Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rhubarb...People really eat this stuff?

I baked 2 rhubarb pies today for Miss Roberta. Miss Roberta called me last night and said she had some rhubarb, but didn't want to make the pies. She always calls me like this, it's pretty funny: She'll bring me all the ingredients, all the baking vessels...and then try to give me money. She's so cute.

Rhubarb is a pie that I have never made. After I scrounged Grandma's recipe box for the proper recipe, I decided it might be fun to document this process with a camera, and see if maybe this could be what my blog becomes...Confused? See here.

So here we go...Rhubarb pies ala Amy.
This is what Miss Roberta gave me, she even washed it and cut it up...It's hard to read, but she labeled it like this: "4 Cup's Rub" Well, crap. Grandma's recipe calls for 4 Cup's Rub for 1 pie. Well, Miss Roberta's pies will be a little skimpy.
It's a really pretty...uh, is it a vegetable or fruit? Well, either way, it's about to become 2 pies. I put it in a colander: because Grandma's cryptic recipe said to "pour boiling water over it. drain" I chose 2 cups.
While that's draining, we need pie crust. I already had pie crusts in the freezer, so if this post works out, I'll do a whole post dedicated to my pie crust process...for now, let's just look at the pretty pictures (and my new rolling pin). This recipe calls for a double crust...here's the bottom:

Isn't it awesome? I broke my other one. I break everything.

EASE the crust into the pie plate. EASE! Don't force! It will shrink. How do I know this? From experience, dude. From experience.

Okay, Ladies and Gentlemen: We have come to the portion of our program when our dedicated Blogger forgot to document part of the process. I'm sure that those of you who know our blogger personally are fully aware of her forgetful nature, lack-of-attention-to-details, and her ability to run off track easily. Evidence therein, check.
So, yeah, I forgot to take a picture of me mixing 1 1/2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of flour...see it in your mind, then move to the next picture:

Sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with the flour/sugar mixture. I didn't measure, I just sprinkled. Probably about 1/4 cup.

Back to the 4 cup's of Rub: Mix the remaining flour/sugar mixture with the drained rhubarb.
"Mix, Mix. Stir, stir. I married young. It's all a blur." Wow, I really miss "Kids in the Hall".

This picture doesn't move us forward in the recipe, I just like it so I put it in.

At the bottom of the bowl, there will be some flour/sugar that didnt stick to the rhubarb...I just sprinkled that on top:
Then "Dot with Butter"...the single greatest line in the history of recipes. I use margarine.

You'll notice that I don't mess around with that "dot with butter" thing...I'm "Go Big or Go Home" with everything I do.

Now the top crust (geeze, can we get this thing in the oven already??):
I took a few shots of this, I think it's really cool.

Cut off the excess crust and flute the edges:

My fluting technique was taught to me by Judy Decker, our high school home ec teacher. I don't remember anything else from that class, but by golly, I remember how to flute a pie.

I tried to take a picture of me fluting the pie: I balanced my camera on a box of Cheez-its, lined myself up, then tried to push the button on the camera with my nose. No workie. I'll show ya how I do it when I hire a photographer. Or invest in a tripod.
Remember I said Miss Roberta needed 2 pies?

As I said, this recipe is for one pie, but Miss Roberta didn't have any more rhubarb. So this will be twice as much filling in one pie when you make it. Make sense? Yeah, me neither.

Egg wash coming up: I have two eggs here, but you only need one.

I really love eggs. I love the way they look like this...Yeah, I'm pretty weird. There's also about 2 tablespoons of water in there. Again, you only need one egg, and probably 1 tbsp of water.
Then you brush the tops of the pie (this makes them all pretty when they bake):

Awkward shot: I'm brushing left-handed and trying to take the picture with my right hand...I have GOT to get a photographer.
Then sprinkle with sugar:

We are ready for the oven! I put everything on baking sheets...Mostly to protect the bottom of my oven, but also to protect my food: My oven sometimes decides it wants to scorch the bottom of my pies. Sometimes. Never sure when. Unpredictable oven <---My Least Favorite thing. So I just put everything on an old jellyroll pan:

Uckie, right? I baked lots and lots and lots and lots of stuff on this pan. Then decided to invest in a new shiny one. This one became my catcher-of-pies-running-over/scorch-preventer.

