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Monday, June 29, 2009

A Pie Crust Promise

Or, in the words of Mary Poppins: "No Pie Crust Promises. Easily Made, Easily Broken."
Pies have always been one of those things in a category all of their own. Brownies and cookies are practically a no brainer and a couple of tried and true cake recipes will cover just about any special occasion, but pie?

Now you're talking intimidation!

Actually, its not the whole pie....its the crust to be very precise. A cookie crust or one made of graham crackers isn't bad but a really good homemade crust just seems to be on some pinnacle of possibility only achieved by Martha Stewart or someone else of her ilk. Crusts, to be truly good, have to be handled delicately. There aren't many ingredients either, making each one more important in the load it has to share in making the ultimate flaky melt in your mouth perfection worthy of the filling it holds.

We are at the zenith of blackberry season and there just aren't that many ideas for blackberries...these sweet/sour bits of purple perfection need to be a pie...

Inspired by the fun of making a cobbler, I felt emboldened to think that perhaps just possibly, I might give pie making a try.

Not that I haven't tried before but after a kitchen coated in flour and a resulting crust that wasn't even as good as the kind you can buy in the little foil pans at the grocery store, I have spent the last ten (yes count em TEN) years buying crusts, or sticking to recipes calling for graham cracker crusts only.

I had some wild hope that somehow my ten year leave of absence had changed something in the relationship between pie crusts and me. Maybe through osmosis or something equally unknown, I had mysteriously developed the pie making knack. Armed with that optimistic hope I began to look at recipes.

There are more recipes for how to make a really good pie crust than one can imagine. With egg and without. Secret ingredients like vinegar and even vodka!

I couldn't help but think about the women who settled the west baking a pie in their cabin over a wood fire. Surely she would now waste a precious egg on making a pie crust and as for vodka....

did she have any vodka?

I don't know the answer to that. It just never got covered back in Jr High in American history class I guess.

Still, in keeping with the spirit of pie crust being a common and ancient culinary item, I decided to forgo the exotic ingredients and just go the blackberries themselves.

A pie crust must have 4 things. Flour being the main one. Also some kind of fat the work with the flour. Salt to boost the flavor and some liquid to bind the other ingredients together.

I had flour -check.

Next I needed fat. I have heard good things about lard but I don't keep that in my kitchen so I decided to go with butter. Most early settlers had a family cow and therefore butter, so butter is basic, right? Have you ever known anyone to go wrong with butter?

I haven't!

So here we go

Cold is our friend so use iced water I stuck mine in the freezer for a few minutes...

combine all of the above ingredients (there is supposed to be butter there but I had already chopped it in itty bitty pieces and popped it in the fridge to chill so it didn't get its picture taken....yet

ah... here is our reclusive butter all diced up in bits for easy mixing...

mix the 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp of salt, and 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter with a pastry cutter (or you can use a fork) until you see lumps the size of peas beginning to form.

You want the majority of your dough to look like "peas" but don't worry about integrating the butter too much as you will want little pieces of butter to be visible in your dough when you roll it out. Those little butter pieces full of moisture and fat will explode in the hot oven creating the much desired "flakiness" we want our pie to have!

now we can add that iced water. Start with 1/2 cup, to which I added 1 TBSP of lemon juice ( the science on that it is keeps the gluten formation down -making for a more tender crust. Work the chilled lemon water into the dough till it all begins to stick together. You can add up to 1/4 cup more of the cold water - just do it a tablespoon at a time so the dough doesn't get anymore water than it really needs so it doesnt get too sticky and hard to handle.

Divide the dough in to two pieces place the dough on plastic wrap,

cover and press into a basic circle the size of a sandwich can fold the irregular edges inwards and press so you have a nicer looking circle which will give you more even edges when you roll it out.

Pop your two circles of wonderfulness into the fridge to chill OR if you're in a big hurry like me, put them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes just so the dough can get nice and chilled.

Pie crust promise part 2

Once it is nice and cold take out one packet of dough. Time to roll out the bottom crust.

You can lay your pie pan upside down over your rolled out dough if you want an idea of how big your circle needs to be. Dont worry about the edges not being perfect, since you will be trimming them off anyway.

notice the little bits of butter in the rolled out dough? Just the way we want it!

You can loosely roll the dough over your rolling pen to lift it if you want to be sure you dont tear it, like this

Sunday, June 28, 2009

While the other packet of dough is still chilling, we can prepare the berries.
I had picked through the berries to throw out any leaves or stems and washed them. They have been drained and patiently waiting for their turn in the limelight...

to the berries, we are going to add the following:

1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of flour, 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch and more butter!!! 2 Tbsp. chopped up to sprinkle on the pie filling right before we put the crust on - So hold off on the butter for now and stir in your flour, sugar and corn starch.

