For pretty much the entire day today, I’ve been repeating a phrase silently to myself. “Pay attention to what you pay attention to.” I’ve been reminding myself, with gentle nudges, to notice and note the activities and tasks that I’m most drawn to, that bring me the deepest satisfaction and joy, that feel less like work and more like, well, like living. By paying attention to what you pay attention to, to what perks you up, gets your creative juices flowing, and comes effortlessly because it’s what you desire and crave, you do yourself a huge service. You create and carve out a life that brings fulfillment, that feels like breathing, not gasping for air.
Which totally relates to how I feel about baking this pie. I’ve made it twice in the past 5 days. When I’m baking, I’m jamming. Which is to say that, for me, baking comes naturally. It’s what I most prefer to do in the kitchen. When flour and sugar and butter and fruit and flavorings mix and mingle, I’m a happy lady.
Strawberry season is seriously in affect. I picked a flat of organic strawberries at the farm down the road from me this past Friday (for only $18, friends!). This pie was the obvious and necessary means of heightening the happiness that strawberries bring me. When I’m making pie dough, I am fully present. I’m not thinking about anything other than making the pie dough, searching for the tactile and visual cues giving me the head’s up that the dough has reached its sweet spot. It’s never an effort, or a chore, or a labor. It’s an opportunity to engage all of my senses, to get me out of my ever-loving mind, and to tether me firmly to time and place. It might look like a pie, but really, its an exercise in mindfulness.
Want to Zen out on pie-making yourself? Here you go.
Strawberry Crumble Pie (from A Year of Pies: A Seasonal Tour of Home Baked Pies)
Makes: One 9-inch pie.
You Will Need:
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt
-1 cup butter (2 sticks), chilled and cubed
-3/4 cup ice water
-1 ½ pounds strawberries, stemmed and halved
-1/3 cup cornstarch
-1/3 cup sugar
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Make the Pie Dough:
Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large mixing bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, but with several pea and lima bean-sized butter bits in the mix. Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a mixing spoon until the dough starts to clump.
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and fold it together into itself using your hands. The dough should come together easily but shouldn’t feel overly sticky. Divide the dough in half and shape into two flattened disks. Wrap each dough ball in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Prepare the crust:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator, saving the other to use within the next few days or placing it in an airtight bag in the freezer for future use. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1-inch and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust about 6-7 times with a fork, then place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Line the piecrust with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, and then remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment, and cool it completely before filling.
Prepare the filling:
Combine the strawberries, cornstarch and sugar in a medium-size mixing bowl. Set aside.
Prepare the crumble topping:
Combine the flour, salt, brown sugar, and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Crumble together with either your hands or with a pastry cutter, leaving pea-sized chunks of butter in the mixture. Set aside.
Assemble the pie:
Pour strawberry mixture into the prepared piecrust. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly across the surface, packing down as needed to accommodate the entire amount of the mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. Cool the pie at least 1 hour before serving.
You know what I’ve been thinking about lately? What I’ve been pining over, and hankering for, and otherwise consumed with? Pie. That’s right, friends. My thoughts, words, and, yes, even actions lately have been pie-related, pie-centric, pie-focused.
Of course, pie is great year round. That’s the overarching mantra of my book-that pie is a treat not to be baked up and trotted out solely during the holidays, when thoughts turn to pumpkin and pecan and apple pies, or during the months of summer, when blueberries and blackberries are practically begging to be baked into hot submission. No, no. Pie is a perennial palate pleaser (say that 5 times fast!), to be delighted in each season.
All that said, lately it’s just been what I want to bake and eat. I intend to do so tomorrow night, in fact, baking the Strawberry Crumble Top Pie from my book, but adding in rhubarb and serving it with lemon balm whipped cream for a dear friend who’s coming over for dinner. Maybe it’s all the strawberries I’m beginning to see at the markets, and the rhubarb, too. Perhaps it’s the smell in the air, laced with roses and grass and dew and moisture. Whatever it is, it’s pushing my pie button, and I intend to indulge it.
And so should you! To make sure you will be partaking of pie and doing your part towards enjoying this treat, I’m giving away a signed copy of A Year of Pies to one small measure reader. Pie, all up in your kitchens, friends!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling me what pie you’d like to make. It can be one of my recipes, or your great aunt Edna’s, or Ina Garten’s, or even your own recipe. The pie’s the limit! I’ll run the giveaway for one week, concluding next Thursday, May 30th, midnight EST. Canadians, feel free to join in the pie fun! Please do leave a means of contacting you should you be the winner, via either a link back to your website or blog or by leaving your email address in your comment.
Go forth, friends, and pie it up!
It’s Pi Day, friends. And while technically that means a celebration of ” the mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter and is approximately equal to 3.14159″ (thank you, Google!), when you love pie like I do, it’s also an opportunity (er, excuse?) to enjoy a bit or two of something delectable. Also, I’m feeling especially full of pie enthusiasm given that my book is the #1 selling pie book on Amazon on Pi Day (which Glenn lovingly photographed and surprised me with-he’s my biggest fan, truly). How cool is that?!
