling. Also there was an actor from The Wire at the lane next to us--an "only in Maryland" experience.

Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie

I spent most of today working on projects and doing some packing, but remembered I had this recipe for a Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie to share. With its red-wine & cardamom poached figs, it strikes me as more of a cold weather pie than a warm one, I wanted to share it sooner, while there are still some chillier days and nights ahead. I made this for Pi(e) Day (explaining the lack of slice shots), adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe for a Pear, Fig and Walnut Pie. Unsure about "wet" walnuts, I left them out, and the substitution of cardamom pods for star anise was more out of necessity than choice, but I was quite pleased with the result. The flavor is dark and rich, with the reconstituted figs adding a nice texture contrast to the cooked pears. It would be wonderful with honey goat's milk ice cream. 

Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie

Pear & Cardamom-Fig Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart's New Pies and Tarts

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
3/4 c. Madeira wine
5 oz. (scant 2/3 c.) soft, dried Black Mission figs, stemmed & quartered
3 whole cardamom pods
3 lbs. ripe, firm Anjou pears
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tblsp. cornstarch
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 Tbslp. heavy cream, for egg wash
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Prepare the Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Chill dough at least 1 hour. Once chilled, roll out 1/2 of pie crust and fit into a 9-inch greased and floured pie pan. You can choose to roll out the top-crust now and refrigerate it flat, or roll it out once you've prepared the filling. Either way, you should put both the remaining crust and the pie pan in the fridge while you prepare the filling. Reserve half-egg yolk for the egg wash.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small saucepan, bring wine, figs, and cardamom pods to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until figs are softened, approximately 10-12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer figs to a large bowl and set aside. Cook the liquid over medium heat until its reduced to a syrup, about 3 minutes. Remove the cardamom pods and discard. Pour the syrup over the figs.

3. Peel, core, and slice the pears into 1/4-inch thick wedges. Add the pears, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and cornstarch to the fig and syrup combination, stirring well to combine. Spoon the filling into the bottom pie crust, mounding it in the center. Dot the filling with butter and lightly brush the edges of the dough with water. Roll out the top crust if you haven't already (adding a decorative steam vent if you wish) and place it over the top of the filling. Crimp the edges of the crust to seal it. If you haven't cut a steam vent, do so now by cutting slits with a knife or poking all over with a fork. Whisk together the egg yolk and cream and brush all over the crust with dough, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.

4. Bake pie just until golden, about 20-25 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is deep golden brown, about 1 hour.  Let cool about 1 hour, then serve still slightly warm.

Related recipes:
Pear, Gruyère & Caramelized Onion Hand Pies 
Pear Tarte Tatin
Strawberry-Rhubarb and Wine-Soaked Fig Rustic Tart

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hoosier Mama's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Hoosier Mama's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

I'm a bad Hoosier. For someone who studies and champions local identity, this is a bit of a hard thing to understand about myself, but it's true. I just don't have much pride for my home state. Growing up, I imagined I'd live in the big city of Chicago, and as soon as I graduated high school, I made a beeline across the border to Michigan-- a state I considered--and still do--much cooler (to be fair it was only about 5 miles away from where I grew up). To counteract this, though, I keep a running list of "cool" things (besides my family) about Indiana when I discover them, things to be proud of about my home state. To date, it includes: Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Johnny Appleseed, and Ball Jars.

Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Also on that list: Paula Haney and Hoosier Mama Pie Company. Granted, the shop is actually in Chicago, but Paula is an Indiana native, incredible pie baker, and someone who reps hard for the state and does a lot to celebrate its food history. We also have a similar interest in valuing home bakers and traditional recipes, both love an all-butter crust, and share a common love for rhubarb. Score one for the home team.

Pie Crusts at Hoosier Mama Pie Company Hoosier Mama's Funeral Pie

Though I'd been there before, and we occasionally share pie curiosities via the internet, In February, I finally had the chance to sit down with Paula for a slice of pie, and a face-to-face chat about her bakery. There in the bay window of the small shop, she told me that one of the reasons she started her shop is that she felt that while here in the states we were acknowledging the poor foods of other countries, we weren't recognizing those of our own country and region. For her (like me), pie was something that was always present at every holiday, it was something simple, rooted in tradition, where home bakers took what they had, and made something out of it. At the shop she offers some of these simple home recipes-- things like Oatmeal Pie, Vinegar Chess Pie, and Hoosier Sugar Cream, which she invited me back to the kitchen to bake.

Apple Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company
Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie at Hoosier Mama Pie Company

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie, which Paula found in the 1965 edition of the Farm Journal Pie Cookbook, is a true "desperation pie," listed as a historical oddity. The story goes that Indiana farm wives would throw all of the ingredients in the pie shell, stir it with their fingers, throw it in the oven, and go back out into the fields. Whatever the story, it is shockingly simple, and though not much of a looker, it's quite a pleasant surprise when you taste the rich caramel custard flavor of the smooth, oozy filling.

Hoosier Mama's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie

Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie
Via Hoosier Mama Pie Co.

Makes 1, 9-inch pie

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust, halved
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tblsp. all-purpose flour
1 pinch kosher salt
2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla paste or extract


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. Pierce the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and let chill for 15 more minutes in the fridge. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375.

2. Line chilled pie shell with parchment paper and pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 10 minutes just until edges begin to brown. Remove from oven, and take out parchment and dried beans. Let cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugars, flour, and salt. Use a whisk or your hands to break up any clumps and combine ingredients.

4. With a wooden spoon, gently stir in the heavy cream. Do not overmix--whipping the cream will prevent the pie from setting. Stir in the vanilla paste or extract and mix to combine.

5. Pour filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Bake pie for 20 minutes. Rotate pan 180 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes more, until large bubbles cover the surface. Pie will be quite jiggly and will not appear to be set when it comes out of the oven.

6. Let pie cool to room temperature and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight before slicing. Dust with sifted confectioner's sugar before serving. Pie may be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Hoosier Mama's Hoosier Sugar Cream Pie Slice

Thanks so much to Paula and the gang at Hoosier Mama for making my visit a highlight of my Chicago Pie Tour and for welcoming me into the kitchen to roll crusts, mix fillings, and ogle the old-fashioned apple peeler. As Paula said in our chat, pie is a natural slow food--you can't eat it on the go, so it requires you to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk to people. A Hoosier mentality to be proud of.

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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