Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Piesignment #2

Photo from myrecipes.com

Greetings pie lovers!  Another week, another piesignment.  We're approaching one of my favorite holidays, the 4th of July, and I'm all about tradition on the 4th.  When I was a kid, we spent every summer in my Aunt Janet and Uncle Bub's pool, evading the brutal Missouri heat until the sun went down and we could light our own fireworks in the street.  It was the Midwest, so you know the food was legit.  Deviled eggs, ham sandwiches, all forms of mayo-based salads, and an American flag cake would all make their way into my little kid tummy.

Now that I'm a big kid, there's a new 4th of July tradition.  We spend the weekend with John's brother Dan and his amazing Gwyneth-look-alike wife (and my BFF) Nicole.  The food is always amazing, and there are no shortage of these...
Photo from MidlifeSlices.wordpress.com
I'll share my thoughts on the perfect margarita at another time, but just know that we'll enjoy plenty of them on Sunday in honor of the good ole' US of A.  The day will be a success if I'm still awake to watch fireworks that night.
Photo from ActiveRain.com

So here's the deal with the piesignment:  Since we're all about tradition, why mess with yours?  Bake the pie you were planning on baking for the 4th, and share it with us!  If you don't have a pie tradition, don't worry... it's never too late to start one!  

Send us a link to your 4th of July pie by Wednesday, July 7, 2010 and we'll share them with our readers!  Not a blogger?  Not to worry!  Take a photo of your pie and describe it, and we'll put it on the blog!  Happy baking!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pie Spectacular #1 - Allison's Sweet Cherry Pie

When it came to the first piesignment for our Summer Pie Spectacular, I didn't think too far out of the box. This is just a traditional lattice-topped, slice of Americana kind of pie. It's the kind of pie that makes me think of Fourth of July BBQ's, state fair baking competitions, and pie-eating contests. To me, cherry pie has such a retro feel to it that it takes me back in time. Back to those days that people like to refer to as "simpler." It makes me think of a pie being cooled on a windowsill (if that sort of thing actually occurs), the scent enticing those who walk by to try and steal a piece. Which is exactly what I attempted to do before realizing my windowsills were not made to accommodate pies, and that I live out in the boonies so if there was somebody happening to be walking by I would be more freaked out than charmed.
I may not have been able to make my homespun vision a reality, but I was able conjure up some of those images while making and enjoying this good old fashioned pie. The pie itself isn't completely traditional though. I did jazz up the filling a bit with some Cointreau and almond extract. I love the combination of almond and cherries, and the citrus kick from the liqueur was the perfect counterbalance. I would love to make a cherry pie with fresh sour cherries which are traditionally used in cherry pie, but unfortunately we just don't see those around these parts. So I went with the sweet cherry varieties that are available instead. I used half Bing and half Rainier which are both very sweet and very delicious in their own different ways.
I'll admit that I had never tried Rainier cherries before last week. I kept passing them over at the farmer's market; maybe it was something about their yellowish hue that didn't appeal to me? I don't know what it was, but I had gone my entire life without consuming one. But when I set out to make pie for this assignment I knew that I couldn't possibly make a sweet cherry pie without trying all the different varieties. Once I popped one in my mouth however, it was love at first taste. These yellow beauties were even sweeter than the Bing cherries that they would be sharing a pie with. I'm just bummed I have been missing out on them this whole time!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pie Spectacular #1 - Mary's Ranier Cherry Pie

The day is finally here!  It's pie-signment #1, and Allison and I can't wait to see your cherry pies.  As it turns out, my pie duties could not have come at a more opportune time.
Friends, I gotta be honest.  In the last few days, I haven't been feeling like myself.  First I single handedly killed the wireless internet in my house.  Next I bought a new facial cleanser that does not take its cleansing duties very seriously, hello breakout city.  Then, after agreeing to look after my neighbors' cats while they were in Joshua Tree, one of the cats went rogue and disappeared for about 10 hours (I'm so a dog person).  Oh and that job that I love and am lucky to have?  It's kicking my ass, stressing me out, and making me want to hide in a bunker with a 64 ounce milkshake and a stack of Martha Stewart Weddings magazines.
In a brief moment of overwhelmedness, I thought about bailing on this week's piesignment.  I figured you all would be in good hands with Allison, and that you didn't need to hear Eeyore talk to you about pie.  But as it turns out, this baking project was just what I needed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lemon Drizzle Cake