Stir to coat berries and set aside while you roll out your top crust. The berries will ooze juice and meld with the dry ingredients and get all lovely and syrupy..... let them!

Grab your second packet of dough and roll out your top crust just like we did the bottom crust.

Put berries in the bottom crust.

Now is the time to add that butter we mentioned a minute ago!

Now top this! With your top crust that is....
Be sure to pinch the edges of your two crusts together as you don't want all that good berry juice getting out.

Don't forget to cut some holes in your top crust with a sharp knife so the steam can vent. They can be simple slits if you want...I was feeling all artistic and "in the moment" so I made mine into leaves....(in case you cant tell those are leaves....)

bake for 45 minutes @450

Then you get this

I baked the little "leaf" pieces that I cut out for my vents. I have seen people put them back where they were cut out but I wanted to be different so I piled them up in the middle...a pile of leaves! I like it!

so here, have a piece, fresh from the oven, redolent smells of butter and sugar and warm berries...

My observations on this recipe...

The butter is very flavorful but requires that you work fast and keep it chilled. It made the crimped edges a little droopy the minute it hit the hot oven which I didn't really like.
But great for flavor and very flaky! This is a nice recipe if you want a very rich and flaky crust. I still want to try a few other variations of pie crusts in my search for the ultimate one.

Next I will try the lard or solid shortening in my onward and upward quest for the perfect crust!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Time To Snooze.....

It's just past noon.

The air is hot and still.

Good time for a siesta!

si⋅es⋅ta  /siˈɛstə/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [see-es-tuh] Show IPA
Use siesta in a Sentence
–noun a midday or afternoon rest or nap, esp. as taken in Spain and Latin America.

1645–55; < Sp < L sexta (hōra) the sixth (hour), midday

First we have Blue, sprawled in front of the piano....

Emmy is too much of a siesta snob to crash on the floor...

This isnt a floor...or is it?

Usually at this point you get up and wander away....skeered I might try to throw a saddle on you...

but today you are just too tired...or else I am really boring you.....
we'll go with tired...zzzz

(This horse literally fell asleep while I was taking its picture!)

Just a few feet away...pretty maids all in a row

To fully enjoy a siesta it is very important to have a good lunch with friends or/and relatives first.

Its especially relaxing when the kids are in daycare...

I'll be back later....for some reason, Im feeling drowsy...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Once Upon A Time

not too long ago, "Handsome Son" and "Dilly" got married. He of the cowboy boots and denim, she of the pearls and lace.

The perfect pair.

Some of their mail accidently got put in my mailbox today and along with the boring junk mail I noticed this...

Handsome son's magazine

Dilly's magazine

I couldnt help but laugh at how even their mail makes a perfect couple!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blackberry Cobbler

The little munchkin's (grand kids) have been here on the farm for the weekend. There has been a lot of swimming and a whole lot of playing with the new puppy and we had the best of intentions to go blackberry picking.....

really we did.....

Somehow it just seemed to hot, or there was something more fun to do and it got put off.

So it is a good thing that Sunday was midsummer's longest day of the year because guess what we did at 8:30 at night?

That's right!

We scurried from patch to patch of blackberries. "Agent B" (my grandson) who is six, manned the wheel of the golf cart, while the two girls and I jumped off and picked what we could see in the rapidly dwindling light and then we hopped back on the golf cart and raced off to the next little stand of bushes, to pick what might be lurking there. Soon we had enough to eat a handful each and to insure a good cobbler for breakfast.

So while all was still and peaceful this morning, I made the cobbler.

There is really nothing hard about a cobbler - you just sort of cobble it all together. Lots of juicy sweet berries and just enough batter to hold it all together.

The hard part for me, is holding a camera with my left hand while stirring with my right. Requires steady nerves for 7:30 in the morning I tell ya~

Some of the pictures are a bit blurry and out of focus but I will get better with practice!


Adjust your 3 -D glasses and here we go....

What we will be using:
more or less)

I say more or less, because if I were making this recipe for more sophisticated palates i.e.; adults, I would stir a tad of cinnamon into the berries and some vanilla flavoring into the batter. Since I am dealing with little "purists" who are young enough to still be suspicious of lots of flavor, I am keeping this as simplistic as a Beatrix Potter story - so they will enjoy it.

