Patience and the Pie Lady

I have been making pies for Thanksgiving for years.   When I used to host Thanksgiving I would make upwards of 10 pies that my guests could pick from not only for dinner, but to take home, or if they were staying for future meals over the weekend.    Now that I no longer host dinner, I have been bringing pie for years to dinner that RangerSir and I attend.

To some pie making would be chore, a challenge, or something that you pick up from the local store or bakery.   For me baking pie is a favorite creative pastime.   I would rather make pie than any other sweet or dessert.   My Grandma Virtue was known for the pies she made when worked at the county home years ago.   My Aunt Leola always had pie with awesome flaky crust when we stopped to visit her and Uncle Sherm after a pilgrimage to visit the folks in Illinois.   So though I can’t remember sitting with either of them to learn about pie making I think I come by this talent honestly.


RangerSir rolls out his pie crust

This year I nearly cut the tip of my thumb off and ended up in the emergency room.   I have been since been told to keep it clean and dry, and to function without a thumb, until it heals up some.    This has kept me from all sorts of things including pie making.


He has it right and is putting it in the pan.

RangerSir, who enjoys cooking/baking, stepped up to the plate telling me he would learn to make pies.    It took a great deal of self-control and patience to not cuff him along side the head, while telling him pie crust is an art, and not as easy as they make it in the cookbook.  How did I tell him that making pies was a quiet time I reflected on Thanksgivings of past, and who we had been with and who was now missing.  It was my time and my art.   Yet  I agreed to help him through the process to make our pies for Thanksgiving.


Adding the cherry pie filling.

Now the test of patience was on not only for him who thought I should leave him to his own devices, but also for me to not get caught up in what I was missing out.  How do you explain to someone what the mixture looks like when cutting in the fat to the flour or how much water you add to the crust, when I know it is right by touch?   He was a bit of a saint when he begrudgingly stepped back when I said can I touch it so I could put my good hand in to feel the pastry for just a few seconds and pronounce it right, even if we had put in twice as much water as the recipe called for.  We made two pies last night and I thought my hair  would catch on fire from my brain cells scrambling as he rolled out the dough “all wrong”, but overnight the pastry fairies worked in his brain and he was doing it exactly as I wanted the next morning when we made the last pie. He was a bit miffed when I told him we were mixing up two pie recipes to make this year’s mandatory chocolate pie, but he went along without complaint.    Though to him making a three-layer chocolate pie was unnecessary, but when the sprinkles went on in the end, he was pleased with his results.   We worked together as I coached him on the art of lattice pie and that it really was necessary on a cherry pie.


He is a darn good lattice top maker.

The pies are all done now.   They look absolutely perfect.  Though we have not tested them out the crust looks flaky and is perfectly brown.   It was a trial, but also a reflection on how we can work together and support one another.   I asked him if I could take pictures and blog about the pie making.    He agreed knowing that I would not share this with the world if I wasn’t thrilled with the end.   He had my back on pie making and I was his partner into new territory.


Here they are the pies ready to take to Thanksgiving dinner.   



Huckleberry Heaven

One of the highlights of the long trip I took last week is that it put me in in huckleberry heaven, an area of Montana where they are so plentiful if you are willing to get out your checkbook you can buy them.Local folks collect them by the gallons and sell them for crazy folks like me.    I did just that, took out my hard-earned cash, and came home with a gallon of the rare delight, huckleberries  

I had never heard of huckleberries before moving to Montana other than Huckleberry Hound and Huckleberry Finn.   Once here, like all the natives I became enamored with the fruit.     For those of you who have not experienced them here is a little primer. They are sort of like a blueberry, but they have a much more distinct fruity aroma that any blueberry.   They will create stains on any and everything, and huckleberries make the stains from blueberries, beets and black walnut skins look like amateur hour.   If you intend to pick them you need to go in twos one to pick and one to carry the bear spray.    Don’t expect anyone to take you to their spot to pick.  Spots are more sacred than a gold find and are never shared with anyone.   


Having said all that I now have five pints of huckleberry sauce that can be used on everything you can think up.   Last night it was served on ice cream.   For breakfast we had it on french toast.   Tonight we plan to have it on cheese cake.   Tomorrow a little will go on my yogurt with my granola.   There is nothing that isn’t a little better with a little huckleberry sauce.  



Too Much of a Good Thing

We have way too many oranges in our refrigerator.   A couple weeks ago we bought a citrus mix box from Bountiful Baskets.    I am not sure why I did it other than I was fascinated with all the different kinds of  citrus that were possible.   They were offering three different kinds of mandarin types, several types of standard oranges including blood oranges, lemons and pomelos.  How could a girl refuse??   The foodie in me wanted to see and taste all the differences.

