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.
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.
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.
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.