Monday, July 20, 2009

The Further Value of Tools

The lesson learned this weekend is to never ever make a cherry pie without first investing in a cherry pitter.
I opted to go for the simple standby of Betty Crocker's cherry pie recipe.
This calls for six cups of pitted cherries if you are using fresh ones. I wasn't actually sure how many cherries six cups would be so I guessed. I ended up buying about three and a half pound of cherries which was the perfect amount actually to fill my pie dish.
Having gotten the cherries home it was time to pit them. I have never pitted cherries in my life. I figured the internet that keeper of all secrets would have the answer for how to easily take the pits out of cherries. In fact there are a multitude of different suggestions for how to do this without an actual cherry pitter. While I'm sure that some people may find these suggestions helpful, I failed at each and every one. First I tried a paring knife then I tried a method where you press down on the flat part of the cherry and it is supposed to split open. I got out a paperclip which according to many of the internet sages is the best way to do it. Thankfully I was making pie and not trying to keep the cherries whole because the process I end up with was just ripping them open and pulling the pits out. Every website I looked at did warn that this was not going to be a process that could be done without mess. Boy were they right. By the time I got through all of those cherries my arms were covered nearly up to my shoulders in cherry juice, my flip flops and feet were covered, the dog had licked up more cherry juice from the floor than I want to think about and there were cherry stems everywhere. I stopped keeping track of how long it took me to pull all those pits out, but it was way longer than I have the patience to do again.
Of course since I have next to now counter space whatsoever all of this had to be cleaned up before I could roll out the pie dough. That was quick and easy this time and I opted for a real lattice top this time around.

And after the pie came out of the oven it turns out it was quite tasty. I'm still not sure how I feel about the texture of the cherries and next time I might actually chop them up smaller. I'd also add more flour or corn starch as it was still a bit too juicy of a pie. If I decide to do it again it will be after the purchase of a cherry pitter.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Which We Start to Learn the Value of Tools

Cherries are in season and cheap at the fruit and veggie place near my apartment so I decided to make a fresh cherry pie. This is somewhat strange as I don't actually like cherries all that much. On the other hand I do like cherry flavored things, and I remember that I used to like the cherry pie filling that came from a can when I made hamentaschen as a child. Plus I've decided its time to branch out a bit further with the fruit pies.

I decided to run errands before the pie baking and so spent the afternoon at Target ostensibly to buy dog food (which I did, and hauled the giant bag back on the bus) but as with any trip to Target I get inevitably drawn to the kitchen and home sections. On this particular trip to the Back to School section (which does seem a tad bit premature to be thinking about since it is only mid-July) had opened up and I spent time with the office supplies and indulging my nostalgia for Trapper Keepers, Lisa Frank and new boxes of Crayloa crayons, but I digress.

The kitchen gadget wall can occupy for if not quite as long as the one at Crate and Barrel, at least quite some time. I'd been idly thinking about actually getting real baking tools and I was eying the pastry blender. Up to this point I've been cutting butter into the flour for the pie crust with my hands. Now the nice thing about that is that it makes it really easy to be sure you're getting to the right consistency and also there is a theraputic element to squashing chunks of butter with your fingers. However given that I have tendonitis problems in my hands this does sometimes get a bit painful. I was pretty determined to not spend any unneccessary money at Target so I walked away. Then I saw this on the clearance shelf, so for $3.48 I now own a pastry blender. And when I went to make the pie dough, it was so easy and so quick, I might rethink my desire for a food processor.

So this is my new toy:

What I should have also bought was a cherry pitter...but that is a story for another blog post.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Smile, It's Pie

I meant to make a smiley face, but it looks sort of like angry sadistically grinning pie, but oh well.

I had to use up the pastry dough that was in the fridge from the last pie I made otherwise it would have gone bad. Steak was on sale, so I thought I'd use up the mushrooms and celery in my fridge and make a steak and mushroom pie. Last time I did a steak pie I used Guinness and roughly followed Jamie Oliver's Steak Guinness and Cheddar pie recipe. It was pretty good, but on the whole I don't actually love the flavor of Guinness even in cooking. So this time I decided to make up the pie recipe.

