Sunday, August 25, 2013

Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze

Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze, Lattice Top

This morning, I went to church. It's something I rarely do, but today, Donna Schaper was up from the city and speaking at the one-room Presbyterian church here in Rensselaerville. From what Molly had told me about Donna's feminist ideals, involvement with Occupy, and the 29 books she's written, I wanted to hear her talk.

The sermon was about measurability and immeasurability and how they are not, in fact, opposites, but accomplices. She spoke of how both are useful;  that the measurable--how much we pay for something, how much salt we put in a recipe, or how much dosage of a medicine we are prescribed-- are necessary. But the immeasurable is what really matters-- what, when leading a moral or spiritual or religious life, is most important.

Rolling out pie crust with a rolling pin

The sermon made me think of the pie baking lesson I gave this week. One of the LongHouse scholars, Sophia, had previously been through a pie making disaster the week before (though she is generally a wonder in the kitchen!) and asked me for help. So on Monday morning, we set up in Molly's blue kitchen, each with our own measuring cups, ingredients, and large mixing bowls. I gave Sophia the proportions of my pie crust recipe-- 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1 tsp. salt... and we started measuring and mixing.

But I also showed her what a crust should look like-- how it should feel as it comes together in your hands, when it's too dry or too wet or overworked, and when it's just right. I showed her how to transfer the dough to the pan by curling it up around the rolling pin (a favorite trick) and how to adapt recipes for other fillings and pies to come. 

Peach Pie with Lattice Top, before baking

In this case, both measurable and immeasurable were important, but it is the unquantifiable that will help her to become a confident life-long baker who can tweak recipes and add her own creative touch. As I responded to her questions and considered the best way to explain what "cornmeal and peas" looks like, I also found myself learning how to be a better teacher, but not in a way you could measure with teaspoon or tablespoon, cup or ounce.

While I made a classic peach pie, Sophia added fresh blueberries to hers. We brushed a sweet basil glaze on both and enjoyed them with the rest of the scholars after a Southern-inspired dinner of ham, soup beans, greens, and slaw.

Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze, Lattice Top

Peach Pie with a Sweet Basil Glaze
Adapted from The New York Times Heritage Cookbook

For the pie:
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
6 c. fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, zested
1 tsp. salt
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

For the glaze:
1 c. water
1 c. sugar
Handful fresh basil leaves

For the pie:
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 medium bowl, combine peaches, lemon juice, flour, brown sugar, ginger, and salt. Pour filling into the bottom crust. Dot the top of the filling with 2 Tblsp. butter

3. To make the lattice, lay 5-8 strips parallel across the pie and fold back every other strip. Weave the same number of strips perpendicular to the first strips, alternating over and under. Trim strips so that they leave a 1-inch overhang. Fold bottom crust over the lattice and tuck the excess under. Seal and flute edges decoratively. Brush lattice with the leftover egg and dust with Turbinado sugar.

4. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, approximately 40-45 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Prepare sweet basil glaze, then brush on crust. Serve slightly warm with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.

For sweet basil glaze:
1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and basil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and let simmer until syrup becomes thick and coats the back of a spoon. Let steep for 15-20 minutes, then brush on pie crust.

Peach Pie with Lattice Top and Blueberry Nectarine Pie with Star Crust

Related Recipes:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blueberry Hand Pies

Blueberry Hand Pies

For the past month, I've been working as the Director of the LongHouse Scholars Program, a food media internship in Rensselaerville, NY. My job is part curriculum developer, part camp counselor, part media editor, and part teacher. Mostly I've been setting up a lot of structure-- planning the weekly schedule, researching background for documentaries, and managing projects. In a way, I'm setting up the frame and canvas for the 9 scholars to paint within.

That role was also true, in a sense, for these blueberry hand pies. My coworker and LongHouse chef extraordinare Ame, asked me to make several batches of pie crust that we could freeze and use throughout the program. One night during dinner prep, two scholars, Thomas and Johnisha, used some of the dough to make dessert for the scholars and staff and our visiting guests-- Rod and Debra Smith of Smith Bites. Though I've sometimes missed being the one leading the creative direction, I've also learned that I love facilitating other's artistic work, whether you can eat it with ice cream or not.

