Friday, June 29, 2007

Pie In Your Eye?

With the offspring away on summer excursions, there’s been a significant lack of hubbub in the royal commissary this week (although I did make myself a kick-ass birthday cake, and no, that isn’t nearly as pathetic as it sounds.)

Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking pie. Specifically, I've been thinking about the word in its infinitive verb form – as in, to pie someone. Not surprisingly, there’s a plethora of information on the subject online, including an entry on Wikipedia that includes a chart of people who have been pied: Phyllis Schlafly, Milton Friedman, and Jeffrey Skilling, among many others.

Gersh Kuntzman gives an historical overview of pie launching and illuminates us on the particular genius of 70’s activist Aron Kay, aka The Pieman. Apparently, Kay was unique in his attempts to match the flavors of his pies with their recipients; for example, he made sure to hurl a fruit pie at notorious homophobe Anita Bryant.

Or perhaps you’d like to read an interview with a leading Belgian pie-throwing activist named Noel Godin? Maybe you’re interested in exploring the anarchic antics of the Biotic Baking Brigade and Al Pieda? It’s all here, dear Readers, and it’s simply shocking stuff.

Finally, Jack Boulware provides an instructional guide on the topic. The author has several useful suggestions for do-it-yourselfers, including fortifying oneself with booze before launching the attack and remembering to hurl gently, since one goal is to humiliate, rather than injure, the recipient. (The other goal involves avoiding an assault charge.)

And while the Queen is not exactly condoning the practice (Oh, what a waste of a perfectly good pie!), she admits to having a few political pie fantasies of her own.

Bon appetit, Ann Coulter!

What about you, dear Readers? How do you feel about this form of artistic expression/civil disobedience/ political theater?

And more importantly, who would you most like to see pied?


Friday, June 22, 2007

Life is Just . . .

...a bowl of cherries.

June 22a

Well, sometimes. Today I answered the doorbell twice – once for the UPS man with a stack of packages and once for a florist with an exotic arrangement of flowers-- only to discover that both times, they’d been delivered to the wrong address. And while the neighbors are no doubt delighted to have someone so Scrupulously Honest living nearby, the Queen will admit to suffering a few pangs of disappointment.

Nonetheless, there’s much to be cheerful about. So let’s count some of our blessings this Friday:

A blue ribbon in the breaststroke event
The return of a missing cat
An aged Provolone from Little Italy
A new book by Haruki Murakami
The Amtrak train --on time
A beginning tennis player learns to serve
Lucy gets a gift (Mellow Mutt, I hope you work soon)
The completion of 60 white boxes
Day lilies blooming after skipping a year

And when we’re done counting, let’s have a piece of pie. . .

Rustic Cherry Tart
Adapted from Martha Stewart Desserts

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
5 T. butter, softened
1/3 c. plus 4 t. sugar
1/2 c. ground up blanched almonds
1 egg
1/2 t. almond extract
1 egg yolk
1 T. cream
1 pound cherries, stemmed and pitted

Line your work surface with a large sheet of parchment. Sprinkle with flour and roll puff pastry large enough to cut a 12-inch circle from it. Roll the edges inward to create a 10-inch crust. Transfer parchment and crust to a baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.

Mix together butter, 1/3 c. sugar, ground almonds, whole egg, and almond extract in a bowl. In another bowl, lightly mix egg yolk and heavy cream. Prick surface of pastry with fork and then brush yolk/cream mixture on the surface and edges of crust. Spread the almond mixture over crust and chill for another 15 minutes. Spread cherries in a single layer over almond mixture. Bake tart for 15 minutes. Sprinkle remaining 4 t. sugar over tart and continue baking for 5-10 minutes until tart is deep golden brown. Transfer tart to a wire rack to cool.

June 22b

Friday, June 15, 2007

Music to My Ears

No pie photos or recipes this week, dear Readers. Instead, treat yourself to this audible feast, compliments of uber-musician Steve Chambers. Long promised and worth the wait, this is likely the only song I'll ever have written about me (or my pies).

Mrs. Linder's Pies

Enjoy! (And a royal thank you to Steve)


(You may need to use Internet Explorer in order for the music player to work properly. Hey, I'm a baker not a programmer. . .)

Friday, June 8, 2007

Everybody Needs a Nonna

Lately I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to have an Italian grandmother hanging around the house. You know the kind I mean – a wizened little old woman in a headscarf who’d cluck over my skinned knee (or bruised ego), tend to a flock of chickens in the back yard, and pour out a fortifying slug of grappa when I needed it. Then, when I’d had just about enough of Nonna, she’d gently nod off in her rocking chair and make soft, Italian-accented snoring sounds. Sounds great, huh?

The other thing Italian Grandma would do of course, is cook. This would be her passion, making good things for me, the little principessa, to eat. Minestrones, panzanellas, roasted meats, and every kind of pasta. Italian Grandma would bend over her wooden counter and roll out raviolis by the dozen. “E niente,” she’d shrug - It's nothing - and I’d smile fondly at Nonna and keep on chewing.

