Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Power of Homemaking - and a Pi recipe!


Like many of you I'm sure, I grew up with all the post-war conveniences of suburbia. My grandfathers both served in World War II and were symbolic of the mass of returning vets who sought solace in the newer housing developments outside of the city. My maternal grandmother always told me that her most fulfilling role in life was being a wife and mother. This from a woman who went to college at the New England Conservatory of Music, performed as a lead singer with orchestras across the northeast, taught kindergarten, served as an air raid warden in the war, and lived to the ripe old age of 94. She loved homemaking. She also loved all of the increasing kitchen conveniences available to her. Supermarkets burgeoned in the suburbs after the war offering all sorts of variety and short-cuts, increasingly crowding out small local markets and shopkeepers. I have vivid childhood memories of enjoying steaming bowls of Campbell's mushroom soup at my grandmother's kitchen table. And she swore that margarine and mayonnaise led to her longevity. The industrial food wave had swept the nation leading many to trust factories over farms. Well into adulthood, I honestly believed that homemade pancakes meant Bisquick. 

Both my grandmother and my mother loved being stay-at-home moms so it's no surprise that I love it too. But it wasn't until after my third child's birth, my first homebirth, that I really began to grasp the power and promise of home. Four months after her birth I baked my first loaf of bread (albeit in a breadmaker at the time) and it's not hyperbole to say that it was revolutionary. I was hooked on the homemade. That began a steady process of made-from-scratch cooking and a deepening appreciation for sourcing sustainably-grown, farm-direct, nutrient-dense food for my family. 

It's really only been six years of this, and although I now bake our daily bread in the oven, I still feel wildly ignorant of the kitchen and its true power of production. 

Luckily, my older daughter does not.

It occurred to me the other day, as my 10 year old baked yet another pie from scratch with zero adult help, that while I may be forever playing catch-up in the kitchen, she is already a master at the art of feeding herself and her family. Important skills if you ask me. Arguably the most important. 

I have yet to make a pie crust from scratch, but my daughter makes them all the time. So with her permission, including her improvisations and suggestions and just in time for Pi day, here is her yummy strawberry pie recipe. It is delicious proof that children not only teach themselves, they always teach us as well.

Pi Day Strawberry Pie!

Ingredients for Dough:

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
2 tablespoons of sugar
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup of cold water

Ingredients for Filling:

6 cups of strawberries (thawed or fresh, with stems removed and cut in half)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Ingredients for Topping:

1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar

Instructions for Filling:

In a large bowl, mix together the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Set aside. 

Instructions for Dough:

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, and salt. Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture. Then using two kitchen knives, cut the butter into the mixture by breaking it up into small pieces. Slowly pour the cold water over the dough and mix gently until the dough is moist and crumbly. Next, pour the dough mixture onto a floured surface and knead together into a ball. Divide the ball in half. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball. Wrap each flattened ball in parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. 

After dough has chilled, cover a work surface with flour. Unwrap one of the chilled dough sheets and drizzle the top of the dough with a bit of flour. Cover bottom and sides of a pie plate with the dough. Place filling on top of dough.

Next, take the other chilled dough sheet and place it on the floured work space. Cut strips of dough one-inch wide and about nine inches long. Lay the strips of dough across the filling in a checkered pattern, alternating vertical and horizontal strips. With a small knife, cut away the extra dough around the pie plate edges. With a fork, crimp the dough around the edges of the pie plate.

Using a spoon or a pastry brush, spread the egg topping over the dough strips. Sprinkle sugar on top. 

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour, or until golden brown. Cool completely and enjoy!

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