Rhubarb Pie and Grandma

Hello all,

Today I want to talk about my grandma, and about pie.
Mostly because they have to do with each other in my story, but also cause grandmas and pie usually go together, don’t they?

So here’s my story, I hate pie.

The crust is dry or burnt or flavorless more often then it is not. The filling has a tendency to be overly sweet, mushy or it tastes like the fruit is from a can that’s been hanging out in the back of the pantry, saved in case of apocalypse or something worse – like seriously not having anything else to eat and you’re on the verge of starvation.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of pie.

EXCEPT when it’s my grandma’s pie (cliche, I know).
I swear though, nobody does pie better than my grandma, Pauline.


Maybe it’s because she grew up on a farm full of fruit orchards in Canada with a big family full of hungry boys, and nothing warms you up like a hearty slice of pie in cold weather.

Maybe she makes such gosh darn good pie because when she grew up she went and had a big family (this time full of girls) and worked as a nurse so making pie was a good way to unwind after a long day of work and taking care of all her little ones.

Maybe, it’s cause now her 5 kids have all grown up and gotten married and had tons of babies themselves and the staple of every family gathering are Grandma’s pies.

Basically has had to stay on her pie game her whole life.

I have been thinking lately though, that if my grandma can make excellent pie, then maybe I can too. I might just have that pie making gene stowed somewhere in me.

She makes a most wonderful apple pie, a mouthwatering crusty and crispy pecan pie, pumpkin pie with filling so smooth and topped with leaf shaped crust pieces that will make you squeal with delight, but my absolute favorite pie is her rhubarb.

Rhubarb is divinely unique and not the most common of pies, its bitter when uncooked but addicting and tart when cooked and is absolutely positutely my favorite of Grandma’s pies.

So, while I was in LA for a few days for my dad’s birthday I cornered my granny with a pie cutter and said “Lady, you better give me your recipe for Rhubarb pie or I’ll slice you and put you in a pie!”

OMG I’M TOTALLY KIDDING

It really went more like this “Granny, you make the best pie in the whole gosh darn world, would you share your most delectable recipe for Rhubarb pie so that I may continue the family tradition.” Then granny smiled with her adorable, non-dentured, smile and said “Oh of course, honey girl!” That’s what she calls me, honey girl. I love my grandma.

Sidenote: I incidentally recently painted my kitchen table a color named “Rhubarb” and while slicing the stalks for the pie I decided to gauge just how well it matched

God damn that’s a match!

Moving on

What you’ll need:

For the most buttery and flaky crust:

2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little extra for rolling

1 stick of butter, cubed and frozen

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

8 Tbs water, ice cold

For the luscious filling:

5 cups Rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 1/4 cup sugar, I used brown sugar

1/4 cup cornstart

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 Tbs butter

What to do with it:

For the crust:

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor and lightly pulse

Gradually add in the cubed frozen butter. I’ve learned that frozen butter is the secret to excellent pie crust. Pulse until the butter hunks are the size of your pinky nail

Now add the water, 1 Tbs at a time keeping watch of the dough’s consistency (flour has different absorbancy levels, so while I needed all 8 Tbs, you may only need 6 or 7). You want the dough to just stick together when you press it together between your fingers

Take the dough and squish it on the counter under your hands to break up the butter a little more to encourage that, oh so, desirable flaky crust

When you’re done smushing it around roll it into a ball and cut in 2 pieces then form those into 2 flat patties

Dust the two pieces with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and set to chill in the fridge for a little more than an hour

Once the hour is up, take out and let them soften for about 5 minutes…chill and then soften? I know, just do it

Take a floured rolling pin and roll out one patty on a floured surface until it is about a foot across, the edges don’t have to be perfect as you will be trimming them anyway

Fold in half and place inside your baking dish, I used my cast iron skillet since I don’t actually have a pie pan

Gently unfold to fill the pan and press into the edges

For the filling:

Preheat oven to 425

Place chopped Rhubarb into pie crust

Mix together sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and lemon juice in a bowl

Drizzle over rhubarb and gently mix around with your hands to coat

Dab with pieces of butter

Cover with the other patty of crust, that’s been rolled out, of course

You can cover the pie in a few ways, the coverall method in which case you would slit holes in the top to allow it to breath

OR the rustic way where you cut the rolled out dough into 1 inch strips and weave it – that’s what I chose to do

If you opt for this method just pinch the ends together with the bottom crust to close it off

*DON’T do what I did and forget to add 1 cup of the sugar – the copy of the recipe my granny gave me is old so the 1 1/4 cup sugar looked like just 1/4 cup. So there I was thinking to myself “God, who says pie is unhealthy, there’s only a 1/4 of a cup of sugar!” And anyone who has had unsweetened rhubarb can imagine my surprise when I first sampled a teeny bit of the filling through the pie crust. So there I was with an almost baked pie that was pretty nasty. In the event you did do that here’s the fix: take the extra 1 cup and mix with the tiniest amount of water to make it pasty and painstakingly drip it through the slots of the pie top. Then slosh the pie around with enough force to mix the filling, but not spill it. It’s an art, my friends, and I am here to say that I think I have mastered it.

