Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I love milkshakes, but the place we go over the summer is so sweet, so perfect, that I try not to disappoint myself by drinking them throughout the year.

The guy who runs the place we go over the summer-- the place where the pastor goes in the Methodist camp, the place that has not changed since the 1920s-- has an ice cream cone tattooed on his arm and, I like to think, respects our family's stamina when it comes to milkshake consumption.

In one of our daily chats, he offered the secret to his outstanding malteds:

1. A heavy hand with the malt. Duh.
2. Malt syrup. U Bet makes it, the internet has it.
3. High quality ice cream. Just because it is getting blended does not mean you don't deserve the very best.

If you can't get an extra-thick vanilla malted from the source, make one in your living room and stay cool.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

plum pie

"If there is one thing Lily is good at, it's making desserts."-- said yesterday, to me, and I guess its true. I spent my formative, learning-to-cook years with above average cooks, and so I think nothing of cowing to a late-night desire for cookies with making cookies or coming home to cupcakes. Frankly, I always thought of myself on the lazy side of dessert development. A cookie here, a birthday cake there. And yet, in grad school, I am the one bringing the pie.

Last time, I overstepped my bounds: lemon-meringue, which was intended as a birthday gift and-- with its watery rim around the edges-- seemed to capture the melancholy of a grey beach birthday in February. This time, the fruits themselves let the sunshine in. 

I think one time, a couple years ago, Mark Bittman suggested the same move in a column: only make a top crust for a pie. Now, Mark Bittman and I share one capital failing: we are no great lovers of pie crust. It must be truly exceptional to inspire me to love it more than sugary baked fruit... and usually my penchant for subbing whole wheat flour or living where it is always hot but then not freezing the butter means that my pie crust, well, isn't. THIS crust, though, is so unfussy, so shortbready, so citrus-zesty! Kedar, no great maker of pies, started hopping around: can we put this on an apple pie? What if we put this crust on top of a pumpkin pie? I went all Marion the Librarian-- "no, because apple pies need a bottom crust because... uh... and this and a bottom crust wouldn't work, because, uh... pumpkin pie has a bottom crust and no top crust, well, because, well..." And as I started to hear what I was saying, I realized, well, there is no good reason to say no to this pie crust.

(in this case, plum-strawberry.)
(originally from Smitten Kitchen, originally originally from Nigel Slater)

+ 7 T butter, at room temperature (YOU HEAR ME! ROOM TEMPERATURE! take that, food processor! take that, making room in the freezer for my butter! Take that, crackery piecrusts! Your days are numbered!)
+ 1/2 cup sugar
+ zest from an orange, or half an orange, or a lemon, I suppose, depending on your filling fruit.
+ an egg
+ 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
+ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1/4 teaspoon (kosher) salt

-- Oven to 350. 

-- Cream the butter, sugar, and zest with a stand-mixer or hand-mixer or your awesomely-honed-thanks-to-biking-to-school forearms. 
--Now add that egg.
-- Now add the dry stuff and beat until combined. Conglomerate it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze while you prep the...


+ 2 lbs of fruit: we used a pound of plums and a pound of strawberries.
+ 2 T sugar
+ a shake or two of cinnamon
+ a squeeze or two of whatever citrus fruit you just zested

-- Butter a pie dish-- or, because this has some crumble-like qualities, a crumble dish. Otherwise known as a lasagne dish. Otherwise known as a casserole. I once got into a long supersophistic conversation about what makes a casserole-- isn't it anything baked in a casserole dish? Would that make this pie a casserole? Sure. I just like saying casserole. UH, just go out and buy a pie dish, it's freaking summer and this pie crust makes me want to eat a pie a day.

-- Toss all the ingredients together in the dish.

-- Roll out that now-chilled dough. If you asked for Silpats for Christmas and now have three because everyone you know got you one (uhhh they are oddly expensive you guys)... roll out the dough between two Silpats! No sticking! Otherwise, roll it out on your marble pastry counter. Or your other counter, with plenty of flour. 

-- Place the crust on top of the pie and crimp the edges into the double-thick parts you will fight over, fork in hand. Good luck.

-- Bake for about 40 minutes. If you want to brush the top with cream or milk and sprinkle with sanding sugar, good for you-- the crust might ripple and tear and bubble with fruit juice anyway, so I figure it has enough rustic charm as it is. Or late-Saturday-night-in-a-now-broiling-apartment-because-of-the-oven urban charm. Either way, I demolished this pie.