Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Pieday

I’d say I’m hardly a piefessional. I’ve made plenty of tarts with press in dough, a few graham cracker crusted cream pies, a handful of savory meat or bean pies, one or two holiday pies like pumpkin and pecan, and even a frozen peanut butter pie…but when it comes to classic fruit pies, I’m a novice. And by novice, I mean, I think this was my first.

Now, I bake a mean fruit dessert—for crisps, crumbles, tarts, and fruity cakes I’m your girl. But for some reason, fruit pie has never been on my radar. Until now. When I saw a latticed stone fruit pie in the latest Bon Appetit, my heart melted a little, and I knew it was time. Pie-time. I also bought a pastry mat recently, giving me even more incentive to roll out a couple dough rounds.

I don’t know if it was my unintentional tweaks on the recipe, if I was just lucky that day, or if the Pie-Gods were there to convince me of my true pie-calling, but my first traditional fruit pie—lattice crust and all—was pretty damn awesome. I’m not saying it was the best pie ever made, but it was definitely not the pie of a rookie. It looked beautiful, golden and shiny, with little bits of pink and orange fruit filling peeping through the lattice. And it tasted even better. The crust was flaky and buttery, and also solid enough to hold up to the fruit. And the filling was sweet, fruity, and just a little tart—summer at its finest. I read the recipe wrong and accidently discarded the extra juices from the fruit, but I think that was the key to a less-soupy filling and not-soggy crust. Oh, I also accidentally added more sugar to the dough than called for…another big win.

Served with homemade lemon ice cream, this pie screamed summer, for all to hear. And then, just for me, it whispered “you ARE a piefessional.” And just like that, I started mapping out my next fruit pie.   

Stone Fruit Pie

3 1/2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
¾ cup ice water

In food processor, blend flour, butter, shortening, sugar, and salt until butter resembles tiny peas, 25-35 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Slowly add ice water, stirring with a fork, until dough has both clumpy-wet and sandy-dry in places, adding more water if necessary. Press plastic wrap over surface of dough. Chill at least 1 hour.

Divide in half, and flatten each half into a disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk into a 13"-14" round. Roll over rolling pin and transfer to the pie dish. Pick up the edges to allow dough to slump inside the dish. Trim overhang. Roll out second dough disk (this will be the lattice top) on a lightly floured surface to a 14" round. Transfer round to a baking sheet. Cover and chill both crusts for 1 hour.

2 pounds nectarines
1 pound peaches, peeled
1 pound plums
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Juice and zest of one small lemon
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Preheat oven to 400°.

Halve, pit, and cut fruit into 1/2" thick slices. Place all fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Add half of the cornstarch, mix well, then thoroughly strain off all the juices. Add remaining cornstarch, nutmeg, and lemon, and gently toss until incorporated.

Pour fruit mixture into unbaked pie crust in dish. Using a pizza cutter (or a sharp knife), cut top dough round into 3/4"-wide strips. Weave strips over filling, forming a lattice crust. Trim strips 1/2" shorter than dough overhang. Fold overhang over strips and crimp edges.

Brush beaten egg over crust edges and lattice. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sugar over top. Set pie on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Bake until crust is golden brown and juices bubble, about 35-40 minutes longer.

Cool on a wire rack, and serve (preferably to friends and family), with ice cream (preferably homemade).


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sneak Peek: Burning Beast

Between washing the camp (er, beast) fire smell out of my clothes, and a night of crazy meat-induced dreams, I haven’t had time to upload all my photos of Burning Beast, the most amazing feast in a field. In the meantime, however, I wanted to give you a little sneak peek. Stay tuned, because this, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg… or the pork shoulder.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer Sun Tea

I grew up on sun tea. If there is one thing that most reflects my childhood summers, its sun tea. We brewed a fresh batch almost daily—putting a gallon jar of water and about ten teabags out on the picnic table to soak up the heat from the sun, until it was a deep caramel color. Amanda always had hers with sugar; I always had mine straight up, on the rocks.

My summer memories are warm and sun-drenched—Mel wearing a blue and white striped tube top, and the three of us (Mel, Amanda, and myself) swatting away the bees while picking tomatoes from the garden, our tall glasses of sun tea nestled safely in the dirt, nothing but the sound of wind chimes and towels on the clothes line, flapping in the breeze.

Summers just aren't the same without sun tea. Or sun, for that matter—which we don’t seem to have a lot of these days. My balcony only gets sun for a few hours in the morning, and it’s not that blazing hot summer sun that I remember from childhood… the sun that could brew a gallon of tea in two hours flat. Since I can’t rely on those few hours of weak, morning, Seattle sun to heat up an entire gallon of tea, I make it in individual mason jars—a glass of water and two bags of plain black tea—just enough for one or two people.

It wouldn't be summer without it. 

PS. Rumor has it that sun tea—steeped at temperatures not quite hot enough to kill bacteria—can make you ill. If you have concerns, there are plenty of safety tips online, like how many hours you can safely brew your tea in the sun, and how quickly your sun tea should be consumed after steeping. You can also try the cold-brewing method, wherein you let the tea steep in the fridge overnight.

PPS. I’ve been drinking sun tea for 26 years, Amanda for 28 years, and Mel and my grandma for at least 29 years (that’s how old my grandma was last time I checked, and I don’t suppose my mom could surpass her in age…), and none of us have fallen ill from it. The only thing we’ve fallen into from drinking sun tea is a hot, sweet, lazy summer nap on the back porch.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Beach House Baby Shower

Sunday was beautiful and sunny, the perfect day for my friend Brit’s baby shower at her family’s beach house. Amanda hosted a celebration that could rival Martha—creating the perfect pretty-in-pink party in anticipation of baby Solie.

We lounged by the sand and surf, sipped on pink lemonade and champagne (well, I sipped on champagne, the mommy(s) to be stuck to the lemonade) and colored letters of the alphabet for the baby’s first alphabet book.

While we competitively resisted the urge to say “baby,” we noshed on vanilla-raspberry cake, strawberries with rosewater whipped cream, marshmallows coated with pink chocolate, golden Oreo bon-bons with shimmery pink sprinkles, cheese and crackers, and meatballs (a nod to the little soon-to-be meatball).

We didn’t, however, play games where you guess the mom-to-be’s weight, or taste something out of a diaper. I mean really, who does that? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: LA LA Land

Evan and I spent the holiday weekend in Santa Monica, at his sisters bungalow... a half mile from the beach. 

I’d like to tell you that we tried all the best eateries in Los Angeles—from fancy restaurants to greasy authentic taco trucks—but we didn’t.

We were too busy riding bikes along the waterfront, dancing with old friends and drinking muddled grape cocktails with new friends, cheering on skateboarders and roller-funk dancers at Venice Beach, watching Ghostbusters in a Hollywood cemetery, and soaking up vitamin-D on the beach.

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