All Posts Tagged ‘Pie

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A look back — 2015 in review.

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A week late because that’s how life works.

2015. What a year. Truth be told, it was a doozy. I got to stroll through Paris on a perfect summer’s night and I got to relish the view from atop Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai. I also experienced the absolute punch in the gut of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and have spent much of the year coming to terms with what that means for him, for me, and for our family. I left an old job, I got a new job, I left New York! I laughed (a lot), I cried (a lot, mostly behind closed doors but occasionally in the middle of dinner with friends because they are wonderful and they care about me immensely), I cooked and ate a lot a lot (some healthy, some not so healthy, some downright indulgent). The highs were really high and the lows were really low, and I end the year on a different coast than I started. And through it all, this little blog o’ mine was a constant source of comfort and a creative outlet and a way to connect with all of my people (all 35 of you).

So in celebration of all that was, here are a few highlights of the culinary variety that I will cherish from 2015.

Favorite Things I Ate in 2015
Dumplings with Black Vinegar & Chili Sauce in Flushing, NY: Do yourself a favor the next time you find yourself in the New York City metropolitan area: take the 7 train all the way to the Flushing Main Street stop, head across the street to the New World Mall and take the escalator down to the basement food court (just go with me on this one). Look for the two little ladies in the corner making dumplings by hand. Run to them as if they are your long lost surrogate Chinese grandmothers. Order one of each kind of dumpling (the pork and chive are my faves) and dive right in (don’t forget the black vinegar. Never forget the black vinegar). They’re cheap, authentic and crazy delicious. You’ll work up an appetite on the commute out, but your efforts will be handsomely rewarded.

Brillat Savarin Cheese in Paris, France: How can you go wrong with French cheese? The answer is you cannot. But when I laid my hands on this creamy slice of heaven for the first time (shout out to the cheesemonger in Montmartre who steered me in this glorious direction), it was like I had never eaten cheese before. Rich, creamy, perfect for slathering on a freshly baked french baguette. Did my cholesterol suffer as a result? Definitely. Was it worth it? Hoooooo boy was it ever. (P.S. they sell this cheese at Whole Foods so get thee some toute suite).

Kauai Waffle with Mango & Bananas and Coconut Syrup at Hanalei Coffee Roasters on Kauai, HI: Hi, my name is Tina and I don’t like sweet breakfast foods (Hi, Tina). I know, I’m a weirdo but give me bacon and eggs over pancakes any day of the week. Except Saturday, June 20th, 2015, when I first experienced the Kauai waffle. This tiny coffee shop on the North Shore of Kauai churns out these bad boys for locals and tourists alike, and you’d be a fool to pass on them. They’re light and fluffy and I swear the fruit gets picked off of a tree out back, sliced up and placed directly on the waffle because it is the freshest fruit I’ve ever tasted. Also, coconut syrup. Who knew? A revelation.

Sushi from Shoga in Sandpoint, ID: Yes, that’s right, the best sushi I had all year was from a sushi bar in Idaho. Deal with it, snobs. The fish was crazy fresh, the sushi rice was on point, and I’ve never had better spicy tuna. Look ‘em up the next time you’re in North Idaho (because I know that’s a regular destination for all of you); their sister restaurant, 41 South, is also a treat.

Pan Roasted Cauliflower at Imperial in Portland, OR: My first truly great meal after my return to Portland! This city knows what it’s doing when it comes to food (see here please), so I wasn’t at all surprised that my meal at Imperial was fantastic. But the star of the show was the pan-roasted cauliflower with hummus and cara cara oranges. You know when cauliflower gets nice and brown and crispy and caramelized and it’s just the best? This was that x 1000. The rich earthiness of the cauliflower was perfectly paired with the brightness of the oranges and the hummus just rounded everything out in the best, creamiest way possible. Had I not been in a public setting, I definitely would have licked the bowl. But maybe I also did lick the bowl anyway? #sogood

Favorite Things I Cooked in 2015
Ricotta Toast w/ Lemon & Honey: Simple, easy, can be done a thousand different ways. Toast had a moment in 2015 and I was right there to try ‘em all. This one, however, came out on top for me (closely followed by OG Avocado Toast), due to its simple, fresh flavors of Spring.

