Whole Wheat Pastry Crust

Whole Wheat Pastry Crust
Source: “The Perfect Pie” by Susan Purdy

Recipe is for 1 two-crust 9-inch pie

1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup unsifted whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat all-purpose flour (I used the pastry flour)
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 T cold unsalted butter
3 T cold vegetable shortening
1 large egg yolk
1 T fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
4 or 5 T ice water, as needed

Measure the flour and salt into a bowl.

Cut up the butter and shortening and work them into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly, with bits the size of rice.

Add the yolk and lemon juice or vinegar. Toss lightly. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough begins to cling together in clumps.

Split the dough in half and turn out onto wax paper. Form into a ball and then flatten into a 6-inch disk, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

Rhubarb Pie

On Saturday, I made my 2nd pie in as many weeks. G has been asking for a rhubarb pie for months and now that it’s his birthday, I finally caved. I tried another new crust recipe, though it was very similar to the last. The main difference here was that the flour was 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour and 1/2 regular all purpose flour. I really liked the addition of whole wheat flour- it was a bit heartier and I especially liked the texture. Once again, rolling out the crust was not a seamless (no pun intended) process! My crust cracked and crumbled away. The entire top crust split in half as I tried to delicately move it on top of the fruit. I managed to keep my cool, despite the less than perfect result. I know pie crust requires a lot of patience and getting upset isn’t going to make it any easier.

In any case, the final product really didn’t look too bad. We enjoyed a slice with vanilla ice cream for dessert that night. I will say that it was a particularly tart pie. G and I both like our pies on the tart side and rhubarb has the tendency to be extremely so. I only used about 3/4 cup sugar and it’s got enough ‘pucker’ that I’m not sure I’d want to eat it without the ice cream! Fortunately, the pie was just for us and those who love a sickeningly sweet pie did not have to endure our preferences.

A Weekend on the Olympic Peninsula

This past weekend, G and I once again ventured off in the Subaru with our camping and hiking gear in search of a scenic destination. We realized we haven’t been to the Olympic Peninsula in ages (2 years?) and decided to head that way. We didn’t leave until Saturday after lunch and had a rather tedious wait for the Kingston ferry. Once we made it across the water, all went well and we found a camp site at our first stop- Fort Flagler State Park. It’s across the water from Port Townsend and sits at the tip of a smaller peninsula with water on 3 sides. From our tent, we had a direct view of the mountains.

There happened to be a celebration going on in the park and after setting up camp, we wandered around the few stalls, listened to some live Dixieland music and watched a few kites flying. We went for a couple walks around the park, which is home to a lot of old military buildings, as well as a large deer population. Dinner was low key but we did actually cook for once! It was a very blustery evening and after the requisite s’more making (in which G had to use a Butcher’s knife to toast marshmallows as there were no sticks in sight), we bundled close to the fire and tried to stay warm. It didn’t last long, and we called it an early night.

The following morning, we drove down towards Quilcene and did a hike called Little Quilcene/Mount Townsend. It was VERY off the beaten path and there were few cars at the trailhead. A nice change after the Snow Lake hike. It was about 3.5 miles each way and pretty darn steep. I’m not sure if it was elevation or what, but I had an awful hard time catching my breath. We were treated to an absolutely stunning 360 degree view at the top and it was pretty close to a perfect day for it. We ate lunch, snapped some pics in various directions (Mount Rainier, Mount Baker and the Olympics were all out in force), and quickly made our way back down. My brand new hiking boots performed well to the task and there was nary a blister on my feet.

We endured another excruciating wait for a ferry on the way home – this one made worse by the fact of my incredibly full bladder. I was not a very pleasant person to be around for a while there! Perhaps that’s why we haven’t been over to the Peninsula in so long. In any case, we made it home safely in time to have some Thai food for dinner and get our laundry done. By all accounts, a lovely getaway.

A Quest for Pie

I’ve always loved pie. Who doesn’t? I spent a lot of time in my late teens and early twenties even MAKING the darn things. My dad was my greatest teacher in this regard and we rolled out many a crust together. In recent years, I rarely bake them at all. One of the reasons is that I seem to have lost my knack for crust. I think there’s some difference in the climate here (whether that’s humidity, temperature, or some other factor) but I just have no luck at all. Another reason is, well, there are not really many people to eat it with. I hate to make a whole pie for just the 2 of us. So that relegates pie-making to special occasions.

