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Cookery Bookshelf Recipes

Pumpkin Pie

If someone asked you the question, Are you a cook or a baker, the answer comes quickly for most. I am and always will be a cook first—I like the tactile process of tweaking along the way, tasting until a dish is just right. For a long time I didn’t think there was a baker inside of me. Two things changed that: my sourdough starter, Salvatore, and Kate McDermott. Kate and I met in New Orleans at IFBC years ago. After that food conference, I sought out her blog and discovered a post she wrote about her neighbor Sadie, a story that started me on the road to finding my inner baker. She wrote, “In her gentle way, she taught me that baking from the heart always tastes best, even if it doesn’t turn out quite like the picture in the magazine.” The post and quote made me rethink everything I had ever presumed about baking and question when Kate would write a book about her unfussy perspective on pies and baking.

And, what a book it is. Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott features photography from New York Times food photographer Andrew Scrivani. Each photo is a work of art, shot by my photography mentor numero uno, Andrew. It’s fitting really that they bring this book to pass—I loved seeing him and Kate collaborate on her first cookbook knowing that they’ve collaborated at food photography and baking events and share a deep friendship that I think comes across in the styling of the images. Rumor had it there was even a music jam in between shooting this cookbook.

I’ve been waiting over a year to share this book with you. Art of the Pie, the book, is the only pie book you will ever need. I know that sounds like a grand statement and you might think I am biased, but I’m not. Kate and I are friends, but I’m going to support my bold statement with examples.

Kate writes like a cooking teacher, bringing her decade plus experience of pie teaching (from Pie Camp!) into well-written recipe instructions that are specific, informative, with a touch of personality, as if she is with you when you are baking. Art of the Pie includes helpful sidebar conversations for the pie baker such as “lemon vs. vinegar” (p. 153) and a method for rendering your own leaf lard (p. 334). She calls herself a “pie-chiatrist” with rule number one on her tips for baking and life is to “Keep Everything Chilled, Especially Yourself.” That kind of no-nonsense attitude courses throughout the book. Baking pie is a small act of kindness: Kate invites you to do a Pie-By (p. 229) and offers tips for hosting a Pie Potluck (p.227).

But let’s start at the beginning. Have you ever made your own pie dough? Do you find it perplexing? Does your pie dough shrink or is it brittle rather than delicate under the fork? If you’ve never made pie crust from scratch before, it’s time and you’re in good hands with Art of the Pie. The section describing how to roll out pie dough is affectionately entitled, “Techniques and Tricks that Let the Good Pies Roll,” where she encourages the reader to “Look forward to rolling rather than fearing it.” (p. 43) She breaks the science behind how to nail a flaky dough every time with process photos along the way showing how the dough looks from start to finish. You will find not one but 10 pie crust recipes in the book—that’s not counting the graham cracker-style crusts, and of those 10, a handful are gluten-free (like Kate), and one is vegan and gluten-free.

Assembled less by season and more by pie style, an entire chapter is devoted to Apple Pie with an extensive list of varietals and their flavor profiles as well as a notation for when they are in season. Next spring, I’m going to snag rhubarb during its short window to bake a Rhuberry Bluebarb Pie (p 255). This winter, I’m making a plan for Cranberry Pie (p. 236). As soon as the lemons on my tree ripen to yellow, I’m eyeing the Shaker Lemon Pie (p.264). Next year will be the year for Nectarine Pie (p.228) and there’s a fairly strong possibility that Grasshopper Pie (p. 275) will sub in as birthday cake this year. The Cottage Pie from the savory chapter gets is requested when it’s cold out—I turn it into a Shepherd Pie (ground lamb instead of beef) and we love her brilliant addition of cheddar mixed into the mashed potatoes topping the meat.

But I know why you’re here. Last year, I hosted my first Thanksgiving feast, baking Art of the Pie Pecan Pie (p. 294) and Pumpkin Pie (p. 296). Before that day I was a charter member of team Pecan Pie. The only way I liked Pumpkin Pie was in my Curry Pumpkin Hand Pies. So, I’d never eaten traditional-style Pumpkin Pie quite like Kate’s before. There was a supple luscious quality to the custard that usually is so sturdy. The secret ingredient, in my opinion is the light coconut milk. It skips the rich dense filling heavy cream brings on with just enough eggs to hold it together. This pie is a marvel and the light coconut milk doesn’t make the pie taste coconutty. But don’t take my word on it. There’s still time to make this the Pumpkin Pie at  Thanksgiving. Or, plan a Pie-By, as Kate might nudge, a twinkle in her eye, leaving a warm pie stealthily on the porch of an unsuspecting friend for whom you are grateful.

art of the pie pumpkin pie - anneliesz

Art of the Pie Pumpkin Pie

The single-crust pie dough recipe called out below is in Art of the Pie but you could always use store-bought shells if you’re in a pinch for Thanksgiving. Rather than topping it with freshly whipped cream, I like this with a scoop of Greek yogurt. If you have someone attending who is gluten-free head over to her gluten-free pie crust.