Cacio e Pepe: This was the dish I came back to most in 2015. There really is nothing more satisfying than a simple bowl of pasta and cheese, and it’s so easy to throw together and so easy to jazz up, I will eat cacio e pepe for many years to come.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake: Showstopper! This was a fun one. One of those recipes that you try on a whim and you probably don’t make very often because it’s, shall we say, rather labor intensive. But it was equally as delicious and was a big hit among my rhubarb-loving coworkers. Plus, it’s real pretty.

Chicken Tortilla Stew: My favorite Fall/Winter dish, this one got a lot of people talking. It’s spicy and tangy and it warms your insides, perfect for an afternoon of football or a Saturday night dinner party or reheated on a chilly Tuesday. It’s all things to all people, the everyman’s stew. And it’s just crazy good.

Cinnamon Rolls & Bacon on Christmas Morning: OK, I’ll amend my ‘no sweet breakfast foods’ to include one item — I LOVE cinnamon rolls. So this year I thought I’d make them from scratch for Christmas morning (these ones, if you’re curious). And they were great! They aren’t beginner’s baker territory (any recipe that spans over multiple days is not for a beginner in my book), but they were worth the effort. Fry up a little bacon along side and you’re all set. Heart attack! Come at me.

Favorite Food Memories of 2015
Brunch at Russ & Daughters in New York, NY: Such a quintessential New York day. You get out of bed early, throw on about 16 layers of clothing and head out into the sub zero temperatures. Gotta get those bagels, y’all. I met a few favorite friends and we sat around in our cozy sweaters and gobbled up our perfect bagels with perfect lox and perfect cream cheese and it was heaven. Lots of laughter, lots of coffee, endless potato latkes. A cozy respite of warmth from an otherwise chilled to the bone day. I love New York for days like these, they are what makes the city so goddamn special.

Dinner at Bistroy Les Papilles in Paris, France: Bold statement — this was my favorite restaurant meal of 2015. I mean, they had a bit of an advantage going in, seeing that this is a tiny bistro in Paris run by a Michelin-starred chef that is also a wine shop and you choose your dinner wine by grabbing a bottle off the wall. It feels like you’re being invited into the chef’s home to eat, and eat you do, incredibly well. The entire meal was perfection — from the delicious wine to the falling off the bone lamb shank (oh, the lamb shank), to the gorgeous cheese course to the creme brûlée for dessert. My dinner date and I stumbled out of the restaurant as if in a fever dream, not quite sure what we had just experienced was real (also, we were probably drunk). It was insane, I still dream about it, I won’t ever forget it.

Tart night in New York, NY: Bolder statement — this was my favorite home-cooked meal of 2015 (not really a bold statement). My absolute favorite nights are those that come together spontaneously. You go in with no expectations because you’d had no time to build it up in your head, and you end up having the best of times. A roof deck with a perfect view of Manhattan at dusk doesn’t hurt either. What started as a wild experiment in baking ended in a laughter-filled night with favorite friends, gobbling up summer’s bounty and washing it down with endless rosé. Good food, good friends, good wine — what more could a girl ask for?

Clamming on Long Island, West Islip, NY: One of the saddest things I can think of is the potential of a shellfish allergy. I don’t have one, THANK GOD, but if I did, there would be tears. And because I don’t have a shellfish allergy, I was able to fully embrace digging around in the sand of the Great South Bay lookin’ for clams with my favorite LI residents. Clamming is not a graceful exercise; it mostly involves wading around in hip deep water digging your heels into the sand waiting to feel the bump of a shell. Clamming is not a speedy exercise; it takes a few hours at minimum to produce a take large enough for an actual meal. But. BUT. When you take these puppies home, scrub ‘em up, and steam them juuuuust enough to open with a little white wine and garlic and fresh herbs, it is all WORTH IT. Man, is it. Company wasn’t too shabby either.

Lunch at Machine Shed, Davenport, IA: This was a bittersweet memory. There was the joy of having most of my Radeke family together again at one table, something we haven’t done in many years. There was some really, really good fried chicken and biscuits. Maybe the best I’ve ever had. And there was the ultimate realization, through a few simple interactions, that my father is sick, and things will never be the same. I walked away from that meal with two things: One — the belief that family is everything and moments like that are not endless, so you better cherish them while you can. And Two — a butter dish shaped like a cow.

