Spit-spot!

Me + Halloween + copious amounts of hot glue + about an hour of hard labor =

“Close your mouth, Michael, we are not a codfish! Spit-spot!”

Voila! Instant Mary Poppins! Practically perfect in every way 🙂

(except not really):

About two hours before the Halloween party I was supposed to be at, and after days upon days of brainstorming…I realized that all I had to do to complete this look was make a ‘dickie’ collar for a white tuxedo-style shirt I already had. So I got out my trusty glue gun and bits of fluff that I had lying around and temporarily modified my blouse! Yes…I was glued into the shirt for the night. But don’t worry – I got out! And the hot glue came off (I think)! And it was only SLIGHTLY off-center! Perfect? Not by any means. Good enough for me? YUP!

I paired the blouse with the skirt shown in this post (high-waisted style), low-heeled boots, and carried around a lovely umbrella! Err’body got it. It was so much fun!!

And no, I don’t have any pictures of the full getup myself….partially because my hubster was out of town that night (thus thwarting our original Kronk+Yzma costume plan…silly work trips!), partially because my bathroom mirror is currently the reigning champ of being-the-only-mirror-in-the-entire-house-excluding-hand-mirrors…

…and partially because I look about five months pregnant right now.

…..literally.

So yeah, I was a pregnant Mary Poppins, and maybe it was a little weird, and maybe I felt a little huge (mostly thanks to the multiple “WOW you don’t look pregnant at ALL!” comments that I’ve been getting…), but overall I think Halloween was a success this year : )

And oh yeah, I really am having a baby girl! She’s due at the end of February, and the hubs and I are SO excited! : )


I promise these photos are much more legitimate than this one from my sister’s 6th birthday party.

— Love, Rach

PS – I’ve tried to spread the news to everyone personally, but seeing as I’ve got a pretty bad case of the pregnant brain (IT’S REAL. NOT A MYTH.), I’ve probably forgotten a few of you that I love very dearly. If that is the case…I’m sorry! I just don’t feel like having random peeps all up in my business, so I’ve kept it off the social networking radar for the most part : )

The Pie-Maker

**EDIT 10-16-12: after receiving a phone call from a dear friend while she was actually making this recipe, I realized I forgot to mention a couple semi-important things when typing it out the first time! So please take a moment to re-read before making your own. If you have any more questions, PLEASE let me know [if you’ve got my numba don’t hesitate to call, haha] and I’d also love to hear how yours turns out!**

It’s never been a secret that I absolutely adore pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were my favorite holidays growing up. My Mom would make a ridiculous amount of the most delicious pies ever during these seasons. We got to eat them for dessert AND for breakfast…..cold pie for breakfast is probably one of my very favorite things.

As luck would have it, the hubs loves pie just as much as I do! I discovered this when we were dating. His birthday was coming up, and I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate….his picture of a perfect day involved baking pies with me and devouring them while watching college football. D’AWWW ; )

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fulfill that dream on his birthday weekend, for reasons I can’t remember. BUT. I sneakily baked him a strawberry-rhubarb pie (his favorite) (after going to a billion grocery stores to find some dang rhubarb) and made a special delivery on his birthday….he loved it. And ate it for every single meal for three days straight [it was a biiiig pie. and, well, that’s how bachelors’ eat. haha]

Thus began my journey into pie-maker-dom.

Since then I have been finding every excuse to bake a pie, test a new crust recipe, find intriguing filling combinations, etc. etc. etc….and I thought I would share a piece of my most recent success with you! [not literally though….I wish I could!]

Feast your eyes on the rustic blueberry pie I made last weekend! Served with fresh, home whipped chantilly cream of course. mmmmm…

The main success here was perfecting my most favorite pie crust. The original recipe is from renowned pastry chef Emily Luchetti, published in her cookbook  A Passion for Desserts. Why is it my favorite?? Because the crust alone is deeee-licious. It has just a touch of vanilla bean and sugar – thus transforming the ENTIRE piece of pie an amazing piece of deliciousness. None of those tasteless hunks of flavorless, empty carbs hanging off the ends, as you sometimes get with storebought pies/crusts. It’s also made entirely with butter – no lard or shortening or any of that nonsense 🙂

The original recipe is quite fantastic, but I have tweaked it just a bit to give it a touch more flakiness [my personal preference]. Every time I’ve tried my hand at Ms Luchetti’s recipe, it just wasn’t as flaky as I hoped. So here’s the recipe, with my little adjustments! If you’d like the original, hit me up.

BASIC PIE DOUGH

adapted from Emily Luchetti

yeild: top and bottom crust for one 9″ pie

(for a single crust pie, divide the recipe or save half the dough for later)

ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch of salt

8 ounces (16 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter

1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 1/2 vanilla bean)*

3-4 tablespoons ice-cold water

2 tablespoons white vinegar

to make the dough by hand**: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter.

