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Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label summer. Show all posts

Friday, August 7, 2020

Pear Streusel Pie


The fruits of summer are bountiful and sweet! There's nothing quite like the summer in the city, except when you are in your 30s and you live in the American Midwest or South. Then, it's just awful, especially if you are an *ahem* ample person of the feminine persuasion, such as myself. (Sweat happens to humans with bosoms and thick thighs in a way that I wish not on others.) Summer sucks. It's hot. It's humid. I'm going to tell you that I hate humidity, so I count the days until fall occurs. I relish the changing leaves, and I mark days off my calendar until I can go apple picking. There is, however, the wonderful fruit that ripens just before the apple does, and I can get my crisp fruit pie fix...the pear. 

Pears are wonderful fruits that don't get nearly enough love. They're crisp and cool, they have delicious varieties that are vastly varied, and they grow on trees so you can pick them while imagining your perfect life in the south of France as you do it! They are not always as sweet as the apple, so therefore you can use them in savory and sweet applications. A grated pear in a marinade for a Korean-style beef marinade will add a note of freshness and sweetness without being overwhelming. How wonderful! 

I'm sure you've seen pears with cheese plates and your parents will remember poached pears with ice cream in fancy restaurants in the late 80s to early 90s. Heck, I myself am guilty of putting the retro-classic poached pear on a modern dessert because I love it so much! There's just something about the pear that heralds in the changing of the seasons for me. It bakes in a wonderful end-of-summer pie.  Here's how to make it!

End-of-Summer Pear Pie

Pie Dough

  • 4 oz vegan butter
  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz raw sugar
  • 1 oz dark rum, more as needed
Pear Filling
  • Four medium-sized local pears, peeled and sliced thin
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 3.5 oz raw or brown sugar
  • 1 tsp good Mexican vanilla
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  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Chinese long pepper, ground
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Honey Streusel
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 1 oz local honey
  • 3 oz vegan butter, cold

This is my standard pie dough, and I absolutely love making it because it's suitable for decorating as well as tasty eating. Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl along with a fat pinch of salt. Roughly chop the butter into cubes and rub into the flour-sugar mixture with your fingertips, almost as if you were snapping your fingers. You only want to combine the flour until it looks like cornmeal, and then add in the rum. Turn all of this out onto a cool, marble surface and smear together, folding all the dough back on itself over and over again until everything is smooth and combined. Scrape together, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour, ideally overnight. 

Take your pears in a large bowl and toss it with the lemon juice and zest first before adding the sugar and spices. Cover this beautiful stuff and let it sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. The sugar and spices will draw pear juice out, and this beautiful liquid is going to make your pie taste delicious! Why don't you go ahead and turn on your oven to 350 F while you wait?

Meanwhile, lay more plastic wrap on your counter turn your dough out onto the surface. Rolling out your dough on plastic wrap or greased parchment paper will save you a lot of cleaning time! The idea is that you want to sandwich your pie dough between the parchment or plastic wrap and roll it out this way, so you don't have to add excess flour. Roll this out nice and thin and line a glass or ceramic pie dish and press into the corners so it's well-set. Let it hang out on the counter for about five minutes so the pie dough can relax a little before you trim the edges. This will prevent excessive shrinking! Once the dough has relaxed, trim the edges with a sharp paring knife and pinch around the edges to make a pretty scalloped finish. Take this opportunity to think about what kind of decorations you'd like to have on your pie! I chose feathers. 

I have this wonderful set of teardrop-shaped cutters that I discovered at a garage sale some years ago. All you have to do to make feathers is to take the excess dough that you've cut off, roll and cut out the shapes, and then use the back of the knife to make your cuts and indents. You can get really creative with what you put on your pie, so feel free to let your imagination run wild! Remember, any sort of decorative pie crust touch you make will need some egg wash to stick.

To make the streusel simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a spoon. You'll be chopping and stirring the fat until everything sort of comes together in a kind of loose and lumpy sand, which shouldn't take long at all. Streusel is ready once it comes together when you ball it in your fist and it keeps its shape but quickly crumbles apart when tapped with a spoon.  

When you're ready to bake, brush your pie shell, edges included, quite well with egg wash. Add the flour to your pear pie filling and stir well to coat. You can use cornstarch if you like, but flour works just fine. Scrape your pie filling into the dough shell and arrange so that the slices are generally flat. Sprinkle your streusel all over the top to cover it, and decorate your pie as you so desire to. I really love the random look of these feathers strewn here and there! You can do whatever shapes you like; this is your pie, so you choose!

Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling and everything's golden-brown and delicious-looking. Your house is going to smell amazing! Turn off the oven and crack the oven door, and let it cool in the oven for about half an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit on the counter for at least 3 hours. Why? Pectin!

Pectin is this wonderful stuff that's found in high amounts in apples, citrus fruits, and - you guessed it - pears! It's a natural thickener and is essential for making homemade jams and jellies. The only thing about pectin is that it needs to set on its own, so that means you shouldn't cut this pie until it's cool to room temperature and the pectin is set. This way, you'll get much cleaner slices and you'll be able to enjoy that picturesque view of a non-soggy-bottom when you go back for a second, third, or fourth slice of pie. If you cut this pie before the pectin sets, the liquid will burst out and soak up your crust from the bottom, and it'll never set again. 

But what if I want warm pie??? 

Easy! Once it's all cooled, you can reheat it by the slice in the oven or - if you must - the microwave, and serve with some ice cream or sweetened ricotta cream. My general rule is that fruit pies should be served plain with coffee, but if you absolutely must indulge in some sort of ice cream, then I simply cannot stop you. Let go and let G-d, I say!

I love this pie because it's not too sweet but satisfies my sweet tooth in a much lighter way than an apple pie does. Pears are quite fragrant in a sexy, sophisticated way. I like to think of apple pie as your cute neighbor that just loves to wear bright patterns, whereas pear pie is that sexy stranger at the end of the bar wearing just enough of that expensive cologne or perfume...but when you get to the bar you see it's your neighbor, all along, in a new light. 

Thanks so much for reading along and spending some time of your day with me. It means so much to me to be able to pass on these awesome skills I've acquired over the last decade to you. I hope I inspire you to make this delicious pear pie. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Peachy Keen Pie

Summer is slowly ending, and the fruits of our summer labors are waning. Peaches, tomatoes, etc., are all nearing the end of their season. The true end will be marked by Samhain, of course, but with Lammas passing, it's reminded me that autumn is coming, and so now is the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

I live my life seasonally, as per my religion, and as per my career. Being a chef has taught me, more than anything, that food is the biggest untapped power we have. The abundance in our country is just absurd, so we don't necessarily have to think about seasonality. We have strawberries in winter, for Goddess' sake. Fortunately, many of us are becoming more and more aware of seasonality, locality, and just being more in tune with the way the world works.

One of my favorite summer crops is peaches. I went a little crazy at the Overland Park Farmers' Market and bought too many peaches. I know, I know, how can someone have too many peaches? You really can't, but I sort of did; I made that fatal error of shopping hungry, despite the Wiener Wagon's best efforts.

I spent $15 on peaches. I only meant to buy the little $5 baskets, but then I realized that I was probably going to eat half of those on the way home, so it would be best to buy more. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the farmers' market with more peaches than anyone should have, and by the time I had gotten home, I was practically slathered in peach juice.

After I crawled out of the shower, I knew I needed to do something with the rest of these peaches. Sure, I could eat them, but I probably shouldn't, at this point. I considered making preserves, but then I realized that I didn't have any free jars, and would have to go out and buy some if I wanted to do that. Once I realized that I still had half a case of puff pastry in my freezer(leftover from the millefeuille), I couldn't think of a better thing to make than a pie. Besides, this gives me an excuse to use the designated pastry station in my new kitchen!

Don't you just love the color?
Peach pie says "summer" to me like no other, and it reminds me of my great-grandmother's peach cobbler. Over the years, I've developed my own take on the pie, and even gave it a name to honor her: Peachy Keen Pie...because for as long as I can remember, whenever asked how she was doing, she would always say "peachy keen, hunky dory." If that's not the most adorable grandma thing ever, I don't know what is.

Here's how to make my Peachy Keen Pie:

Peachy Keen Pie
yields: 1 delicious pie, serves 8

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, frozen - OR your favorite pie crust recipe...here's mine
    • 8 oz vegan butter substitute
    • 14 oz AP flour
    • 2 oz ice water
    • 1 tsp vinegar
      • Cut 'butter' into small cubes and pinch the fat into the dough. Add the vinegar and just enough ice water to come together. Divide in two and chill until ready to use! 
  • 4 large peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
    • You can also use 12 small peaches!
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup local honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp pure almond extract (you can substitute vanilla paste if you have an almond allergy)
Peel the peaches and core them by cutting in half, and gently prying out the pit with your hands. You can keep the pit to plant, or put it under your bed or on your windowsill to attract good fortune and love, if you're the superstitious type. (I popped mine in the four corners of my garden, because(really) how cool would that be if it actually sprouted??) I cut each half into six slices lengthwise, because I really like the way it looks.

