Tag Archives: Pie

Happy Pie Day, America!

It’s National Pie Day
, according to the Pie Council that is. I didn’t even KNOW there was a Pie Council, let alone a National Pie Day until I heard about it on KUOW today. Local Pie Bakers were on hand to answer questions about pie to celebrate. Those of you who know me know I will likely take any reason, any reason AT ALL, to make pie. Heck, I made a rhubarb pie last week because…there was rhubarb at the store. That and the fact we had a very disappointing rhubarb dessert when we ate out the week before. I’d been hankering for something seriously rhubarby for a while. But, seriously, this family is a pie family.

In honor of the day, I put together a cherry pie with a lattice crust. After my Thanksgiving Lemon Pie mess, I was a little leery of trying it again so soon. So, I tried this new thing my friend told me about where you make the lattice crust on top of a flat surface, not the pie filling itself. It’s pretty fast to put together on parchment on top of a cookie sheet. The thing I forgot to do was to freeze it solid after putting it together. So, after an hour of resting in the fridge, I still had a malleable dough that did not want to just slide right off the parchment. Since the cherries were firm and not as liquid as the lemon filling, I just transferred the lattice one piece at a time, rebuilding it on top. Next time, I’ll freeze the lattice solid before trying to move it, but the filling was already in the shell and I didn’t want the bottom to get wet and soggy while waiting for the top to freeze. The concept seems sound even if my execution this time around wasn’t. The finished lattice isn’t as precise as the raw one because it fell apart with my fumbled attempts at transferring it over, but it will do.



Filed under Cooking

Shaker Lemon Pie

One of my all time favorite kitchen tools. Microplanes were originally used in woodworking, but some clever person figured out they make light work in the kitchen.

I mentioned in my last post that I was making two lemon pies this week. The one reserved for Thanksgiving day dinner is the Shaker Lemon Pie. I was disappointed in how mine ended up looking this year, though it still tasted terrific.

While using a microplane to zest the lemons isn’t necessary, it is a lot faster and easier than the old fashioned graters out there. (If you only have the old-fashioned boxy style, put a piece of waxed paper over the top and work the grating bits through–removing the waxed paper with the last bits of lemon will save you a lot of scraping effort.)

The scariest tool in our kitchen. It does, however, do the trick.

The Mandolin slicer is the perfect tool for getting paper-thin slices of lemon. Before I purchased the mandolin last year, I used a sharp knife which works just as well if slower. So, if you don’t have a mandolin, just take your time and go for the thinnest possible slices you can. Remove all the seeds from the lemon slices as you work.

Thinly sliced lemons are really important.

The lemons and grated rind sit in sugar. Various recipes call for different lengths of time, but I let mine sit for more than twenty-four hours. I think anything more than eight hours is likely to be just fine, but anything under eight might get you chewier lemon pieces inside the pie. The longer they have to macerate in the sugar and lemon juice, the more likely they are to be tender.

The lemons, sugar and zest mixed together.

The lemons, sugar and zest after 24 hours.

The completed filling waiting for the top crust.

I made a standard white flour pie crust for this. I often use whole wheat pastry flour to make crusts these days, but I didn’t think the lemon would hold up all that well to the whole wheat. People can get a little prickly when you start talking about making pie crusts. There are the die-hard butter enthusiasts, the shortening crowd and the mixed-fat folk. I went to a pie making class a number of years ago, and the person teaching it gave us a mini-chemistry lesson. I came away with a crust recipe that is very simple. For each crust use 1 and 1/4 cup flour, one stick butter, one tablespoon sugar, 1/4 tsp., and ice water. The technique is to cut the cold fat into the dry ingredients and add water until you have a dough. The idea is to make the dough wetter than you think it needs to be so that when you roll it out, the extra flour from the rolling pin won’t make the crust overly dry and brittle. I also learned that a pastry cloth is my best friend when rolling out a crust. (Frankly, I also like the store-bought already rolled, just stick it on the counter for a while and use it kind of pie crusts. They save time and clean-up for a quick and easy pie. I think the best is actually the one in the red box…Pillsbury maybe?…but it uses LARD. Given the fact that a good majority of our friends do not eat lard, I choose to not use it most of the time.)

