have pie will travel

have pie will travel

Looking back to the summer vacations of my youth, I fondly recall the blistering hot days in New England when my mother and I would truck over to the u-pick berry farm and fill our bellies and pails with as many blueberries possible.  Most of the time the berries brought home were consumed by the handful. We enjoyed their perfection as nature intended.

No one complained that the berries weren’t safely nestled in pie crust because my mom never baked pie and we didn’t really know what we were missing. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is one of the best cooks ever. Her lasagna is so good that I can’t order it anywhere else because I’ll only be disappointed. But she’s never been much of a baker. Maybe it’s a sweet or savory thing. Sure, she makes brownies and sweet breads but never pies.

I get nostalgic for those hot summer days of blueberry picking. I miss the quietness of the farm. The scorching sun. Sweat mixing with sunscreen. Dusty feet in sandals. The long stretches of silence as my mother concentrated on picking out the best berries and I concentrated on stealthly eating more berries than the number that ended up in my pail. And consequently, my mother scolding me for eating too many berries.

Sure, I could drive up to the u-pick berry farms north of Seattle. But it wouldn’t be the same. Who would advise me not to eat all those blueberries? Gosh, I might not return with any… just a belly full of berries. And lately, I’ve been busy so it’s easier to run over to the traveling farmer’s market and pick up a few pints. As July runs out of days in the month it dawned on me that most of the berries purchased have been eaten by the handful. No berries have been safely nestled in pie crust. As a person who loves to bake, this feels almost criminal!

I know – I said I’d cool it on the baking for a little while but let’s be honest here, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and returned to the kitchen. (Must. Bake. Pie.) Plus, my hubby and I were getting ready for a road trip to Bend, OR (for yet, another wedding!) and I nominated myself to take care of the sustenance. The idea of a summertime road trip just beckons for a little picnic. And what picnic could ever be complete without something sweet? This road trip would be the perfect opportunity to try out blueberry pocket pies.

They are simple to make and super portable. All you need is love… and these ingredients:

all you need

Blueberry pocket pies

Yields 6 pocket pies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pie dough – insert your favorite recipe (I use a butter and shortening dough recipe)

Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

Mix the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a medium mixing bowl. To reduce trauma to the berries, simply mix by hand.

When the oven is just about done preheating, begin to roll out the dough. It was hot in my kitchen so I needed to return the dough to the refrigerator several times to keep the dough cold.

Once the dough is rolled out into a long thin sheet, divide it in half and then into thirds. Then scoop berries into each section and form into pockets.

A break down of the steps to pocket pie:

step by stepBake the little pies in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Here is the result of my first batch:

unciviled pocket piesI thought they came out rather uncivilized so I ended up making several batches. In the end… not a single batch looked perfect. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I kept trying to over-stuff the little squares of dough with too many berries. But oh! The taste was heavenly. The crust was buttery and crumbly and the fruit inside was sweet but not overly sweet. The blueberry flavor remained true with just a zing of lemon. At some point I told my husband that these little pies were “pie-crack.”

pies on a plateWe brought a pair of pies on the road trip to Bend. Between the piping hot coffee and the high I was riding from the pie – it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving.

I’m thinking about trying these out with sweet cherries or maybe a blueberry peach combo. Bridesmaid dresses (and any other fashion for that matter) be damned. I’m back in the kitchen baking and I’m going to enjoy the fruits of summer.

Have a super week!

XOXO, Em

Advertisements

let’s get crafty… DIY hairclips

hairclips final product

While my husband and I have been attending weddings like weekend warriors – it’s been difficult to justify experiments in the kitchen. Yes, I’m human and can only dance off so many calories (and those bridesmaid dresses are never forgiving are they!?) Truly, it’s a bit necessary give the baking and ice-cream trials a rest.

Combine the wedding eating and drinking extravaganza with the baby bonanza that is erupting among the other half of my friends/family and we have a necessary project. Yes folks, it’s summertime and therefore, appropriate to bring us all back to our summer camp days. Gather ’round the picnic table – we are about to get crafty.