I am in LOVE with my new kitchen!

Toss the sugar, spices, salt,  and almond extract together and let it sit for about five minutes, then grab your puff pastry from the freezer. Take this moment now, too, to preheat your oven, if you haven't already, to 350 degrees F. When peach liquid starts to form, add the cornstarch and toss vigorously.

I have a glass pie pan, and it was a little bigger than the one side of my puff pastry, so I rolled it out just a little bit thinner. The trick to pie doughs is that you must be a little rough, but not enough to harm it. Fluff it a little with your fingers from the bottom, once you're done rolling it, to get the glutens to relax. Gently lay your dough into your pie tin, and let it relax. Don't pull it, don't push it, and for the love of God don't stretch it...just let it relax and settle into its natural form, for no less than five minutes. Let it go. Drape it in and let it go. You know how sometimes pie crust will shrink away from the sides of the pan? That's because the dough has been overworked and didn't get enough time to rest. Quite the metaphor, eh?

See that? Just let it do that. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes. It'll naturally form to the pan on its own.
When the dough has relaxed, sufficiently, trim the edges. Keep the scraps for later, as those will become your decoration, should you so choose to utilize it as such...I would, because there's no reason to waste when you don't have to. Pour in your filling, and then give your pie plate a little shimmy-shimmy, to let everything sort of settle naturally. Now comes the fun part.

Take a handful of sugar and spread it on your board like you would spread flour if you were rolling out something. Gather your scraps and mush them all together, then roll them out on the sugar into one uniformly thin sort of disc. Using either a small knife or a pizza cutter, cut strips and lay over the pie in a sort of lattice pattern. If you have more scraps, like I did, repeat the rolling process, using more sugar as needed, and then cutting out shapes using cookie cutters. Get your egg wash ready by cracking an egg into a container and mixing it with a little water to make a sort of thin, consistent liquid.

I had this really pretty sugar maple leaf shape that I scored from Sur la Table some years ago for $0.40, so I used that, and then a small circle cutter for the tiny bits that were leftover. I had almost zero scrap left at this point, not even big enough to make another tiny circle, so I tossed almost no pie dough, of which I am proud. I used the back of a small paring knife to create "veins" on my leaves by freehand. This is an extra step that isn't necessary, but fun, and makes your pie all the more special.

Attach your shapes to the pie by using an egg wash(if you like) and a pastry brush. If you don't have a pastry brush, use your finger to sort of apply it like you would apply an ointment or lipgloss. Pop your pie into your hot oven and bake for 55 minutes, turning the pie 180 degrees halfway through the cooking process to ensure even baking, or until the pastry is cooked both on bottom and top. This is where the glass pie plate really helps you out, and why I will continue to recommend glass pie pans to this day.

My amazing stepmother made this towel! Let me know if you want one!

When the pie is cooked, remove from the oven and let it rest on the counter. If you have a wood countertop like I do, place your hot pie on a tea towel to keep condensation from ruining your countertops. If you have a cooling rack, use that. I actually have a cooling rack, but I'm in the middle of a move, so I hadn't quite gotten around to unpacking it yet...

Let it cool for at least an hour before cutting into it. I wouldn't stick it in the fridge to cool, though, as that would create steam, and steam equals a soggy bottom...and nobody likes a soggy bottom. Plus, the pie juices will get a chance to really soak and settle, and it won't turn into a big goopy mess when you cut it.

Now, go, enjoy the fruits of summer. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Litha/Father's Day

Here, we have a Green Man Mask, and Litha-in-a-Jar, cool swag from my dear friend, WitchyWords!

Happy Litha, everybody!

Today is the Longest Day of the year, and a sunny and/or sweltering 78 degrees F with a humidity of 85%. Basically, it's hot, muggy, and gods-awful. But when you look out at all of this gorgeous greenery, you can hardly notice! 

With Litha being the longest day of the year, we celebrate the here, the now, the fertility of the land. This is a celebration where a lot of Pagans/Wiccans choose for their wedding days, and often choose today as a day of dedication, be it to themselves, their Crafts, or their loved ones. This is also a day to remember that now the days will grow shorter, now the days of summer will begin to wane...so it's very important to celebrate the here and now. 

This is my dad and me vacationing in Chicago. I think I was 21 in this picture. So that's
about 6 years ago!
Another reason to celebrate today is because today is Father's Day! How fitting! The celebration of God, the Green Man, the giver of Sun and provider, protector, Father to All...having the same day as this years' Father's Day!