The conclusion: The pie was delicious, the filling had texture and was tart yet sweet, and crust that wasn’t dry, overall a huge pie success for my first time.

But there’s just something about grandma’s pie.

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Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Sometimes I think we take the carbs in our lives for granted. Breads, crackers, chips, ect. They are always there when we need them, they last for a considerable amount of time, come in a multitude of flavors and pair nicely with TONS of stuff.

So, this post goes out to the crackers of the world. I salute you and your ability to accompany cheese so delightfully.

But first, let me introduce you to someone special. Someone that I rarely get to spend time with due to distance and my busy schedule when I do come into town.

I’d like you all to meet my mother’s Kitchen Aid Mixer.

It’s big, blue, and beautiful and my mother has adorned it with a many fantastic attachments.

If anyone was to ever bestow upon me this fine piece of machinery, I very well might die of excitement. I just don’t know what color I would want yet…mint green, royal purple, copper? With over 20 different colors how is a girl ever supposed to choose!?

I would surely feel the need to buy every attachment as well; the pasta maker, the meat grinder, the ice cream bowl, the citrus juicer, the ravioli maker. Yea, Kitchen Aid would make a lot of money off of me.

Anyway, moving on.

Crackers. I don’t make a habit of keeping them in my house. But they are one of those things I have always wanted to make myself.

I thought to myself, if I’m gonna take the time to make crackers, they are gonna be fancier. Personally, I think that anything containing fresh herbs are automatically elegant. And, as you may know, I adore anything with cheese.

Parmesan Thyme Shortbread Crackers seem to fit the bill.

Adapted from: Ina Garten

Makes about 46 crackers

What you’ll need:

2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temp

6 ounces finely grated Parmesan Cheese

2 1/2 cups Flour

1/2 tsp. Salt

2 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves, chopped

1 tsp. Black Pepper

1 Tbs. water*

What to do with it:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Mix butter with an electric mixer or a hand mixer until creamy

2. Add in the Parmesan, then the Thyme, salt and pepper

3. Slowly add the flour 1/4 cups at a time

*if the dough seems a bit dry, add water

4. Flour a cutting board and when the dough has been well incorporated place it on the board and divide into 2 evenly sized mounds

5. Roll into 9 inch long logs (2 logs total)

6. Wrap each in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 25-30 minutes to firm

7. Take out of the freezer, unwrap and cut the dough into 1/4-1/2 inch slices with a very sharp knife. I got about 23 crackers per log

8. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven. For a moister, breadier cracker, bake for 24 minutes, for a drier, crisper cracker about 32 minutes. Check on them all the while, I wanted my crackers to develop some extra color, so I left them for the 32 minutes.

Put a little salami on top for a protein filled snack

Smear a little cream cheese over it and top with a baby sprig of thyme for a creamy and cooling afternoon treat.

Or because I know you all to be crafty little foodies, make both of them, turn ’em in on each other and have a mini meat and cheese sandwich.

These crackers are herbaceous and savory and wonderful and addicting and light (despite the butter) and unique and a crowd pleaser.

So make them. You won’t regret it.

Blueberry Scones

Up until recently, I have not been a big breakfast person.

I love cereal, but usually in the afternoon, or as a midnight snack.

The typical breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, and hash browns followed by an overwhelming food coma is a rare occurrence for me.

It was really only after doing my raw food challenge that I discovered the beauty of raw overnight oats and have since incorporated Greek yogurt, nuts, almond flour, and berries into the mix. Some variation of this is now my breakfast staple. I love the crunch of the nuts and oats, the bright tartness of the berries and the rich and filling creaminess of the Greek yogurt.

Isn’t it just gorgeous?

BUT something must be said about a breakfast pastry every once in a while. Not the overly decadent ones with globs of glaze or doughnuts that have sprinkles or Lucky Charms adhered to the top.

Although sometimes pastries like this Apple Pecan Bun with a maple glaze is much appreciated.

No, no, I talking about a good old fashioned pastry, like a scone.

A blueberry scone, to be exact.

Perhaps a scone with a fantastic blueberry goat cheese spread.

Yes, that’s my kind of pastry.

I adapted this recipe from my homegirl, Martha Stewart, ’cause sometimes, nobody does it better than Martha.

What you’ll need:

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling tops

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/3 cup low fat milk (2%)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Here’s what you do with it:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In a bowl, mix together flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, and salt

Make the work easier by cutting up the butter into small pieces and incorporate

Then toss in your blueberries and zest

In a separate bowl, whisk together cream and egg

Slowly incorporate your wet mixture into your dry mixture

Stir lightly with fork just until dough comes together

Place mixture onto a floured cutting board and knead gently a few times

*I opted to make round scones by scooping out a heaping tablespoon of batter onto a baking sheet

Brush tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar

Bake for 20-22 minutes

 

Aren’t they beautiful?

