Just…dream with me for a second.
Rosemary. In a pie crust.
Maple syrup. Instead of corn syrup.
I had chess pie for the first time when a former roommate of mine made it in South Carolina. It’s a southern staple – essentially a custard pie thickened slightly with cornmeal.
Now, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of the pie the first go round. I wasn’t really a fan of my roommate, either. Not because he wasn’t a great person & friend – he was! I just don’t like roommates very much. Of any kind.
So far, Seth has remained the exception. I like hanging out with him, I’m relaxed and totally myself when he’s home, and my hair hasn’t started falling out from stress (as it has with previous roommates).
It certainly helps that he is a willing and enthusiastic taste tester. I’m learning how to gauge his reactions to a recipe rather quickly now. I can tell whether he likes something without any words, simply by reading his body language and facial expressions.Read More »
This last weekend was marvelous.
I took 1.5 days off (the first time I’ve done that in a LOOOOOONG time), finished a few sewing projects, and baked. for. fun.
Better yet, everything I baked turned out beautifully! Better than things have in quite some time.
Because, for as much as people think baking is all scientific and precise and perfect, I find that it’s also about trusting your instincts, your gut. It’s about believing in yourself. Perhaps, if this last weekend has shown me anything, it’s that I haven’t done that in a LOOOOOONG time either.
It feels good to do that. And it tastes even better.
And this Margarita Pie tastes the best! The crust is a simple press-in of saltine crackers (inspired by Atlantic Beach Pie, something I had never heard of until a bar customer and fellow baker told me about it!). The filling is a riff off of key lime pie – with a healthy splash of tequila. The whipped cream is spiked with Grand Marnier – like a floater on top of any good quality marg. It’s special. It’s sweet. It’s even better than what I’d imagined it could be.
Active Time: 35 minutes
Inactive Time: 5 hours – overnight
Total Time: 5 hours & 35 minutes – overnight
Yields: 1 9-inch pie
For the crust:
1 sleeve saltine crackers
4 graham crackers
1 TBSP granulated sugar
½ tsp. salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 TBSP lemon juice
14oz. sweetened condensed milk
5 egg yolks
½ tsp. salt
3 TBSP good quality tequila
For the whipped cream:
1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
½ cup powdered sugar
1 TBSP Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse the crackers until only fine crumbs remain. Add in sugar and salt and pulse to combine. With processor running, stream in butter until mixture resembles wet sand. Press into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 7 – 9 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly. While crust bakes, whisk together the ingredients for the filling until smooth. Pour into prebaked crust and return to oven. Bake for 18 – 22 minutes, or until edges are set and center only slightly jiggles at the touch (it’ll firm up the rest of the way while cooling). Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Transfer to fridge to chill for four hours, or overnight.
When ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine all ingredients and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy and soft peaks have formed. Spread onto pie before slicing and serving.
Around this time, many moons ago, it was family weekend at Northwestern. Somehow, by divine intervention and miraculous scheduling – my entire family came. Mom, Dad, sisters, and grandma.
This was a big deal for a few reasons: 1) my parents had been divorced for the better part of two decades at this point and 2) they all rode down in the same vehicle.
So, including me, that’s six members of a very blended and extended family packed into my grandmother’s Chevy Envoy careening down neighborhood streets of Chicago.
My entire life had been a carefully choreographed dance between parents and spouses and step-siblings and half-relatives. We knew the steps well, could glide smoothly across the floor. Most of the time. But sometimes, missteps were made, there was uncertainty about who was leading and who was following, the rhythm would get lost.
If and when this happened – there was always a failsafe way to get back in step. Food.
We spent the better part of that weekend dancing from one meal to another. One, two, three…one, two, three…one, two, three. Breakfast, lunch, dinner…breakfast, lunch, dinner…breakfast, lunch, dinner.
We ate really good bbq, less good dining hall food, and everything in between.
The most vivid memory I have from that weekend is going out for custard. I really, really wanted my family to meet my friend, Sam. He was the first person I’d grown close to at school and what’s better than diffusing a would-be awkward familial situation than by throwing one more person into the mix?!
We picked him up behind one of the journalism buildings. He jumped into the back of the overcrowded car, lowered the hatch as he clambered up into the trunk. We drove the few blocks to Andy’s; my family peppering Sam with questions while he jostled about in the back. Out of the trunk, into the line.
Finally – a place certain to make my entire family happy. My mom and grandma were pleased by the site of fresh custard churning out of the machines. My older sister and dad were game for anything that had the words “apple pie” in the title. Sam and I were satisfied by simply being off of campus. And my little sister wasn’t old enough to drive, so she had no choice but to be ok with where she was.
We stood and waited and ordered and ate. The quietest and most contented we’d been all weekend. I don’t remember what we talked about or who sat where, I just remember full mouths and full bellies.
My older sister was working her way through a large concrete filled with an entire slice of apple pie. When she’d ordered it, the man had gone to a large shelf containing rows of entire pies and cut a big piece before throwing it into the mixer with vanilla custard.
“Amanda, you can have this piece,” she said, and held out the Holy Grail of slices. It was the corner, where the two crusts meet and the thinnest amount filling gently coats the inside. I’d make fruit pies just to eat this section – digging out the fruit filling and pawning it off on someone else. Usually my sister. I liked what I liked, she liked what she liked.
That night we shared, we compromised, we ate. We always would.
For the crusts:
4 cups flour
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 cup ice water, in large glass measuring cup
For the filling:
6 – 8 small apples (or 4 medium), mixed variety, peeled and sliced thin
1 TBSP lemon juice
3 TBSP corn starch
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
Pinch of cloves
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 egg yolk whisked with 1 TBSP water
Granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Life is very good right now.
I have a ridiculously wonderful fiancé.
Edgar’s training is coming along nicely.
The weather has been a dream.
My family is happy, healthy, and a constant source of support.
I just marked a major item off of my “Professional Bucket List.”
That’s right! Your girl got herself a recipe development gig! And with a local company no less! In the last few years, buying/drinking/supporting local has become increasingly important to me. So, when the opportunity arose to work with an organic hydroponic farm in town I jumped at the chance. This is the most excited I’ve been about moving forward with writing in a long time. There’a fire lit under me. Lit within me.
This summer has been good to me, sweet and juicy like a fresh peach.
And there’s no better place for peaches than in a pie. Basil and bourbon belong there too.
Acceptance is hard.
Especially when it’s a less-than-stellar quality about ourselves that we have to come face to face with. Even if it’s not that big of a deal, even if it doesn’t make us any less of a caring or compassionate person, it’s a struggle to accept that the image we have of ourselves, or the idea of who we may be, doesn’t exactly measure up to the reality of what we are living.
For instance, I suck at this part.
The planning and the punctuality and the posting consistently.
It’s hard. I struggle with it. I put myself under an enormous amount of pressure to be the kind of writer/blogger/baker I imagine myself to be and I’m consistently finding that I just don’t measure up. And maybe I never will?
But I’m trying.
And I’m going to continue to try. Because how else am I going to get any better? Gain any traction? Actualize the vision within myself? (Ok, even I thought that one was hokey and I’m sorry.) Or hell, just even learn to give myself a little grace? To realize that it’s ok if I don’t get three or four posts up in a week, because sometimes it’s more important to celebrate your mechanic’s birthday with a S’mores Cream Pie than it is to ramble to a bunch of (very loving and lovely) strangers on the internet.
Don’t believe me? Make the pie. Celebrate your mechanic. You’ll be glad you did.