Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fresh Wild Maine Blueberry Pie

I've been paying annual visits to my friends Nathan and Clara and their little ones on their farm in Brooklin, Maine since 2008. But I've always visited in the spring or early summer, when the wild blueberries are blooming, but not yet ripe. This year, though, I made my yearly pilgrimage in early September, in what I discovered to be the most glorious season in Maine, with sunny days, perfect temperatures, and the wild blueberries, huckleberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cranberries all ripe for the picking. Even the early apples were ready to be pressed into cider.

One afternoon, we walked out to their blueberry fields with rakes and pails and Nathan taught us how to harvest the berries by running a hand-held rake through the shrubs. The wild lowbush blueberries, vaccinium angustifolium, that are native to Maine and other northern regions of the United States, were a staple of the Native American diet in those regions. According to the Oxford Companion to Food, native peoples ate the berries fresh or sun-dried them to be used in puddings or cakes or ground them into meal to flavor meats and soups. New England colonists called the berries "hurtleberries" or "whortleberries"-- if you come across a period recipe that calls for them, you now know what it's referring to.

The more widespread highbush blueberry was not cultivated until the early 1900s and is generally a combination of highbush, "rabbit-eye," and lowbush varieties. Low-bush berries can be about four times smaller than their domesticated highbush counterparts and lack the tartness, instead packing a sweet, potent punch. Because of this, they are ideal to be enjoyed just fresh as is-- and by the handful.

After we raked several bushels, we lugged our full pails back down to the barn, where Nathan put them through the winnower-- a sort of steampunk contraption composed of various belts and gears, designed to separate the stems and sticks that collect with the berries while raking. 

Clara and Nathan like to make this Fresh Blueberry Pie, layering a quick jam with fresh berries on top, in a baked pie crust topped generously with whipped cream. Their recipe offers the best of both worlds-- cooked and fresh berries, and aside from the pie crust preparation, it comes together quickly, so you can get to eating faster. It would be suitable for any type of berry-- huckleberries, blackberries, raspberries, or maybe a combination for a "Maine in September Fresh Berry Pie."

Fresh Wild Maine Blueberry Pie
From Clara & Nathan of Stoneset Farm

Nothing in the House pie crust recipe, halved
1 quart fresh low-bush blueberries (can also use high-bush blueberries or any kind of berry, really)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Turbinado sugar, for dusting
Whipped cream

1. Prepare half of Nothing in the House pie crust as per the directions, reserving the leftover egg for an egg wash and saving other half of the recipe in the freezer for a future pie. Chill dough at least one hour before rolling and fitting into a greased and floured 9-inch pie pan. Prick crust with fork all over the bottom. Place pie pan in the freezer for 1 hour to set before baking. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Remove crust from freezer, line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake crust for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove paper and weights, brush with egg wash and dust with Turbinado sugar. Return crust to oven and bake for 5-8 more minutes more or until fully baked, puffed, and golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.

3. In a saucepan, mash 1 1/2 cups of the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and nutmeg. Bring sauce to a boil and stir until thick. You're essentially making a quick jam, so it should be about the consistency of thick sauce or heated preserves.

4. Gently stir in another 1 1/2 cups of berries until incorporated. Pour into baked pie crust and smooth. Top with remaining 1 1/2 cups of berries and chill until set, at least 1 hour. Serve, as Nathan and Clara say, with "scads of whipped cream."

Related recipes:
Blueberry Buckle
Blueberry Hand Pies
Blueberry Icebox Pie
Blueberry Pie

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

The 1828 Webster dictionary defines biscuits as "a composition of flour and butter, made and baked in private families". Though they've historically been found in home kitchens across the country in varying styles, biscuits are especially a known southern staple. According to Food Timeline and the Southern Foodways Alliance, they've been part of the daily southern meal since the mid-1700s. In some rural communities, particularly in the mountains, biscuits were associated with class, however. Professor and southern food historian Elizabeth Englehardt says that in those communities, cornbread stood in as a cheaper, quicker, and less labor intensive alternative for biscuits.

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

When I moved to the south, my consumption and production of biscuits probably tripled, but personally, biscuits have always had some northern ties too. Don't tell my southern friends, but my go-to biscuit recipe is actually called "Yankee Biscuits" and I got them from a New England community cookbooks via my friend Clara in Maine. True to regional taste, it contains sugar, but I leave it out unless it's for a sweet biscuit or cobbler top.