So much good in 2015, and so much good to look forward to in 2016. I hope all of you had memories to cherish from the last year, thank you for sticking with this crazy ride of mine along the way!

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thanksgiving week 2015: sour cream apple pie.

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We made it! It’s the big day. Happy Thanksgiving to all. I’ll be spending my day mostly in the kitchen, managing the oven schedule, checking in on progress, and making use of all those vegetables that we chopped and prepped yesterday. We’ll sit down to eat about 4pm and relish in and be thankful for all that we have. It will be a small, cozy feast, but oh, such a good one.

The crown jewel on any proper Thanksgiving feast, in my opinion, is a really great pie. So, with that in mind, I present to you a really great pie. Sour Cream Apple Pie is something I didn’t know existed until about 8 years ago, and when I found the recipe for this, I was immediately intrigued. It has the fresh fruitiness of an apple pie with the rich custard of a pumpkin pie, and when you put those together on a homemade pie crust and add a streusel topping (my favorite), you’ve got a true gem. It’s supremely delicious, and now I’m here to share it with you. I’m thankful for all of you today, dear readers; all of you and this pie.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Sour Cream Apple Pie
Serves: 8

You will need:

For the crust:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced into small pieces
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3-5 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
5 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly (I usually use Granny Smith, but any sweet/tart variety will do)
1¼ cup sour cream
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg

For the topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced into small pieces
½ cup pecans, chopped

Kitchen equipment: pie dish, pastry cutter (optional), two large mixing bowls, one small mixing bowl, tin foil

Make the dough. First things first, make some pie dough. Remember, as I’ve told you before, the key to perfect pie dough is keeping everything as cold as possible. I’ve even started keeping my flour in the freezer. Don’t even think about using room temperature butter or water here; your results will be infinitely better if all ingredients are nice and chilly.

To bring the dough together, mix your flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add in the chilled butter, and using your hands or a pastry cutter, push the butter into the flour mixture. Your goal is a sandy textured mix with a bunch of different sized butter pieces (this is where the magic happens). This should only take a few minutes to accomplish, and the less manhandling of the butter, the better. Once you’ve achieved the correct consistency, mix 3 tablespoons of ice water with the apple cider vinegar and drizzle over the top of the dry ingredients. Begin to incorporate the water/vinegar into the other ingredients by running your hands through the dough and gently beginning to bring things together. If after a few minutes your dough is still looking a little dry and things aren’t coming together, you can add an additional 2 tablespoons of ice water, one at a time, until the dough just starts to come together in a ball. It will still have a shaggy texture, which is what you’re looking for, so don’t overwork or overwater your dough.

Once the dough has come together, take it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and give it a couple of kneads (but not too many). Finally, flatten the dough into a round disc, tightly wrap in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Prep the filling. While the dough is chilling, let’s turn our attention to the filling. The most labor intensive part of this process is peeling and slicing the apples, so do that first. You want to slice your apples as thin as possible — if you have a mandolin, use it. Once your apples are peeled and sliced, place them in a large bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice over the top to prevent browning.

In your other large mixing bowl, whisk together the rest of the filling ingredients until fully incorporated, smooth and shiny. Add in the apples and toss to coat completely. Set aside.

Make the streusel topping. Mix the flour, oats, sugar and salt together in a small mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces, and in the same way you did with the pie crust, push the butter into the dry ingredients until well incorporated and sandy. Mix in the pecans and set aside.

Bring it all together. OK, let’s put this baby together. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Remove your pie dough from the refrigerator, and roll it out on a floured board or counter top. Transfer to your pie dish, pushing the dough into the edges of the dish and crimping the edges.

Pour the apple filling into the pie shell carefully, smoothing out any wayward pieces as you go. Pour any leftover filling over the apples and spread evenly. Tear off a few strips of tin foil and cover the edges of the pie crust to prevent them from burning.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Take the pie out of the oven at this point, and sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the pie. Place the pie back in the oven and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove the foil covers in the last 5 minutes of baking so the edges of the crust can brown properly.

Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely. Serve on its own or with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. YUM.

Happy Thanksgiving all! I wish you and yours the best of days. xx

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sunday dessert: blueberry basil lemon tart.