So more or less:

Brown about 1/2 lb of steak with 1 small leek and 1 shallot in a tiny bit of vegetable oil and garlic
salt and pepper
2 stalks of celery
approx. a package of white mushrooms (I finished the one in the fridge and used about three of the supersized mushrooms that came in the package I bought today, I think I'll stuff the rest of them).
I added some frozen pea and carrot mixture along with water and some Israeli mushroom soup powder.
Fresh rosemary and thyme
Thicken with flour.

Look at that lovely pie filling cooking away.

Unfortunately over the course of pie making I could feel myself getting that awful feeling in the back of my throat that means I'm getting sick. So even though I also made some lovely roasted red potatoes I couldn't really eat very much. But now there's pie in my fridge so hopefully I'll get to continue enjoying it, because pie is like chicken soup. It will make you healthy. Really.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independance Day!

So after my pie posting frenzy, I'm now more or less caught up and can post pie and other domestic projects as they happen.

I had friends over for pie experimentation tonight. Since I had ground turkey in the freezer I wanted to use, I perused the internet and decided to make my own variant on turkey meatball pie. Let's state for the record that even though this may use ground turkey instead of ground beef it is in no way healthy for you.

I made a simple butter pie crust recipe and doubled it so I have dough in the fridge to make more pie later this week. For those keep tracking that means 1 1/3 cups of butter (for the four pie crusts) and 4 cups of flour. Plus a bit of water. The turkey meatballs I made with ground turkey, salt, pepper fresh thyme and one egg. Then I fried them in butter. (I told you it wasn't healthy). After I added fresh celery and mushrooms and frozen peas, carrots and pearl onions. Some heavy cream to add to it, water and some more spices (rosemary, more thyme, parsley). Then I cooked the whole thing for about 40 minutes. I should have thickened the filling a bit more than I did, but it was still pretty tasty. I think next time I'd stick to traditional chicken pot pie, or maybe just use the ground turkey loose instead of going to the trouble of meatballs.

In the meantime I also made chocolate chip cookies. I would choose to bake on a hot day. Thank goodness for the air conditioner!

But the best part of making pie today was that I got to use both my new stainless steel measuring cups that I got yesterday and the pie server I picked up. I leave you with this obvious statement: It really is much easier to serve pie with an actual pie server and not a steak knife.

A first attempt at a lattice top

June 30, 2009
I went the easy route and didn't actually thread the lattice top, but it's a tasty Tri-berry pie none the less!

The next day at work we had pies from The Little Pie Company. Now I haven't had their pies since before starting to make my own. I tried their key lime, blueberry, and their mixed berry. And I have to say I was comparatively disappointed. Now I don't know much about key lime pie, so I can't comment much on that, though I would like to try some others in the future. The blueberry pie was rather bland. The blueberry filling just sort of lacked flavor. The mixed berry filling was good. And I maintain that its just about impossible to make sticking a bunch of berries and sugar together taste bad, but on the whole it was the pie crust that didn't excite me. I think I'll take homemade any day.

Pies for Special Occassions

June 16, 2009 - Take your Pie to Work Day - So maybe not an official holiday, but I'd promising everyone I'd bring in pie. I brought in two nectarine raspberry pies.

May 2, 2009 - Kentucky Derby Pie Day - Horse heads on everything. Dinner was an old fashioned chicken pot pie and dessert was chocolate pudding pie (which I bought the pie crust for..but someday I'll try one!). Dessert goes to show that a cake decorator I will not be, but the peanut butter chocolate kiss horse was tasty!

March 14, 2009 - Pie for Pi Day - made with 3.14 kinds of berries.

Some Early Pies.

For a while I had a really good streak of weekly pies going early on...
February 27, 2009 - Steak Guinness and Cheddar Pie and some roasted potatoes.

February 22, 2009 - Apple Blackberry Pie - I like apple pies better when they are dressed up with other things.

February 15, 2009 - The first of several Dollhouse and Pie events. This time it was Chicken mushroom leek pie. There was also a broccoli cheddar but it was both less tasty and didn't photograph well.

January 29, 2009 - A successful slice of Tri-berry pie.

January 18, 2009 - Steak and Mushroom Pie.