LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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Panna cotta? Why notta?

If you looked in our fridge, you’d see sundry dairy products: milk for me and Papa, milk for Mama, milk for mama’s coffee, buttermilk for pancakes… Clearly, we have a yen for the stuff. So when Mama decided to show me how to turn the milk into something you can eat with a spoon, I was intrigued.

Panna cotta, in its simplest explanation, is eggless Italian custard. It’s cream that’s been cooked with a smidge of sugar, combined with gelatin, and allowed to set. What could be simpler? And the “formula” is easy enough for a kid like me to remember:

3 cups liquid to 1 package gelatin

That’s it! Mama chooses to divide the liquid equally between heavy cream and half-and-half. She could divvy it up differently or use regular milk, goat’s milk, or even nondairy creamer. She noted that non-milks such as coconut milk and almond milk don’t have enough fat in them to properly set without further tweaks to the recipe. They’ll come together, but they won’t have the proper texture, which Mama says should be solid enough to sit on a spoon but soft enough to wobble like the backs of her arms when she waves.

Panna cotta, two ways

Panna cotta, two ways

Mama says there’s little reason to fear gelatin (unless you’re talking about those neon-hued sugar-laden varieties or this; then be afraid, be very afraid). While it’s true that gelatin is an animal product, it’s highly processed. So, much like the wasp in a fig, it’s not like you’re eating an actual bone. There are more natural varieties (such as Jensen’s) available, and a vegetarian alternative is agar agar, which is fun to say. Gelatin also comes in sheets, but we’re sticking with the powdered kind. Either variety basically has an indefinite shelf-life, so scrounge in your cupboards for a box tucked away in the back.

Working with gelatin requires a two-step process. First it needs to be bloomed, which has nothing to do with James Joyce and everything to do with coating it with cool liquid.

It starts to get all wrinkly immediately.

It starts to form a skin and get all wrinkly immediately.

Then it needs to be melted by either heating it over a low heat or combining it with a hot (not boiling) liquid. Using a hot liquid to bloom gelatin will impede the blooming process, whereas boiling the gelatin at any point will deactivate its gelling properties. (Though isn’t it interesting that you could melt a batch of finished gelatin and reset it several times?)

Because this recipe involves a lot of hot liquid, Mama did most of the work. She made it just before she cooked dinner (chicken piccata, steamed green beans with toasted almonds, and mushroom rice pilaf), and by the time we cleaned up the dinner mess, it was ready. I love how it jiggles but even more, I love how velvety this is. It’s creamy and subtly sweet. What’s more, it looks fancypants but isn’t.

I especially liked going "Boing! Boing!" on top of the panna cotta.

I especially liked going “Boing! Boing!” on top of the panna cotta.

Love, Jude

Basic Panna Cotta

1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 ½ cups half-and-half, divided
¼ cup sugar (or more, to taste)
1 package gelatin (or 2 ¼ tsp)
Vanilla bean/vanilla extract/other flavorings, to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, 1 cup of the half-and-half, and the sugar. Set over medium-low heat and gently warm, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot and the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. (Remove from the heat, if necessary, or turn the heat down to low.)

Meanwhile, pour the remaining half-and-half in a shallow bowl, then sprinkle the packet of gelatin over the top in an even layer. Set aside to bloom the gelatin, about 5 minutes. When the surface looks wrinkly and there’s no dry powder remaining, it’s ready. (If there’s a lot of dry powder, then gently stir to get it wet.)

Ready to combine. You can see a bit of dry gelatin powder at 12 o'clock. Mama mixed it in before adding it to the hot cream.

Ready to combine. You can see a bit of dry gelatin powder at 12 o’clock. Mama mixed it in before adding it to the hot cream.

Once the cream mixture is hot, stir in any extracts for flavor,* off-heat. Start with ½ tsp and go from there. Taste it. See if it needs more flavor or more sweetness to your liking. Stir in the gelatin mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Stir and stir until all the gelatin is dissolved. (Check the back of the spoon/spatula—you’ll see little globs of unmelted gelatin if they’re there.)

To serve panna cotta in glasses, jars, or dishes, simply pour it into the appropriate vessel. (You might want to pour the finished mixture into a glass measure for easier and neater pouring first.) Do this carefully so it doesn’t splash all up the sides of the glass, which you’ll see once it’s set. Cover with plastic wrap (not touching the surface of the panna cotta) and chill in the fridge until set, 1 to 2 hours. (If your glasses have already been in the fridge, it’ll set a little faster.)

Mama topped this with some leftover pear-poaching syrup. If the panna cotta weren't properly set, the liquid would never sit on top like that.

Mama topped this with some leftover pear-poaching syrup. If the panna cotta weren’t properly set, the liquid would never sit on top like that.

To unmold the panna cotta for a fancier presentation, lightly coat or spray custard cups or ramekins with a neutral-flavored oil (e.g., grapeseed or canola). Divide the finished mixture among them, cover, and chill as above. To serve, dip each mold in hot water for 10 seconds, run a knife around the edge, and invert onto a plate. (It helps to put the plate on the ramekin, and then invert.) If the panna cotta doesn’t easily slip out of the mold, then dip it in the hot water again, making sure the water comes up as high as the panna cotta.

It's just another way to eat it.

