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Posts tagged ‘pie’

little bird: pure sunshine

4 February 2014


long before Dunkin’ Donuts’ seemingly complete domination of Boston (much like Seattle’s Starbuck’s on every corner), my dad and i would trek to our suburban Dunkin’ to pick up a dozen for our little family. what can i get you, the clerk would say. and dad would consistently reply, yeahgive me six lemon-filled. lemon doughnuts were mom’s favorite. i have no doubt that, given the opportunity, she would have eaten them every single day. they became my favorite, too (copycat), so dad made sure his girls had enough to go around.

mom and grandma_Sm

mom and grandma

prior to the lemon curd shortage (an apparent byproduct of today’s less-than-generous approach to doughnut-making), mom was able to get a healthy portion of filling with nearly every bite. she’d look up at me, a little bit of powered sugar on the corners of her mouth, which she’d pat daintily with her napkin. giggle. then, consume the only remaining bite. delicious!, she’d proclaim.

like the very best attributes of a lemon—bright and zingy—mom exuded a warmth that others were drawn to. basked in. i can’t tell you how much i miss that sunshine. when she came to live with us in the latter part of her life, i’d occasionally trot home with lemon-filled doughnuts. sure, she enjoyed them. but never as much as when dad arrived triumphantly with a dozen under his arm.

to celebrate what would have been mom’s 92nd birthday, i’ve assembled a menu i think she would have liked:

a nice loaf of challah (best eva!)
brussel sprouts (simplified this recipe)
noodle kugle
meyer lemon hand pies (crust recipe)

here’s to you, little bird. it’s never as sunny without you here. sending you love and smooches. catch ya on the flip side.

meyer lemon hand pie

strawberry fields and bikes forever

7 August 2011


i didn’t learn to drive until i was 21. while  all my high school friends gleefully participated in drivers’ training, i hiked or biked. on those rare occasions that i needed a lift, my dad, then semi-retired, willingly obliged. i think he was just happy to get out of the house. he shuttled me to Saturday morning football games, where i played piccolo in the marching band. as an undergraduate living in Denver, i relied on my beloved, baby blue Gitane Mixte 10-speed for transportation; she and i were one. even when i got knocked off by a car driving too close to the curb. helmets? back then, we didn’t need no stinking helmets. well, we did. but i don’t think there was any such thing. regardless, we both survived and went on to have many wonderful adventures together. like this one.

soon after i earned my undergraduate degree, i returned to New England. by then, i’d learned to drive. bless my friend Janet for the grace and patience to teach me how to manage a stick. but early on this sunny summer morning, i headed out with a co-worker to pick strawberries. cars? we didn’t need no stinking cars. we hopped on our trusty bicycles, donning knapsacks in which we planned to stow our precious cargo. five miles later, we arrived at the farm.

we began picking berries, gingerly placing them in our baskets. when one basket became full, we grabbed another. we were having so much fun, we hadn’t noticed the temperature had risen. it was hot. and muggy. we paid for the strawberries and went to load our packs. gulp. how were we going to get all of these back to the house?  carefully and strategically, we maneuvered the strawberry containers into the packs and placed the rest in the front basket of Susan’s old touring bike.

the canvas packs, heavily laden with strawberries, slowed our ride. both in great shape, even we gritted our teeth as we pedaled over the hilly streets. of course, we eventually made it back to my parent’s place. packs stuck to our shirts, shirts stuck to our skin. we looked at each other, grinned and unloaded the berries. i gave most of them to Susan, keeping just enough for me, mom and dad. i didn’t bake much then, but wish i had. because i would have been able to make the amazingly rich and flavorful strawberry pie recipe that follows, courtesy of Emily and Melissa Elsen of Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

these days, i buy Washington strawberries from local farms. no more pickin’ and haulin’ them home on my bike. i ride when i can, and i still love to feel the wind through my hair. even if it’s through the vents of a Giro.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ Strawberry Balsamic Pie
a recipe generously shared by pie goddesses Emily and Melissa Elsen
makes one delicious, 9-inch pie


for the crust (after years of searching, Emily and Melissa’s crust recipe is the best ever)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 pound (two sticks) of good-quality butter, very cold, chopped
1/8 cup of sugar
3/4 tsp spoon salt
1/2 cup (or more if needed) ice water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

for the filling: step one (presoak)
four to six cups of in-season, ripe strawberries, washed and quartered
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt

