the summer in baking

As promised or hinted at, a summary of the baking I did this summer. There’s one more cake, but I’m writing up a separate post for it.

This summer I got really into pies, and it shows. Is summer a weird season to be into pies? Traditional pie dough needs to be kept cold at all times and summer temperatures in New York are not especially conducive to that. I had the AC on all season, and when I’d take out a blind-baked crust I would often set it to cool over the grates of my temperature control box (the name is escaping me; it does heat, AC, and a fan) in hopes that would make things go faster.

There is one missing photo, of a s'mores pie from Allison Kave’s First Prize Pies. I made it for the housewarming my girlfriend and I threw after she moved in with me. It was delicious but didn’t set properly so I just put the pan down on the coffee table and handed everyone forks.

I made this Mexican Chocolate Pie (Allison Kave,  First Prize Pies ) after receiving a job offer.

I made this Mexican Chocolate Pie (Allison Kave, First Prize Pies) after receiving a job offer.

I had  tart dough  (Samin Nosrat,  Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat ) hanging around my freezer so I defrosted it and made this  Savory Potato Tart  (David Tanis for the New York Times).

I had tart dough (Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) hanging around my freezer so I defrosted it and made this Savory Potato Tart (David Tanis for the New York Times).

I love absinthe, so when I came across this Licoricious Pie (Allison Kave,  First Prize Pies ), I knew I needed to make it. It doesn’t taste licorice-y, but rather of anise.

I love absinthe, so when I came across this Licoricious Pie (Allison Kave, First Prize Pies), I knew I needed to make it. It doesn’t taste licorice-y, but rather of anise.

This Breakfast Slab Pie ( Smitten Kitchen ) was, indeed, my breakfast for a couple of weeks.

This Breakfast Slab Pie (Smitten Kitchen) was, indeed, my breakfast for a couple of weeks.

Lavender Milk + Honey Cake with honey whipped cream (middle) and lavender icing (top) (Odette Williams, Simple Cake).

'that thing you always stock up on in Oregon Trail' Rhubarb (Short Stack 05/12)

I was very excited to try rhubarb for the above reason. For so much of my life (26 years!) (technically more like 20, I guess) “rhubarb” was a mythical creation: my characters in “Oregon Trail” always bought a ton of it, because it was cheap and traveled well; and every spring, I saw food writers sing the praises of rhubarb [pie/jam/crumble/etc]. But until this month, I’d never gotten around to trying it.

Alas, it was not May 01 that I tried it, and that’s why once again it feels like I’ve made very little from this particular Short Stack. I hit the Union Square farmers’ market on May 1, ready to stock up, only to find that spring had not yet sprung quite enough for rhubarb to start being harvested and sold. It was closer to the middle of the month that I finally managed to get my hands on some, and that delay in tandem with my unusually busy social calendar (ha) meant that I didn’t come close to using as much rhubarb as my Oregon Trail pixel settlers did.

It can be hard for me to try new foods (thank god no one took me on the Oregon Trail, I guess); there’s a lot of sensory anxiety and social anxiety wrapped up in it. One of the things that I’ve loved about this Short Stack project (and that I love, in general, about home cooking) is that I can try things by myself, in the comfort of my own kitchen, where no one has any expectations of me. If I don’t like rhubarb after all, I can give the pie to a friend. If it turns out that I absolutely love whole-grain honey mustard, I can hoard it, buy it, or make it again myself. The stakes are low, and the anxiety is minimal. But I liked rhubarb a lot. I’ll be stocking up and freezing a ton before the season ends, so that I can drink rhubarb lemonade in November and think of spring.


Book: Rhubarb, Sheri Castle (Short Stack Editions)

Recipes made: 4/23


Rhubarb Pancakes:  These were supposed to involve rhubarb syrup, but the pancakes themselves were a last-minute breakfast-for-dinner decision, and they were still fantastic with maple syrup and butter. Sweet, buttery, and exactly how I like my pancakes.

Rhubarb Pancakes: These were supposed to involve rhubarb syrup, but the pancakes themselves were a last-minute breakfast-for-dinner decision, and they were still fantastic with maple syrup and butter. Sweet, buttery, and exactly how I like my pancakes.

Herbed Rhubarb Lemonade:  My girlfriend has insisted I save her a glass, which means I can’t do what I want desperately to do and down the pitcher. It’s really good, and simpler than I thought making lemonade at home would be…aside from my constant struggle to remember to open seltzer over the sink. I’m 0 for 2 on that one.

Herbed Rhubarb Lemonade: My girlfriend has insisted I save her a glass, which means I can’t do what I want desperately to do and down the pitcher. It’s really good, and simpler than I thought making lemonade at home would be…aside from my constant struggle to remember to open seltzer over the sink. I’m 0 for 2 on that one.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie with Ginger-Pecan Streusel:  The note in the book says “new fave fruit pie”. It’s true. I am not a huge fan of fruit pies, even though I enjoy baking them, but I loved this. I was a bit nervous about the streusel, being that I am also not a huge fan of nuts, but it’s so good and goes perfectly with the pie. The pie itself, my god! I had quite the adventure attempting to partially blind-bake the pie crust, and then burned the top of the crust in an oven mishap. It’s fine! The pie was still so good! I love the custardy filling that goes over the rhubarb. I’m gonna go get a slice right now, actually.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie with Ginger-Pecan Streusel: The note in the book says “new fave fruit pie”. It’s true. I am not a huge fan of fruit pies, even though I enjoy baking them, but I loved this. I was a bit nervous about the streusel, being that I am also not a huge fan of nuts, but it’s so good and goes perfectly with the pie. The pie itself, my god! I had quite the adventure attempting to partially blind-bake the pie crust, and then burned the top of the crust in an oven mishap. It’s fine! The pie was still so good! I love the custardy filling that goes over the rhubarb. I’m gonna go get a slice right now, actually.

Tart Rhubarb Vinegar:  I made it but haven’t used it, and didn’t take a picture of it because it’s…just a jar of ruby-red liquid. Which is really pretty, actually, but here, take this #aesthetic photo from the lemonade-making process instead.

Tart Rhubarb Vinegar: I made it but haven’t used it, and didn’t take a picture of it because it’s…just a jar of ruby-red liquid. Which is really pretty, actually, but here, take this #aesthetic photo from the lemonade-making process instead.