I recently read (and loved) the book, “American Pie: Slices of Life (and Pie) from America’s Back Roads” by Pascale LaDraoulec. Amazon.com describes it:

“Seeking to determine its unique place in our cultural and culinary life, journalist Pascale Le Draoulec chronicles the author’s cross-country pie hunt. Her search by car–from San Francisco to New York–uncovers every native pie variety, from Montana huckleberry to Pennsylvania shoofly; it also reveals, perhaps predictably, an America of towns with 60 churches for 2,500 inhabitants and ‘white-haired women with calloused rolling pin palms,’ a breed sadly in decline, as is pie making, which takes time we don’t seem to have. Still, pie makers like Oklahoma’s Leoda Mueller (coconut cream) and Minnesota’s Lola Nebel (raspberry pear) are out there, and for many of them fixing pies remains a link to the past, present, and self.”

It was a very pleasant read, and made me want to get into the kitchen and roll out some dough! OK, maybe it made me want to EAT pie more than make it, but both activities sounded pretty good. This past weekend, I finally did break out the old pie tools- my rolling pin (inherited from my Grandmother), pastry fork, measuring cups and spoons, and a pie plate. I decided to tackle lemon meringue first, because that’s what I was in the mood for. I tried a new recipe for crust which included a mixture of butter and shortening, as well as an egg yolk and white vinegar. It came out pretty well, minus the shrinkage issue. The filling was not bad either. I’m extremely critical of my own cooking, so I won’t elaborate on its minor imperfections. Perhaps the biggest problem was that my meringue wept, although this one doesn’t really bother me.

In any case, I’m considering a pie quest of my own. This one isn’t about eating other people’s pie, but making my own. I’m hoping to experiment with a few different recipes for crust. I came across this great blog entry by a pastry chef which has quite a few tricks of the trade. And I most certainly plan to make many different types. My next pies will include rhubarb (G’s favorite) and a berry pie of some description (too hard to pass up with all the great summer berries). If you have any tips, recipes, or other suggestions, feel free to pass them on. In the mean time, let the pies begin!

“An Inconvenient Truth”

After talking about it for weeks, G and I finally made it to see this movie on Saturday. It was well-done, somewhat depressing and motivating at the same time. I highly recommend you see it. The associated website is also worth checking out. In particular, check out the Take Action section for loads of everyday changes each of us can make. I won’t bore you with all the persuasive data here, but suffice it to say there’s plenty of it. I think my favorite bit of the movie is when Al Gore is faced with an image of a set of scales. On one side are several bars of gold. “Hhmmmm….” he says, “GOLD. Those bars of gold look REALLY good. Mmmmmmm.” Then he looks at the Planet Earth on the other side of the scales and says, “or, the ENTIRE PLANET.” ‘Nuff said, eh?

Snow Lake

Our efforts to get out hiking every weekend continue. Yesterday we ventured to Snow Lake off I-90. We chose it for a couple reasons: 1) proximity to Seattle (about an hour) and 2) a somewhat easy hike that wasn’t too short or too long (roughly 6 miles round trip). Our guide book described it as the 2nd most popular hike in Washington State, probably for these very reasons. Unfortunately, this proved to be true, although we got such an early start that we managed to avoid the crowds for the 1st half of the hike.

We set off from home directly after breakfast and were at the trailhead by about 9:15. The 3 mile ascent was mostly exposed (i.e. sunny) and reasonably gentle. We reached the top of the ridge after an hour and then descended to the alpine lake. It was a pretty spot and we had an early “lunch” beside the water. After a leisurely break, we turned back to the car and amazingly it took us longer to get down than it did to get up! I’m sure this is because we had to stop about every 10 feet to let another group of people (and their multitude of dogs) to pass the often narrow trail. I have to admit, it certainly detracted from the experience for me. It was a stark contrast to the isolation and quiet we enjoyed at Rainbow Ridge last weekend. There, we faced swarms of bugs; yesterday it was people. It’s a good thing the scenery is so beautiful or I just might find an excuse to stay home!