I had an idea of what I wanted to make for all the sweet baby girls that are about to arrive into the world (hair-clips!!) but I didn’t have any of the items necessary. So, I strolled over to the local fabric store, Stitches. They have a fabulous assortment of supplies and I purchased a small amount of ribbons, hair-clips and a few add-ons for about $6. Yes, you read that correct. $6!!! When does anything (let alone anything for a baby girl) cost $6? Almost never.

supplies hairclip project

The rest was easy and fun. I decided to cozy up to our “crafts” table (the table that my husband used as a child to paint his model airplanes), in the event that the project became messy. I plugged in my cheap-o glue gun, found a pair of sharp scissors and got to work.

First, add a tiny dab of glue to the bottom of the tip of the hair-clip. Then, start to wrap the hair-clip with ribbon. Feel free to do a “practice wrap” before you commit to adding glue. Once you feel comfortable moving along, remember that it’s a good idea to add a bit of hot glue as you go. Stick to a system – ie. add a dab of glue on the bottom of the clip every time you wrap the ribbon around. This way the ribbon is secure along the metal clip. If you don’t add the hot glue as you go, the ribbon may slip and slide over time and the silver metal will be exposed.Collage 1 hairclipsCollage 2 hairclipsThat was easy, huh?

I’m pretty sure it took all of 5 minutes. So I made a second one. With pink, of course!

pink hairclipIt’s so simple (and cheap) and truly a thoughtful gift. As you know, I’m always a fan of a homemade gift. And I’m already dreaming up ideas for other barrettes and hairbands that would be super sweet. Big, poofy ribbon roses or sweet pink heart barrettes or we could go in an entirely different direction of whale ribbons for a preppy east coast nautical theme… the possibilities are endless!!!

Since I don’t have a little girl – I had my Lucy dog model the hair-clip. She stayed still just long enough for me to snap a picture. Pretty cute, huh?lucy modellucy modelI think so too!

Good luck and happy crafting!

XOXO, Em

let them eat ice cream (for the pool-less on a hot day)

photo (1)

A recent acquisition in my kitchen is an appliance that I probably would never purchase. It is, however, an appliance that someone might buy raffle tickets to win but after the excitement of the prize, it might sit in the basement, forgotten about until spring cleaning. That someone is a very kind colleague and the prize appliance is the Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker. My colleague asked if I would like the long forgotten ice cream maker. Without any hesitation (who would hesitate? It’s a FREE ICE CREAM MAKER!) I said yes and long story short, I, Em of deuxdilettantes, am the proud owner of a soft serve ice cream maker.

The timing of this addition to my kitchen couldn’t be any more perfect. With the recent change of temperature (hello Lake Washington, my savior from the heat), a bit of homemade ice cream felt just right. I invited Bee to join me in the christening of the ice cream maker. The whole event was a bit comical. It must have been 90 degrees in my flat. I don’t have AC and the windows hardly open. We watched the neighbors frolic in their pool as we made ice cream and wondered if we could tempt them with cool treats so that we might take a dip in the refreshing water. I’m pretty sure we made all the rookie mistakes as we created a lovely ice cream mess in my kitchen.

IMG_2473

It was messy (and that picture was taken after we cleaned up) but we had a blast. And we ended up with darn good ice cream.

Even if your not crazy about our flavor combinations, at least consider the following two tips:

1. The freezer bowl MUST be cold. The owner manual suggests 12 hours in the freezer but I suggest 24 hours just to be safe.

2. Adding anything solid (dare I suggest chocolate chunks?!) to the milk/cream liquid mixture WILL clog the machine and create a mess. We suggest allowing the mixture to thicken and then add, slowly.

photo

Lavender cardamom vanilla with chocolate chunk ice cream

Yields 1.5 pints

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk (plus extra)
  • 1/4 cup lavender
  • 10 pods cardamom (split open)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream (very cold)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

1. Combine 1 cup milk, lavender, cardamom and vanilla in a medium sauce pan. Bring to simmer and then reduce heat to low / low-medium. Gently stir and cook for about 20 minutes.