for the filling: step two
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
a dash or two of Angostura Bitters
several fine grinds fresh black pepper

to prepare the pie pan
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar

for the topping
1 egg
1 tsp heavy cream
1 tablespoon raw sugar


  1. whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. with a pastry blender, combine the dry ingredients with the cold, chopped butter; be careful not to overwork.
  3. combine the ice water and vinegar; slowly add to the butter mixture by hand, being careful not to overwork.
  4. divide the pie dough into two discs, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  5. coat the cleaned, sliced strawberries with the 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 tsp salt; let soak for at least one hour, up to 3 hours. (the pre-soak stage will help release some of the juices from the berries and yield a less watery pie.)
  6. after soaking, drain the berries thoroughly and place in a large mixing bowl.
  7. combine the berries with the balsamic vinegar.
  8. add the Angostura Bitters and black pepper.
  9. add the brown sugar and cornstarch; combine gently and set aside.
  10. roll out one disc of dough and place in pie pan.
  11. dust the bottom of the crust with the tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  12. using a slotted spoon, scoop the filling from the bowl, allowing each scoop to drain most of its liquid before placing into the pie shell.
  13. continue filling the pie shell until it’s even with the top edge of the pie pan.
  14. roll out the second disc of dough and cut into 7 – 8 strips.
  15. weave the strips on top of the pie, forming a lattice.
  16. preheat oven to 400F.
  17. while the oven is heating, whisk the egg and cream.
  18. with a pastry brush, coat the entire top of the pie with the egg mixture.
  19. sprinkle the top of the pie generously with raw sugar.
  20. place the pie on a cookie sheet (critical step to keeping your oven free from burning pie filling).
  21. bake for 20 minutes at 400F on the bottom oven rack.
  22. reduce heat to 350F, and bake on the middle oven rack for 35 – 45 minutes more, checking for browning throughout the baking process.
  23. if the crust edge begins to brown too much, gently cover the pie with foil.
  24. the pie is done when filling begins to bubble, and the crust is golden brown.

allow to cool before slicing and devouring.

the fascinating rhythm of pie

10 November 2009


apple pie from 11/07 class

for me, baking is a dance—one that i perform with infinitely more poise and grace than i could ever exhibit on any dance floor. i glide through my kitchen, moving from pantry to countertop to oven with clarity of purpose and a decided rhythm that helps me keep beat with my joyful, self-defined creative process. as i learned from Seattle’s acclaimed, award-winning, pie-baking maestro Kate McDermott this past weekend, rhythm also plays a pivotal role in crafting an exceptional pie.

Kate and husband Jon Rowley spent more than two years refining their perfectly tender, flaky, lightly crisp and rich pie-crust recipe—and another few years researching and experimenting with combinations of heirloom apples to determine which yielded the best-tasting results. with a Brix refractometer, they measure each variety’s sugar content to determine how other ingredients might be adjusted to ensure every pie’s flavors are ideally balanced.

Kate listening to pies

Kate McDermott listens to the rhythm of a nearly done heirloom-apple pie.

as a classically trained musician with a highly refined ear, Kate discovered that her pies were completely baked when they emitted a rapid cadence of sizzle and a steady beat of whump. these culinary rhythms prompt her to remove her glorious handmade pies from the oven.

recently—in our small class of four pie-making wannabes— Kate demonstrated how to form a perfect pie crust by first combining refrigerated King Arthur flour, cold Kerrygold butter, chilled rendered leaf lard and salt in a very large, very chilled mixing bowl. she plunged her hands deeply into the bowl and lifted the ingredients with her palms up, blending the butter, lard and flour with her fingers, leaving fat chunks of all sizes to encourage an ultimately flaky consistency. next, Kate sprinkled icy cold water until a dough formed. then she let us loose to do the same, until each of us had two, flattened pie-dough disks.

as our dough chilled in the fridge, Kate and Jon shared that heirloom apples have thin skin, which contains tremendous flavor; it’s neither necessary nor desired to peel them. we all cheered. we cored and chunked Belle de Boskoop, Black Twig, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Egremont Russet, Elstar, JonathanKing David and Prairie Spy varieties, tossing them into a giant communal bowl. Kate then measured and divided the apples into four-to-five-pound piles, one pile for each of our pies. we laughed nervously when we realized how many apples we needed to load into our pie dishes. after combining a blend of spices with the apples, we were ready to roll out our pie crusts. and that’s when i panicked.