It may sound a little cheesy, but this cake will always hold a special place in my heart. Not necessarily because it was one of the first cake recipes that I truly made from scratch that actually turned out a success. Or because it was also the first recipe I ever saved, clipping it out from some long-forgotten magazine, pasting it on a piece of paper and adding it to a binder I entitled “My Favorite Recipes”. That was about ten years ago, and while those things do make this cake special, there’s another reason why it’s so important to me. You see, this is my Dad’s favorite cake.
It’s nothing too fancy, just a single layer lemon cake with a simple powdered sugar lemon glaze that gets sprinkled with lemon zest. But it has appealed to my Dad from the very first bite. Ever since that first bite he has requested it for his birthday, for special occasions and sometimes just because it’s a Tuesday. It’s my go-to cake when I want to make him something special or show him how much I appreciate him.
And believe me, I definitely have many occasions to show how much I appreciate him. Because my dad is not just my father, he’s my best friend, my confidant, and my moral compass. If I’ve got a problem, a nagging issue, or some sort of decision to make, he’s always there to hear about it. Frankly, I’m not sure how he hasn’t gotten sick of me after all these years. He listens to me babble on and on, offers advice when it’s needed, and does all this without making me feel as if I’m being a nuisance. And by doing this, he makes me feel loved and secure, which as I grow older I’m realizing are two very important ways to feel.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Apricot Hand Pies

Ah summertime, there’s nothing quite like it. Each day is a little longer, a little warmer, a little more magical than the one before it. It’s the perfect time for casual entertaining, trips to the beach, camping with friends, and these delicious little hand pies. Because just one of the many things that is great about this dessert is how portable they are, and they would be more than welcome at any of those places I just mentioned. Sure they take a little bit more work to put together than your average pie, but when you get to your destination with a container full of little packages of flaky crust and juicy fruit that need little more than a pair of hands to enjoy, you’ll agree that it’s well worth it.
Summer and pie just happen to go hand in hand (pun intended), and we here at Butter + Cream love our pie any way we can get it. Whether it be covered in a lattice top, filled with a creamy filling, topped with whipped cream, or folded up into a handy treat, they’re allll good. In fact, we love pie so much, this summer we are having what we like to call the Butter + Cream Pie Spectacular! We will be putting up piesignments twice a month and hopefully all of you will play along with us. Click here to catch up on all the details. So needless to say, pie is going to be a very good friend around these parts for awhile, and I can't think of a better way to kick of the summer of pie than with these portable tasty treats.
These hand pies are so good it's ridiculous. Imagine a big bite of your favorite fruit, encased in a buttery flaky crust that fits in the palm of your hand. This is definitely a dessert for anyone whose favorite part of pie is the crust (you know who you are), because there tends to be a higher ratio of it to the fruit. The pies are completely customizable and can be filled with whatever type of fruit or filling your heart desires. I’m a sucker for any fruit or vegetable with a short growing season as it seems to make every bite that much more extraordinary. Which meant that when apricots started showing up at the weekly farmer’s market, I knew I had to make something special out of them that would showcase the fleeting fruit, because blink and they’ll be gone.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

It's Summer... Let's Bake Some Pie!

Back in April, I baked a fruit pie.  It made me nervous.  Pies can be temperamental.  Pies are intimidating.  Pies are like that cute boy at the 8th grade dance who agrees to dance with you, even though your hair is frizzy and you have serious acne issues and you sweated through your deodorant.  Wait, is that just me?  Awkward...

In trying to alleviate my own pie-anxiety issues, I looked for tips on the internet.  My favorite advice was as follows:  "bake a lot of pie".  So I was thinking...  Do you want to bake pie with us?  A lot of pie?  Like, all summer?

Introducing:  The Butter + Cream Summer Pie Spectacular!  Here's how it works.  Twice a month, we'll give a piesignment.  Choose a recipe, bake the assigned pie, and blog about it.  On a predetermined date, we'll post  our our pie experiences with all of your links.  You do the same.  Sound good?  We think so!

Without further ado, here's your first piesignment:
 Photo from FruitAcresFarms.com

Cherry pie!
Cherry season is short and sweet.  Out here in California, we're right in the thick of it, as our season runs from Mother's Day to Father's Day.  We see mostly Bing and Ranier cherries in our neck o' the woods, but if you're in Michigan, Utah, New York, or Washington, you probably see your fair share of sour cherries.

Cherry pie is classic Americana.  In 1926, President Coolidge and his wife were presented with a 46 pound cherry pie from the Grand Traverse Cherry Growers of Michigan.  The band Warrant released their hit Cherry Pie in 1990, and it reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.  In 2006, a cherry pie won Best in Show in the National Pie Championship.  Clearly, it's an important pie.  Let's see what you do with it!  If fresh cherries are hard to come by in your neck of the woods, grab some canned cherries and work your magic.  Go traditional with a lattice top, or get funky with a crumble or cream cheese filling.  Bonus points if you make a Rainer pie, or if you build a callous while pitting cherries.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to bake a cherry pie and blog about the recipe.  You have two weeks to bake, post, and send us your link.  On June 23, 2010, we'll post our cherry pies, and we'll link to yours!  Not a blogger?  Don't worry about it!  Shoot us an email with your recipe and your photos, and we'll do our best to give you a shout out!

