Monday, February 19, 2018

Witch Pie Books

Alice Hoffman's Nightbird was one of a few magical baking novels read in the summer of 2016 that led me to Year of Pie.   As it is an enchanting novel featuring pies, gardens, birds and witches, a re-read felt like just the right thing to bridge year of pie and witch year. The YA novel is still highly recommended.

A quick Amazon search led to Witch's Pie, a self-published children's book that didn't do much for me and two series that I need to investigate: M. Z. Andrew's Witch Squad Cozy Mysteries, including one entitled Witch Pie and Ellery Adams' Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, which includes Pies and Prejudice.  Having been disappointed by Joanne Fluke's Blackberry Pie Murder, I'm not running out to buy any more baking mysteries, even if they do include witches, but if someone had a copy lying around . . . 
Rats, no pie, but lots of fun

Good book-- but that's not amaranth.
Meanwhile, at my local library, searching "witch pie" yields The Brixen Witch by Stacy DeKeyser.  I checked it out, baffled how a rat-infested re-telling of the pied piper would have anything to do with baked goods.  It was some time before I realized that "pied" includes PIE whether or not baked goods are involved (and I just now realized I could have been looking at pied-billed grebes and pied flycatchers during the bird to pie transition last year).  I enjoyed the book and will be adding the Brixen witch herself to my upcoming descriptions of witches.

Somewhere in the last week or two I also read The Amaranth Enchantment by Julia Berry, a very nice fairy tale that would have been made much nicer if the cover art included amaranth for the amaranth witch rather than an amaryllis (or an odd orchid).  True, the amaryllis is more to look at, but it is no "love-lies-bleeding" and many readers (well, at least this reader) would know that. 

I also finished Ruth Chew's The Wednesday Witch, which, while very pleasant about a witch getting mistaken for a vacuum cleaning repair woman in 1960s Brooklyn, is no What the Witch Left, which is one of my childhood favorites, also by Ruth Chew.

So I've worn witchy clothes at least once a week, I said "no" to a committee I didn't want to serve on, I've read three witch-pie books, two other witch books and ate lots of garlic with The Mister for Valentine's Day.  The year is off to a good start.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Groundhog Pie Graduation

Saturday's Groundhog Pie party, marking my 25th year of throwing groundhog parties, was something of a pie year graduation.  Somehow I determined that I needed to make all the pies for over twenty guests and it was hectic and silly and I was immensely proud of the results.

Farmer's Cheese Minis
On the savory table, we had two of the featured Groundhog Pies: sausage and apple in a cheddar cheese crust.  From Kate McDermott's The Art of Pie, the recipe is a keeper. 
The Mister also used ground pork to bake chorizo empanadas with a cilantro cream.
I made 48 Farmer's Cheese and Thyme mini-pies well in advance (recipe from Hand Pies), a few dozen curried carrot in turmeric crust mini-pies that morning and a galette of leeks, mushrooms and goat cheese on puff pastry popped into the oven at the last minute.
"Ground Hog" Pork Sausage and Apple in Cheddar Crust

With the sweets, I had bakes cranberry orange mini-pies and Winter Apple (apple with cranberries, walnuts and dried fruits soaked in spice tea) to represent winter, and homemade lemon curd on almond meringue to represent spring.  A cousin brought a delicious chocolate pie and Dianthus made a peanut butter pudding to fill a brownie crust to round things out.

I'd say that the party was successful enough that I am ready to end Year of Pie, but there is dough in the freezer, I still haven't baked a pie with a hot water crust, and I just learned of multiple books that show up in searches for "witch pie" so not quite yet.
Winter Apple: Apple with cranberries, walnuts, and spiced fruit

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

On the Eve of the Super Blue Blood Moon

Which year starts tomorrow?

Witch year starts tomorrow!

I think the second full moon of the year (and the month, thus the blue moon) with a morning lunar eclipse is the right time to start Witch Year.