IMG_2458

2. Strain mixture and discard lavender buds and cardamom pods. Pour the mixture into a measuring cup and top off milk mixture to measure 1 cup. Put in refrigerator or over an ice bath.

3. Once milk is cold, pour into a mixing bowl and add sugar. Whisk or mix until sugar is dissolved. Then add cream. Mix and pour into freezer bowl. Turn on ice cream machine and let it do its magic.

4. As the milk/cream mixture starts to thicken to a soft serve consistency begin to add chocolate chunks a small spoonful at a time. Once the mixture is past soft serve consistency but prior to ice cream, turn off the machine and begin to scoop out ice cream into a freezer safe container. Freeze until mixture has hardened and then serve! Or serve immediately as soft serve!

Dutch chocolate with cinnamon and chocolate chunk ice cream

Yields 1.5 pints

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup whole milk (very cold)
  • pinch cinnamon powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream (very cold)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

1. Combine the cocoa powder with sugars in a medium bowl. Mix until lumps are removed.

2. Add the whole milk and mix until smooth. Add cinnamon, cayenne and heavy cream. Mix and pour into freezer bowl.

3. Turn on ice cream maker and allow to mix.

4. As the milk/cream mixture starts to thicken to a soft serve consistency begin to add chocolate chunks a small spoonful at a time. Once the mixture is past soft serve consistency but prior to ice cream, turn off the machine and begin to scoop out ice cream into a freezer safe container. Freeze until mixture has hardened and then serve! Or serve immediately as soft serve!

DSC_2914

Strawberry with balsamic caramel ice cream

Yields 1.5 pints

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup whole milk (very cold)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups heavy cream (very cold)
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and pureed

1. Combine the granulated sugar, water and balsamic vinegar in a shallow pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Let simmer for about 15 minutes – until the consistency is thick and syrupy but not yet a caramel. Remove from heat and pour into a heat safe container. Set aside and allow mixture to thicken as it cools.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the whole milk, brown sugar and vanilla. Whisk or mix until smooth. Then add heavy cream. Stir and then add to freezer bowl. Start mixing and as mixture thickens begin to add the strawberry puree, slowly.

DSC_2955

Allow mixture to continue to thicken and then slowly add the balsamic caramel.

DSC_2968

Once the mixture is past soft serve consistency but prior to ice cream, turn off the machine and begin to scoop out ice cream into a freezer safe container. Freeze until mixture has hardened and then serve! Or serve immediately as soft serve!

DSC_2982

As I write this, I realize that over the past week I have eaten more ice cream than I should ever admit to. But hey, that was all for research! It doesn’t count. We are dreaming up all sorts of ideas for the machine. There has been discussion of coconut milk… almond milk… sorbets… oh the possibilities!

Have a lovely week and stay cool. And eat ice cream!

XOXO, Em

currently crushing on… the ombré effect

flower bannerI am not a trend setter. In fact, by the time I’ve managed to clamber onto the wagon, everyone else has bailed. I’m left in the dust only to see them ride off, whooshing past me, waving from the newer, sexier wagon. Sigh.

When the ombré trend started I was completely uninterested. I don’t fuss with my hair and when it comes to fashion I’m conservative and wear mostly black. And I certainly don’t wear shades that fade from one color to another. It’s not symmetrical. But slowly ombré has managed to creep it’s way into everything… cakes, nails, shoes… everywhere but into my closet.