(Reprinted with permission: Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott, published by The Countryman Press, 2016.)

Makes One 9-Inch Shallow Pie
 

1 recipe single-crust pie dough

3 eggs, lightly beaten

One 15-ounce can (about 2 cups or 245 grams) pumpkin

1 cup canned light coconut milk or evaporated milk

¾ cup (150 grams) sugar (equal parts white and packed brown sugar)

½ teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1 teaspoon (2 grams) cinnamon

1 teaspoon (2 grams) ginger

¼ teaspoon (.25 gram) freshly ground nutmeg

A tiny pinch of clove

 
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Roll out a pie shell and place it in a pie pan. Trim excess dough from the edges and crimp. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until they are light-colored and fluffy. Stir in the pumpkin, coconut milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour the filling into the pan. Place the pie in the oven and turn down immediately to 375°F. Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and set on a rack to cool completely.

Categories
Recipes

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pies

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pie | The Food Poet_6757

Sometimes great truths come at the most inauspicious of times. Other times, like a thunderbolt, they strike with all ingredients in place. Last week, we had one of our first real fantastic rainfalls. Usually in San Francisco, the kind of moisture we are used to involves a dripping of the great faucet in the sky or the tiny droplets of mist in the fog we claim as our own and have thus named Karl. But this day, the skies shone brightly above, a steel grey hue that streaked our windows with lashes. I woke up with a chill I couldn’t quite shake. My hands felt like ice pops minus the wooden popsicle sticks.

That’s when the thunderclap nailed me with the force of its power. Right there, in my kitchen, I was struck with revelation. Cold hands can only mean one thing: it’s time to make pie.

You see, I have had several pie teachers in my life, both of whom I admire for their tenacity as much as I cherish any time I get to spend with them. Their joy trickles over into the work of their hands and their breadth of tutelage extends far from their home bases. Both Kate and Evan will eagerly say that your hands are your most important tool in making pie crust and just as vehemently will caution not touching the dough too much lest they warm it up. Cold hands remedy all of that and I’m starting to wonder if they might be endowed upon people like a spiritual non-spiritual gift. Pie heals people.

Case in point one: I attended a baby shower where each guest was instructed to bring a onesie for a game that is probably much more fun in theory than it is in practice as the befuddled mother stares from one onesie down at the whole cavalcade of partygoers trying to guess who gave what. Unless you think in navy blue polka dots or black tutus when you look at your friends, it can be a challenging feat. My onesie had developed a golden hue with a crusty disposition and just enough curry to make things interesting in the world of pumpkin pie land. While her soon-to-be newborn might be able to wear all of those onesies, my friend could nosh on the onesie I had bequeathed, a win in my book.

Case in point two: I bagged up several duets of mini pumpkin curry hand pies on Sunday morning with a clear mission of playing the part of pie delivery girl, using the same rules that apply to those who deliver flowers. First up, our friend Thomas was rolling his grocery cart away from the patch of street where he sleeps. I hopped out of the car and handed him the small bag of warm pies, telling him that Beck and I are thankful for him. It gave me joy to see him gobbling away at one of them as we pulled away, reminding me of my baking oath I’ve planted in my heart to pepper him with baked goods.

Next, at church, with my remaining bag I had to think carefully about where the two remaining pies would go. Thankfully, both intended recipients were present. I snuck one into Martha’s hands, as I told her how thankful I am for our friendship, and then later to Sara, whose pastry prowess and deep wisdom make me grateful. When we returned home, I bagged up some more, already deeply rooted in this new mission of mine. I attempted to deliver some to my favorite barista, but found he had already left for the day and thus, wound my way over to my favorite bookseller, delivering them to her with the proclamation that yes, I am thankful for her, even if my wallet isn’t.

