Monday, August 20, 2012

Family Dessert Night

With summer starting to wind down along with blueberry season, I really had a big bug up my butt to make a blueberry pie.  Blueberry pie is my favorite fruit pie (although maybe it's not, since I also love cherry pie).  I have made blueberry pie before, but I was thinking I wanted a blueberry crumb pie.  I wanted blueberry crumb pie with a big scoop of homemade cinnamon ice cream on the side.

I kept hoping a good pie occasion would come up, but so far none had manifested itself.  Back in my old job, when I could transport desserts by car, I would have simply baked the pie and taken it to work.  That's not so easy anymore.  When you commute to work by train, you don't want to have to be carrying anything bulky that could be squished by rushing crowds.  I don't have the means to travel on the train safely with a pie anyway.  (I guess a pie carrier will go on my wish list for Christmas this year.)  I really didn't want to bake a pie and have a whole pie sitting around the house.  I managed to lose 15 pounds this year.  I would like to lose another 20, but my weight have been stagnant for the past 3 months.  I don't need that sort of temptation.

Then a thought came to me.  What if I just had a casual dessert night and invited any friends and family who wanted to come over to simply join SPP and me for dessert?  This would be much less organized and formal than a dinner party, where I would need to coordinate schedules and have weeks of planning.  I would simply bake, and whoever wanted to join me could show up and have some pie.

I did that this weekend.  I invited my mother and her boyfriend and my brother and his family.  It appears that, "If I bake it, they will come."

I was thinking of something as I started this idea up.  I can always bring people to the table for my desserts.  I have quite the reputation as a good dessert maker.  I sometimes think my reputation is somewhat undeserved.

My pastry making talents are really quite lacking.  Almost three decades of pie-baking and I still make piecrusts that are messy patchwork.  My cakes are lopsided.  I don't do fancy decor.  My sister-in-law can make a cake so beautiful you will balk at eating it.  I have friends who have a side business where they create novelty cakes that would make Ace of Cakes weep with envy (we're talking about sculpting a front-loader out of a loaf cake).  What do I do that's so special? 

I guess the first thing I do is that I seek out the best recipes.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I only bake things I want to eat (I have made the odd pumpkin dessert for holidays).  I will scour every cookbook I own plus the internet for that perfect cake or cookie or pie.  When I choose my recipe (or even try to create my own) I seek the best ingredients I can afford or at least the best that are available to me.  I don't skimp on quality. 

The other reason why I am considered such a great baker is much simpler.  It's the fact that I do it -period.  So many people are so afraid of making desserts, or simply can't be bothered.  We live in a culture where misguided folks think Rachael Ray is some kind of culinary guru, so when she giggles and titters, "I can't bake," it seems like a natural,acceptable, and even desirable, trait to never want to try doing your own baking.  A friend of mine told me recently that at her son's class party only store-bought treats were allowed.  Even at school they are filling kids up with HFCS and trans-fat-laden treats to appease some kind of nebulous fear of other people's kitchens. Children may never know just how good a homemade treat can be.  At every party, every holiday, every dinner, I will offer to make a dessert.  I show up with cake made in my own kitchen, and lopsided as it might be, people want it.  Amidst the cake mixes and Entenman's specialties, I end up looking like a genius. 

I don't know how deserved the accolades are, but I figure there is no reason to stop doing what I'm doing.  If everything meets my standards of tasting as good as I want it to taste, and my friends and family still want to eat it, then there is no reason to stop.

So everyone came over and enjoyed my pie with its falling-apart crust and drippy blueberry filling.  The cinnamon ice cream (from Dave Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop) was a complete success though.

 Almost bought a camera today until I realized I wasn't sure what kind of camera I really wanted to buy.  Another phone pic.

Blueberry Streusel Pie

  • 1 unbaked pie crust*
  • 1 quart blueberries**
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbl corn starch
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cover pie crust with aluminum foil and fill with rice, dried beans, or pie weights.   Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake crust another 5 minute or until dry.

Mix blueberries and sugar (you can let them macerate in the refrigerator before you start as I did).  Add lemon juice, zest, and corn starch.

Mix together the flours, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Place in the bowl of a food processor with the butter.  Pulse until you get a nice, crumbly texture.

Place your blueberries in the pie shell.  Cover with the streusel mixture.  Bake about 60 minutes or until streusel is browned and filling is bubbly.

*I will do my best to look the other way if you buy a pre-made pie crust

** The full quart may not fit in your pie shell.  I simply cooked down what didn't fit and made it into a nice blueberry compote for pancakes/waffles/french toast/pound cake or ice cream.


Sue said...

There's way too much in the post to comment on:

• A dessert night is brilliant! Who WOULDN'T want to come to that?

• You're right - the best ingredients do make a difference.

• Anyone that bakes from scratch IS... unfortunately...unusual and all those people around you are lucky to have you!

• The most valuable thing I think I learned in cooking school was pastry. Until you do it yourself under the watchful eye of an expert, it's not that easy to get it right.

• PLEASE, one of these years, will you just take a pie crust class. It will change your life and you're one of the few people who would actually make good use of it.

• OR move closer to me and I'll teach you - in an afternoon!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sue - I suppose one of these years I will, but I've been intending to take all sorts of real cooking classes for years...I'm afraid if I took lessons, I'd still ignore them. If they started making everything too complicated, I'd start tuning out. I have friends whose son was thinking of attending the ICE and his mother went with him to a pastry class. I remember how she described the instructor adding water bit by bit with an eyedropper. I thought, "Yeah. I'll do that."

Dear Anonymous: Thank you for your comment. I read and enjoyed it. I also accidentally deleted it. Your comment was sweet, your recipe was excellent. I just fat-fingered the delete button when I meant to press "publish". I hope you're reading this and understand.