To that end, I’m sharing a spring-themed recipes from A Year of Pies with you here today. Frozen Strawberry Pie is my chilly homage to a close childhood friend, Erica, and a sweet, frosty way to get you pumped about spring (just a week away!). On Pi Day, I say, let them eat pie!!!
Frozen Strawberry Pie
This is my attempt at recreating a pie from my youth. When I was around 10 years old, my good friend Erica and her older sister made a yogurt and fresh strawberry frozen pie that was the very definition of spring. My version includes the addition of heavy cream and cradles the entire ethereal concoction in a homemade graham-cracker crust. While opting for a pre-made version might be tempting, resist! This crust is the absolute perfect ratio of sweet-crunchy harmony. Although Erica and I long ago fell out of touch, I like to think that, should she happen upon this recipe, she’d feel I did her beloved pie justice.
Makes: One 9-inch pie
You Will Need:
*Graham Cracker Crust (recipe follows)
*9-inch pie pan
*2 cups whole-milk vanilla yogurt
*3 tablespoons honey
*2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
*1 cup heavy cream
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Graham Cracker Crust
*8 ounces graham crackers (about 2 cups)
*8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
*2 tablespoons granulated sugar
*1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Optional garnish 1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
Prepare the graham cracker crust
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Crush the graham crackers either by pulsing them in a food processor or placing them in in a plastic freezer bag and rolling over them with a rolling pin.
Combine the crushed graham crackers, melted butter, sugar, and salt in a medium-size bowl and stir until fully mixed.
Press the mixture into the 9-inch pie plate, covering the bottom evenly and pressing the crumbs halfway up the sides.
Bake the crust 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely before filling.
Prepare the filling
Combine the yogurt and honey in a large bowl. Stir in the 2 cups strawberries.
In a medium-size bowl, using a mixer or a whisk, beat the cream and vanilla until billowy peaks form.
Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry mixture.
Assemble the pie
Pour the filling mixture into the cooled crust. If desired, arrange sliced strawberries in a circle around the outer edge of the pie.
Freeze at least 4 hours before serving.
The last thing anyone tells you about parenting is just how scary it can be. Sure, you hear about the cuddles and the hugs and the giggles and all the lovely silliness and bliss that comes with becoming a parent. What you hear less about, though, is how terrified you can get when your wee one gets sick.
Huxley felt warm to the touch Friday night. He wouldn’t let me take his temperature, so I let it go. He was restless all night that night, and increasingly warm to the touch come Saturday morning. When I finally was “allowed” to take his temperature, it quickly went from around 102 degrees to 104+, just like that. What has followed was an entire weekend and entire Monday full of a hot, hot baby. When he got sick this morning, all over himself and all over me, we decided it was time to visit the doctor. Swollen tonsils and a red right ear pointed to an ear infection.
Poor fella. At least we now know what we’re dealing with. In the past few days, though, Hubs and I have been little boxes of stress, anxiety, and fear. When your tiny guy is sweating through his pajamas and his hair and feels like a little inferno when he cuddles up next to you, it makes your heart race. The numbers on the thermometer weren’t helping, either. Thankfully, calls all weekend to the on-call doctor assured me that his body was responding to the fever reducer we were giving him, his appetite was as robust as ever, and his disposition remained upbeat, so all pointed towards the better, not the worse, case scenario.
And, so, we’ve been quite preoccupied. We’ve been quite exhausted. We’ve been seriously, desperately in need of some healing pie, which is what I’m sharing with you here today. In two days, we’ll play host to 14 adults and 4 children for a big Thanksgiving feast. A dear friend is bringing a Tarte Tatin and a cardamom pumpkin pie (this woman seriously knows me), while I’ll be baking up my Eggnog Pie and the Cranberry Mince Tart from A Year of Pies.
While pie certainly can’t heal all wounds, it certainly comes close. Huxley’s fever continues to creep down today and he’s as chipper as ever, playing with trains in the kitchen with Hubs right now. I think all is on the mend, and I know I’ve got pie-filled-thoughts to thank for that!
Cranberry Mince Tart (reprinted with permission from A Year of Pies, Lark Books 2012, an imprint of Sterling Publishing)
Without question my go-to Thanksgiving dessert, this tart showcases the best of what cranberries have to offer. While not for the “faint of tart,” the fruit’s inherent puckery-ness is tempered by the inclusion of raisins, currants, crystallized ginger, orange juice, and sugar. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient listing-the dish comes together very quickly. And do serve it with the orange whipped cream detailed below, as it even further balances the berries’ “bite.”
Makes: One 11-inch tart.