Cold hands paired with warming spices created this series of thanksgivings. Really, though, I’m of the mind that we don’t or perhaps, I don’t tell the people I care about that one word which can sometimes supplant or work in tandem with that oft-ignored four letter word. To give thanks for someone is to recognize something intrinsic within them of value. While, I too am looking forward to the dinner table decked out in the usual suspects later this week, it’s never too early or too late to tell people you’re thankful for them. So, reader, wherever you are, I’m holding hands out to you. Inside them is a golden flaky hand pie, its steam releasing a subtle spice into the air. I am so thankful for you too.

Mini Pumpkin Curry Pies

MINI PUMPKIN CURRY PIES

One portion of the double pie crust recipe linked below makes 12 hand pies. Since you have enough filling to stuff 24 hand pies, I would suggest making two batches of the double pie crust. In your planning for pie-making using the method in the link, I recommend putting a small bowl with water in the freezer at the same time you put the large bowl in the refrigerator. This freezes the water into ice. What I have done that works marvelously well when setting up pie crust mise en place is to run some cold water over the frozen water. This ensures the water you are working with is as cold as can be, which you will need for making your pie crust. Also, another variation of mine from the pie crust method is to cut the butter into cubes before integrating it with  flour as it makes it easier to crumble with your fingers. I use a biscuit cutter to cut out the rounds which works like a charm. PS- Kate worked on this pie crust recipe for two and a half years, but it only takes you a short time to make fresh dough from scratch and is ridiculously easy. Trust me and try it if you’ve never made it by hand before.

YIELD: 24 pie rounds
INGREDIENTS

2 batches of Double pie crust

11 oz. pumpkin puree

¼ teaspoon curry powder

1 egg

¼ cup dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Set a small bowl with cold water to the side.

Prep your pie dough. While it sets up in the refrigerator covered for 30 minutes, begin assembling the pumpkin puree. In the bowl of a food processor, spoon the pumpkin puree (or roasted sugar pumpkin chunks to make puree). Add the curry powder, egg, brown sugar, cream, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Pulse until combined and smooth.

Sprinkle your workspace with flour and bring out one of the pie dough disks. With a rolling pin, push down and toward you from the middle of the disk. Then place the pin in the middle again and roll up. Now, turn the dough disk and repeat the roll out method. Keep turning and rolling until it’s about ¼ inch thick.

With a biscuit cutter, begin cutting out circles and place them on the parchment paper. In the center of each circle spoon a level teaspoon of the pumpkin filling. Dip your index finger into the cold water and trace your finger along the edge of the pie dough round. Place another pie dough round on top and crimp the edges at four alternate ends, working your finger around the periphery to bind them together. Press down on the edges of the pie round with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes until golden brown. Place them on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before devouring.

Categories
Recipes

Pumpkin Cream Pie

There is so much to be thankful for.

Many kids love the gifts that Christmas brings, but from a young age, I found myself enchanted with Thanksgiving. It quickly became my favorite holiday. This might have had something to do with the food. It might have had something to do with family. It might have had something to do with giving thanks. And on several occasions it had to do with friends from college joining our family table. My aunts regularly hosted the holiday at their different homes and I remember early mornings awoken by the smell of turkey roasting in the oven. Hours sitting at the table and the card games that transpired the evening before with my cousin are delicately carved in my memory too. Then there were the years we had family from Mexico join us, which was such a special occasion. Every year gave me new reasons to look forward to Thanksgiving.

Being a newlywed, we had the delight of venturing up north to be with Nathan’s family on Wednesday night. My second year with them, I have enjoyed my role of sous chef to his mom’s executive chef. Thursday morning, we set a cheerful table with gourds running the gamut of the table’s spine and handwritten table cards with everyone’s names. We set out red wine glasses that sparkled alongside dessert wine glasses. In the kitchen, we prepped Brussels sprouts and rinsed the salted turkey.

Nathan and I took a mid-morning walk around town, taking in the crisp November air that has recently fallen on the Bay Area in the form of a cold snap. Arm-in-arm we traipsed over railroad tracks and past the one open grocery store. We walked past the sun high in the sky illuminating the yellow-bleached ginkgo leaves flapping like small flags in the wind. Our first Thanksgiving as an old married couple was shaping up to be something spectacular.

This year, I had the pleasure of dessert duty and made two pies. I love being responsible for dessert because it’s done ahead of time and gives me time to help out with other items best suited day-of, and as described above. I had seen the Pumpkin Cream Pie recipe on Shutterbean’s blog last week and found it intriguing. Despite my love of pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie has never been one that holds me rapt with attention. I get that it’s a tradition and thus like opportunities to riff on that tradition. I would say this is a keeper of a recipe and of course, leave it to Martha Stewart to get it right. My aunt B’s pecan pie- this is what always brought me to the dessert table. Perhaps it’s because I’m from the Southwest where we name rivers “Nueces” and such, pecans run in our blood. I hunted around online for an acceptable Pecan Pie recipe and happily found the one that will be my go-to from here on out at Simply Recipes. As Elise describes it there, “it’s not too sweet” and while I do love the Pecan Pie, they can sometimes taste cloyingly sweet. Beck’s sister brought a cheesecake with raisin crust which was tasty. As you can see, we had a dearth of treats.