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I have a friend. Her name is Jaime. And one of my very favorite things about Jaime is that she can hang with my particular brand of weird. She never judges, she rarely questions, and she’s always willing to go along for the ride – whatever the ride may be.

Like this weekend, when I texted her, “I think I’m going to make a tart tomorrow. Do you want some?”

Any number of people would respond to a text like that with a side-eye emoji and lots of question marks, but Jaime took it in stride. “Tart night?” she said, “Absolutely!”

Thus, Tart Night was born. We roped in her husband, Doug, and her dear friend, Lexy, and made a plan. We took advantage of her glorious rooftop that came complete with killer views, a perfect evening breeze, and an ever-convenient BBQ. Jaime and Lexy ventured to Whole Foods (which is an entirely different, and completely hilarious, blog post) and returned with a bounty of fresh salmon, zucchini, and corn on the cob – and the real ticket, two bottles of rosé. (Whispering Angel, y’all — look into it). Tart Night was going to be GOOD.

So now I actually had to make the tart. Yikes. And since I couldn’t just make it easy on myself, I took approximately 14 different recipes and combined them into one. And then, there was draaaaaaama along the way! At one point, I feared that Tart Night would, in fact, be tart-less! But. I made it through.

And the tart was perfection. Tart Night was perfection. We laughed and drank and stuffed our faces with the deliciousness we had created, and I didn’t even fall off the roof when I stood on a chair precariously close to the railing to shoot a picture of the tart! (See picture below — and thank you to Jaime’s husband, Doug, my impromptu security detail, for watching my back)

It was amazing. It screamed of all of the best parts of summer, and I want to do it all again next weekend. Jaime, you down? Of course you are.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Blueberry Basil Lemon Tart

Serves: 8 (although one could argue that everyone needs their own pie, so maybe this serves one?)

You will need:

Graham Cracker Crust
12 full-size graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 plus ¼ cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice and zest from one lemon

Blueberry & Basil Topping
2 pints fresh blueberries
1½ teaspoons white sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded (I don’t think that’s a word, but let’s go with it for now)

Kitchen equipment: rolling pin, 9” pie dish, lots of mixing bowls, wire whisk, baking sheet

I’m breaking this puppy down into three parts (plus a bonus fourth part). Each part is relatively quick in and of itself, but there’s lots of ‘cooling time’ in between, so it ends up being quite the process. This is advanced level baking folks, so sit down, strap in, and get ready for a long-ish/entertaining/fairly labor-intensive ride. OK.

Part I – Make the Pie Crust

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

If you need a little outlet for your frustrations from the week, making this graham cracker crust is a great exercise for you. First, take your graham crackers and break them up into smaller pieces. If you have one, throw them in a food processor and pulse until you have mostly fine crumbs. If you are lacking in the food processor area, toss the broken pieces in a sealable gallon plastic bag and crush the pieces into crumbs using your trusty rolling pin. Working through your anger with a rolling pin will produce perfectly smashed crumbs.

Once you have properly crushed crumbs, toss them in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the melted butter and stir to incorporate. You’re going for the texture of wet sand here – you should be able to make small clumps of graham cracker and they should stick. If the mixture is too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you achieve this consistency.

Once you have your crust mixture, evenly distribute in the bottom of your pie dish to form the crust. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and ‘dry looking’. Set aside to cool completely.

Part II – Make the Lemon Pastry Cream

OK, this is where things get tricky. I must confess that my first attempt at pastry cream did NOT go well, but thanks to some strategic googling and Mr. Emeril Lagasse (BAM!) it wasn’t a lost cause, so don’t lose faith, my friend. I will see you through the dark times.

The key to making this thing work is to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. Pastry cream requires your full attention, some serious arm strength (SO much whisking), and an extreme sense of urgency. This is not the time to take a loosy-goosy, lackadaisical, ‘I’m just gonna laze about in my caftan’ approach. This is more of a ‘using any shred of military precision I possess’ type of exercise.

First, put your egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl and COMMENCE THE WHISKING. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are a pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ of batter fall from your whisk when you raise it from the bowl. This will take 2-3 minutes by hand. Once you’ve achieved this state, whisk in the cornstarch until fully incorporated and set aside.

Now to the stove. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar and the pinch of salt and warm until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat.

Next, you want to combine the milk and the egg mixture, but DO NOT for the love of all that is holy and good just dump one into the other. If you do, you’ll end up with sweetened scrambled eggs floating in warm milk. BLECH.