rolling my pie crust has always been a overwhelming challenge. i clumsily try to shape a round, but it never is. round, i mean. Kate helped me to relax, work more confidently and less gingerly with proven techniques. if the dough isn’t perfectly round, life isn’t over. a happy revelation. it will still fit in the pie dish and on the top of the pie. and, most importantly, it will still taste great.

when our crusts were rolled and pies filled, we crimped, vented and egg-washed the top crust, then Kate carefully loaded our masterpieces into her oven. as the pies baked, Kate served snacks, including some of her own divine apple pie, and read Henry Ward Beecher‘s apple pie sermon aloud. as our pies came out of the oven, and we listened for their sizzles and whumps, i realized it wasn’t simply the rhythm of the pies that made for a warm, uplifting afternoon. it was Kate’s melody: her overarching enthusiasm, patience, openness, generous spirit and genuine love of pies. and it was the harmony of working together for a common goal: to proudly craft our own amazing pies.

i wish i would have taken more photos during class to share every step of the process with you, but i was literally up to my elbows in flour, lard, butter, pie dough and apples (and loving every minute of it). i totally forgot to remove my camera from its case, until our pies had been popped in the oven.

i’m about 100 percent positive that neither of the Gershwin brothers would have imagined the title of their 1924 hit could be applied to an award-winning berry or cherry or peach or heirloom-apple pie. but Kate’s rhythmic discovery is, indeed, fascinating. and her dedication to the Art of the Pie and teaching it to others, unwavering. if you’re near Seattle, i enthusiastically recommend that you take her class; it’s truly an experience every aspiring pie maker should have.

Kate’s Apple Pie
recipe shared with the gracious permission of Kate McDermott, Art of the Pie
makes one double-crust, 9-inch pie


for the double crust
2 1/2 cups refrigerated King Arthur unbleached white flour
8 tablespoons leaf lard, cut into various-size pieces, from peas to walnuts
8 tablespoons Irish butter (e.g., Kerrygold), cut into various-size pieces, from peas to walnuts
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 – 8 tablespoons ice water (variable, depending on environmental conditions)

for filling
about 10 cups heirloom apples, quartered and cored
1/2 cup flour
1/2 – 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (my optional addition to 1/2 cup granulated sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (my optional addition)
a pinch or two of nutmeg
1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

for topping
1 egg white mixed with 2 to 3 tablespoons water
1 – 2 tablespoons sugar


  1. in a generously large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the double crust, except the water.
  2. with clean hands, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal; leave some lumps in it, so your pie will be flaky!
  3. sprinkle ice water over mixture and stir lightly with your hands or a fork.
  4. squeeze a handful of dough together; if it doesn’t hold, add a bit more water.
  5. form the dough into a ball, then divide in half.
  6. make two chubby disks, about 5 inches in diameter.
  7. wrap each disk in plastic, and let chill for about an hour.
  8. when the dough has chilled, place one of the disks on a well-floured surface and sprinkle some flour on top of it.
  9. thump the disk with your rolling pin (Kate prefers a French rolling pin, but whatever works best for you) several times; turn the disk over and thump the other side.
  10. if needed, sprinkle more flour on the disk to prevent sticking, then roll out the crust from the center in all directions. Kate advises to turn the dough quarter turns and to flip it over during the rolling process.
  11. when the dough is about an inch larger in diameter than your pie dish, fold the dough over the top of your rolling pin, brush off the excess flour on each side, and lay it carefully in the pie dish. don’t be alarmed if you have to patch your dough in a place or two; just brush a little water over any cracks, then reconnect the dough with any extra pieces you have left over.
  12. for your filling, slice the apples in 1/2-inch pieces.
  13. in a large mixing bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the butter; mix lightly until the surface of the apples have been coated.
  14. pour the mixture into the pie dish that contains your bottom crust, mounding high; dot with the butter.
  15. preheat oven to 425F.
  16. roll out your top crust, and place over the pile of apples.
  17. trim your crust with kitchen shears or a sharp knife, leaving about an inch of overhang.
  18. roll the crust over or under, so the pie is sealed; make sure the crust doesn’t extend beyond the edges of the pie dish.
  19. crimp the edges of the crust with a fork.
  20. paint with egg-white wash.
  21. cut decorative vent holes of your choice in the top crust.
  22. sprinkle sugar on top.
  23. bake the pie for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375F and bake for about another 40 minutes.
  24. when you remove the pie from the oven, listen for the sizzle and a deep, subtle bubbling or whump.
  25. cool on a wire rack. Kate’s sage advice: if you leave your pies to cool on the back porch, expect resident squirrels to pay a little visit.

