Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Steve's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Pie is Steve's thing. When I first met him in college he was baking homemade apple pies in the tiny dorm kitchen and selling slices to his college buddies. I on the other hand, have never been gifted in the pie area. They aren't bad, just....meh. So when it comes to pie I leave it all up to Steve. (Which is why there are man hands in the photos....just so you know. Those aren't mine.)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is definitely one one of our favorites. (Only rivaled by ever classic apple pie.) Steve has been tinkering with the recipe for this pie for a while....and we finally found one that we think is a winner! So without further ado......Steve will take you through the rest of this recipe!


Here's all the ingredients you'll need:

For the crust: flour, salt, shortening, and cold water. For the filling: rhubarb, strawberries, lemon, almond extract, sugar, tapioca, flour, salt nutmeg and butter. Get your oven preheated to 400 degrees while you're mixing everything together.

The first thing to do is dice 3 cups of rhubarb, 2 cups of fresh strawberries and put them in a large bowl. It's always better if you can get your hands on some market-fresh rhubarb, but frozen isn't horrible by any means. If you do have to go the frozen route... just make sure to thaw and drain the goods before moving on.

Squeeze in 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract and stir together. The almond extract adds a great hint of flavor to the berries, just be really careful not to put too much in... it will taste strange, I know from experience. Pretty much an almond pie that looks like berries.

In a separate bowl, mix together 1-1/3* cups sugar, 3* tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, 1* tablespoon all-purpose flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Now as a note (*) I always measure these select ingredients using the "slightly heaping" method. Since this pie has more juicy ingredients than typical recipes, I tend to use more sweetening and thickening components to make sure the pie sets and doesn't flop apart. Or "ooze" apart I guess would be the better term...

Add the dry ingredients to the fruit mixture and toss it around gently. Now let it sit for about 10-15 minutes... Or hopefully about as long as it takes you to make the crust.

Over the years, I've learned that pastry and pie crust can be the simplest yet most frustrating thing to make when baking. Theres only like three ingredients, well four technically, but it's sooo easy to screw it up. Too much shortening the dough is like butter, too much flour it crumbles apart, and with too much water it's a sticky gooey blob. So this is one time when I really make sure to measure more exactly.
In a medium bowl add 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 3/4 teaspoons salt, mix together. Now cut in 2/3 cup of shortening with a fork, or preferably a pastry cutter, until it looks like this:

The official term is "coarse crumbs" which can be interpreted to any extent if you ask me. I would say that the mixture should look more "nubbly."
So we somehow misplaced the pastry cutter in our recent move and had to go the old fashioned way of using a fork. It gets the job done, but if you plan on doing some extreme pastry making in the future, invest in the cutter. Time saver, it is.

The next thing to do is add least 6 tablespoons of cold water. Other recipes usually have you use a fork to mix the water in and then move to using your hands. I just use the hands, forks are for wimps... and an extra unnecessary step.
Work the water into the dough by kneading it gently in a circular motion. Shortly the pieces will come together into a flaky orb. At this point, if the dough isn't quite holding together, add a 7th tablespoon of cold water bits at a time until the ball of dough holds but won't break apart too easily.

Since we're making two crusts for this pie, I like to split the ball unevenly to begin with and start with the bigger half for the bottom crust. I don't enjoy having a crust that's too small and won't fit the pie tin on the first try. And besides, with the extra dough from the first rolled-out crust, I can add it to the second one to make sure there's enough for that crust too!

Make sure you have a large area to make your designated rolling surface. Of course, sprinkle it with flour first, then roll.

When rolling the dough, always start from the center and roll outwards, moving in a circle so that it stays reasonably round. It's pretty hard to make it perfect so don't worry if there are cracks, just fill 'em in with extra dough. If the crust starts sticking to the pin, sprinkle some flour over the dough, problem solved.

Once the circle of dough is about 2 inches wider than the top of the pie tin you're using (hopefully it's a 9 inch pan) you can put the bottom crust in. There's no exact way to do this part, but I just fold the crust into quarters and flop it in the tin. Another way to transfer the crust is to roll it gently on to the rolling pin like a scroll, and then unroll it into the tin.

Lightly press the crust into the bottom edge of the tin and make sure there's no air bubbles. Then trim the edge of the crust with something sharp.

Pour the fruit mixture into the bottom crust and make sure to get all the juicy goodness.

Now roll out the top crust with the remaining dough lump. Don't forget to add the scraps from the first one you rolled out.