No, instead, you’re going to temper the egg mixture so your result is a beautiful custard not a beautiful disaster. Starting in tiny increments (like no more than a tablespoon at a time), add the warm milk to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about ¼ cup of the milk to the eggs, you can add more at a time in a thin stream, again while whisking constantly. Do this until you’ve added all of the milk to the eggs, then pour the entire thing back into the saucepan.

Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and whisk whisk whisk until the mixture starts to bubble. Keep on whiskin’ for another one to two minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard or pudding. Remove from heat and immediately add the vanilla extract, the butter and the lemon juice and zest; all the while continuing to whisk (I told you there’d be a lot of whisking).

Now, at this point, you may have a beautifully composed custard that is smooth and supple and shiny. You may also have a lumpy, separated mess. If you have the latter, DO NOT FRET. That is exactly what I ended up with and it all worked out for me in the end.

Transfer your pastry cream into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap down onto the custard itself. This prevents the custard from forming a really gross film on the top that will derail any hopes of a beautiful pie. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely, which should take 2-3 hours.

If you’re lucky enough to have achieved a perfect pastry cream, there are no additional steps for you (here’s your blue ribbon, you first class baker, you). If, however, your pastry cream was less than perfection, you’re not done yet. When the cream has cooled completely, take it out of the fridge and using either your trusty whisk or an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cream like mad for 3-4 minutes. Somehow, like magic, it will come together beautifully and all will be right in the world. If it doesn’t come together, keep mixing until it does, and if it still doesn’t come together, you can add up to an additional cup of warm milk to the mixture in small increments until it does. If it still doesn’t come together, then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe have a good cry and start all over.

Part III – Make the Blueberry Topping

You’re nearing the finish line, friend! Now comes the easiest part.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spread one pint of blueberries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar evenly over the top. Roast the blueberries for 10-12 minutes, pulling the tray from the oven and giving it a shake once about half way through the cooking time. The juices from the berries should be flowing freely but most of the berries should still be intact.

Remove from the oven and give ‘em a squeeze of lemon juice. Transfer to a small container and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Wash the other pint of blueberries but don’t do anything else to them. They are beautiful little spirits all on their own.

Chiffonade the basil (roll the leaves into a cigar-like fashion and slice them thinly) and set aside.

Part IV – Putting It All Together

You made it! HURRAH. Now let’s finish this bad boy and get to eatin’.

First, pour the pastry cream into the finished pie crust and spread evenly, being careful to not mix any stray crust crumbs into the cream.

Next, spread the roasted blueberry mixture on top of the pastry cream, leaving a slight edge so the pastry cream peeks through near the crust. This is purely for aesthetic reasons, but I like a little pop of yellow against the dark purpl-y blue of the berries.

Finally, spread the fresh blueberries over the roasted blueberries in a single layer, using enough that it’s well-covered but also leaving a few little spots for the roasted blueberries to poke through. Then, top the fresh blueberries with the basil.

Voila! You’ve arrived. If you’re making this for dessert with friends (which I did, highly recommend) do your best not to dive face first into this little ditty right away. If you made this just for you because YOU DESERVE IT, then get in there!

I’m not going to be coy or modest about this one – it’s bonkers good. Singing from the rooftops good. Dancing a jig in your kitchen good. Making bad decisions because you drank too much tequila good.

Did it take the whole afternoon to make? Yes, likely. Was it worth it? Ooooooooh boy, that it was.

Enjoy!

'Behind the Scenes' of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn't fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

‘Behind the Scenes’ of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn’t fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

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sunday dessert: concord grape pie.

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Confession: I ate a grape from the farmers market this week.

And truth be told, it sent me into a tailspin. I’d been living a lie. My entire life, wasting my time eating store-bought grapes with their tough skins and their chalky aftertaste and their mild, some might say, boring flavor. How did I not know that grapes should be better than that? That they should be sweet and tart and juicy and a little slimy, but such a good kind of slimy that you don’t want to stop eating them ever!

It only took one tiny from-the-farm grape to change my life.

Which of course set me on a mission to discover what I could do with these gorgeous creatures. And I discovered that you can do quite a bit with them, actually. I also discovered that now, right now, is the height of the grape season (grapes have seasons?) in the northeast, so these are the best of the best.