Pie year continue until the lunar new year (Feb. 16), but I'll be starting my exploration of witches wearing black and petting a white cat as I watch the closest moon of the year (super moon) go behind the shadow of the earth.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sweet Potato Pie and I'll Shut My Mouth

Back in October I baked two fabulous sweet potato pies and took them to a dinner as part of a Race, Religion, and BBQ series of conversations coordinated by our pastor.  The pies were excellent, perhaps the best I have ever baked.  (Our pastor walked outside to where I was eating that night to inform me that he didn't like pumpkin pie, and that was the best pumpkin pie he'd ever eaten, someone else raved about the on Facebook the next day, and the Mister liked them better than all of the [very tasty] pecan and chocolate pies baked with students a few weeks later).

The whole time I was baking them, I had a line from Alabama Song of the South stuck in my head: "Song, song, of the South, sweet potato pie and I'll shut my mouth" and all fall I thought I was going to eloquently write about race and racism; and about sweet potato pie, misplaced pride, and shutting up. 

Today I met with some of the same people from the discussions to march in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Oklahoma City.  We intended to march with the Black Lives Matter organization, but ended up with representatives of several churches with Black Lives Matters signs.  It was bitterly cold with a north wind and the too-long parade route was not lined with people waving at the floats and the bands-- mostly just participants who had already marched the distance and were returning to the start.  I still don't have the right words to say about racism.  I hope that being there, that taking Aster and Dianthus and talking about the legacy of King, in itself says something, and that something is hopeful.

I will tell my students, all my students, from families from all over the world, that they are valued in my classroom tomorrow.

I will let you know that not all are being silent-- from the expected (you can listen to David Wheeler's pre-MLK Day sermon here, and more from "badass preacher lady" Elizabeth Hagan here), to the less so (my friend J, a returned Peace Corps volunteer, in the midst of chemo-induced anemia, posting how about the great people she's worked with-- abroad and as immigrants: my friend D has had to speak up in support of her students learning and teaching each other ecology in Haiti [some older blog posts here]).

Let us not be silent in the face of oppression. Yet if our words might further injustice, why, perhaps we should just take that pie and shut our mouths.

Monday, January 8, 2018

I'm Still Counting

Pie year continues through the Lunar New Year or such time that I decide the new theme begins, so, have no fear, there are still chances for more pie.

I baked three pies over the weekend, the two Epiphany pies shown below, plus a ham, leek, ricotta pie the next day, and surprised myself by not being able to give an accurate count when asked how many I've baked during Year of Pie. Obviously, what I need to do on the first night of class is sit down and count some more.

When I last counted in early September, I had baked (or directed the baking of) 47 pies to date.

Since then

September (1 in addition to the 7 listed earlier)
S'Mores Pie for the Mister's birthday

October (5)
 2 sweet potato for Race, Religion and BBQ discussions (more on both the pies and the issues sometime in the future) which are the best pies I have baked.
3 variations on chocolate chess for the Fall Festival at Church

November (10)
Nov. Student Baking: Sometimes One Forgets to Style the Pies
Lemon tart, Chocolate Chess, Chocolate Pecan, and Chocolate, Cinnamon, Coffee, Pecan with students (all good, but as the Mister declared, none as good as the sweet potato).
Pumpkin and sweet potato for the harvest breakfast
Mincemeat, cranberry mince, pumpkin and sweet potato for Thanksgiving

December (3)
Cranberry rhubarb, mincemeat and Shaker orange for Christmas

January (3 so far)
Sausage and apple, Epiphany Pie, and Ham, Leek and Ricotta

68 pies to date!

Variations of chocolate and pecan.  All good.  None better than
straight pecan or straight chocolate.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pies Parading On

I chipped a small piece of my wrist in November, while talking.  Yes, the longest blog post hiatus of the ten year I have been doing this can be attributed needing to wear a brace from talking too enthusiastically.
Anyway, all is not fully healed, but I am now four days without a brace and soon I will be typing at full speed again.  In the meantime, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Epiphany Pies.

For Thanksgiving, The Mister cooked most of the meal at the Mister's parents' house.  I baked pumpkin, sweet potato, and mincement pies and a cranberry mince tart, while my parents drove from Colorado to Kansas to join us, bringing pecan pie, a cranberry walnut tart and my niece.