I like to add 1 Tablespoon of butter cubes for flavor before putting the top crust on. Just fold the crust like the first one and place it over the entire pie.

At this point, dip your finger in water and rub it along the rim of the bottom crust between the two layers. This helps to form a seal and stop the two crusts from breaking apart during the baking.

Using your thumb and forefinger, crimp the edges of the crust. Cut some slits in the top crust to let steam out when baking. Then stick it in the oven for 15 minutes. After that, turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes until bubbly and golden.


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Friday, July 16, 2010

Key Lime Cupcakes

This was not supposed to be the first post.

It was supposed to be this glorious coconut peach crisp that I was inspired to make a few weeks back. However, said peach crisp unfortunately exploded in my oven - not once, but twice. What was left still tasted good, but was in no way ready for a photo shoot.

I think these make a pretty good substitute.

I love cupcakes. And when I say love, I mean L-O-V-E times a bajillion. They are like single servings of happiness. A friend (who obviously knew of my obsession) sent me to this recipe and I knew I had to try them!

Here's what you will need to get started:

Flour, Graham Cracker Crumbs, Baking Powder, Salt, Butter, Sugar, Sugar, Eggs, Vanilla, Milk, Cream Cheese, Powdered Sugar, and Lime Juice

In a large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of flour.

Then you're going to add in the graham cracker crumbs. I cheated and used ready made crumbs from a box. If you are super motivated you can make your own by simply chopping up whole graham crackers in a food processor. Me, I'm not that motivated. I like to keep things simple.

Add 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs to your flour.

Add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder....

and 1/4 tsp. salt

grab a fork and stir 'em all together.

Keep going!

A little bit more!

Until it's completely combined and looks kind of like this.

Now, bring your bowl over to your trusty stand mixer.

And grab a stick of butter

And cut it into large pieces. It doesn't matter if they are perfectly are just going to add it in gradually.

Mix in butter, piece by piece, until your mixture starts to resemble corse this.

Then add in 1 cup of sugar and continue mixing until it is all incorporated.

Like this.

Next, add in your two eggs and continue to mix.

Until your dough looks something like this.

Take 1/2 cup milk

and add it to your egg mixture.

Measure out 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract and dump that in as well. (You can use regular vanilla.....this is just the kind I had lying around)

Mix it all together until it is just incorporated. (Don't over mix! Resist the temptation to beat your batter to death. Trust me.)

Here's Chase pretending that he didn't just maul a plastic bag while my back was turned.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While you're waiting, line your muffin tin with cupcake liners. (Maybe it's my cheapo bakeware, but if I don't use liners I have to pry my cupcakes out and they look a little homely. Plus...liners are pretty.)

Divide your batter evenly amongst the cupcake holes.

mmmm.....cupcake batter.

I got a little over enthusiastic with filling the tins and accidentally flung some on Chase.

He didn't mind.

Once they're all filled, they are ready to go in the oven! Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. only gets better from here.

Let them cool. Take a walk, watch a tv show, whatever. Just let them cool off before you try to do anything else to them. It's hard, I know. I have a music therapy song about waiting if you simply can't contain yourself.

Once they are nice and cool you can start to make the frosting!

Cut an 8oz. brick of cream cheese in half. Throw one half into a clean mixing bowl. Save the other half for a special occasion. Perhaps to make these cupcakes again.....because you couldn't get enough the first time. :)

Add in a half a stick of butter.

and give them a good mix.

Add 2 cups of powdered sugar

and 2 Tbsp. lime juice. Again......I cheated a bit. I bought the little squeezy bottle of lime juice at the grocery store. You can go ahead and squeeze your own limes if that's how you roll.

And mix together until it's all creamy frosting gorgeousness.

I could eat this whole itself....right now.

But I will contain myself. Partly because I might not be able to live with myself if I downed a whole bowl of frosting and partly because I will have people walking through the door any minute. People who are counting on getting some key lime cupcakes. Must not let them down.

Slice yourself up some limes. Make them pretty thin and then cut them in half to make wedges.

I love limes. and I really love taking pictures of citrus.

Take your cupcakes and start frosting! Just to warn you....this frosting goes a long way. Go ahead and pile that stuff on there. The more the better.

Chase always hangs around waiting for me to drop something.....which I usually do. We make a good team.

Top it off with some extra graham cracker crumbs.

And a lime wedge.

and BAM! Key Lime Cupcakes. Don't these just make you happy?


~ Megan

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