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And what do you do with the best of the best? Well, you bake a pie, naturally. Apparently this is also a thing in New York. The Concord Grape Pie Queen, Miss Irene Bouchard, lives about 300 miles northwest of New York City in the town of Naples, and she’s been baking grape pies since the dawn of time (or the early ‘70s, but I’m going for high drama today). I’m not sure how she got that title or why, but I like to think she relishes it, baking pies in her purple house, wearing her purple dresses, living that purple life. You know.

The recipe below is adapted from her original recipe via Saveur magazine, using my own crust recipe since I love it so very much.

Are you ready? OK, let’s do this.

Concord Grape Pie

For the Crust

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, chilled
½ cup shortening, chilled
½ cup ice water

For the Filling

2 pounds concord grapes
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

Let’s focus on the filling first. Your grapes have seeds in them, which would not be delicious in a pie, so you need to remove the seeds from the grapes before you make the pie filling. You’ll be performing ‘grape surgery’ of sorts, which sounds very strange, but I promise it’s incredibly straightforward and easy. Grab two medium-large bowls and your grapes (which should be washed clean and dry at this point) and set yourself up at the kitchen table. Take a grape between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze lightly. The green inside of the grape should loosen easily from the skin; plop it into one of the bowls and throw the skin in the other bowl. Grab another grape, squeeze out the insides into one bowl, throw the skin in the other bowl. You get the idea. Keep doing this until you’ve separated all of your grapes, discarding any that are overly soft or brown. In the end you should have one bowl full of green insides and one bowl full of skins, like zees:

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Set the bowl of grape skins aside and grab your bowl of grape insides. Empty the grape insides into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The grape pulp will start to bubble and foam a bit, and you will start to see the seeds separate from the pulp.

When the grape pulp is fully cooked, pour it into a fine mesh strainer over the bowl of grape skins, and taking a large spoon or spatula, push the pulp through the strainer into the bowl with the skins. You’ll be left with a strainer full of seeds, which you can discard.

Stir the grape skins and strained pulp to combine, add the tapioca and the sugar, and stir again. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator to cool.

Now to the crust! you know how I feel about homemade pastry crust (in that I AM A BELIEVER), and you’ve heard me say it before that the key to a beautiful flaky crust is keep your wet ingredients (butter, shortening, water) as cold as possible throughout the process.

Grab a large bowl and add the flour, sugar and salt and stir to combine. Add your chilled shortening and butter, and using a pastry cutter or two forks (but NOT your hands), mix the butter/shortening into the dry ingredients until you get something resembling coarse meal. You should still have pea-sized bits of butter; that’s where the magic happens. Add the ice water and mix until the dough just starts to come together. Split the dough in two, one ball slightly larger than the other, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

During my rest time, I watched two episodes of ER, which I haven’t watched since it was originally on TV twenty years ago and, boy, am I hooked. Carol Hathaway and Doug Ross forever, y’all.

OK, back to baking, she says reluctantly. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

When your dough and filling are properly chilled, take one of the balls of dough out of the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Lightly flour your counter top and your rolling pin, then using smooth motions in one direction, roll your dough out to a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough up on your rolling pin and transport to your pie dish; unroll and situate so it is centered over the dish. You will have some dough hanging over the edge, but don’t worry, we’ll deal with that later. Take your filling out and remove the plastic wrap, pouring your filling evenly into the pie crust.

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Now, take your second ball of dough, and as you did with the first, roll it out to a 12-inch circle. You can do a couple of different things at this point: you could do a simple top crust, a lattice crust (which I chose), or you could get all Martha Stewart fancy on it and make some artwork with your dough.

For a simple crust: cut a 1-inch hole in the center of your dough and lay the dough over the pie.

For a lattice crust: cut your dough into 1-inch strips, ten strips in total. Lay five strips vertically on top of the pie in equal intervals, then pull back the second and fourth strip. Lay one strip horizontally over the three remaining strips on the side of the pie closest to you. Replace the second and fourth strips and pull back the first, third, and fifth strips to the strip you just put down. Lay down a second strip horizontally, then replace the first, third and fifth strips. Alternate pulling the second/fourth and first/third/fifth strips until all of the remaining strips are placed on the pie. This video helps if the above is confusing.