serve alone for breakfast or with ice cream after your evening meal.

cherry-pitting purist

22 August 2009


neither northwest drizzle nor beating sun (and this year, there was a blissful dose of that) deter my Sunday morning jaunts to the Port of Everett Marina farmers’ market, right on Puget Sound. there, only a taut yellow tape separates me from the farmers and their fresh, organic produce. i stand poised, like a runner on the blocks, ready to burst forth at 11:00 a.m. sharp.

in early July, recyclable bag snugly tucked under my arm, i sprinted first to the Tonnemaker Family Orchard’s market tent. are the pie cherries in yet, i asked breathlessly. no, not yet. maybe in a few weeks, said the girl keeping watch over the Bings. poop.

i stopped by the Tonnemaker’s booth each week, standing on tip toes and craning my neck to ensure i hadn’t missed the mother lode. nothing. until one Sunday my eyes fell upon a bin piled high with tart Montgomery cherries. yes! i purchased five pounds and headed for home, where i immediately dug out the pitter. setting up an assembly line, with my 87-year-old mother manning the stem-removal station, i began to run the cherries through the pitting process. about 15 minutes into it, i remembered how totally tedious pitting cherries is. just like, as a child, having to stand perfectly still while my mom pinned the hem of a cute, little dress (ack) she was making for me. feeling all prickly, as i took deep breaths and willed myself not to budge.

ever the scout, i actually love doing things from scratch. and with a little self reminder of the ultimate prize, all five pounds of cherries were soon pitless. mom went for a much-deserved nap, while i began to cook the filling. it’s wonderful in a pie, which i made right away. or on top of a dense New York cheesecake (recipe below), which i made about two weeks later (having frozen the filling and then thawed). did i say the filling was so great that we got another five pounds of Montgomerys the following week and did it again??

combining the best of two recipes (one from Food Network /Peter Sterk and one from resulted in a delightfully tangy mixture that yields enough to make two pies.

Cherry Pie Filling


5 pounds cherries (about 8 cups)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons. fresh orange juice
1 tablespoons finely grated orange zest (felt like doubling here was too much; you decide)
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt


  1. place cherries in a large saucepan with lemon juice and orange juice, cover and heat, until cherries lose a lot of their juice.
  2. in the meantime, mix the cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon and salt in small bowl.
  3. remove the cherries from the heat and add the sugar mixture; mix well.
  4. then add the vanilla and orange zest; mix well.
  5. cook the mixture on low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened.
  6. remove from heat and let cool.

you can add a little water if too thick or more corn starch if not thick enough. my experience is add corn starch with caution, or you may end up with something too gelatinous. double ack.

cheesecake was my dad’s favorite dessert; he’d order it at seemingly every restaurant we went to. this recipe is awesome; it’s been a consistent favorite with family and friends. i think dad would have been an immediate fan, too.

the last piece

New York Cheesecake

from Gourmet, by way of
my modifications included here:

butter a 9″ x 3″ round cake pan (i use a 4″, because i never could find a 3″) and preheat oven to 350F.


5 (8oz) packages organic cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached organic flour
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

  1. beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour, and zests with an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. add eggs and yolks 1 at at time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated; scrape down bowl between each addition.
  3. add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  4. pour mixture into buttered pan.
  5. place round pan in a large roasting pan and transfer to oven rack. carefully pour enough warm water in the roasting pan to come 2/3 up the side of the round pan.
  6. bake until firm, about an hour. add more water to the roasting pan as needed. middle should be ever-so-slightly wobbly when the round pan is shaken.
  7. remove from water bath, and cool completely on rack.
  8. place in fridge, loosely covered with plastic wrap. chill for at least six hours.
  9. remove from the fridge, and run a knife around edge of cheesecake, as needed. then invert onto a plate.

bring to room temp before serving. top with cherry filling. or fresh raspberries. or drizzle with hot fudge. i’ve also created a variation with more lemon zest and culinary lavender that i get from Pelindaba Lavender on San Juan Island.