We noshed on hors d’oeuvres of shrimp and rosemary marcona almonds, an array of crackers and a parmesan artichoke heart dip with olive tapenade. We started our festivities sipping leftover champagne from the wedding- as if extending that one party into this celebration- fantastic. One of Nathan’s sister’s prepared a salad with pomegranate seeds and toasted walnuts, dressed in a pomegranate reduction sauce. Onto the bird, her husband skillfully carved it with the help of the iphone. It sat alongside mashed root vegetables with garlic panko breading, a sourdough dried fruit & fig stuffing, a sweet potato banana side dish made famous by Tyler Florence for a reason and our Brussels Sprouts. With a three mushroom gravy and two kinds of cranberry- orange relish and brandied berries, we were set!  Shared with new family and friends, what a feast it was.Their tradition of going around the table and sharing what each person is thankful for after the meal and before dessert is a tradition I look forward to continuing with my family. We wined and dined well into the evening, our time drunk with laughter, stories, jokes and the ribbing of siblings and family members.

When you lose someone you love, pausing to remember those you love who are no longer with you is normal and good. Giving thanks for them is even better. And after you’ve allowed yourself to go there, you can come back to present day thankfulness for people who are still with you. I am incredibly grateful for new family coalescing with my consanguineal.  Our first Thanksgiving married, it remains a day to look forward to. After all,

There is so much to be thankful for.

DESSERT RECIPES- Pumpkin Cream Pie

 

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PUMPKIN CREAM PIE
Adapted from Martha Stewart

FOR THE PUMPKIN CREAM FILLING

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin (from one 15-ounce can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whisked to medium peaks
  • Frozen whole wheat pie crust
  • Garnish: freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Bake pie crust.
  2. While pie crust bakes, make the pumpkin cream filling: Bring milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks with cornstarch and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Gradually whisk about 1/2 cup milk mixture into yolk mixture. Gradually whisk in remaining milk mixture. Return entire mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbling in center, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately whisk in pumpkin. Whisk in butter.
  5. Strain filling through a fine sieve into a clean bowl. Pour into baked pie crust, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. When ready to serve, top with whipped cream, and garnish with nutmeg.

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Our Pecan Pie

 

Categories
Poetry

Giving Thanks & an Elegy by Yehuda Amichai

Many people give up on poetry.

They think it does not have anything to say to them after high school English class. Perhaps, they think, it is for a certain social tier or for people who have time. I’m not sure of the why, but one of the when’s of their return to poetry can often involve death. People hobble their way back to poetry when a loss has occurred. Maybe it’s to find that one poem to be read at the Memorial service that will speak a syllable of the shock and awe and numbness in which they have found themselves of late.

There are several forms of poems that evoke loss through content and style. Style-wise, it’s something that fascinates me- it’s the show without needing to tell. Then there’s the lovely elegy. An elegy is defined as “a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead.” Mary Jo Bang writes a strong poem to convince the reader of “The Role of Elegy.”

Thanksgiving approaches stealthily this year. There is so much to be thankful for. I tell myself that when I’m feeling it down to the marrow of my bones. I tell myself that when I’m hunkering down in solitude, alone with my thoughts in a room full of people, a dissonant note.

I went to a class two Sundays ago at church on spiritual perspectives of depression. For weeks, I’d seen the blurb out of the corner of my eye and toyed around with the possibility of attending. Maybe I’d learn something. But maybe I’d moved on and didn’t need to go to a class like that. After all, my Jewish grief support group is buoy and rope for all of us involved. Maybe depression was a phase of grief I had graduated from entirely. I had begun feeling invigorated and alive after the wedding, excited about the future and more excited about the present. But then it hit me again.

Thud.

