Archive for the ‘The Baker’ Category

Cherry pie. Fresh from Louisville. No lie.

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Friends who live in Louisville have a cherry tree in their backyard, and last week the cherries came in. Beautiful sour cherries, perfect for pie, and a practically inexhaustible supply! We drove out for a cocktail and cherry picking party, and came home with gallons of cherries. Most went into the freezer, but The Baker in the family sprang into action and made a pie.

Bakers are not chefs. Chefs are not bakers. Both need skills, restraint, and intuition, but bakers (and, yes,  mixologists) also need to measure accurately – it’s as much physical chemistry as art. For this reason even amateur chefs are generally lousy at baking, and in our house The Baker rules dessert.

The recipe below blithely calls for a “double crust,” a nearly impossible thing to make well. I won’t attempt to describe The Baker’s recipe here, you can’t really write it down.  She rejects any crust made by a machine. Health conscious, yet in search of the perfect crust, she can’t bring herself to use lard and has always made a Crisco crust. This caused her great pain through the trans-fat aware years. Classic Crisco was a trans-fat nightmare: this led to all-butter crusts which taste great but sacrifice a certain lightness. Other experiments were disastrous. Happily, “new” Crisco is trans-fat free, neutral tasting, and the food scientists have done a good job getting the texture back. Don’t cringe too much – it’s only one or two pies a year! But your mileage may vary, make whatever crust you prefer.

Cherry Pie

  1. Double pie crust for 9″ pie
  2. 4 1/2 cups fresh sour cherries
  3. 2-3 Tb quick cooking tapioca
  4. A few teaspoons lemon juice
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. 1Tb butter

Preheat oven to 450F. Make pastry for  a double pie crust. Roll out slightly more than 1/2 of the pastry into a 1/8″ thick crust. Line 9″ pie pan with crust.

Wash, drain, and pit cherries. Mix cherries with tapioca and sugar. Squeeze on a bit of lemon juice, to taste.

Let stand for 15 minutes. Roll out remaining crust. Cut into 1/2″ lattice strips. Pour cherries in pie pan. Dot with butter. Place lattice strips on pie, alternating in a perpendicular pattern.

Bake pie in oven for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes more (check after 35 minutes).

Sources

The Blackmon/MacDonald cherry tree, Louisville, Colorado.

First strawberries. Shortcake, southern-style. Summer begins.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Southern-style strawberry shortcakeMonroe Organic Farm brought the first strawberries of the season. Sweet, yet delicately so, their perfect texture is a stark contrast from the year-round styrofoam balls that usually pass as strawberries. The first temptation is always to simply devour them all, but cooler heads prevailed. Our house is lucky enough to have a baker in residence (“The Baker”), and she whipped up a batch of old school southern-style buttermilk biscuits – the only true basis for strawberry “shortcake.” The biscuit recipe comes from my Georgia grandmother, and has been handed down in my family for at least four generations.

Buttermilk Biscuits

  1. 2 1/2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  3. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1/3 shortening (classically Crisco)
  6. 1 cup buttermilk

Sift together dry ingredients. These next steps take a light touch: Cut in shortening until there are “no pieces bigger than a pea.” Stir in buttermilk evenly. Turn on to a well-floured pastry cloth and knead ten times (I kid you not). Roll out to 1/2 – 3/4″ thickness, the use can or cutter to create 2 – 3″ rounds. Set oven to 450 degrees. Bake about 15 minutes on baking sheet until golden brown.  If you are a wizard these will rise almost impossibly, and mortals must settle for a mildly risen yet succulent biscuit.

The strawberries themselves are simply sliced and a tiny bit of sugar added, then left to “macerate” (as a food writer might say), releasing delectible juices.

Split still warm biscuits, spoon over strawberries, and top with fresh whipped cream. Perfection.

Sources

Monroe Farm