Saturday night’s all right for baking

Saturday night I started cooking and cleaning and I couldn’t stop. Which is really weird for me because, while I love to bake, I hate to cook actual food, and I loathe the vacuum even more. If you wandered into our house unannounced you’d think that two exceptionally lazy college kids live here. Dishes in the sink. Towels on the bedroom floor. Lots of thrift store/Target stuff (this one has less to do with lazy and more to do with the fact that Oliver is a magpie who never met a Goodwill he didn’t love, and I am a Target addict.) I’ve long thought that our relationship works because we’re the same kind of messy and so no one’s ever nagging anyone else.

I digress. Saturday. Ostensibly this fit of domesticity started because my cat brutally murdered a mouse. Our kitchen floor looked like a tiny Game of Thrones set – complete with a beheading. But, whenever I find myself scrubbing the baseboards with Lysol wipes at 10 on a Saturday night, you can bet there’s something else going on.  And there is. Something else going on. I will tell you about it later though. (Hand off the panic button Grammy. No one’s pregnant and no one’s breaking up with anyone.)

All you need to know for now is that resulting energy eventually lead to one of my more random and creative pies: apple/sweet potato with extra flaky crust. This was less a fit of inspiration and more a result of really wanting to bake, but not having any other ingredients to use. I was skeptical.

Side note: It's super hard to take a picture of yourself while holding two hand fulls of fruit.

Side note: It’s super hard to take a picture of yourself while holding two hand fulls of fruit.

But it actually turned out great:

Ugh, the lighting in the kitchen is the worst. But even still you can tell that this pie is badass .

Ugh, the lighting in the kitchen is the worst. But even still you can tell that this pie is badass .

I treated the sweet potatoes just like apples. Instead of mashing them and puree-ing them, the way you would for a traditional sweet potato pie, I baked them until they were soft enough to slice and then layered them into the crust just like apples. It’s been a while since I’ve broken down a recipe for ya’ll (normally I’m just a lazy ass and link you to past crust recipes) so I decided to do that below. Crust is first, filling is second.

The crust:

Let’s be honest, we’re all in this for the crust. I’m pretty proud at how good I’ve gotten at making them extra flaky and awesome. To make this one here’s what you’ll need to make a double crust:

  • A stick of butter. 
  • A stick of vegetable shortening. I used Earth Balance. You can use Crisco if you want.
  • 2 cups of flour.
  • 1 cup of cake flour.
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • Teaspoon of salt
  • Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of ice cold water

To get ready to make this crust you should do a couple of prep steps. Cut up your fat into cubes and freeze it. I let mine freeze for at least 30 minutes because the colder the fat, the flakier the butter. Once your butter/shortening are cold enough you’re ready to begin:

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Step 1: Sift your flour – both kinds – and cornstarch into a bowl. Mix in the sugar and salt.

Step 2: Mix your very, very cold vegetable oil into the flour with your hands. Knead it until it completely breaks up and is the size of tiny peas.

Step 3: Do the same thing with the butter. Butter gets colder than vegetable oil so this will take longer. My hands always get really tired. I don’t know if there’s an actual chemical reason for this or not, but I have also found that the crust is better and flakier if you follow this order, instead of mixing the vegetable oil and the butter oil in at the same time.

Step 4: Slowly knead in the water. This is something else I’ve learned. Used to just dump it all in at once. Now I mix the water in two tablespoons at a time and, again, it just comes out better. Knead the water in until you’ve used the entire half cup and the dough is clumping together in a flaky, but still held together, ball in your bowl.

Step 5: Divide the ball into two, smash each ball into a pancake about 1/4 inch thick, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

The filling

Great! Now you’re ready for the filling.  It’s actually a little bit tedious to make. Hang in there. Worth it. You will need:

  • Four medium size apples and an apple core-er. Is that a word? One of these.
  • Two medium size sweet potatoes and a peeler.
  • Whatever spices you like. I like cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice and I used a tablespoon of each.
  • A tablespoon of agave nectar (which I like to use instead of sugar. If you like sugar, use that, but I don’t know how much you should use.)
Had to sneak my awesome rolling pin in there...

