Rhubarb, Strawberry & Thyme Custard Meringue Pie

Thursday, March 23, 2017



Last night while cozying around a bar table in the posh Art Deco atmosphere of the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, I realized several things: friends who will laugh and cry with you are worth hanging on to, and if they also see your potential and pull out the very best in you, they are solid gold.  Life can be illuminated with mountain top experiences where we feel the sky is the limit and there is no diminishing our dreams for the future. But there are also valleys we trudge through where the hope of reaching a vision-filled summit seems illusive.

I've gone through some emotionally challenging things the first quarter of this year that have left me feeling rather precarious and caused me to question my goals and aspirations. Sitting down with friends who don't mind tears and are comfortable with vulnerability makes all the difference in the world. Three hours, a glass of wine and mascara-stained cheeks later I emerged with encouragement pulsing in my heart.

So, what does that have to do with this fabulous pie?  One of my friends is working through the grief of knowing her mother has a terminal illness, and it dialed up memories of losing my own mother several years ago. I told my friend I feel the closest to my mother when I'm in the kitchen with my hands in dough. My mother was an incredible baker of pies and bread, working hard to supplement my father's income as a farmer. The smells of fresh bread and pie baking in the oven are stamped on all the memories of my childhood.  When I bake, I feel she is right there with me, looking over my shoulder, feeling proud I am carrying on her legacy.

This pie is based on my mother's Rhubarb Custard Pie recipe, which was a favorite of hers in the Spring. Throughout my life, I have resolutely held to the belief I did not like rhubarb, but with this pie I have debunked that misconception stemming from childhood. I've added some strawberries, and I infused the cream with fresh thyme. Instead of her usual crumb topping, I've added meringue. It's decadent. And I've now decided I love rhubarb.

Here's to good friends, and mothers everywhere whose love is with us always, even if only in our hearts.





Recipe...




Rhubarb, Strawberry & Thyme Custard Meringue Pie 


Rhubarb, Strawberry & Thyme Custard Meringue Pie 

Ingredients

2 cups rhubarb, chunked
1 cup strawberries, chunked
3 egg yolks at room temperature, beaten (save whites for the meringue)
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh thyme leaves stripped from three stems (about 1 - 2 teaspoons)
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (Go here for my Never-Fail Pie Crust)

Process

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a baking (cookie) sheet in the oven.

In a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the cream and the thyme leaves until cream is almost bubbling. (It will be steaming.) Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for about five minutes. Pour the cream through a strainer and discard the thyme leaves. Set cream aside.

Chunk the fresh rhubarb and strawberries and pour into an unbaked crust.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks. Add the sugar and flour and stir to combine. Slowly whisk in the cooled cream (it's okay if still warm) and the vanilla. Pour this mixture over the fruit in the pie crust. 

Place pie in oven on baking sheet and bake for 50 - 55 minutes.

Meringue

3 eggs whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

When the pie is about ten minutes away from being done, prepare the meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and then the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites turn into glossy peaks. Lastly, add the vanilla and give it a couple more whirs until incorporated. 

Assembly

When the pie has baked, remove it from the oven. Spread the meringue gently over the top, swirling towards the crust to seal the edges. Place in oven and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, until golden.

Allow to cool before cutting.  Store in the refrigerator.


















Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies

Sunday, March 19, 2017



Tomorrow is the first day of Spring, and yesterday's mixture of sun and rain seemed like the perfect day to make cookies. Besides, I had been wanting to make this recipe by friend Rebecca from Displaced Housewife because olive oil in cookies sounded too interesting to pass up.

Let me tell you, these are decadent. Rich, gooey chocolate melts in your mouth even as your taste buds pick up the hint of olive oil making them a most satisfying accompaniment to coffee, ice cream or milk, though they stand perfectly well on their own.

There were plenty of willing takers for these beauties. I packed some on a tray to drop off at The Breath and the Clay, a yearly gathering of artists who come together to build community through a curated gallery, workshops, music and performances. The rest are going into my freezer (my kids say I freeze EVERYthing) for the next Sunday night family dinner where cookies are ALWAYS on the menu.

There are two things which make these cookies turn out so well: the use of bread flour and freezing the cookie dough balls for ten minutes before baking. Also, I used an organic home-milled flour which I pick up at an Amish farm whenever I go back to Ohio. It's all natural with no added chemicals, bleaches and other ingredients which have turned many U.S. flours into unhealthy choices. (There's a link below if you want more information.)

Now, let's get on with Spring and warm weather, shall we?






Recipe...





Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies

Recipe by Displaced Housewife

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour *
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 1/2 cups dark chocolate, coarsely chopped **
Sea salt flakes for tops (optional)

Process

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Position rack in top third of oven. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In an electric stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream sugars, butter and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until everything is blended. Remove bowl from stand mixer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt.

Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and fold until the cookie dough is barely blended. Add the chocolate chunks and fold until just mixed. Gently roll into 2 tablespoon-sized balls, place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and freeze for 10 minutes prior to baking. (This freezing step is important: it keeps cookies from going super flat when baking.)

Bake the cookies in the top third of the oven for about 11 minutes. They will look slightly underdone. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt flakes. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes post baking and them move to a cooling rack to finish cooling down.

************************************

*I used Golden Pastry Flour, an organic unbromated, unbleached flour from Stutzman Farms in Holmes County, Ohio. Since the Stutzmans are Amish, they don't have a personal website, but you can find information here.

** I used Trader Joe's brand, Swiss 72% dark chocolate bars (3 of them)

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

Tuesday, March 14, 2017





My first real job at age 17 was working as a waitress in an Amish restaurant where we assembled cream pies every morning. By 10 AM, we had refrigerator shelves filled with Banana, Coconut and Peanut Butter - ready for the noon lunch crowd who bellied up to the bar and filled every table in the small town restaurant where the pies were as famous as the Amish who drove their buggies past the big windows overlooking Main Street. And then there were the fruit pies, stunning in their own right with sugary golden crusts holding cherries, apples and peaches. Pecan pie was there, too, along with pumpkin and custard, but it was the Peanut Butter Cream that stole my heart.