While living in Vermont and just getting in to pie baking, I was introduced to the magic of King Arthur Flour. I especially took advantage of their diversity of flours when my friends and I embarked on a month-long "eat local challenge," where as an experiment, we were limited to consuming items from the state of Vermont or within a 100-radius of where we lived.

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

A few weeks ago, King Arthur sent me a bag of their self-rising flour and some other goodies (including a $25 gift card-- see below) as part of their Better Biscuits Campaign. While their recipe for self-rising biscuits still bears yankee origins, it's produces fluffy, flaky golden biscuits-- all the stuff that can transcend regional differences.

I adapted theirs and Joy the Baker's recipes for these sweet Peach and Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze. They're suitable for breakfast or dessert and could easily accommodate some ice cream or whipped cream, shortcake style.

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze
Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Joy the Baker

For the filling:
2 ripe peaches, sliced thin
1-1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla (I used bourbon barrel-aged vanilla)

For the biscuits:
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
2/3 cup cold buttermilk

For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2-2 1/2 Tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch salt

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine filling ingredients: sliced peaches, raspberries, melted butter, ginger, brown sugar, and vanilla, and stir with a wooden spoon. Set aside.

3. For the biscuits, place flour in a medium bowl and whisk in the sugar. Cut in butter cubes with a knife and fork until mixtures the texture of cornmeal and peas. You want to work this as little as possible so the butter chunks remain cold.

4. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in buttermilk. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon until it is moist but holds together.

5. On a clean, floured (use all-purpose flour) surface, pat biscuit dough into a rectangle about 1/2-inch thick and about the width and length of a piece of paper (8.5x11). You may opt to use a well-floured rolling pin for this instead of your hands. Spoon the filling over half of the biscuit dough, then fold the bare side over top (this will get a little messy). Press the edges and pat into a 6x8 inch rectangle.

6. Using a sharp knife, slice the dough into a dozen squares. Transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, using a spatula. Place in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown and puffed.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by whisking together the confectioner's sugar, milk, ginger, and salt.

8. Once biscuits are done, remove from oven and let cool at least 7-10 minutes. Drizzle with glaze and enjoy! Biscuits are best served slightly warm and eaten within 2 days of baking. They also freeze and reheat well.

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

I've pretty much shied away from giveaways for the entire life of this blog, but this one is a pretty sweet deal for bakers from what I consider the best widely available flour mill and baker's resource in the country. King Arthur Flour has generously offered a $25 gift card to their online store, where you can purchase their flours and other baking essentials. To enter, you can either leave a comment below or on Instagram, 1. follow @thehousepie 2. like this photo and 3. tag a friend who would also benefit from some fine baking supplies. We'll give this giveaway thing a shot.

Peach & Raspberry Pie Biscuits with Lemon-Ginger Glaze

Related recipes:
Apple-Raspberry Pandowdy
Peach-Blackberry Cobbler
Peach Blackberry Pie
Peach-Sorghum Pandowdy with Cornmeal Biscuits
Quince Biscuit Pie

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Anthropology of Pie in Sift Magazine

The Anthropology of Pie in King Arthur Flour's Sift Magazine by Emily Hilliard

Earlier this year, I was given the dream assignment of writing "The Anthropology of Pie" for the fall issue of King Arthur Flour's baking magazine Sift. As I could write chapters on the subject (and maybe some day I will), I decided to zoom in on historical moments where pie has displayed its economy, ingenuity, and scrappiness to reinvent itself in contexts both urban and rural; commercial and domestic; individual, and communal.

Sift also included four of my pie recipes (three original, one adapted from the excellent First Prize Pies by Allison Kave), all of which first appeared on the blog: Cranberry Chocolate Chess Pie, Passion Fruit Meringue Pie with Macadamia Crust, Delicata Squash Pie (from the early days!), and Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie.

King Arthur Flour's Sift Magazine Fall 2015

Thank you to the kind folks at King Arthur flour, especially editor Susan Reid, photographer Mark Weinberg, and stylist Erin McDowell for making my pies and words look so good. Sift is available online and in many book and grocery stores around the country.

Photos via King Arthur Flour

Cranberry Chess Pie

Fig Pistachio Tarte Tatin

Peppermint Pattie Tart

Whiskey & Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake

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