Now I have a refrigerator full of citrus and only two of us to eat it all.   What’s a girl to do?   Yesterday I made orange curd.   Good lemon curd is a mouth orgy  Orange curd seemed like a first step to using up all this citrus.   Besides my girls were now laying eggs again, I did not have to any longer be stingy with my pricey locally grown eggs.

Once I finished it my husband tasted and said interesting…what are we going to do with it.   Now I had moved a problem from one place to another, from the produce drawer to a shelf in the refrigerator.     It took a little thinking, but I did come up with a solution.   I pulled frozen lady fingers and strawberries from the deep freeze in the basement.   I frosted the lady fingers with orange curd, and layered them up.   Then  topped with with a smashed strawberry sauce.   Then my husband found a little left over huckleberry compote and tried that for his second serving.   Either way you served it yummy!

Here is the recipe I used from Southern Living Magazine December 2002

Fresh Orange Curd

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch 
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice ( I used juice from 3 kinds of mandarins & two kinds of regular oranges)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
    • Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucepan; gradually whisk in fresh orange juice. Whisk in lightly beaten eggs. Bring to a boil (5 to 6 minutes) over medium heat, whisking constantly.
    • Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and grated orange rind. Cover, placing plastic wrap directly on curd, and chill 8 hours.


The Pie Baker

Oh She Glows Blog is full of great instructions and photos.

I have loved to bake pies all my life.   I would rather bake a pie than any other dessert or sweet.    I have tried all sorts of pies over the years.   I honestly have not single favorite pie, and  I am always trying something new.  I love them all, old recipes and new recipes alike.

Last year my experimental recipe  was a pecan pie that used real maple syrup. I was trying to find something that made a great pecan pie without ending up with a gooey sweet filling.    It was a great result much richer and smoother than my traditional pecan pie.   It was definitely a keeper.

This year I happened to have two sugar pumpkins on hand and decided to try my hand at homemade pumpkin pie.   I remember as a kid my mother once had done this and the pumpkin was very moist and it present problems.    Like everyone today, I went to the internet looking for an option that looked promising.  The first thing that I found out is that the pumpkin in the can is likely not pumpkin, but some other kind of squash.   Now my interest was definitely piqued. Was there a difference if I used real pumpkin?  Will anyone notice?  I found an option that looked good on the Oh She Glows blog.   I have finished roasting my pumpkins, run them through the food processor until smooth as anything you will find on the grocery shelf.   I put it in a food mill and let the excess water drain out; lesson learned from my mother.  It now sits in my refrigerator ready for pie baking tomorrow.

I will post again later after the pie has been baked and ate by the family.   The other pies I am bake this year besides pumpkin is the requisite chocolate, an apple and a banana cream.

Apples and Fall

When we lived in Minnesota, this was the time of the year that we would head from the city down to the country of apple orchards near Red Wing and Lake Peppin.   There you could find all sorts of apple varieties and it would be the time of year that we canned, dried and made lots of desserts with apples.   With my bag of apples that I got two weeks ago I have been using some in tried and true receipes and looking for a new one to use as well.

Here is a new one that we are going to save as part of our permanent collection.   I found it on the blog Hungry Rabbit NYC.  Of course I made a few changes to suit what I had in my cupboard and my taste.  I highly recommend it to you.

Caramelized Apple Gingerbread

recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, with additional adaptations by Hungry Rabbit NYC, and now a few by me!
yield: 9 servings

Apple Topping
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup  dark brown sugar
2 apples medium, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced thin

2-1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, I use Penzey’s Cinnamon because it has a great mix of four different types of cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon Dutch-process coco powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted, cooled to room temperature
4 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated ( I use ginger in the tube from Gourmet Garden.   Find it in your grocer’s produce section.)
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup of Sun-maid Fruit Bits (It contains diced raisins, apricots, apples, and more)
1/2 chopped crystalized ginger (You want this to be moist, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces and tossed in sugar.  I like Penzey’s it is perfect out of the bag)


Apple Topping
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a glass 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Use your fingers and spread melted butter into pan and on sides; add brown sugar, stir with fork to moisten in butter and spread brown sugar evenly over pan bottom. Arrange apple slices, overlapping slightly upon brown sugar mixture. Set aside

1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and cocoa in medium bowl. Set aside

2. Beat butter, oil, molasses, and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in egg and fresh ginger until incorporated. Gradually add buttermilk until combined.

3. Add dry ingredients to liquid; beat on medium speed until batter barely combines with a few white streaks of flour. Using a rubber spatula, add dried fruits and ginger until evenly distributed. Pour batter over apple slices.

4. Bake until top springs back when lightly touched, and edges have pulled away from the pan sides, 45-55 minutes. At 6,000 feet it cooked it for 65 minutes and we used the toothpick test, as the edges never pulled from the sides.  Set pan on wire cake rack and let cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and  invert onto serving plate, and let cool for another 30 minutes. Cut into squares, and serve.  Be decadent add some sweetened whipped cream.