I also thought it would ‘be fun’ to make a lattice crust. Turns out that the filling of the lemon pie is rather liquid–unlike an apple or cherry pie–and the crust kept dunking down into the filling. When I complained about the finished product to my other pie making friend, he suggested I use the “make the lattice on waxed paper and freeze it method.” Now that I know that is a possibility, I’ll try that next time, but it never occurred to me. Making a lattice crust on top of the pie is the only way I’d ever heard of, so I learned something new yesterday.

Cutting the top crust for a lattice.

Turns out that my lattice ended up half-drowned in the filling this year.

In spite of a quarter of the top crust disappearing into the pie, it still tasted tart and lemony, the way a lemon pie should. Yes, it’s a pucker-up kind of lemon, not a sweet-cloying kind of lemon.

Shaker Lemon Pie

2 large lemons, preferably Meyers (I didn’t have Meyers, and used three smaller regular lemons)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Grate the zest off the lemons first. Slice paper-thin. Add sugar to lemons and zest and put in non-reactive bowl, preferably glass. Stir every once in a while and allow to macerate for 24 hours. Make your crust, mix the eggs until frothy, add melted butter, salt and flour then add the lemon and sugar mixture. Pour into the crust. Cover with top crust of choice. The easiest will be a flat top with simple vents across the top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30. (Give or take, watch the pie and make sure it is done–a knife inserted into the center will come out clean when it is done.)

A thin slice ready to enjoy.

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Pie, Pie, and More Pie

We celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws and one set of very close friends. We’ve been doing this same general family grouping for the last ten to fifteen years, and there are some slight modification depending on whose parents are visiting. My mom used to come up every year until she died, and her absence has been sorely felt each year since.

On Monday, I had just about the same conversation I have had every year. I begin with the question, “Are you bringing your usual?” To which the answer is a “yes” with a brief listing of the side dishes that are being made. I cook the turkey, a white-bread dressing and mashed potatoes. This list doesn’t change, and, in fact, hold just enough interest to get me to the real point of the discussion. “And what kind of pie are you going to make?”

This last is the crucial part of the entire conversation and points to what Thanksgiving is really all about. Yeah, we cook the turkey, and it’s yummy and all that, but it’s the pie, people. The pie. So, our friends are making apple, cherry and ‘something else.’ I’m making pecan and called dibs on ‘something lemon.’ My mother-in-law will be making pumpkin, mince, shoe-fly and ‘moji’ pie. (This last one is probably not spelled right, but I’ll let her comment on that herself. I think it is derived from PA Dutch for candy pie, or something like that.)

Then, I took the lemon question to the family. Lemon sponge, Lemon Meringue, or Shaker? Meringue was quickly defeated by both husband and son. We were left with everyone wanting both the other two. Normally, this would not be a problem, but I like as little overlap in the pie selection as possible. You’ll note that I did not say ten pies for ten people would be too much. This is an entirely different sort of criteria.

Most people have never heard of lemon sponge pie. I know I hadn’t until I married into a pie-crazed family and started looking up various recipes to widen my own pie-making repertoire. It’s like a lemon cream pie with a thin layer of lemon sponge cake on top. It’s an understated pie, and it’s not particularly beautiful–as you can see by the picture at the top. But, it is simply heaven in the mouth. (If you like lemon.) It’s not as intense as a shaker pie, but sweeter and creamier.

Given that lemon sponge is less forgiving on a second day, I decided to compromise and make a lemon sponge for dessert last night and start the Shaker for Thanksgiving. It takes 24 hours to let the lemons soak in sugar, and the pie itself is just as tasty two or three days out. Next blog, I’ll put up a step-by-step for making a Shaker lemon pie because it’s just so yummy it needs to be shared.

The lemon sponge pie we had last night might possibly be the best one I have ever made. It was extra creamy and delicious on the bottom. My kids each had two slices, and there were no leftovers.

Lemon Sponge Pie
1 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
3 eggs, separated at room temp
1/2 tsp salt
juice and grated rind of one lemon (large, or 2 small)
1 1/2 cups hot water or milk (I used 3/4 C soy creamer and 3/4 soy milk)
one unbaked pie shell

Cream butter and sugar. Add yolks and beat well. Add flour, salt, lemon juice and rind. Add hot water/milk. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into unbaked shell and bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes. Should be brown on top and will still look a little wobbly. Set to cool at room temp and serve when cool.