Flash back to about a month ago when I was walking with my dog, Lucille, and came face to flower (it’s really tall) with a fire poker or torch lily.

fire poker

It was bright and cheerful so I snapped a picture and for about a week and a half, I specifically routed our daily afternoon walks by the patch of fire pokers. I admired their lovely colors, gently flowing from soft pale yellow to orange to almost a burnt red. I had to admit it to myself: I, naysayer of ombré, was totally agog for this nature produced ombré flower.

So I set out to do what anyone who is passionate about flowers would do. I scouted the local flower shops to create an ombré inspired centerpiece. I bounced between four different flower shops, took pictures and returned home to review the flowers and piece together the ombré effect. Initially, I wanted to transition from the faintest cream to the loveliest spring green but I couldn’t find the right flowers/greenery. The color trends at the local shops were purples and pinks. How typical, right? I was slightly disappointed but reasoned with myself that inspiration can not be forced. Putting my disappointment aside I set off to the market to pick up ingredients for the evening dinner and stumbled across these little gems…

end of hueThey were perfect! Just the right hue of deep purple to complement an ombré of pinks or purples and they were anything but the norm. Feeling renewed joy in my project I practically ran to the flower shops the following day and rounded up a glorious assortment of flowers.

Here is what I ended up with: ranunculus (with the just a flirt of color), fancy liliac, snap dragon, stock, allium globemaster, liliac, alstromeria, and deep purple baby artichokes.

in a row

Prep containers. Start snipping stems. Test height as you go.

Work

Sometimes the pictures say it all…

table ombre

flowers in caddy

Bonus on the containers: They are actually part of a wine cup caddy set. When you are not displaying fabulous flowers you can pack a picnic with a bottle of wine and tote this marvelous drinker set. I bought mine at Butter Home.

ombre in grass

As I write this post my original inspiration is fading away until next season… the patch of fire pokers is drying up and it’s looking a bit blah. I miss it already.fire poker end season

Surprisingly, while I was (shopping but not really shopping) on the J.Crew website, I noticed they have an ombré cashmere sweater that you can pre-order… so maybe the ombré trend isn’t as fleeting as I originally thought.

Does that mean that ombré will soon be in my closet? Likely not. But I’m thrilled to have it on my kitchen table as a centerpiece. So, what’s next for the oh-so-trendy? I hear cropped shirts are all the rage (again). But that is so not happening. Maybe I’ll rock a high-low!

Have a fabulously trendy weekend and keep on crushing on! XXOO, Em

strawberry-rhubarb pâtes de fruits

strawberries & rhubarb2As a child I had a terrible sweet tooth. I wish I could say that it has diminished but alas, this is not the case. What has happened is that I have developed a more sophisticated palate of sweet teeth.

It was no surprise then, for my husband to find me hovering over a large stock pot stirring up strawberries and rhubarb with copious amounts of sugar. He asked (again), “are you almost done?” And I sweetly replied, “no dear, you can not rush candy making.” You simply can not. Candy will not be rushed. Especially pâtes de fruits made sans gelatine or agar.

Pâtes de fruits, or fruit jellies, are wonderfully decadent sweet treats. But surprisingly, for a French confection that is sold in high-end pâtisseries, you’ll find it to be a simple recipe. Traditionally, it’s made with fruit, sugar, water and lemon juice. Nothing fancy there. I love that. Many American recipes add gelatine, agar or liquid pectin but I wanted to make the truest version of pâtes de fruits possible. Call me a purist if you must. I’ll own it.

So, in the spirit of science I forged on, experimenting to find a balance between the ingredients to create a natural occurring pectin that is found in the highly coveted little gems called pâtes de fruits.

Strawberry-rhubarb pâtes de fruits

Yields 1  12 X 9 baking dish (to be cut to your desire)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound strawberries (washed, hulled, quartered and then weighed)
  • 1 pound rhubarb (washed, trimmed and cut to 1 inch pieces and then weighed)
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 lemon, zested (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • white baking sugar, extra fine
  • castor sugar, superfine

In a large stock pot, combine strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, lemon zest and water. Mix and turn stove temperature to medium (on a scale of 1-7, about 4). Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring almost constantly. When the strawberries and rhubarb are soft and mushy, remove from heat and mash thoroughly.

mashed

Using a food scale, measure the weight of a medium bowl. Note the weight. Then push the mixture through a fine metal sieve into the bowl. This will take a bit of time, strength and patience. If you have a food processor, now is the time to pull it out of the cupboard!