Now, onto the spread!

These are rough measurements, but basically:

4-5 oz goat cheese, softened

3/4 cup blueberries

Release the days frustrations on these blueberries, squishing them in your hands letting the juice drip onto the goat cheese

Then scrap the peels and seeds off your hands and add that to the cheese

Mix together with a spoon

That’s it

Spread generously on top of your cooled halved scones

Yea, they were perfection in the morning.

And in true breakfast food form, I ate them in the afternoon, and at midnight too.

What’s your favorite breakfast, pastry and otherwise?

Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting

Hey all!

Remember a few days ago when I posted that wonderful goat cheese pasta salad? Well, I made a promise to you guys that I would be posting the sweet yin to the savory yang of my goat cheese feast with Sohini and Kati.

This is me making good on that promise to ya’ll.

I present to you: Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting!

What? OMG? Is this real?

Yup, they happened.

I can’t take all the credit, cause that would be wrong. The recipe is one that I found on Saveur’s website, but Sohini and I tweaked the frosting a tad.

For the Cupcakes:

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

6 tbsp. cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup hot coffee

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg

You may notice, there is no butter in these cupcakes.

What?

No butter?

But, Kristina, you love butter!

Yea, I love butter, but hey, sometimes you can do without.

For the Frosting:

5 oz. cream cheese, softened

3 oz. goat cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Andddd, you can add a whole vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and scraped if you want, but Sohini’s vanilla bean happened to be really dry and it snapped in half while we were trying to scrape it, so we scraped the idea.

Let me tell ya, the frosting still tasted FANTASTIC.

What to do for the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line cupcake trays

Whisk together all dry ingredients

Add in the coffee, oil and milk

After that is well incorporated, then you can add the vanilla extract and eggs

Bake cupcakes for 20-22 minutes

Let cool

What to do for the frosting:

Beat cream cheese and goat cheese together with an electric mixer, or a very strong arm, until light and fluffy

Add powdered sugar, 1/2 at a time

Once your cuppy cakes have cooled enough, slap that frosting on!

I didn’t have a pastry bag, so I just used a ziplock with the tip cut off

I think goat cheese frosting is my brand new favorite frosting. Its SOOOOOO much tastier than just cream cheese frosting. Don’t get me wrong, I love cream cheese frosting, but the goat cheese lightened up the frosting just enough to not be overwhelming or too sweet.

Yea, these cupcakes were devoured.

Bake-off Part I: Samoa Cupcakes

As a former Girl Scout (Troop 662, you did me so right!), I was ecstatic when my baking buddy Sohini found a recipe that simulated the glory that is a Samoa cookie. I am a firm believer that Girl Scout cookies should be sold year round, wouldn’t the profit margins be larger? (I know quite a few people whose waistlines would be also) Oh well, until the Scouts come to their senses I have this recipe to simulate the trifecta that is chocolate, caramel and coconut.

The recipe is from a fellow food blogger who I must admit is a way better baker than I. I already have a few of her recipes bookmarked and cannot wait to try them all.

Now as evidenced by the rainbow cake entry, when Sohini and I bake we essentially lock ourselves in the kitchen and go on a baking binge of sorts cooking 2, 3, or 4 recipes in a night.

The Samoas Cupcakes was phase one of this bake-off. Phase two was Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. Chocolate covered Bacon was beyond entertaining as phase three and we finished off the night with Brown Sugar Sprinkled Blueberry Muffins. Obviously more on those later.

After a hefty shopping spree at Safeway we headed home to begin our adventure. We wanted to start the cupcakes first since they were the most time consuming out of the evenings recipe list. Mostly though, I think we just couldn’t wait to taste the finished product.

First up, the actual cupcake. This was the first time I included sour cream into a cake and I was a little skeptical. Let me reassure anyone who shared my concerns, they were the moistest most delicious tasting chocolate cupcakes I have ever eaten in my whole life.

While we assembled and divided the ingredients up, the oven was preheated to 350 degrees and the cupcake trays were lined with a mix of fabulous little silver wrappers and sports themed wrappers – for variety.

I want to apologize in advance for the poorer quality photos. I took a few photos and then my camera died, I was at Sohini’s house and didn’t have my charger with me so we used her iPhone because it had a flash. Please bear with me.

The first thing you want to do is combine 1 cup sour cream and 1 teaspoon baking soda in a small bowl

In another bowl sift and combine 2 cups flour and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, like the sour cream set this bowl aside. It day in the sun is coming.

In yet another bowl mix together 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar

The butter is glowing, like the holy gift it is.

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