My Pastry Secret

I’ve been told that the quickest way to make any dessert look fancier is to put it on a cake stand. I don’t personally own a cake stand, but I have seen this principle in action and it seems to be sound. There is a corollary to this rule which applies specifically to pies, however, with which I do have a good bit of experience: the quickest way to make any pie look fancier is to put a lattice top crust on it.

I learned to make lattice tops while when I was seventeen and interning in the eighteenth-century kitchens at Colonial Williamsburg. Truth be told, there isn’t really a lot of technique involved, it’s more about patience. Honestly, I love making lattice tops for a couple or reasons: The first is that I have not yet perfected a pie crust recipe (or found one with which I am completely happy) and in some ways lattice tops are more forgiving if your crust wants to crumble. If you’re making the top crust one big piece and it cracks, it’s going to show in the finished product. If you’re making a lattice top, you just make sure that the cracked part falls underneath another piece and you’re good to go. The other reason I love making lattice tops is that it feeds all of my obsessive tendencies: cutting straight strips and having them all be about the same width; finding where to put each strip so you have the most efficient used of pastry possible; and then all the folding back and forth to achieve the woven effect. Way more fun than writing a dissertation.

And when you show up to a potluck carrying a pie with a perfectly (or, who am I kidding, less-than-perfectly) constructed lattice top, you are guaranteed to get oohs and ahhs. Followed by a chorus of “Did you make this yourself?” “Did you do that crust yourself?” and other similar exclamations. People will be so impressed by your fancy crust, they won’t even notice if the pears in your pie are slightly under cooked and the proportion of cherries is slightly off (ask me how I know). Because when something looks fancy, people assume it tastes fancy.

Now a lattice top pie on a cake stand… that might just make you legendary.

Trivia: In the eighteenth century in order to be considered a “pie” something had to have a complete top crust. A lattice topped pie or an open top one (think pumpkin) would be considered a “pudding.”

The Sound of My Childhood Being Destroyed

Since “better late than never” is how I roll, I will belatedly jump into the fray of discussion on the recent NBC Live version of The Sound of Music. Not that my two cents is worth more than any of the other hundreds of dollars worth of opinion already out there, but…

First, the background: I love this musical. It is definitely a love based off of the movie, but I did not stop there. There was a copy of the stage musical with photos in my junior high school library. It was clearly a volume that predated the film. I checked it out three times in my junior high tenure. The last time it had been checked out was in 1972. And then there was the slightly less old, but still well before my time copy of the book on the actual, real life Von Trapp Family Singers. That one I very nearly stole from the library—and the only other person to have checked it out was my sixth grade English teacher—when she was in junior high. Add to this that I stopped counting the number of times I have watched the movie at 84. That was well over fifteen years ago. I assure you, we are talking well over 100 times I have seen this film. Possibly close to 200.

So was I going to watch Carrie Underwood take on the role of Maria in what was almost certain to be a car wreck? Hell, yes. Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee at Java the Hut

While we were away, I saved Veronica Mars. Sort of via the Kickstarter campaign, but mostly during my brief stint at a Nielsen viewer. I got a week long Nielsen survey in the mail and hosted a Veronica Mars marathon, in part so that we could log it in my diary. Less than a month later, the Kickstarter campaign hit. Coincidence? Probably, but that still makes this extra relevant.

Would we drink coffee with Veronica Mars?

Kristy: Is this a trick question? Absolutely. Unless she sent me a cryptic message inviting me to coffee since that would probably be a sign that she was setting me up for some sort of epic vengeance for something I had done wrong. And as much as I love the clever ways Veronica Mars gets back at those who have wronged her or her friends, there’s no way I want to be on the receiving end of said vengeance. But in a fictional world where I just get to sit and have a cuppa with with Ms. Veronica, it sounds like a blast. First of all, I feel I owe her a cup on behalf of all those who were bullied and/or socially repressed in high school. Second of all, it seems like it would be a blast. Can you imagine people watching with Veronica Mars? You know she’d have some hysterical things to say. Which, on that note, I’m going on record as saying that I’d order an iced coffee so that if I wind up snarffing and one of her witty comments it won’t hurt so bad. As anyone who’s watched the show too much, I’d of course like to ask a few questions like, “Okay, so I applaud you for getting away from the self-loathing rich boy type, but Piz? Really?” And “I know she’s a bitch and all, but why does Madison get the blame for drugging you when it was Dick who put it in her drink?” Plus, potential bonus, you might get to see Veronica make some privileged obnoxious person realize how worthless they really are. And that’s always fun.

Cammy:  On the one hand, I want to say “absolutely!”  but on the other, for as much fun as Veronica Mars is to watch, she kind of intimidates the shit outta me.  One wrong comment and she can and will verbally slice you into tiny pieces.  It would be my luck, I’d make a verbal misstep and wind up another victim of that razor wit.  I think Kristy is better suited for that match up.  So I’ll let her have the coffee and do the asking, and I’ll sit over at the bar and listen in (until Veronica calls me on my eavesdropping, then I’ll just have to go hang out somewhere else and get the play by play from Kristy later).