To begin, we will melt 1 stick of butter...

then add 1 cup of sugar (the white stuff on the plate in the first picture...I had measured it out and forgot to put the actual bag of sugar in the picture) to the warm butter.

To the butter and sugar, add 1 cup of flour - see how easy this is?

you can stir a little - or wait - its that easy!

next add 1 TBSP. Baking powder and 1/4 tsp. of salt

that's all of our dry ingredients, now we add our 1 cup of milk.

at this point I had one munchkin, show up to help...

"Agent B" in Batman pajamas buttered the dish we will be baking in...

sorry for the blur - he's that fast - really.

Now...its time to blend! A whisk is perfect or you can use a fork - this is an easy mix

Now that your batter is in the pan specially greased with butter by Batman (or you) we are ready to add the stars of our production....the berries!

You want to sprinkle the berries equally all over the top of the batter. You dont need to press them down or stir them in. The batter will rise up over the berries as it bakes. Bake at 350 one hour more or less or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. I like to sprinkle more sugar over the top the minute it comes out of the oven. The sugar will melt from the heat and leaves a nice shine.

Here, have some!

Next time I will put it on a plate where you can actually see it...

Because the munchkins moms read here, and because I am aware that our menu so far consists mainly of butter and sugar I would like to add a disclaimer....

along with our butter and sugar we also had scrambled eggs and bacon and fruit. Just so we don't seem too decadent eating blackberry cobbler and ice cream in the morning.....

jus sayin...

After breakfast was inhaled in an impatient rush, the littlest princess took her turn at the wheel of the "bat mobile" (golf cart) to go look for more berries....

as you can see, she is still in her pink princess PJ's. One of the side benefits of living in the middle of nowhere.

The Littlest Princess and "Agent B" ponder their options on which way to go first in their search for the biggest blackest berries....

meanwhile "agent B" cant resist the old "shoulder tap ha -ha made you look"....

"Agent B" is so clever he is.......

Now head out into the blazing sun and get yourselves some scratched up legs and some berries and make yourself a cobbler. The results will be melt- in-your-mouth worth it!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Flying By the Seat of My Pants!

Flies, flies! "Lord of the Flies" is playing daily in my house!

If not that, then at least auditions are being held daily for the remake of this old cult favorite. Many flies are auditioning

Hundreds daily.

At first I thought maybe my adorable little chickens brought this Egyptian plague number 4 to my door but no!

I visited a neighbor with no chickens and she had the same audition crew at her house.

As did a town mouse friend I called

Turns out we have had the perfect storm of scorching hot days followed by sky drenching rains that make our front doors (and side doors - and car doors etc) look like the welcome center for fly-ville.

Lest you think I am squeamish about the occasional fly let me give you some chamber of horrors statistics..

In one hour in my kitchen I killed 10 flies. Given that I can hardly ride a bicycle or play any ball sports whatsoever because I have zero eye hand coordination, means there must have been at least 3 times that number of actual flies for me to hit the ones I did. I am very serious. I once saw two flies getting their groove on ON my white kitchen tiled floor and I still managed to miss both of them when I swatted!

So realizing that this was a well planned Orwellian invasion of my world I took counter measures. I perused the local hardware store and found these.

They come with a nice handy dandy red tab that you pull and out spirals this incredibly sticky tape

I brought them home and prepared to hang them, feeling yes... I will admit it... like I had just taken one more step into complete redneck ville. A place I have been avoiding with a passion for the last 20 odd years since I moved to the vast expanses of the country.

At first I thought that the fact that the fly tape merrily dangling in my kitchen like some DEET type of mistletoe wasn't attracting flies was because the light was on

so I turned it off

Still no flies were attracted to it

instead, auditions were still going strong on the counter top

I did notice the fly strip swaying when the air conditioner came on

that's it! I thought!

They think it is a pinata~
So I moved it to a corner

unfortunately a corner that I store dishes in

so I got tangled in it twice in the course of making dinner.

Its good sticky stuff that's all we need to say

after a day and a morning of no flies going anywhere near it, I decided to move it to the green room.

I'm using TV/ film jargon here as my room is actually red - not green but is right by the door where the flies were lining up, just like TV stars before they go on camera.

I stuck the barren fly tape up right by the door and over a window which at least 5 flies were mistaking for an exit

two day later

Do you see it?

That one fly?


You got it!

After all that, money spent ($3.00's) and time wasted looking like I was the biggest rednecker evah....

we got ONE fly. Meanwhile I had killed about 30,000 or maybe 30 at least with this

I do not know the precise moral of this story.....

Perhaps there is none.

All I know is that it finally rained and somehow

miraculously, all the flies are gone.

For now.