My dad was a single dad for most of my life. He and my mother had me when they were 22, and he fought tooth and nail for custody of me when my parents divorced. It's kind of rare that men get the custody, but he did it.

My dad never married until I was older and out of the house, and never stopped. I remember being alone while he worked, and learning to take care of myself. I remember cooking dinner for us so I didn't have to do the dishes(our house rule: whoever cooks doesn't have to clean). In reality, it was my dad that taught me how to cook, so it's really him that I owe my career to.

 I remember him showing me how to cook. I remember him fighting for me, calling out teachers for calling me "Bossy" while the boys were praised for "leadership skills." I remember him telling me that if he had to come into the principal's office because I got into a fight for defending myself, or someone that couldn't, I would never be in trouble. I remember, mostly, him just being there. He was pretty gender forward-thinking when I was a kid; I remember him kind of getting this look of shock on his face when I would say certain things, or when other people would say certain things. I don't think he thought about gender roles a lot, since he's(y'know) a straight white man, so I think having a little brown daughter really woke him up. He told me to fight back, and never treated me "like a girl" because...well, I don't actually know. But he never treated me "like a girl." He treated me like the little person that would eventually grow up into a big person. He was crazy-forward-thinking until he realized the little monster he created(i.e. high school), which was a loud-mouthed teenager that yelled at a lot of boys in her class. Things like "I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DUMB-ASS THOUGHTS" or "YOU JUST ACT LIKE THIS BECAUSE YOUR DAD DOESN'T LOVE YOU" or whatever. So, uh, sorry, Dad.

Anyway, what I want to say most is that a lot of single dads don't get the mad props they deserve. Well, screw that! 

Here's to you, Single Dads! You're the real MVP! (I'm also really sorry for being so fucking hellish as a teenager. I wish I could give you a medal of honor or a Purple Heart or something to commemorate your achievement.) 

An old addage says to plant on the shortest day of the year(Yule/Winter solstice) and harvest on the longest(today). In the spirit of that, and celebrating all of what the God, the Green Man, has given, allow me to say thanks and honor Him by showing the bounty of my garden. Let the garden pics commence!

Here's my first harvest of beets! I know they're odd-looking. That's okay! They were delicious!

Here's an auto-awesome of my Indigo Rose tomatoes. They're so cute, and I can't believe that I started these beefy mothertruckers from seed! The plants' stalks are almost as thick as my pinkie. I think they'll be ready to harvest in another two weeks.

Here's my pumpkin patch, which actually vines out past where I was taking the picture. I don't mind the tall grass so much as it's perfect for the vines to grasp onto. These pumpkins are a mixture of varying types, so it'll be a really fun surprise to see what I get! There are more blooms every day, and bees and dragonflies are buzzing all around the blooms in the early morning! It really fills my heart with joy to see bees...

This was too cute! One of my blooms popped off and into the leaf of another plant! It was like a little baby, tucked in it's little faery crib....

I later went back and harvested more garlic. This was all of it from my garden. This is Spanish Red garlic, and the flavor is bomb! It's like...it's not mild, but the flavor is a combination of taking a nice bite of roasted garlic while inhaling some freshly-tilled garden soil. It's earthy and acrid, all at once. Crazy! 

And here's a picture of my dog giving me a little hug, for no reason, other than I just feel the need to document every moment of his existence. 

Happy Litha, everybody! Now go hug your dad!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mini Party Parfaits

From top to bottom: Lemon bar parfait with raspberry compote, topped with poached strawberry slices and whipped cream; chocolate fudge cake with lavender caramel, cocoa powder and fresh blueberries; wasabi raspberry cheesecake with pretzel.

These little dudes are also known as tasters, and can be the star of your next party. You can bake mini cheesecakes into little shot glasses (as pictured here), or just buy some of your favorite pastries and give them a makeover. They look fabulous, and they look like they were hard to do!

Honestly, though, they're more time-consuming than difficult, but well-worth the wow factor. I mean, seriously. Little shot glass desserts are SO much cuter than mason jar desserts! And if you're a 20-something like me, you jabber more shot glasses than you do mason jars lying around.


Crush any baked good into a chunky-ish mess, scoop and layer into a glass vessel (these were shot glasses),.interchanging with found if your choice. Then garnish and serve on a platter, to be the most fabulous host(ess) ever.

Happy Summer, and Happy Entertaining!

Saturday, June 21, 2014


I have tiny tomatoes! On a plant that I started from seeds! From SEEDS! I'm so excited, I can't even post a whole blog about it!