His laugh, that trill his voice took when he called my name in a sing-song tone. The koala face he would make when he held his breath, puffed his cheeks, pulled on his ears and kind of went cross-eyed. The sage words. The secure steel of his arms wrapped around me. Nothing to replace that…

And the thing is you can try but nothing will replace them. After someone you love dies, you get to live through many firsts without them. Nothing diminishes that ache of loss, though I hear love, time and in my case, God sure make it better. In that class on depression, the speaker a Dr. Sullender, charged that often people encountering depression find themselves uplifted by gratitude. It’s an interesting idea and makes sense really. Thinking of the things you are thankful for, said another way, “what you have” turns your back on (what you don’t have) the things bogging you down.

He countered the idea of depression as being particularly special by citing numerous people who were depressed for a stint of time caused by loss, not just those instances where depression requires medicinal assistance. Did you know it’s the second most cited mental affliction in the United States today, second to addiction? Did you know three Saturdays ago was National Survivors of Suicide day? Grief tends to find a friend in depression, at least for a time.

Last year I didn’t go home for the holiday. Maybe I did the year before that, memory is time’s fool. I found myself visiting Beck’s parent’s house for the first time. I found myself ensconced in the guest room for a pocket of time describing the kind of Thanksgiving we were about to embark on to my dad. I found myself saying I love you right before hitting the end button on the call.

You can never say I love you enough.

I remember making a salad one year for Thanksgiving, trying to share a bit of that part of me so enthralled by taste and flavor with him. He had tried the pomegranate seeds floating between leaves of arugula and liked it. The “rabbit food” he usually abhorred, had this time tasted delightful…

I received word that my Dad’s half-brother Oom Kees passed away a week ago today. Upon reading those words in my email inbox, I promptly sought to bury my head in the sand and be an ostrich for a day. The news made me increasingly tired but found me up late that night with insomnia. It may seem odd, but I processed this information through a lens of how my Dad might. I knew he would be deeply saddened. It really made the pang of wanting to talk with him sharp. That desire to talk doesn’t go away. Instead, often what you get is a gnawing sense of something not quite right with the world anymore. Even in the best and most dizzyingly high moments, you can’t quite put your finger on what might be casting a pallor making the great good. And then it hits you anew.

Sometimes you want to hear that things are going to be okay, even though you now know they don’t go back to the way they looked beforehand, which doesn’t mean they can’t be good. They just won’t be the same and frankly neither will you. I would charge you to be gentle and kind and patient with yourself as you sort out what you are all about after a major death. Take it as my from me to you.

Taking the idea brought on by Dr. Sullender, I’ve crafted my thankfulness list. What would yours include?

To be thankful in the loss and thankful for the living before it and that which comes after.

To be thankful for an engagement and thankful for the wedding nine months hence.

To be thankful of embracing old family and thankful to say ours not yours or mine.

To be thankful for the strangers cum friends, friends cum family, thankful for arms, sound, silence.

To be thankful for the time given and thankful to ungrip when the going needs to be let.

To be thankful for a mom, a dad, cousins, aunts, thankful for love spoken in three languages.

There is so much to be thankful for.

I picked up my dog-eared tome of Yehuda Amichai given to me by one of my poetry mentors. My dad would have liked the earthiness, the lust for life of this Israeli poet. Maybe he would have seen the magical realism of the one culture speaking and informing the other. The us instead of the them. I miss my Dad this Thanksgiving but I will choose to give thanks for his rich life and that I got to share part of it.

So here’s a poem from Amichai with a bit of an elegiac timbre to it, in honor of my Dad. In it, Amichai’s resolution to the loss of the beloved is personal and direct. It is a one-sided conversation of letting go and remembrance entertwined.

In the Middle of This Century

Yehuda Amichai
Translated, Stephen Mitchell

In the middle of this century we turned to each other
with half face and full eyes
like an ancient Egyptian painting
and for a short time.

I stroked your hair in a direction opposite to your journey,
we called out to each other
As people call out the names of the cities they don’t stop in
along the road.

Beautiful is the world that wakes up early for evil,
beautiful is the world that falls asleep to sin and mercy,
in the profanity of our being together, you and I.
Beautiful is the world.

The earth drinks people and their loves
like wine, in order to forget. It won’t be able to.
And like the contours of the Judean mountains,
we also won’t find a resting-place.

In the middle of this century we turned to each other.
I saw your body, casting the shadow, waiting for me.
The leather straps of a long journey
had long since been tightened crisscross on my chest.
I spoke in praise of your mortal loins,

you spoke in praise of my transient face,
I stroked your hair in the direction of your journey,
I touched the tidings of your last day,
I touched your hand that has never slept,
I touched your mouth that now, perhaps, will sing.

Desert dust covered the table
we hadn’t eaten from.
But with my finger I wrote in it the letters of your name.