Bake bake bake. Grandma's recipe says this: "bake in high oven for 15 minutes, then turn down to medium and bake till browned"...I translated to this: 450 for 15 minutes, then turn it down to 350 until browned...mine took 40 minutes or so. I don't time anything, I rely on smell to tell me when stuff is done.

Ready to see what they look like?

Girl, I just love me a beautiful pie. I could stare at this for hours.

I wish I could cut a piece to show you, but alas, these are Miss Roberta's pies. I have to deliver them at 4pm today. If I'm not there by 4:05, she will start calling my mom.
Here's the recipe if ya'll wanna make your own:
Rhubarb Pie
Makes 1 double crust pie
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Butter for dotting
1 recipe for double crust pie
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place chopped rhubarb in colander, pour 2 cups of boiling water over and allow to drain.
Combine sugar and flour, sprinkle bottom of pie crust with 1/4 cup of mixture. Mix remaining sugar/flour mixture with drained rhubarb, heap into pie crust on top of sugar/flour mixture. Any remaining sugar/flour mixture may be sprinkled on top of rhubarb. Dot with butter, cover with top crust.
Bake in oven for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 and continue baking for 40 - 45 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something I forgot to mention...

Twice in a week? Amy, are you feeling okay?

My life isn't always about cake. Or cupcakes. Or whoopie pies. Or...you get the idea. Sometimes my life is about movies. Or thinking too much. Or movies and thinking too much.

I kind of have a lot going on in my brain right now. I wouldn't call it a crossroads, but I have some pretty big options laying in front of me. When big options present themselves, I have a tendency to over-think everything in my life.

I saw "Julie and Julia". I did, I watched it. From beginning to end. It's rare that a movie keeps me up at night for weeks. The last time this happened, it was "Slingblade", AKA "The Movie that Changed My Artistic Life". J&J did not change my life, but it did keep me up at night. Thinking.

I remember when the movie came out, all my friends were wanting to pull a Julie and Julia and cook their way through a cookbook. Yeah, ok. I remember suggesting to a friend that a local church cookbook collection would be nice: a bunch of heirloom recipes using local ingredients. In my eyes, this is giving you a sense of heritage and connection to church and community. I was scoffed at (yes! She SCOFFED me!). "That isn't the POINT, Amy. The POINT is to go through the cookbook to learn cooking techniques from masters." Oh, sorry. How silly of me. How silly of me to consider most of the ladies in my church to be masters of their family recipes. Except Edith. Her heirloom family recipe is potato salad with hotdogs in it. Thanks, Edith...I'll pass on that one.

Before I watched the movie, I never read the book. Or the blog. I remember hearing about it on the radio, and loving the idea of it. I always admire creativity and originality, and anything to do with food. I remember seeing stills of Meryl Streep in costume as Julia and thinking, "wow, I can't wait! She looks amazing!"

I love Meryl Streep. She's an amazing performer, and probably the only actress in American Cinema capable of portraying Julia Child as anything except a caricature. Her performance was very theatrical (outward expressions of inner emotions), larger than life...but, coming from Meryl, I tend to believe that to be a comment on Julia herself, a larger-than-life woman, not a caricature. Did you notice how I spoke of Meryl Streep like we're old friends? Mer and I, we go way back.

The movie had a "Sleepless in Seattle" feel, which, I know...duh, Amy...same director. But the script was similar: you have your life, I have my life...here's how they are different, here's how they are alike...yes we should be together. I was hoping for something edgier, rougher, rawer (whoa, that is NOT a word).

After watching the movie, I went to read some of the Julie/Julia Project blog, and said, "wow, this isn't what I expected. At all." I wouldn't have guessed THIS writer to be so Amy-Adams-perky-with-spunk-and-a-determined-chin. I really found Julie Powell's voice to be whiny and self-centered. And I'm sorry Julie, I know if you read this you will get offended and call me a hater in your blog. But Dude, you put yourself out there for comments, so expect them, both good and bad.

When I read blogs, I'm also stalker-girl and read all the comments. Every one. And on the Julie/Julia Project blog, you can almost identify the exact moment when she gets some notoriety, just from the comments. Suddenly, everyone is commenting witty and insightful thoughts on the blog, hoping that a literary agent will discover them and give them a book deal, based only on their views on Julie's cat. Come on people, gimme a break. Have some self-respect.