You Will Need:
1/2 recipe Basic Pie Dough (recipe follows)
Orange Whipped Cream
-1 cup heavy cream
-3 tablespoons powdered sugar
-1/2 teaspoon orange extract
-2 cups granulated sugar
-1/2 cup water
-1/2 cup orange juice
-6 cups cranberries (two 12-ounce bags)
-Grated zest of 1 orange
-1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch
-1 cup pecans, chopped
-1/2 cup dark raisins
-1/2 cup golden raisins
-1/4 cup currants
-2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare the crust
1) Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit it into a 11-inch removable bottom tart pan. Trim the overhang to 1 inch, then fold it inside the tart pan, pressing it against the pan’s fluted sides.
2) Prick the bottom of the crust about 6-7 times with a fork. Place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
3) Line the crust with parchment and fill it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, leaving the oven on and reducing the temperature to 375 degrees F.
4) Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment paper from the crust, and cool it slightly before filling.
Prepare the orange whipped cream
1) Combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar and orange extract in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
2) Using an electric mixer, beat at highest speed until billowy peaks form.
3) Transfer the whipped cream to a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve with the pie.
Prepare the filling
1) Combine the sugar, water and orange juice in a medium-sized saucepan and heat, stirring, over medium-high heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
2) Add the cranberries and orange zest and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, uncovered, 5-7 minutes, until some of the cranberries have popped and the liquid is gently simmering.
3) Remove from heat and whisk in the arrowroot powder or cornstarch until it is fully incorporated into the cranberry mixture. Set aside.
4) Combine the pecans, raisins, golden raisins, currants, crystallized ginger, spices and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir to mix thoroughly.
5) Add the cranberry mixture to bowl with the nuts and fruits, and stir again to mix thoroughly.
Assemble the tart
1) Pour the filling into the prepared crust, using a spatula to spread it evenly.
2) Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, until the crust edges are golden brown and the filling is set.
3) Cool at least 1 hour before serving with the orange whipped cream, and first removing the sides of the pan.
Basic Pie Dough
Makes: Crust for one double-crust pie.
You Will Need:
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt
-1 cup butter (2 sticks), chilled and cubed
-3/4 cup ice water
1) Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large mixing bowl.
2) Using a pastry cutter or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, but with several pea and lima bean-sized butter bits in the mix.
3) Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a mixing spoon until the dough starts to clump.
4) Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and fold it together into itself using your hands. The dough should come together easily but shouldn’t feel overly sticky.
5) Divide the dough in half and shape into two flattened disks. Wrap each dough ball in cellophane and refrigerate for at least an hour.
6) Proceed according to the recipe instructions above.
I’ll be the first to admit that my life out here in the cove exists in a bit of a bubble. I work from home, as does Hubs. It’s not uncommon for us to be out here, doing our thing, for days at a time without leaving the property (me more so than him, as he’s out and about increasingly more these days with Huxley-like right now; they’re at Wild Things, where the little man can get all kinds of exercise while the big man gets to hang with a regular set of parents he’s grown fond of).
Because of that, it’s easy for me to forget that folks might have heard of me, my books, my blog, or my writings. So when I get recognized, it really, truly surprises me. Like when I was pregnant and had stopped into an Anthropologie store in Orlando with my little sister while on vacation. I noticed a salesclerk kept looking at me, until she eventually introduced herself and said she was a fan of my posts on Design Sponge. Or when we were on the Family Farm Tour in September and the farmer’s wife at one of the places we visited suddenly said “You’re the lady that writes the books!” Or when I initially, shyly wrote Tim Mazurek when working on A Year of Pies, introducing myself and asking if he might be willing to contribute a seasonal guest recipe.
I believe his exact email reply was “Look at you explaining who you are, like I don’t know!” After scooping my jaw back up from off of the floor, I immediately wrote my editor, giddy with excitement that THE. TIM. MAZUREK. was willing to be part of the book. He of the award-winning food blog Lottie & Doof. He of the really great recipes and stunning photography. He of the general awesomeness and friendliness and approachability that engendered my ginormous crush on him in the first place.
If you haven’t heard of Tim, you’re in for a serious treat: As I describe him in the introduction to his recipe:
Tim Mazurek is an artist, cook, stylist, and food blogger living on the west side of Chicago with his partner (now husband!) Bryan. Tim’s blog, named after his beloved grandmother, Lottie (the “Doof” part is “food” spelled backwards), is gorgeous, inspirational, informative, and just plain fun. He uses Lottie and Doof as a forum for sharing recipes, presenting tantalizing photographs, and opining on “the domestic space as a potentially radical or dangerous space.”
Tim graciously shared his recipe for a winter-focused Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pie in the book. It would be a glorious pie to make this holiday season, or anytime you’ve got some buttermilk on hand and a hankering for pie. Do check out his blog. It’s one of the best out there, hands down.
Thanks, Tim! I appreciate your willingness to be part of my journey in pie more than you could possibly imagine!
*Image from here.