Pi(e) Day: the most wonderful day of the month.

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Today was an obvious choice of a day for me to make a pie. I don’t math, but I do know what pi means and since I’m pretty all right with letters, I knew that adding an ‘e’ would really level up this day. *insert Link opening a treasure chest music here* Also, I can’t remember the last time I made one, which is true sadness.

When discussing what kind to make, Yvonne, who knows I always bring them into work for taste testing, said any kind but blueberry because that would turn her teeth blue. So to me that meant it was definitely going to be blueberry. Luckily for her, blueberries weren’t quite in season yet, so they were still ridiculously priced. The strawberries and raspberries were on sale and to add in a color and texture variant, I threw a pack of blackberries into the cart. A lemon for fresh juice and I was ready.20170314_192753.jpg

Shockingly, I actually planned ahead for this day and made my dough the night before. I’ve seriously mastered that pie dough, yo. As seasoned bakers already know, the quality of butter makes ALL the difference in it coming together. When I got home from the store, I rolled out half of the dough and pressed it into the plate.

The dough went back into the fridge while I prepped the filling. Sweet, sweet berries, come to momma. I cut the strawberries into 20170314_193128.jpgdifferent sizes and left the blackberries and raspberries whole. A bowl of beauty. The recipe I loosely followed called for adding granulated sugar, lemon juice, and salt to the berries. I cut the sugar by about a quater cup and added in an overflowing tablespoon of good quality maple syrup. Once that was mixed, add in the thickener, flour, and then it was time to get the other half of the 20170314_192702.jpgdough out of the fridge to roll out for the top crust. I knew I wanted to do something to represent pi, so I stared at the rolled out dough and contemplated how to do it without just doing the pi symbol. The problem is that I’m still an amateur with creative pie lattice tops. The brainstorming resulted in an idea I thought I could handle, so I filled the plate with the berry delicious filling and got at it. After some serious finangling, I finished my top and popped that heavy baby into the oven.

About an hour later, my gooftastic Pi Day pie was done. As usual, it was juicier than I’d like it to be. I think this happens because I usually add more fruit than the recipes call for, I can’t abide a sunken belly, and then forget to compensate with more thickening agent.

Do you see my pi representation?

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The taste testers were pleased—the pi pie disappeared with a quickness. I did get a slice and I have to admit that regardless of the slightly pooling liquid, the taste was spot on. Not too sweet or too tart. I’ll mark it as a success and make yet another note to watch the thickener when making fruit pies.

I didn’t get a “pretty” picture of a cut piece, but here’s a jank one with sliding crust on a Target brand generic paper plate because we can’t care about everything…

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Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar (I used slightly less)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-1 tablespoon pieces (I used Kerry Gold)

1 1/2 cups cold water

Put the cold water into a 2 cup liquid measuring cup with a spout and handle. Set into the freezer. Measure out the flour into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and salt, then the butter pieces. Lightly toss them until they are coated and then take handfuls of the mixture into your hands, pressing the butter into the flour between your fingers until it’s incorporated and the butter pieces are pea to walnut size.

Next, get the water from the freezer and drizzle it in for a count of about five seconds. Then toss it like you’re tossing a salad. Don’t knead. Keep doing that with the water until you can put together a small ball of dough, toss it in the air, and when it lands in your hand it stays together. At this point, make two thick discs of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to three days.

Pie Filling:

5-5 1/2 cups of mixed berries of your choice

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 heaping tablespoon maple syrup

2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

pinch of salt

1/4 cup flour (or more if you add extra fruit)

2 tablespoon chilled, unsalted butter cut into small chunks

1 egg white for wash

Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix the berries, sugar, syrup, lemon juice, and salt together. Taste and adjust to your preference. Stir in the flour and set aside while you roll out the top crust. Pile the fruit mix into the dough, dot with butter, and then add your version of the top. Brush on the egg white wash and heavily sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Middle rack for 15-20 minutes, with an edge protector. Then turn oven down to 375, rotate pie, and bake for another 35-45 minutes. Take the pie edge protector off for the last 10-15 minutes.

Cool on wire rack for at least an hour and then devour.

 

 

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Blueberry Pickin’ and a Pie

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It’s the height of blueberry season here in north Florida and I couldn’t turn down an invite to go to a local u-pick farm on Saturday morning. We set out early, beating the crowds and heat, and were able to meander through the rows of plants in a cool breeze and quiet. By 10 o’clock, the pony rides, stilt clowns making balloon animals, and food trucks were in full swing.

I’d heard about Jubilee Orchards, the Lawton Chiles family farm, but this was the first time seeing it. Following tree-lined, winding roads, the drive itself is not far at all, but I felt like I was in a completely different world when we arrived. I do always experience an instant full breath of relaxation and happiness on farms though.

20160522_145328.jpgThe blueberry picking area was much larger than I thought it would be, with 50 acres of bushes sporting seven different cultivars. They are also currently transitioning 15 acres into a certified organic area. We both agreed that we were up for walking to the outskirts since we figured other people wouldn’t want to walk that far. That was a good decision. We were rewarded with berry-filled bushes20160521_095605.jpg all to ourselves.

One variety called “Farthing” had huge ones. Heh. Even in my big ol’ hands, the berry looked large. CHOMP. They were also deliciously sweet. I filled a good quarter of my bucket with just those. I knew I wanted a good assortment though, not only for fresh snacking, but for pies. Sampling a berry from each plant is pretty much a requirement. Not only from variety to variety, but from plant to plant, the tastes were 20160521_103656.jpgdifferent. Near the end of one section, we found some rows that the name had washed off the sign, so there’s no telling what kind they were, but the berries were all right at the tips of the branches. They looked like sticks of blue candy buttons up there. The fruits were smaller and had a slight kick of sour to them, making them a good pairing with the larger, sweeter “Farthing.”