For a fancy-schmancy crust: use cookie cutters of your choosing to make pretty shapes from the second piece of dough and transfer to a baking sheet. Refrigerate. When the pie comes out of the oven, adjust the temperature to 450 degrees and bake dough shapes for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool. When pie is cool and ready to be served, place shapes on top in a decorative fashion.

Trim the edges of your pie dough with a knife so it’s just beyond the edge of your pie dish. Folding over the trimmed edge, crimp the dough with your fingers all the way around your pie.

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Place on the middle rack of your oven, and bake for twenty minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 45-50 minutes until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Remove from oven and cool.

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This pie packs a wallop of flavor and is best accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some freshly whipped cream. It’s grapes like you’ve never tasted them before — fresh, bright, tart and sweet at the same time. You’ll never go back to store-bought grapes again. I know I surely won’t.

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sunday dessert: homemade peach crumble pie.

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I have this thing that happens to me every once in awhile. I’ll be going along, living life, doing my thing…and then, this wave will wash over me, stop me in my tracks…and I must bake. I absolutely must. I enjoy baking, but I don’t often have the time or the occasion to do so, but then this thing happens and I don’t need no reason, no rhyme. I just have to bake something or I won’t be satisfied.

Today was one of those days. My eyes snapped open at 6:30 AM this morning and all I could think about was peach pie. Which is super weird. But having known myself for 33 years now, I knew the only solution was to fulfill my baking needs. Plus, it’s the height of summer, the peaches are glorious this time of year, and who doesn’t want pie, you know, just laying around? Hands up emoji.

When it comes to pie, and peach pie specifically, I’ve been refining my skills for years now, so this recipe (which started from three different recipes) is something I’ve played with and tweaked and edited over the years, to where I’ve gotten it just right. Until I change something again. I’m a mystery. Stay with me.

If I’m being completely honest with you, dear reader, this pie is not an easy task. It’s both time and labor intensive, and I wouldn’t say that it’s a good place to start for a novice baker. However, I’ve always said that baking is more science than art, so if you follow the steps exactly, you should produce a pretty great result. But know what you’re getting into because this is an afternoon spent working hard in the kitchen.

OK, you ready? Let’s do this.

Homemade Peach Crumble Pie

You will need:

For the crust:

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into small pieces
¼ cup cold vegetable shortening, like Crisco
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ice water

For the filling:

3 ½ pounds peaches (about 6-8)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minute tapioca, ground to a powder using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle (or 3 tablespoons corn starch)

For the crumble:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into small pieces

Kitchen gadgets/materials/tools: pie dish, rolling pin, pastry cutter (you can use two forks as a substitute), mixing bowls — LOTS of mixing bowls

First things first, put on clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and an apron (or my personal baking accessory of choice, a kitchen towel stuck through the belt loop of my jeans). Baking is messy, y’all. Martha Stewart I am not.

Crust: 

Next, we turn our attention to the crust. Listen, you could totally punk out at this point and buy a pre-made crust and it would be fine and life would go on. But. If you’ve ever experienced the glorious deliciousness of a homemade pie crust, you know why this extra effort is worth it. And it is.

So, as you dive into prepping your crust, you should have one mantra in mind at all times — ‘keep ’em cold’. If there is any secret to a perfect, flaky homemade crust, it is that all the ingredients save the flour, sugar, and salt should be ICE cold. Butter, shortening, water. Keep ’em cold. All of them should be as cold as possible without being frozen (though I do keep my shortening in the freezer). Doing this will ensure a perfectly flaky crust, which is the only reason why we’re doing all of this, am I right?

First, take out your butter, cut it into small pieces, place it on a plate and put it back in the refrigerator while you prep your dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine your flour, sugar and salt. Working quickly, add the butter and shortening, and with either a pastry cutter or two forks (don’t use your hands as it will warm the butter/shortening too much), mash the butter and shortening into the flour mixture until it resembles course sand. You should still have pea-sized pieces of butter — that’s OK — this is where the magic happens. Finally, add the ice water and quickly mix the ingredients together to form the dough, bringing it together in ball. Do not knead the dough, the point is to mix it enough that it stays together, but nothing more — again, you don’t want anything warming the dough too much. Wrap in plastic wrap or a ziploc bag and flatten into a disc. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Filling: 