Had to sneak my awesome rolling pin in there…

Step one: Deal with the sweet potatoes. This is the tedious part, unless you happen to like peeling potatoes. Peel them, wrap them in tin foil and bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes or so. Basically, you’re pre-baking these so that they don’t turn out raw when you put them in the pie with the apples which, obviously, have a shorter cooking time.  You’ll know they’re ready to come out when they’re easy to slice, but still firm.

Step two: Core your apples. Peel them if you want. I didn’t because after the potatoes I was burned out on peeling. Once the apples are cored slice them into thin slices and put in a bowl.

Step three: Once your sweet potatoes are slice-able, cut them into slices the same width as your apples. Mix them in the bowl with your apples along with the spices you’ve chosen and the agave nectar.

Simple, except for the stupid peeling. Once this is done, you’re ready to roll out your crust. I use this method, although last night I was actually out of wax paper so I just used the “absolutely coat the dough and the counter in a ridiculous amount of flour method.” It worked ok.

Here’s how you assemble the pie:

Step 1: Roll out the dough for the bottom crust and transfer it to the pie pan using whatever method you find works.

Step 2: Fill the bottom crust with your filling. Some people just dump their filling right in all at once. I prefer to layer. I built a bottom layer of apples, a middle layer of sweet potatoes, and a top layer of apples.

Step 3: Roll out the dough for your top crust and transfer it to the top of the pie. I like to cut any excessive dough hanging over the edges off with scissors before I start shaping the crust.

Step 4: Shape the crust. This is kind of hard to do in my opinion. I basically just crimp it using my thumb and forefinger, but some people get really creative with it so go nuts.

Step 5: Bake. I baked mine at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. I accidentally burned the edges of the crust, so maybe do a little less time. I really think bake times depend a lot on your oven, so try 40 minutes and keep an eye on it.

And that’s how you end a night of furious stress-cleaning, cooking, and baking. I used to stay up all night having fun on Saturday. Now I stay up all night and bake. Weirdly, I’m ok with that.

 

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day

For six consecutive V-days Oliver has made me an awesome card. Each one is a little cooler than the last. This year’s is especially Oregonian:

2013 valentine

So happy to have him in my life and to have all of these keepsake cards he’s made for me. This is why I’m not a flowers and candy kind of girl – I want things I can keep, and hold, and remember for years.

 

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And now for something you’ll probs just all mock me for

Sister Simone Campbell being an awesome badass lady at the at the DNC. Lady Pope 2013!

Sister Simone Campbell being an awesome badass lady at the at the DNC. Lady Pope 2013!

There’s a lot for a moderate, mostly lapsed Catholic woman like me to comment on this week.

Pope resigning. (Hooray! I never saw him as the kind of spiritual leader who could help me answer the persistent questions and concerns I have about faith in general, and the church in particular. As far as I’m concerned, Sister Simone Campbell is my Pope.) Ash Wednesday. Lent.

While I don’t attend Mass regularly, I have developed kind of a weird habit of praying the Rosary while running. The repetition of both exercise hypnotizes me in a comforting way.

I live in “sin” with my boyfriend and I don’t think that’s wrong. I use birth control, and think more people should – and should get it for free. I believe, without judgement, that love is love and the heart wants what it wants – no matter what or who that leads a person to. (And no God that I know “hates” anyone.)

Yet, I still believe in the promise of the church and the teachings of acceptance and charity taught in the new testament. Because I believe in those things, this is one of my favorite times of year. It helps me understand what I find to be the most beautiful line of scripture:

A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John, 1:5 

Truth be told, I attend Mass every Christmas Eve just to hear Father Harry (possibly the world’s most wonderful priest) say it. There are so many dark days in life, and whether you believe in God, or Goddess, or science, or nothing at all, it’s nice to understand that darkness – in whatever form you confront it – may be defeated.

So, I like Lent because it’s an opportunity to build on that thought, to contemplate our mortality — our internal darkness — and to make a small sacrifice to try to be better, to not be overcome by it.