I filled up with those and two other varieties before calling it a done deal. It was time to pay up and head out before the screeching delight of the childrens overpowered the tranquility of the farm. Heading home, I knew it was time to make the first blueberry pie of the season and I knew where I would get a recipe.

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Four pounds of blueberries later, I was home flipping through the pages of one of the three pie-related books I received as a birthday gift this year–Pie School by Kate Lebo. This is my new favorite cookbook. Actually, it’s the only cookbook I’ve read through. I mean, I really read it. Usually, I find myself skimming through cookbooks looking at the recipes and pictures, but not with this one. She is not only an engaging writer, but she writes about the exact thoughts I have had on baking and tools and the creativity of it all. She is my new spirit animal. But human. Spirit human. Or something.20160522_130655.jpg

Moving on…I was having trouble deciding between two recipes, but decided that since I wanted to make a pie specifically to work on my crust, I would do the Maple Blueberry Pie and maybe do the Blueberry Lemon Verbena Galette another day. I started with gathering the needed ingredients and measuring out how many berries I would need by pouring them right into the pie plate I was going to use. Using my usual pie dough recipe, I threw in a heaping pinch of sugar on recommendation of the book. I just love the look of those chunks of butter in the dough when it’s rolled out. Mmmmm, buttah.

20160522_130517.jpgWhile the dough set in the plate in the fridge, I mixed up the berries with the lemon juice, good quality maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, butter, and flour. In typical fashion, I couldn’t follow the recipe strictly, so I also added a bit of powdered ginger. Poured the mixture into the bottom crust and fitted the top crust, sealing the edges with a fork and cutting proper air vents. Coated the top with an egg-white wash and demerara sugar crystals. So pretty.

Popped that baby blue onto the middle rack of the oven for twenty minutes at 425, then dropped the temp to 375 for another thirty-five minutes. I ended up having to cover the edges with aluminum foil so they didn’t burn, which was quite the ordeal. It had already been in the oven for the first twenty minutes when I realized I needed to do this. Instead of just taking the pie out of the oven to affix the foil, I stupidly thought I could do it quickly while it was still on the rack. Many hot, angry minutes later, I was sweating and filled with rage. I immediately went and ordered myself a pie ring20160522_204358.jpg

The battle with foil paid off with beautiful edges in the end. The fresh-picked berries made
a huge difference for texture and taste. They were perfectly cooked and the spices and syrup balanced each bite deliciously. After cooling for a few hours, the slices even held together pretty well. I was expecting it to be much messier when cut. Paired with a spoonful or two of classic vanilla ice cream, this pie was definitely a win. I will be making this one again before the blueberry season is over.

Simply yumtastic!

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Pie Dough (makes both top and bottom crusts)

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 sticks chilled, unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces

1/2 cup ice water

Two pinches of salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Whisk the flour with the salt and sugar. Work in the butter until the pieces are about the size of walnuts. Slowly add in the ice water until the dough comes together. You may not need all of the water or you may need a little more. Go slowly. Separate in two, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge for thirty minutes or so before rolling out.

 

Pie Filling

2 pounds blueberries, about 5 cups (I just pour the fruit into the pie plate to determine)

1/2 cup high-quality maple syrup–don’t skimp on this

Juice from 1/2 of a medium lemon (I used a Meyer Lemon because personal preference)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger (my addition)

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter cut into small chunks

5 tablespoons flour

 

Pie Topping

Egg wash, 1 egg white beaten with a splash of water

Demerara sugar

Meatless Monday in a Book

The past few months have flown by in a confetti tornado of many more activities than my introvert-self typically likes, but I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed myself…most of the time. In true hermit fashion however, I’m settling back in at home for the winter–if it ever actually arrives–and thinking about all the comforting meals I’d like to create.

Tonight’s meatless Monday meal was simple and delicious, yet unnoteworthy. But one of my Christmas 20151228_212206-1.jpgpresents is absolutely worth talking about. The beautiful book by Hugh Acheson, The Broad Fork. It’s an entire collection of recipes for fruits and vegetables broken down by season. I try to eat seasonally as much as I can, so I instantly appreciated the set up of this book.

Apparently, the idea all started with his neighbor asking him, “What the hell do with kohlrabi?” Great question. Although I know what kohlrabi is, I’ve wondered before what I would do with it were I to bring some home. In the contents lists, kohlrabi was among a few others I was drawn to learning about such as salsify, sunchokes, fiddleheads, and yacon.

20151228_213904-1.jpgI will delve into those “oddities” later, but what caught my attention most immediately were the recipes for Brussels sprouts. Being that we are in the season for them, and I adore them, I went straight to that section. My eye quickly found the fried Brussels with a lime vinaigrette recipe, and I plan on making that as a side for my New Year’s eve meal.

It’s hard not to sit here and read through this entire book tonight. The photographs are20151228_214204-1.jpg gorgeous and the recipes are the perfect instructional length. Look at that radicchio! I don’t even like this stuff, but I want to tear this page out and chomp it. The pictures throughout bring on the uncontrolled drool factor. I love vegetables, so I don’t need help with eating and preparing them in all the ways, but I can see how someone who is leary about what to do with them would find this book inspiring.

I’ll be starting with the Brussels recipe, but I’m sure that I will be trying many more throughout the seasons.