Tarts/Pies Archive

Friday, October 1, 2010

single-crust plum and apple pie

apple and plum pie

Early fall is a ridiculous time to get cooking block. Inspiration is everywhere as nearly everything that could possibly be in season currently is. The markets are flooded with great stuff; summer tomatoes, eggplant, corn and peppers fight for space on tables with apples, pears, greens and winter squash. But somehow — when I’m not playing SuperMom or Good Football Wife or gushing over tiny fall outfits — I’ve been at an impasse. The summer stuff is waning; the last tomatoes I brought home were… rough, to put it nicely. And given that the butternut squash and collards are the last bits of fresh produce we’ll see until asparagus spears pop up in May 2011, seven very long months from now, I’m sure you understand why I put off cooking with them for as long as possible.

prune plums
big yellow apples

So I was spending an unhealthy amount of time contemplating my First World Problem — What should I cook next? — when a reader (Hi, Janet!) sent me a link to Nigel Slater’s single-crust plum pie in The Guardian two weeks ago and, obviously, that was it as plum season is almost over. Slater argues that some fruits are too wet for a double-crusted pie and plums are one of them. To make up for getting stiffed by the absence of a bottom crust, he makes the top crust very thick and, look, these aren’t his words but let’s be frank: It’s a cookie. And it’s awesome.

apples and sad, old prune plums

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

sour cherry pie with almond crumble

sour cherry pie with almond streusel

If there can be no clearer indication that this will be the Summer of Pie at the Smitten Kitchen — as if a 6-week onslaught of galette after pie smackdowns after savory tart built on a platform of tartlets crusted bettys and free-form pretties did not already lead us to that conclusion — my pastry blender broke this week after putting in five very good years. First, one side of it became unglued from the handle and because I am both stubborn and cheap, I’d just hold it in with my thumb while I cut butter into flour. But then the other side came unglued and I ran out of thumbs. So RIP little pastry blender, and Amazon, hurry and bring that new one along, okay?*

sour cherries
pitting and pitting the cherries

If it could have a fitting final act, this would be a fine one, a sour cherry pie I’ve been angling to make for more than three years and have, without fail, missed the painfully short window that sour cherries are available. Not this year. This year the season seems to be stretching on and on, and I couldn’t be more pleased as while sweet cherries make some fine snacking, sour cherries win all prizes in baking.

pitted cherries

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

strawberry-rhubarb pie, improved

strawberry rhubarb pie slice

Do you have a favorite pie? I always think of pies falling in two categories, the prom queens, the blue ribbon prize winners, the ones that the president can’t keep out of his thoughts, and the rest of them. In the latter category there are the soggy bottoms, the overly-gelled fillings, the mortarboard crusts, the treacly sweet and those flawlessly latticed, magazine-ready specimen that turn out to have [insert your least favorite pie filling here] under their pretty lids.

all butter crust
last gasp strawberries and rhubarb

I was invited to participate in a “cooking smackdown” yesterday on The Takeaway, a morning radio show (produced by WNYC, The New York Times, BBC, WGBH and Public Radio International) in which a pie of my choice would go up against a cherry pie from New York Times columnist and collaborator on more cookbooks than I can count on two hands and all of my toes, Melissa Clark and my first reaction was: nope, no way. Because as far as I’m concerned, cherry pie is at the top of the pie heap; it’s epic, it’s iconic and it even has a metal song this kid likes to watch me head bang to dedicated to it. Strawberry-rhubarb pie? Not so much.

chopped rhubarb, sliced strawberries

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Monday, June 7, 2010

strawberry-ricotta graham tartlets

strawberry ricotta grahams

I know what you’re thinking, “Really, Deb? Tarts again?” And I realize that it might seem that I’m in a tart rut, what with those rustic rhubarb tarts and the distinctly tart-looking strawberry brown butter bettys and now these strawberry ricotta tarts. But you see, they’re all very different animals parading under the guise of tart-dom and really — because I am allowed to choose favorites, did you know that? — these are the best ones yet.

to bake
graham tartlets

Because they’re fake tarts. There’s no agonizing crust or shell to deal with, no tart rings or fluted removable-bottom pans, no fillings that need to be whipped just so and crossing your fingers that it doesn’t leak, explode or turn to mush in the oven. In fact, the bases aren’t tart shells at all, they’re essentially graham crackers, which means that they’re essentially cookies, which means that they’re essentially brilliant.

graham stack

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

strawberry brown butter bettys

strawberry brown butter bettys

Me and strawberries are going through the wringer this week. It started with a large, plank-like shortcake with cream cheese, sour cream and a buttered center. It was a dud, an all-caps level DUD. I should have known better than to try a recipe from a dubious source, and also to mess with a perfect thing. Next came a strawberry-striped tweak on my favorite crumb cake, except it didn’t really stripe and when released from the pan, stood briefly on the counter, sighed then slumped wobbily to the side. Filed under: delicious dud hanging out in the freezer, waiting for the next barbecue invitation. Third came a [we’ll talk about it later] which I was attempting for the [that too] and it is all sorts of magically tasty if you can look back the large crater in the middle, as if strawberry filling had recently erupted from within it. Filed under: another delicious disaster and lordy, my freezer is getting full. Recipe four was tasty, but I’m debating whether it’s worth burdening your time to discuss; I will ponder this over my next serving but recipe five, recipe five is the real reason we’re here today.

wonder bread
squisssssssh

It started with an apple brown betty, and my recent realization that I have never tried one. Butter + crumbs + sugar = what is wrong with me? Obvious that. Then I found a link I’d bookmarked eons ago to tiny brown bettys, molded in muffin tins, a web recipe from the late Gourmet Magazine. [Moment of silence.] And where it said “good-quality sandwich bread”, I read “Wonder Bread” because I can get it at the bodega. Where it said, “Gala or Fuji apples”, I read “South Jersey strawberries” because I can’t stop buying them. Where it said, “light brown sugar and cinnamon”, I read “dark and lemon zest” and I took “unsalted butter, melted” to mean “browned butter”. Because that’s what I always do. And I’ve never regretted it.

south jersey strawberries

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