Rhubarb pie to celebrate

A year ago today I claimed this little corner of the Internet as my own. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not sure what to write, very little idea of how to take a decent picture, or even who would read what I had to say. And yet here we are, a year and 62 posts later, and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything. So here, have a slice of some birthday pie. Sorry, I forgot the candles, but I do have ice cream.

Rhubarb pie

This recipe embodies everything I hoped this blog would lead to. Last year was my first encounter with rhubarb and I shared it with you; this year, I couldn’t wait for it to show up so I could really explore what I’ve been missing.

ChoppedSugared and floured

Last year, making pie crust involved muttered swears and prayers over bowls and rolling pins, with no discernible rhyme or reason to success or failure. Through some crazy experiments, including learning to render my own lard, I’ve had three pie crust successes in a row–hardly mastery, but as least my confidence has grown leaps and bounds (…I’ve just jinxed myself, haven’t I?).

I love this pie crust

As much as I’ve learned about cooking over the past year, though, the best part by far has been sharing with you and reading your comments; those connections mean everything to me, so thank you.

When it comes to this pie, it seems a crying shame to wait until strawberries appear to enjoy rhubarb. Since their seasons overlap for just a few short weeks around here, half of rhubarb season is already gone by the time summer’s opening act takes stage. Why not enjoy spring’s sweetest offering on its own merits? I think it’s earned its moment in the spotlight.

Ready to mixLook like frosted sugar candiesPie in the makingReady to rollFilled with rhubarb

If you’re a rhubarb newbie like me, this pie is a great place to start. Rather than muddling flavors with strawberries, rhubarb stands on its own here. Its tartness is tamed with just enough sugar to make this a for-real dessert, juices are thickened simply with flour into the prettiest mauve-y pink oozy filling, cinnamon adds just enough to bring out the full range of rhubarb’s flavors.

Rhubarb pieNothing better

Cheers to year two everyone–thanks for sticking around. There’s pie on the counter and ice cream in the freezer, please help yourself.

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Perfecting pie crust, part 2

Like a lot of people, I struggle with homemade pie crust. I have recipes from my grandmas on my mom’s side and my dad’s side, but somehow they never turn out quite right for me. At any given point, I’ve tried other variations with all-butter, all-shortening, vodka, eggs, no eggs, white flour, whole wheat flour, sifting, no sifting, freezing the fats before mixing, freezing the fats after mixing, grating frozen sticks of butter, using a food processor, a pastry-cutter, my bare hands. Some variations turned out better than others, some easier than others, none exactly right or consistent from one batch to the next.

Butter-lard pie crust

The Holy Grail of Pie Crusts

So this was the challenge I set before myself: figure out the best fat (or combination of fats) for easy, tasty pie crust. Continue reading

Perfecting pie crust, part 1

Rendering lard was not part of my plan. Really, I just wanted to make pie crust. Yet there it sat—a pale pink loaf of leaf lard on my cutting board, daring me to throw it out and admit defeat. But oh, as just about anyone who knows me will attest, I take things like this as challenges to be overcome. I would not be bested by lard and I would have pie crust!

Rendered and cooled leaf lard

My original plan was to finally get my pie crust right, to try a few combinations of fats and figure out the one that worked best. Continue reading