This year I’m giving up my biggest vice – dairy. So, back to the “vegan kickstart” only this time it’s 43 days, not 21. Wish me luck, and whether you believe in some of the same things as me, or now think I’m just a zombie-Jesus believing nut job – I wish YOU luck with whatever struggles you’re up against.

Enjoy them, fight through them, learn from them.

The struggle, just before finding a light, is the best part of being human.

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Sick bed training tips?

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This photo basically sums up my life for the past five days. Haven’t been able to run or do anything besides take medicine and watch House of Cards. (Which, by the way, is amazing. Reminds me of all the reasons I love and hate politics, and, why I love and love Kevin Spacey.)

I’m worried about losing strength – and I don’t think I’ll be able to start up again for at least a week – anyone have any tips for low-impact ways to stay strong while sick? What do you do to stay strong when you can’t get the miles in? During my marathon training in 2011 I got pneumonia and, even though it was two months before the race, I think my time and my body took an extra beating on race-day from the strength I lost as a result.

I’m going to make it up this mountain, setbacks or not, I just really want it to happen in two hours or less….

 

 

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Yikes

Yesterday I ran 9 miles uphill. Amazing and also a tiny bit painful. Why did I do this?  Because I’m a damn fool and I registered for the Mt. Lemmon (half) Marathon – 13.1 miles, all uphill.

Why did I do that? Not totally sure.  I registered for the race in some post-holiday, post-hometown visit, fit of ennui and confusion. I spent 10 days in Tucson this holiday break and it was an awesome-to-weird-to-awkward-to-horrible 10 days. I got back to Portland and immediately wanted a hometown do-over, so I registered for this race.

And now I run hills. Every day. Then I do this:

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We’re watching Lost Girl. Nacho loves it more than I do.

Every day.

Anyone else have a race coming up that you’re simultaniously excited for and terrified about? Details, and training plans please!

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I missed you

Wow. Somehow, it’s February, 2013. Somehow, I forgot to write. There is a reason, it’s just kind of a boring one. I spent most of 2012 deeply depressed which is something  I’ve struggled and lived with for the better part of a decade, and also, something I don’t love to write about for a variety of reasons. The biggest being watching paint dry is more entertaining than reading about another person’s struggle with depression. (Evidence.)

I stayed away from here because I wasn’t baking, running, or accomplishing anything interesting. My life for most of the year was like a dial-tone.

Luckily, I think things are getting better. I went for a run this week and on the way home from the gym (yeah, I run inside in the winter. I hate being cold SO MUCH) I noticed I was happy. Yay for me. And yay for this blog, where I should be a little more active this year.

To celebrate, here’s a picture of me crossing an item off the ol’ 30-before-30 list:

horseride

This horse, Beau, was really grumpy and about 1,000 years old. But it still counts.

And just for your entertainment, here’s a holiday photo of my brother and I at our family Christmas party. Which was also the best night of the holiday break. And was also the night I taught my Grammy how to Tootsie-Roll.

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Happy Thanksgiving

I’m full & exhausted. Considering today a success because we had a table to eat off of (we didn’t always), and friends to share our food with.

I made this pie today out of a pumpkin I grew myself and my favorite extra flaky pie crust recipe. The insides were meh (starting to think I just don’t like pumpkin pie…) but the crust was amazing. The secret is cake flour and completely, rock hard frozen butter. Try it and let me know what you think:

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Extra flaky crust: You’ll need regular flour, cake  flour, butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, salt and water to make this.

Step one: Combine one cup of all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour (the two kinds of flours = extra flaky).

Step two: Mix in a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt.

Step three: Cut in half a stick of very cold butter. The colder the fat, the flakier your pie. Mix with hands. Cut in 5 tablespoons of very cold vegetable shortening and do the same.

Step four: Sprinkle 1.4 cup of cold water and tossed together until you can make a ball. Flatten ball into a thick pancake, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate an hour. Go and make your filling.

Step five: roll out, press into pan, fill with filling and bake. (This pie was baked for 50 minutes at 350 degrees.)

 

 

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