Blueberry Hand Pies

Blueberry Hand Pies
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Nothing-in-the-House Pie Crust
4 c. (about 20 oz.) fresh blueberries
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked with 1 tsp. heavy cream
2 Tblsp. Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Prepare Nothing-in-the-House pie crust as per the directions. Once chilled, roll out dough onto a floured surface and cut into 12 rectangles of equal size. Place rectangles on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and return to chill in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, toss blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Remove cut dough from fridge and mound blueberry mixture into the center of each rectangle. Brush edges of rectangles with water, fold dough over filling, and press edges with a fork to seal. Brush hand pies with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and cut a steam vent in the top of each.

3. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, bake hand pies for 35-45 minutes, rotating cookie sheet half-way through. Filling will be bubbling and crust will be golden brown when done. Transfer pies to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Hand Pies

Related recipes:
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Peach Bourbon Ginger Hand Pies

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie

Ritz Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie

This piece originally appears in the The Runcible Spoon's SALT issue (vol. 3, issue 11). Pick up a copy of the saline DC food zine here.

When you see crackers in a pie recipe, you’re probably thinking crust—crushed graham crackers for Key Lime or Banana Cream, or maybe a saltine crust for the salty-tart Atlantic Beach Pie. But crackers in the filling? It doesn’t sound too appealing.

Turns out, though, that Cracker Pie, a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie, is a classic American recipe, dating back to at least the mid-1800s. It’s mentioned in an 1858 letter from Henderson, Texas resident Sue Smith to her friend Bet. She writes,
Bet I have learned to make a new kind of Pie I think you all would like them they taste just like an apple pie make some and try them see if you don’t love them… Take a teaspoon heaping full of tartarlic acid and dissolve it in water a teasp full of sugar and stir it in the acid then take cold biscuit or light bread and crumble in it.
A version also appears in the 1863 Confederate Receipt Book, and in Mrs. B.C. Whiting’s 1894, How We Cook In Los Angeles, listed as “California Pioneer Apple Pie, 1852.” Of the apple imitation-by-crackers, Whiting writes, "The deception was most complete and readily accepted. Apples at this early date were a dollar a pound, and we young people all craved a piece of Mother's apple pie to appease our homesick feelings." An 1870 version notes the pie as being “a good recipe for Spring use,” likely because apples were out of season then, and put-up or storage apple stocks had been emptied.

Rtiz Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie

Whatever the reason for its invention, its creator was clearly an early molecular gastronomist, as the cream of tartar’s acidity allows the crackers to maintain their shape and breaks down their sugar into a form closer to that of apples. The lemon and cinnamon, two ingredients common to most apple pie recipes, fool your tongue-brain connection to think “apple!” instead of “cracker!”

Here’s a version of the recipe, which has been printed on the back of the Ritz cracker box since the 1930s. Now go see if you can trick your friends.

Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie

Cracker Pie a.k.a. Mock Apple Pie
Based on versions from Saveur and the back of the Ritz Cracker box c. 1935

Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
1 ¾ c. sugar
2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 Tblsp. lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 c. coarsely broken Ritz, Saltine, or soda crackers
2 Tblsp. unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, beaten
Turbinado sugar, for dusting

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. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, cream of tartar, and 1 ¾ c. water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, simmering for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, zest, and cinnamon. Let syrup cool to room temperature while you fit bottom pie crust into a 9’’ pie tin.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill bottom shell with broken crackers and roll out top crust if you haven't yet already. Pour syrup over the crackers and dot mixture with butter cubes. Place top crust over the filling and flute edges to seal. Cut steam vents into the top of the pie, brush with the egg and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar.

4. Bake pie until the crust is golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let pie cool completely and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or sharp cheddar.

Related recipes:
Apple Pie with Salted Caramel Glaze
Green Tomato Pie

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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