And, now we come to the part that keeps me up at night. How am I different? Doesn't this blog somehow question my self-respect just from its existence? Am I any less self-centered than Julie Powell, showing off my cakes? Who cares about my cakes? How is my blog different from the masses of food blogs out there? I don't share too many recipes. I don't have the patience to document the process through pictures. Quite frankly, I'm really rough with cake decorating and am pretty sure Kerry Vincent and her knotted headband would have me arrested by the cake decorating police if she saw my gumpaste roses. I know that you need a voice to blog. It seems that my voice is scattered...or maybe I haven't found my voice yet.

I once had a thought (ok, several thoughts) about show ideas that I wanted to pitch to the Food Network or the Travel Channel. Maybe my blog voice is here somewhere:

1. A hard core reality show. Here's how you cook when your food budget is $20 for the week and you have two small children. Here's how I struggle-and-eventually-get-through the picky-food phases. Here's how to stay on a diet with no money and two small children. Here's how to cook with no counter space and an electric cooktop. Here's how to bake in an oven that has a door that doesn't close properly.

2. A hard core reality show part 2. Here's how to open a bakery with two small children and no money. Alls we gots is 2 cake pans, Grandma Olive's recipe box, and passion. Passion is important, right? I sort of missed the boat on this one: The bakery is constructed; all the drama with the plumbers and the village and the health inspector is passed. The only drama I have right now is trying to figure out how to stay on diet while being elbow-deep in cake frosting 70% of the time.

3. 1000 places to take two small children. Or 1000 places NOT to take 2 small children. This one is for the Travel Channel. Probably a daytime slot. I mean, there's got to be more to see than water parks and Disney, right?

(The "Two Small Children" seems to be a recurring theme, yes?)

So Julie and Julia did this to me. Reminding me, once again, that it is impossible for me to just enjoy a movie. Or a book. Or a blog. Or a creative idea. Especially when I'm staring at big, life-altering options.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A month?

I didn't realize an entire month has passed since I blogged. I was never very good about keeping a diary, and this sort of underlines that, doesn't it?

I've spent the last few weeks experimenting with different baking vessels. Guess what? I have an oven-proof bowl set (still in the box) in the very back of my cabinets that I got for a wedding present. They're oven proof! Perfect size to help me make this:

Kaylee turned 7 and had a tea party for her birthday. What's a tea party without a teapot?

I'm very new to cake sculpting, and toyed with the idea of stacking a bunch of round cakes, then carving out the shape. I decided it would be easier to bake the cake in the shape: less carving, less crumbs, neater finish. Hello, oven-proof Bowl Set! Boy, am I glad my relative-but-I'm-not-sure-how-we're-related picked that out for my wedding day!

I used the oven proof bowl twice, turned one right side up, frosted the top, then turned the other upside down on top of the other one. Miracle of all miracles, it didn't smoosh the bottom cake. I decided to use a denser pound cake-like recipe...did I mention it's all chocolate?

The handle, spout, lid and covering is Marshmallow fondant...basically, you take a bag of marshmallows, melt them down to soup, then knead in 2lbs of powdered sugar. Much better than that store-bought fondant...which, to me, kinda tastes like what would happen in Windex decided to make bubblegum.

Brimming with confidence after this cake (heck, I was ready to enter a Food Network Cake Challenge), my cousin Sarah wanted a cake for her daughter Audrey's 5th birthday. Audrey wanted what I call "The Girl's Rite of Passage Cake". The Barbie Cake.

Yeah, I had one. You had one. Your sisters and cousins all had one. Now Audrey has had her's, and, thanks to my oven-proof bowls, it was pretty awesome.

She's saying, "Step back, haters. This is MY cake dress."

I always knew my costume design degree would come in handy. When I least expected.

Did you know Barbie's foot-to-waist measurement is almost 8"? I didn't know that either. I found out when I stuck her into the bowl-shaped cake and didn't even get to her plastic engraved underwear. I baked 2 8" round cakes, stacked them on the cake tray, then put the bowl cake upside down on the rounds. Then we had enough for a skirt. Same cake as the teapot: dense pound cake. Oh, yeah...and chocolate.

I don't know what will be the next creation to come out of my new favorite 6 year-old wedding gifts...But I hope it's awesome.