*now here comes the vanilla. You can use a traditional vanilla bean, but I opt for this lovely stuff right here:

I didn’t use my stand mixer at all for this pie – this photo is from my chocolate cheesecake experiment (recipe coming soon!)

Neilsen-Massey’s Pure Vanilla Bean Paste. It’s a mixture of vanilla extract and vanilla beans – you get the benefits of vanilla bean (no additional water content, flavor, and those lovely speckles!) without having to buy vanilla beans. Use it anywhere you would use vanilla bean or vanilla extract! 1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste = 1 vanilla bean. However, if you do go with a vanilla bean, I will include those directions for you as well. And of course, if you only have vanilla extract, use that! You might want to use 1/2 tablespoon less water to offset the liquid content (see tip at the end)*

mixing by hand, continued: Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and add them to the flour mixture; reserve the bean for another use (or add 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract to the flour mixture). Using two knives or a pastry blender (or your hands), mix together until the butter is pea sized. Pour the ice-cold water and vinegar into the flour and mix just until the dough comes together.

**you can also make the dough in a food processor or stand mixer, I just prefer the old-fashioned way so those are the directions I’m including!*

prebaking the piecrust: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut a parchment paper circle 12 inches in diameter. You can also use plain wax paper, with no ill results – if you do this, be SURE the waxy-coated side is NOT touching the crust!

To prebake the piecrust, place the parchment paper circle on top of the dough in the pie pan and fill it with dried rice or beans. Bake until the edges of the crust are lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and weights and continue to bake until the bottom is slightly brown, about 3-5 minutes. Crust will be a bit crisp on the edges, but still slightly spongy in the center. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Fill with your favorite pie filling and bake according to recipe instructions – making sure to wrap the edges of the crust with foil to prevent burning them. Remove this “crust shield” for the last 10 minutes of baking.

planning ahead (or saving the other half, if you’re making a one-crust pie): From Emily Luchetti: “Tart and pie dough can be made several days in advance. If the dough has been in the refrigerator overnight, let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, making it easier to roll out. Dough can be formed in the pan and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for 3 weeks. For maximum flavor and flakiness, tarts and pies should be baked the day you are going to eat them.” — I would also add that you could probably freeze the dough as-is (aka not in the pie dish), wrapped in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Just transfer the dough to the refrigerator 24 hours before you plan to use it, and proceed from there! I haven’t done this myself, but I wouldn’t have any qualms about trying it. I have, however, kept my leftover dough refrigerated for longer than 3 days and it’s been fine. Not quite as awesome as the day-of crust, but still great.

et voila! the beginning of a delicious dessert : )

Some tips (about this pie, and about crusts in general) :

  • Specific to THIS recipe: I am not a pre-baker of crusts, usually. But I do follow the book on this one, aside from baking it for a shorter amount of time (original recipe says 20mins+5mins). Baking it that long made a crust that was not as soft as I like.
  • You CAN get away with not pre-baking at all. The main reason to pre-bake is to ensure the bottom crust does not get “soggy” from the filling – if you are making a fruit pie with a high water content I would recommend pre-baking at least a little, but if you like soft bottom crusts and are making a cream or custard style pie (think: pumpkin), then you will be fine baking in the raw crust.
  • In all crust recipes: The liquid measurements are flexible. Only add enough for the dough to just come together – stop before it becomes sticky!
  • Vinegar evaporates as the crust bakes, thus producing a flakier, lighter crust.
  • If you over mix or over work the dough, it will become tough. Don’t knead it like bread, handle it as little as possible.
  • Allow the dough time to “rest” between mixing, rolling, and pre-baking. I refrigerate my dough for 30mins immediately after mixing, rest 5-10mins on the counter before rolling, and refrigerate another 15-30mins in the pie plate before baking. This helps alleviate bubbling/cracking/shrinking while baking and discourages toughness!
  • If you do pre-bake a crust, the pie weights (or dried rice and beans) ensure that the crust does not shrink or bubble up. I’ve heard of people poking the crust with the tines of a fork as well, but this can cause some fillings to leak through.
  • When baking the entire pie, be sure to protect your edge crust! Wrap the edges with aluminum foil before baking. This ensures they cook slower than the rest of the crust and prevents them from burning.

Anyway. Those are my pieces of pie-making wisdom for the day 🙂 If you try this recipe or have any questions, let me know! Happy pie season! : )

love, rach

PS – the blueberry pie recipe in the photo IS the one I used as a basis for the pie shown here!  taken from Gourmet Today.

PPS – I really hope you’ve seen Pushing Daisies. It tickled all of my pie fancies! There are only two seasons and they are beautiful. And it’s free to watch if you have Amazon Prime. BAM.