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Happy Accidents Ala Mode

A handful of grapes and a singular quince.

Last year’s quince harvest was astounding. I don’t know how a laundry basket compares to a real bushel or peck, but we had a couple of laundry baskets last year. That’s a whole lot of quince. This year’s harvest has been quite the opposite. Given the huge quantity last year, I was understandably overwhelmed at the prospect of cleaning, cutting, cooking and juicing them all. I found a few recipes to use where the whole fruit was incorporated, but I resorted to jelly making for the bulk.

I made, I believe 32 pints of jelly. Might have been more. One batch got left to sit over night before I added the sugar and it was turned into a “Quince Wine Jelly” from the resulting mini-fermentation it received due to my negligence. I froze some syrup that makes a deliciously unique Persian drink when mixed with lime juice and seltzer. A couple of the batches of jelly I made turned out to be more syrup than jelly. Making it in small four- cup amounts is really the way to go, but I was beyond ready to be done with the whole mess when I dumped more than three times that into the jelly pot and declared it good. It never jelled. I stuck the resulting liquid in jars hoping time would make it stiffen up. A year later, I have several pints still sitting on the shelf waiting to be re-cooked in smaller batches. To be redone.

My mother-in-law's handwriting makes the jelly much more attractive. One of my non-jelled jars of tasty goodness.

Re-cooking jelly requires opening and emptying the jars, washing the jars and purchasing new seals. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten to that little project yet. Enter a box of fruit and veggies from Full Circle farm–a local CSA to which my in-laws were lucky to win a subscription. With our own apple and pear trees bearing heavily this year, I wasn’t exactly excited to get a bunch of pears, apples, nectarines and peaches all at the same time. When I’m faced with a bunch of fruit, I tend to defend myself by making pies. They require a lot of fruit all at once and you don’t generally have to worry about the jell factor.

One of our favorite pies is from a Sunset cookbook. You make a pie crust and bake it. Then, you fill the crust with fresh nectarine slices, raw, and berries–blackberries, bumbleberries whatever you might have. Then you take more berries, sugar and water and make a heated syrup thickened with cornstarch that you pour over the raw nectarines as a blanching glaze of sorts. You pop this in the fridge to let the berry sugar blend set for a few hours. Then, you slice and eat. It’s very simple, and the raw nectarines retain a freshness that cooked fruit does not.

I only had a bag of Remlinger Farm’s frozen mixed berries, and I decided that tossing them with the nectarines would result in a blechy mashup. Frozen berries work great in smoothies and are not at all pretty to look at when defrosted. I’m not exactly sure how I happened on this idea, but the fact that the non-jelly in my cupboard popped into mind. Why make a new syrup when I already had lots of it? I had Bill find a pint of it while I cut up the nectarines. Then, we heated up the syrup and I tossed in a couple of cups of frozen berries which almost all immediately melted into the syrup to create a quince based berry syrup. I had to leave right then, so Bill was ordered to add “some cornstarch” and pour the resulting hot liquid over the nectarines.

Evidently, unjelled jelly does not re-jell when you reheat it and add cups of berries to it. The cornstarch wasn’t quite enough, so after three hours in the fridge it was a nectarine and berry soup in crust. We spooned the resulting glop for dessert and dolloped some vanilla ice cream on top. Turns out, the filling was tastier than it ever had been with the regular Sunset recipe–jelled or not. The underlying base of quince syrup added a honey-like sweetness that matched up with the tartness of the berries with an unbeatable flavor. I would have to say this might be the best tasting pie I’ve made in a long, long while. It was that good.

Waffles with quince-berry syrup and whipped cream.

Given that I was totally guessing on quantity and flying by the seat of my pants, we had some of the resulting berry syrup leftover. It would have meant an overflowing pie plate, so Bill just left the resulting cup or so in the pot. This morning, he made waffles and heated up the syrup for a breakfast treat that was simply amazing. I’ll be doing some more experiments with the quince syrup and see where it will go for me in other ways. I just love it when a little accident in the kitchen can turn out so darn tasty in the end.


Filed under Cooking, Food