Best of luck, now go get your pie on!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Asparagus and Cheese Pizza

This is an asparagus pizza.  I can vouch for its deliciousness because it's sitting happily in my belly, even though the dough and I got in a big fight.  All is well now.  We worked it out.  I'll give you the recipe in a minute, but since I've enticed you here with pictures of golden melted cheese , I figure I'd like to say a few things.

The first is THANK YOU!  When Allison and I started writing Butter + Cream back in January, we didn't know what to expect.  The experience has been beyond rewarding, and we're looking forward to writing the site for a long time.  Thanks for your emails, comments, tweets, and ideas.  You rule the school. 

We've talked a lot and we agree that it's time to mix things up a bit.  We'll still be bringing you our favorites from the kitchen, but frankly, there are plenty of times that I get a great dish on the table, and I don't have step-by-step photos to show for it.  We've decided to deprive you no longer.  From now on, not every recipe posted on the site will have step-by-step photos.  We'll still do it as often as we can, especially when we try out a new technique, but this way you can count on more posts, more food, and even getting to know your bloggers a bit more.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Two Ways with Radishes

Ah the radish. Truly one of the more under appreciated veggies out there. Usually relegated to being sliced and tossed in a salad without much thought; the radish often doesn't get its chance to shine. Maybe it has something to do with the taste, which is definitely on the bold and assertive side. I find that I appreciate radishes more in small doses, which is perhaps why they are often not the centerpiece of recipes.
And while radishes may not be one of my favorites, the dang things are so easy to grow that there was no way I could stop myself from planting them in my garden. This year I planted the "Easter Egg" variety of radishes. They come in the most beautiful range of reds, pinks, and white. Unfortunately I did not think to do a successive sowing of the little buggers, which means I have a very large crop of beautiful radishes appearing all at once. My garden overfloweth.
And so I have been trying to use my abundance of radishes in as many applications as possible. So far there have been two winners. An amazingly tasty salad dressing made out of radishes that highlights their flavor in a way I didn't know possible:.
And these crunchy little slivers of pickled radishes. These would be great for topping sandwiches or fish tacos. They also are great to have hanging out in the fridge for snacking.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Vanilla Pudding with Baked Rhubarb

Oh do I love me some pudding. Whether it be chocolate, rice, tapioca, butterscotch, you name the pudding and I'll be delving my spoon into it. There's just something so comforting and satisfying about a big bowl of pudding. Especially when it's homemade. Don't get me wrong, I'll eat a pudding cup every now and again, but homemade pudding tastes much less artificial, more luscious and decadent.

Which brings me to this pudding recipe, which is definitely more decadent than some of the other pudding recipes out there. The original recipe calls for whole milk, egg yolks, and half a stick of butter. I tweaked it a little bit, using low-fat milk, and half the butter, and still ended up with a very rich and thick pudding. Chock full of flecks of vanilla bean and topped with some sweetly tart baked rhubarb, this pudding gets elevated to a whole nother level of deliciousness.

I used what will probably be the last of the rhubarb this season in my neck of the woods, so I realize that it may not be a topping option for much longer. Which is why I provided several other topping ideas at the end of the recipe. Because I could see foresee using this pudding as a template for so many different flavor combinations. I can also foresee just eating spoonfuls of it plain, standing next to the fridge with the door open, which is what I'm about to go do now.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I remember the first time I had an eclair.  I was about 10 at a friend's birthday party, and though I wasn't the pastry enthusiast that I am today, I knew that I was eating something special.  With its rich chocolate coating and a silky vanilla filling, a fresh eclair is downright luxurious.  The best eclairs come straight from the bakery, which is part of what makes them so special.  Cupcakes and ice cream cones are everywhere, but these bad boys are a bit harder to come by.  When you find a good one, you have reason to celebrate.  Now you have even more reason, since you can make them in your own kitchen.

My test drive of Tartine is winding down, and it has definitely earned a spot on my bookshelf.  It's full of easy and accessible recipes, but this isn't one of them.  While the final batch of eclairs was a delicious treat, this is definitely a labor of love.  There are a LOT of steps.  And ingredients.  And it's a bit of a mess.  Ok a huge mess.  But when all was said and done and the final pastry had been dunked in chocolate, and the boy took a bite and grinned from ear to ear, I knew we had a winner.

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