And maybe in certain households in Italy, it really is nothing. My friend Anita visited her relatives in an Italian village and after eating her way through a four-hour, multi-course dinner, she watched, aghast, as they fed the leftovers to the dog. Thing is, those leftovers were handmade tortellini, the kind of thing Anita makes only a couple of times a year – on very special occasions, when she’s got say, an extra five hours or so. Lucky, lucky dog.

And that reminds me of the time that the royal family once stayed at a bed and breakfast in upstate New York. We came downstairs at breakfast to find the house cats chewing their way through a tangle of spaghetti and meatballs, both cats coming at it from opposite ends of the same strand. It was a great place to spend a weekend: We all loved the goat that lived on the property, a sweet little creature named Molly who gave a whinny whenever her name was called. Funny how these things become embedded in family lore. Call out the name “Molly” in that particular singsong voice and any one of our family will still bray in response. (Umm, okay, maybe you had to be there.)


But I digress. Back to Italian Grandma ... Nonna. This week’s recipe is in fact called Torta della Nonna, translated as tart or cake or pie Grandmother-style. It comes from my dear friend Ellen, a former colleague and terrific traveling companion, who tells me she made it for a Grandmother Shower. She claims it was the perfect accompaniment to the prune-tinis they served at the shower, although I hope she was kidding about the beverage selection.

I can vouch that the torta is a wonderful treat and tastes divine with a cup of strong coffee. The buttery pastry is orange scented and the filling is a ricotta custard with just enough pine nuts and Cointreau-soaked raisins to give it a bit of a zing. One bite and you’ll agree: La vita e bella.

Oh, if only Italian Grandma were here to taste it.


Torta della Nonna
Adapted from Good Friend Ellen

Ellen makes her version with almonds; I used pine nuts. Ellen used a 10-inch springform pan for her torta; I used an 11-inch tart pan with removeable bottom. (I ended up with enough extra pastry to put in the freezer and use for another tart.) Nobody's complaining about either version.

For the pastry:
1 1/2 c. butter, softened
2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
5 c. flour

Cream butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla, orange zest, and salt. Mix eggs in one at a time until well incorporated. Dough will be very soft. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

For the filling:
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
4/5 c. sugar
1/2 c. + 2 T. flour
2 c. whole milk
12 oz. ricotta cheese

Whisk together eggs and sugar in heavy bottomed saucepan. Sift flour into mixture, whisking to avoid lumps. Add milk in a stream, stirring gently. When mixture is smooth, put over medium low heat, stirring until mixture thickens. When mixture comes to a boil, allow to cook for 2 more minutes. Pour mixture into a bowl to stop it from cooking any more. When mixture has cooled completely, stir in ricotta.

For assembling:
1 egg yolk
3 T. pine nuts or blanced almonds, sliced lengthwise
3 T. golden raisins soaked in 2 T. Cointreau

If the pastry has chilled, let it come to room temperature before rolling out. Preheat oven to 375.

Divide pastry and roll into 2 circles. Fit one half into bottom of pan. Pour ricotta mixture into pastry shell and sprinkle with 2 T. nuts and all the raisins. Cover with remaining pastry and crimp edges. (If you use a tart pan, the pastry will cut itself as you place it atop the ricotta.)
Whisk the egg yolk and brush over pastry. Sprinkle tart with remaining tablespoon of nuts. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of pan. Tart will be golden brown. When cool, dust with powdered sugar.


Friday, June 1, 2007

Hey, Big Boy

When I was a teenager in suburban Cincinnati, going to Frisch's Big Boy after the basketball game was a Big Thrill. In a Happy Days kind of way, things were always happening at Frisch's: Natalie J. might be throwing her shoe at Lucky W.'s windshield (she'd caught him flirting with that ho, Pam E.); Mike B. might be cruising through in his metallic blue Corvette (if only he didn't smell so bad); or I might be lamenting that that the other Mike B. was probably never going to think of me as anything more than a friend. In those days, I'd usually sip a chocolate malt and have an onion ring or two, but frankly, there was little time for eating in between all the drama.

But years before that, when I was in pigtails and shiny white go-go boots, my mother and I would sometimes head to Frisch's for a bite to eat (although we never ate in the drive-in ... sigh). Just thinking about the hunky Buddy Boy or the tantalizing Brawny Lad still makes me lick my lips. I was even taken by the Big Boy (something a wee bit odd about these names, wouldn't you say?), although back then, I'd have scraped off the tartar sauce. And for dessert -- no counting calories when you're 9 -- there was a gooey hot fudge cake or an impossibly glossy strawberry pie.

And so, dear Readers, I present you with this week's entry: an Impossibly Glossy Strawberry Pie, a la Big Boy Restaurants.


The recipe comes from Rose Levy Berabaum of The Pie and Pastry Bible, complete with her own memory of Big Boy Restaurants. I don't think I've ever made a real strawberry pie before, although I assure you that now I have this recipe in my possession, I'll make it again and again.


And while I'd like to tell you that I made this from fresh local strawberries, I didn't. The quart of those that we bought from the Amish farm disappeared long before I got around to making the pie, and so I had to settle for California imports. They were the typically gorgeous fat berries and fortunately, this time, they were atypically tasty.


Here's the link to Berabaum's recipe forStrawberry pie, compliments of Epicurious.