In my mind, Thanksgiving has a set pie tradition, and adding chocolate to those mentioned above would be about as far as I deviate from it.  Christmas, on the other hand, is not normally pie time in my household, and while the Christmas Eve meal and desserts are set, Christmas Day is fairly open.  I baked three pies, intentionally making them not predominately sweet.  I attempted to improve upon the homemade mincemeat from Thanksgiving and ended up with a very dense mincemeat, heavy on the allspice, ginger and cloves.  Cranberry rhubarb was tart and bright and the shaker orange with teh snowflake top crust included the peel, so it has bitter notes along with the tart and sweet.

We had friends over for dinner last night and decided to make it an Epiphany/Three Kings Day/Twelfth Night celebration.  We had a sausage apple pie in a cheddar crust and almond frangipane in puff pastry, which I am insisting on calling an Epiphany Pie rather than a Galette des Rois or a Kings' Cake.  Aster was very involved with the baking of both Epiphany pies and is planning what next year's kings' cake will be.  I explained to him the tradition of the "lucky" recipient of the charm being required to bake the next cake, and that he can do it any time until Mardi Gras, he doesn't need to wait until next year.  The Mister suggested that he bake a Martin Luther King Cake next week for after the march.

Joining Families at Thanksgiving on the Ranch

Mincemeat and Cranberry Rhubarb: Christmas
Shaker Orange: Christmas

Sausage and Apple in a Cheddar Crust: Ephiphany

Epiphany Pie-- or Galette des Rois

Sunday, November 5, 2017

St. Gladys of the Mincemeat

Today is All Saints Sunday.  "Saints" sounds so Papist and so foreign to my middle-America protestant upbringing that I am surprised to find myself not only knowing when it is but actually dressing for it this morning.  One of the great things about attending church regularly it getting into the ritual of the whole church year and learning that such frivolities of special days and seasons are not just for Catholics.  So this morning I lit a candle for Gladys, my personal saint of pies, and we rang a bell for family friend Jennie who couldn't beat the odds on her cancer prognosis indefinitely.

Gladys is my maternal grandmother, and I absolutely never called her Gladys (or "Saint of Pies" for that matter), just Grandma.  She was a great pie craftsman and I've been wanting to write about her all year, but I keep tearing up every time I do so.  Pie week, spring break back in March, included the anniversary of her death, and the anniversary of our last conversation, about pie.  I'm sure that there were medical issues going on, but from what most of us could tell, Grandma stopped caring about living when her son died in October of 2000, and by spring break 2001, she didn't have much of anything left.  I was fortunate to be able to see her at a home and made some awkward conversation.  The least awkward, most animated, conversation was about pie.

I asked about favorite pies and while she was thinking about it, my Mom answered for her, "chocolate cream, right?"  Suddenly feisty, Grandma snapped, "No, that was [your father's?  your brother's?  your?] favorite.  It is good but it is not my favorite."  Then she launched into a long discussion about how you couldn't get good mincemeat anymore.  She enjoyed mincemeat pies with store bought mincemeat, but that wasn't anything like what they made on the farm to preserve the rest of the hog's head.
Peach was pretty good, too.
Last year's mincemeat, from a jar, in foreground.

I stopped by a grocery store to make her a pie.  They didn't have any mincemeat.  They didn't have any frozen peaches.  There was no fruit in season.  I made a horrible peach pie using sticky peach pie filling and took it to her in the hospital the next day.  I don't know through what love or will she downed that piece of peach pie, but I don't think it was just because Grandpa was force feeding her and I'm pretty sure it wasn't because she wanted more of it.  I'm still mortified that that pie was her last meal, and strangely honored by it.

Grandma's birthday was last week, and I was thinking about her as I was baking chocolate tarts.  I look like her and my cousins look like her and I'm not sure she's ever very far away.  She's been with me today as I look for suet to make "real" mincemeat and will be there on Thanksgiving when I unleash the mincemeat on my in-laws.

Thanks for being around Saint Gladys.