While your dough is chilling in the fridge, it’s time to prep the filling. If you’re going to skin your peaches (which I do, I find that it leads to a better quality filling), put a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. In a separate large bowl, prepare an ice bath for the peaches (basically a bunch of cold water and a bunch of ice). Cut a small X on the bottom point of each peach (opposite from the stem). When the water on the stove reaches a rolling boil, add as many peaches as can fit in the pot and poach for two minutes. When ready, move the poached peaches from the boiling water directly to the ice bath and let them sit for about one minute. Do this until all the peaches have been poached/bathed. Pull one peach at a time from the ice bath and starting at the X you cut earlier, pull the skins off the peaches. They should be very easy to remove at this point, for any pieces that don’t want to budge, you can always slice them off with a small knife. Once you’ve skinned all of your peaches, cut each in half, remove the pit, and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices and add to a large bowl. Add the lemon juice to the peaches and toss to coat.

In a small bowl (you’re basically going to use every bowl in your kitchen for this little ditty, sorry), combine the white and brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and tapioca, stirring with a fork until just blended. Pour the sugar mixture over the peaches and toss to coat. Set aside until ready to build the pie.

Crumble: 

Some people may be two-crust pie purists, but me, I’m a crumble believer. It adds such a different spin to a pie, and you get the best of both worlds — a buttery, flaky crust on the bottom, and a crunchy, sugary, salty, oat-y crumble on top. For me, there’s no better combination. YUM.

NOTE: If you’d rather a two-crust pie, find another blog. I kid, I kid. You’ll need to double the crust recipe above; follow the same directions below for a solid crust or take a look at this for a lattice crust.

To make the crumble, combine the flour, sugar, oats and salt in a medium bowl (again with the bowls) and set aside. Cut your butter into small pieces, then using your hands this time, work the butter cubes into the flour mixture to form the crumble. It should be mostly incorporated with some small pieces of butter still intact. Wash your hands, then cover crumble with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

Putting it all together: 

We’re nearing the finish line, kids. Now it’s about combining all of that magic you’ve just made in the kitchen into one delicious, magnificent pie.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Grab some flour and liberally coat your rolling pin and your counter top, cutting board or pastry stone (if you’re Mr. Fancy McFancy Pants). Take your dough from the fridge, unwrap, and place in the center of your floured board. Then, taking your floured rolling pin, press and roll your dough carefully a few times in one direction away from you. Turn your dough one quarter turn and repeat. Do this again and again until the dough is rolled into roughly a 12 inch circle. Add more flour as necessary to both the rolling pin and the dough to discourage sticking or tearing. Be patient with it and don’t rough up the dough. Remember, the idea is to work the dough as little as possible so the butter stays intact and the dough doesn’t get rubbery. Once you have your circle, fold the dough in half then in half again and carefully transfer to your pie dish. Unfold the dough and situate appropriately so it covers the whole thing; you’ll likely have dough hanging off the edges, that’s OK. Remove the excess dough with a sharp knife, fold over the edges, and pinch between two fingers to ‘crimp’ the dough. Do this all the way around the pie to create a pretty pattern.

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Next, take your filling and spoon into the center of the dish, including any juices from the bottom of the bowl. Spread evenly, ensuring there’s no areas with too many peaches or too much juice.

Grab your crumble from the fridge and sprinkle evenly over the top almost all the way to the crust. I like to leave a little ring of crumble-free area between the crust and the crumble for the peaches to bubble through as they cook in the oven.

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Place the pie in the center rack of your oven with a baking sheet placed on the rack directly below it (just in case, to catch any overflow). Cook for 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and cook for an additional 35-40 minutes. The pie is done when the crust and crumble are golden brown and the peach filling is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for at least two hours. I know. That seems like an impossible task. BUT. This time will allow the pie to set and for the tapioca to work its magic, so when you go to slice the pie, it won’t fall apart immediately. Trust the process, people. You can do it, I promise.

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When you’re ready to serve, I like to reheat each piece for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, then top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (I do not understand people who do not like their pie à la mode, I just don’t).

Swoon. Yell. Dance around your kitchen. Fall on the floor overwhelmed with emotion. It’s that good. It is summer all bundled up in one delicious package for you to savor in the late evening light. Eat up, kids.