Sunday, August 23, 2015

Raspberry "Rhubarb Envy" Pie

For nearly a month we have been overrun with raspberries on a daily basis, and it's hard to keep up. Large quantities of fruit spell pie to me, having worked in a bakery long ago.

Certain types of fruit go well with the tartness of rhubarb, and this is a mixed blessing for me. I planted some rhubarb four years ago and it's never grown beyond a tiny plant with a few little wimpy stalks.

My rhubarb problem is a good thing because if we had tons of rhubarb, I'd be making pies all the time. Fort Collins has an abundance of rhubarb and one house in particular along the route where I always walked Iris has several HUGE rhubarb plants in raised beds in the front yard. I think Iris always took me past there to remind me that I was doing something wrong. Let's just say I have a serious case of rhubarb envy.

I should probably get with the program and figure out what to do about my wimpy little rhubarb or start knocking on doors with bowls of raspberries in hand and ask to trade. But I didn't. I took a wimpy little knife and cut my wimpy little rhubarb stalks and chopped them up, yielding only enough rhubarb for one pie.

A word (really a lecture) about spices in pie!

I realize this is a thing of personal preference, but I have to sound off here about my opinion on spices in pie. For some reason many people feel the need to add cinnamon to everything they bake. I don't understand this way of thinking. Why would you want everything to taste and smell the same?

I don't use cinnamon in baking for two reasons: One, because I really don't like the smell or taste of it- I think it belongs in certain things, like cinnamon rolls, because that's what they are: cinnamon rolls. And two: Why would you want everything else to taste like a cinnamon roll?

You need to allow the true flavors of something to come through, and cinnamon just ruins the whole thing. Think about it: in nature, fruit tastes like itself: fruit. Raspberries taste like raspberries, cherries taste like cherries, and so on. If your divine creator wanted it to taste like cinnamon, he, she, or it would have made all fruit taste like cinnamon. But they didn't.

So back off on the cinnamon, will ya? You might call me a cinnamon hater, but I'm not. I think cinnamon has its place: in things that are labeled "cinnamon".

'Nuff said.


Part I. Pie Dough

1 1/2 cups of fine pastry flour

1/2 stick of butter (4 T.)

a sprinkle of sugar

a sprinkle of salt

1/4 cup of water (and more- see below)

optional: 1 tsp. of vanilla if you want the crust to smell really, really good.

Part II. Filling

2 cups of fresh, rinsed and drained fruit (raspberries in this case)

1 cup of chopped rhubarb- leaves and roots removed. (Google on cooking with rhubarb if you're unfamiliar with it) 1/2 cup sugar or to taste- you might want more.

Note: I base my sugar usage on the sweetness of the fruit and how healthy I want to be. For a single fruit pie you can get away with using very little, unless your fruit is very tart. For the pie shown, I used about 1/2 cup of sugar.

2 T. of finely ground tapioca. (I used minute tapioca and put it in a coffee grinder to grind it to a powder) You can also use arrowroot, cornstarch, or other thickeners if you know how they work. I use tapioca for pies.

1/2 cup of water- I used this because the fruit was not very wet and rhubarb and raspberries don't have a lot of juice. With juicier fruits you will want to use less water.

What to do first:

Make the pie dough, then mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and let the filling sit a few minutes while you roll out the pie crust.

To make the pie dough

Place flour in the bowl with other dry ingredients and mix. Butter should be soft to touch but not runny. Slice butter into thin pieces and place in bowl with flour. Using a fork, mix the butter by pressing down with the fork and blending until the entire mixture becomes crumbly. It should look like soft crumbs.

Then add 1/4 cup of water and mix in until all of the dry ingredients stick together and can form a ball of dough. If you need more water, add tiny amounts, slowly. You don't want the dough to become wet. You can add a sprinkle of flour to keep it from sticking to your hands but don't add very much or it will be stiff. If you've done it right, it shouldn't stick to your hands.

Knead it lightly. As soon as the ball of dough is velvety, smooth, and pliable, using a rolling pin and a flat, smooth surface, roll it out on a clean, lightly floured surface. No kitchen supervisor hairs allowed. You can place it between two sheets of wax paper but I prefer to use a big wooden board for this purpose.

Leave the ball of dough to sit while you mix up the filling.

To make the filling

Simply mix all the filling ingredients together in a separate bowl.

To roll out the pie dough

Roll it out until it's a bigger circle than your pie plate. It should be thin but shouldn't tear when you pick it up. You'll want you pie shell to be big enough to more than cover the edges of the plate. Drape it over the plate so the edges spill over as evenly as possible all the way around. Lightly press the dough down against the edges of the plate. Prick the bottom of the shell a few times with a fork, but don't tear holes in the crust.

Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly.

Cut the extra crust from the edges or fold it up over the edge, pinching it with your fingers or using the extra cut dough to make a lattice or if you have enough, roll out a top crust.

You can bake an open pie, or if you make a top crust be sure to cut slits in it for the heat to escape. Or you can be creative and make a lattice, like I did. Roll out the dough and cut it into strips and weave them over the top. There's an art to this, but I'll leave it up to you to google on it.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn it down to 375 and bake for another 40-60 minutes, until the crust edges are brown and the filling boils into big, slow moving clear bubbles. If you fill the pie with too much filling, it will bubble over and make a mess, so it's a good idea to place a baking sheet under the pie.

Cool, cut, then serve with a generous amount of good vanilla ice cream.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Chocolate Raspberry Zucchini Bread Florentine

We have way too many yellow squash in our garden, and it's raspberry season. Trying to figure out a way to creatively use both, I came up with this. Use the yellow squash just like zucchini and since raspberries are a perfect complement to chocolate, some chocolate chips were an easy addition.

Part I. Making the bread.

Grease and flour two loaf pans or one large bundt cake pan. (We used the cake pan because of part two, below.)


2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 (1.5) tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

6 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

6 oz plain greek nonfat yogurt

2 t. vanilla

2 large eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups grated yellow squash (or zucchini)

3/4 cup of chocolate chips (6 oz)

1 cup of fresh raspberries (I used more like 1 1/2 cups and the raspberry flavor was intense!)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add yogurt, vanilla, eggs, and oil and stir to a smooth consistency. Add raspberries and smash them while mixing. Then add squash and chocolate chips. Mix with a wooden spoon until well-blended.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean except for the part that touches melted chocolate chips.

Cool thoroughly if you can wait that long.

Part II. Floor-entine.

This is what happens when you try to work without the oversight of your kitchen supervisor.

We decided to invoke the three second rule.

We scraped up all the batter except for the quarter inch or so that was actually touching the floor, and salvaged most of it. Not a single dog hair was seen in the entire loaf, which disappeared faster than you can say, "three second rule".

Somewhere, Iris is watching us and laughing as only Iris can, with her distinctive, incomparable smile.

In Memory of Iris, Kitchen Supervisor Extraordinaire

Very sad news.

Our beautiful Iris, who ran not just the kitchen, but the entire household, and the heartbeat of our family, is no longer with us. For fourteen years she herded us around the kitchen, checking every step and ingredient in each recipe. Nothing escaped her attention, she always insisted on precision and perfection. Here is her obituary.

Iris would have wanted us to continue having fun in the kitchen, so we are doing our best to carry on. Our kitchen has not been the same, and as you will see in our next post, we are helpless without her. We know she is watching us, and laughing at us from the other side.

Iris's last snack was raspberries picked fresh from the garden, and we have chosen to honor her with a couple of creative favorites in the next two posts.