After pushing the mixture through the sieve, weigh the bowl again and subtract the weight of the bowl. Return the mixture back to the large stock pot and match with an equal amount of extra fine baking sugar. Example: I had exactly 610g of strawberry-rhubarb mixture and I matched it with 610g extra fine baking sugar.

Cook over medium heat (4-4.5 on my stove top), stirring constantly. After 30-35 minutes, it should be dark, glossy and create a tail (shown below). Remove from heat.

action shot - tail

Pour into a baking dish lined with parchment paper. If you have a busy kitchen, gently drape an additional piece of parchment paper over the dish, taking care that it does not touch the pâtes de fruits. Set aside for 24-48 hours. Or bake (uncovered) at 150° F for 8 hours and then let rest for an additional 8 hours.

poured and ready to set

Once set, remove from baking dish and cut. I decided to go with classic squares but I think stars would rather smart.

Pour a small amount of superfine castor sugar onto a baking sheet and start to coat each side with sugar.

sugar fix

Work each piece, adding more sugar to the baking sheet as needed.

strawberry rhubarb pate de fruits

The result? Sweet, chewy goodness. I think they’re simply divine.

Enjoy! XOXO, Em

mini strawberry-rhubarb crumbles

mini crumbles ready to eatWith May just around the corner, Seattle is tiptoeing into the early stages of local rhubarb season. And even though it’s too early for the local sweet strawberries, we compromised with organic strawberries from California (still west coast so it’s sort-of local…) so that we could make a strawberry-rhubarb crumbly crumble. After much discussion, we thought… sure it will taste sweet but let’s make it ascetically sweet by making mini crumbles. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we decided to bake the mini crumbles in mini mason jars. Yes, we know – mason jars are everywhere. So maybe we are a bit late to the party but better late than never, no?

Humble crumbles these are not. They are adorable, picnic portable and perfectly portioned. With a hint of orange zest and a toasty pecan crunch, these little gems will be a spring-time staple, guaranteed!

berries and rhubarb1

Mini strawberry-rhubarb crumbles

Yields 4 X 8 oz darling little mason jars

For the crumble topping

  • ½ cup flour
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup filled with brown sugar packed halfway, fill remaining with white sugar
  • zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • handful of toasted pecans, cooled and coarsely chopped

For strawberry-rhubarb filling

  • 7 oz rhubarb, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 12 oz strawberries, stems removed and quartered
  • zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from orange
  • 1/2 cup extra fine baking sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheating oven to 350°F.

In a medium-large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, strawberries, orange juice and zest, and sugar. Mix ingredients by hand, tossing to ensure rhubarb and strawberries are thoroughly coated. Add the cornstarch and mix by hand again.

Spoon the mixture into mason jars, leaving room for the crumble topping. Try to spoon in only the coated fruit. Then, add a little bit of the liquid mixture on top. Place the 4 jars onto a baking sheet and place in oven for 30 minutes.

pots on the ready 2

To make the crumble, combine the following in a medium mixing bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar and white sugar, and orange zest. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the pieces of butter until the mixture is pea sized crumbles. Gently mix in pecans and then transfer mixture onto baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes at 350° F. Check on the crumble periodically, using a spatula to flip mixture once it starts to brown. You’ll know it’s done when it’s toasty.

crumbly crumbles

Evenly spoon toasted crumble mixture on top of the strawberry-rhubarb. Let cool 1-2 hours before lightly covering or enjoy on the spot!

 

strawberry rhubarb mini crumbles

Have a wonderful week! XOXO, Bee & Em