Sunday, July 31, 2011

Baking Day Review (Revue?)

This past Monday, my mom, siblings, Claire, and I went to visit my Grandma. We helped her clean up a bit since she had some overnight guests coming and then we hung out and had snacks, because you can't visit a good Dutch woman's home without being fed at least once.

She also offered us some rhubarb from her garden. She had picked all she would use, and apparently no one else was interested in it. I'd never cooked with it before but had been wanting to try, so I cut half a brown paper bag's worth.

That afternoon, after work, I went to Meijer and purchased 32 ounces of strawberries. Then, around 6:30pm, I invaded the kitchen. I began with a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Here's the recipe I got off the internet:

Glazed Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
1 1/4 c Sugar
1/8 ts Salt
1/3 c Flour
2 c Fresh strawberries
2 c Fresh rhubarb, cut in 1" pieces
2 T Butter or margarine
1 T Sugar
1 Pastry for 2-crust pie

Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar, salt, and flour. Arrange half the strawberries and rhubarb in a pastry-lined 9" pie pan. Sprinkle with half the sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining fruit and sugar mixture. Dot with butter. Install top crust and flute edges to make high-standing rim. Brush top of pie with cold water and sprinkle on 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut steam vents in top crust. Bake in hot oven (425 F) 40 to 50 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and crust is browned.

I made my own pie crust, following this tried and true recipe:

Pie Crust:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup + 1T butter
1 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix with pastry blender until evenly flaky throughout. Add 2 T cold water. This should cause it to ball up.

I did dot with the butter on this one, although I'd never tried that before. Instead of putting on a full crust, I attempted a lattice crust (although I didn't actually weave, I just laid them all one way and then all the other way).

This pie was great! Our oven tends to be on the hotter side, so I only cooked it for 40 minutes, and I had a pie-crust protector on for the first 25 minutes. I loved the sugar on top, and the rhubarb/strawberry blend was the perfect mixture of tart and sweet.

Next, I set aside a cup of the strawberries for a later recipe, and then used the rest for a berry pie. I went out to our garden for raspberries, but could only find about 12 berries, so I finished off the 4 cups of fruit from our frozen blueberry collection. Here's another recipe I found online:

2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups fresh strawberries (or any fruit. Frozen works fine, too)
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place one crust in a nine inch pie pan. Mix together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix lightly through the berries. Pour filling into pastry lined pan, and dot fruit with butter or margarine. Cover with top crust, and cut slits in the top. Seal and flute the edges. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the crust is slightly browned.

Again, I made my own pie crusts. This one, I forgot to dot with butter, but it still turned out amazing. I'm not sure I really mixed the sugar mixture "lightly" through the berries. Many of my berries were crushed, but again, it was still amazing. On this one, I did the lattice top again, although this time I wove it and it turned out a lot better. Even from a non-aesthetic point of view, the woven lattice burns less than the pretend lattice. I also brushed the top of this one with water and sprinkled with sugar (as I did on the strawberry-rhubarb pie). This was AMAZING! I tried this recipe again with Claire and Chloe on Friday, using blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. I never got to eat it, but it looked great and they said it tasted great.

Again, I baked this one for 35 minutes, with a pie-crust protector on for the first 25 minutes. They say to leave this on for all but the last 15 minutes, but with the heat of our oven, I'm discovering that I like to do 10 minutes better.

I used my leftover pie crusts (since a lattice top doesn't use the whole mess) and our cookie cutters and made dinosaur-shaped pie crust cookies. These go in the oven with the pie for about 5-7 minutes.

Once the berry pie was in the oven, I cleaned up my pie mess and began a new mess. I peeled, cored, and sliced 4 apples and tossed them in a pot with 3 diced rhubarb stalks (long ones) and 1 cup of halved strawberries. I added 1/4 cup of water to keep it from burning and turned the heat on. With that going, I started another recipe, but I'll finish reviewing this one so you don't get as confused as I was.

The apple-rhubarb-strawberry mess gets cooked (covered) on medium heat until it boils. Keep stirring it occasionally so it doesn't burn. Once it boils, turn the heat down and tilt the lid so steam can escape. Keep stirring occasionally. This will cook for around 30 minutes. I used a potato masher to break up some of the larger chunks. When it reaches a consistency you like (I like it like a chunky, homemade applesauce), remove from the heat. You're done!

I really liked this recipe. I've had apple-rhubarb sauce before and loved it, but I liked adding the strawberries even more. Since rhubarb is often not the lovely pink we want it to be, many recipes require adding food coloring or a Jell-O mix. But the strawberries provided the pink color and, together with the apples, enough sweetness to counteract the bitter/tartness of the rhubarb. No sugar added!

My final recipe for the evening was a Rhubarb Crunch. I was getting really warm by this point, but wanted to keep going. This is my grandma's recipe:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 11x17 pan and coat the bottom with 4 cups diced rhubarb.
Put 3/4 cup sugar, 2 T cornstarch, and 1 cup water into a pot and cook until thick and clear.
Add 1/2 tsp vanilla and some red coloring. Mix this in and pour over the rhubarb.

1 cup flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
Mix all these together and spread over the rhubarb.

Bake for 40-50 min.

Again, because our oven is hotter, I baked for 40 minutes. For red coloring, I squirted in a few drops of red food coloring (and then stirred it all in to make sure I liked the shade of red), but you can also use part of a red Jell-O mix.

By the time I got this in the oven, I was hot, sweaty, and quite pleased with myself.

The crunch came out of the oven around 10:30pm and my family proceeded to dig into the Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. By 9:30pm the next day, both pies were completely devoured, so I take this baking day to be a success.

Here's a picture of my exploits in the kitchen:

The crunch is obviously in the big pan, followed by some pie crust cookies (pterodactyls and stegosauruses) and the sauce. The back pie is the Strawberry-Rhubarb pie. You can see that the fake lattice burned a little bit more. The pie also overflowed a little bit in the oven; I probably should have made the edges a bit higher. The front pie is the berry pie, which made a great breakfast the next day.

Love and pie,
Leah Joy

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