Strawberry Basil Liqueur Recipe

Remember how I said we were going to be posting regularly? I was supposed to post on Wednesday, but… well, I’m going to be honest, I forgot. To make amends, I’m posting a recipe for booze!

I’m back into liqueur infusions again. This was the second one I put in this summer, but it was the first I tasted since it took less time to infuse.

Take a four cup mason jar and fill it about 2/3 of the way with roughly chopped strawberries. Don’t pack them down, just put them in there. I sterilize my jars first (put in boiling water for 5 minutes) which is probably unnecessary, but there’s no harm in being overly cautious. Take maybe a cup of loosely packed basil leaves, then pack them into the jar. (In retrospect, I might have put them in first. I can’t remember.) Fill the jar with to the very tippy top with 100 proof vodka; close it tightly. Keep it in a cool dark place (I had mine in a paper sack on a bookshelf.) Let it sit there about a month (mine went an extra week because I was out of town) inverting it once a day to make sure it infuses well. Strain the vodka and mix it with simple syrup to taste (I used about a cup and a half of syrup). Enjoy!

Coffee with Mary Magdalene

Would we drink coffee with Mary Magdalene?

Kristy: Okay, this suggestion comes from a colleague, who said if he could pick any historical figure to have coffee with, it would be her. She’s not the first person I’d pick, but I think I’d have coffee with her. I’m not sure I could turn down coffee with her, because what a great opportunity to fill in all sorts of historical mysteries, though on the other hand… asking the questions you’d need to ask could be really awkward. “So… tradition holds that you were a prostitute, but all the Bible says about you is that Jesus drove some unclean spirits out of you… what’s the truth there?” “Speaking of Jesus… you hitting that?” “So… The Davinci Code… what a pile of steaming crap, amiright?” (actually, I wouldn’t feel awkward about that last one at all) But yes, I would like to meet the woman, because I’ve suspected since the first time I read the Bible (yes, I’ve read the whole thing more than once, but I just skim the begats looking for interesting names) that the present perception of her, the folklorized version of her to drag out my dissertation for a second, is probably very different from the real woman. And I’d like to know what the real woman was like.

Cammy: I’m in.  Like Kristy, it’s really a matter of how could I not?  Strangely, I don’t feel any awkwardness in asking those questions (along with the “So, tell me, how do you feel about this all boys club image of Jesus’s road-crew?  Was it really the He-man Woman-Hater’s-Club?  Or is this something I should be blaming Paul/Faux-Paul for?”).   And beyond this, if you get one of the most infamous women in the Bible to sit down for coffee, why not ask her general opinion of how the gender gets treated in the book over all.  If anyone’s ever been entitled to an opinion on that subject, it’s her.  Only thing that would be better is if we could rope the BVM into the conversation at the same time.

… And We’re Back

Did you miss us? Did you notice we were gone? Our any of our five readers even still out there?

Well, we’re back, regardless of the answers to those questions. Hopefully that’s a good thing, but to be honest, we don’t really care.

It’s been a while. A long while. A while longer than we intended and for that we apologize. I could give you a list of reasons why we may or may not have been gone so long, but I’m not going to. I think most of you know the things that have been going on in our lives, and probably the rest of you don’t care that much. It’s a big circle of not caring.

Anyway, I’m popping in today to wish you a happy Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe (Trivia: I can never spell “virgin” in English without the help of spell check. But I can spell it perfectly in other languages. Because other languages make sense.) and to tell you to watch this space. Because this is not like August’s anomaly where suddenly Cammy posted a couple times then we disappeared again. Nope, this is for good. Or bad. Who knows?

In order to avoid future lengthy hiatuses (hiatusi? How do you plural that word?) we’re resuming at a regular, but not daily schedule. Starting Monday we’ll be posting three or four times a week. We hope you’ll read. But even if you don’t, we’ll post.

Regardless of all this not caring stuff, we really have missed this blog, and harbor a glimmer of hope some of you might be happy to see it back as well.

90 Years Ago, Today

By strange coincidence, while trying to find out the answers to some family history mysteries, I ran across the record of my great-grandmother’s entry to the US just the other day.  Today happens to the be 90th anniversary of her arrival through Ellis Island.

Not really a world-events type thing, but still, a strange coincidence.

She came alone on a ship out of Hamburg.  The family story was that her step-father drove her in a wagon to Hamburg, but that’s over 300 miles from where they lived so I kinda suspect he just drove her to the train station.  She apparently knew people on the boat, but after she got off in New York she had to take a train to North Dakota.  As far as I know she did that part all on her own.

She was the last over-seas arrival for my family.