It’s just another way to eat it.

Either way, serve it topped with fresh berries, berries made into a sauce, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, crumbled gingersnap or thin-mint cookies, etc. The possibilities are really endless.

Makes 6 1/2-cup servings

*Note: If using whole spices as flavoring, such as the seeds and pod of a vanilla bean or cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks, etc., steep them in the cream as it heats. Remove before adding the gelatin mixture. Also, alternatives to sugar seem to work as well as the white stuff: stevia, honey, agave, even those ghastly fake sugars (but you didn’t hear that from me).

"Yum!"

“Yum!”


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It’s applesauce day!

It’s cold outside today, but it’s warm and smelling of cinnamon and cloves inside. We made 12 pints of applesauce, and we barely made a dent in our apples!

Mama decided it was go much faster if we kept the peels on. They blend right up in the immersion blender.

Mama decided it would go much faster if we kept the peels on. They blend right up with the immersion blender.

Papa showed me a new way to eat applesauce: as something to dip my pork chop into. Yes, indeed!

Love, Jude


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Let there be apples

With the fall comes apples and apple picking. Being that it’s already past Halloween, we’ve gone a few times. We even picked pears in early September.

Imagine how much cider you could make with all those pears on the ground?

Imagine how much cider you could make with all those pears on the ground.

By now this apple picking thing is old hat for me. We pick the apples, and then we eat them. I sure do love apples.

I'm performing quality control on this apple.

I’m performing quality control on this apple. The brown on it means it’s russeted.

This past weekend, we picked more than 60 pounds! We’re stocking up for the winter, but we also want to make applesauce and apple pies. (Crumbles, rather, since they’re much easier to make than pies, as they don’t have a crust!)

It was sunny but really cold this day. The cold will be perfect for storing all the apples we picked.

It was sunny but really cold this day. The cold will be perfect for storing all the apples we picked until we can gobble them up.

I’m getting pretty good at making these apple crumbles. Mama hasn’t put in anything like raisins or cranberries or pomegranate arils, but don’t let that stop you from doing it. And don’t let anything keep you from making a crumble!

Love, Jude

Apple Crumble
(This is one of Mama’s loosey-goosey recipes, so feel free to improvise.)

4 or 5 apples (multi-variety*), peeled, cored, and sliced or chopped as desired
Brown sugar
Whole-wheat flour
Ground cinnamon
Ground cloves
Ground nutmeg
(other spices, as desired)
Rolled oats
2 tablespoons butter (or so)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Prepare the apples. I like to use this nifty crank to peel the apples, and then Mama sometimes uses a fancy apple corer to break the apple apart.

I can only use this with supervision because Mama says the peeler is sharp.

I can only use this with supervision because Mama says the peeler is sharp.

This corer is a lot harder to use than it looks.

This corer is a lot harder to use than it looks.

Once the apples are all sliced or chopped, put them in a bowl, and add some brown sugar (to taste), a handful of flour, and spices as desired. The flour will help thicken the juices as they seep out of the cooking apples.

Mama lets me add the spices. I like cinnamon, so I gave it an extra shake.

Mama lets me add the spices. I like cinnamon, so I gave it an extra shake.

Maybe Mama shouldn't entrust me with the spices...

Maybe Mama shouldn’t entrust me with the spices…

Mix with your hands or a large spoon. I had to wash my hands after doing this! Pour it all into a pie plate. Spread the apples so they lie relatively evenly. To the bowl, add more flour and brown sugar, a couple handfuls of oats, and more spices (if desired). Mama didn’t add any more cinnamon to our crumble topping. Stir it all up. (I happen to like using the whisk.

Get everything for the streusel good and blended.

Get everything for the streusel good and blended.

Now smoosh in the butter. Two tablespoons is just what we used. You can use more or less, but try to get at much butter covered by as much streusel mixture as you can. “I think I need to wash my hands again,” I told Mama.

Blend the butter into the topping any way you like. I didn't really care for getting butter all over my fingers.

Blend the butter into the topping any way you like. I didn’t really care for getting butter all over my fingers.

Then sprinkle the streusel topping over the fruit in an even layer.

I helped make this!

I helped make this!

Bake until golden and the apples are soft, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before digging in. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. And, whatever you do, don’t hold it hostage until your kid finishes his dinner. That’s just mean.

Mama and I high-fived and told each other, "Good pie!"

Mama and I high-fived and told each other, “Good pie!”

Note: Mama likes to use several varieties of apples in both her pies and her applesauce. The tarter ones balance out the sweeter ones, and the softer and crisper ones add texture.


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I scream, you scream

Two of Mama’s favorite things to make are angel food cake and challah bread.

Mama made French toast with this yummy challah.

Mama made French toast with this yummy challah.

Luckily, they have a symbiotic relationship (or so Mama tells me), in that angel food cake needs egg whites, while challah calls for egg yolks. But they don’t require equal amounts of divided eggs. You’re going to have about half a dozen leftover yolks, which is just enough to make…

ICE CREAM!

You probably think that I don’t eat a whole lot of this delicacy. And you would be wrong. Well, at least by Mama’s standards, I do eat a lot of ice cream. (I could see eating it a couple more times a week, but that plea tends to fall on deaf ears…) But I was amazed when Mama finally showed me how to make ice cream. She couldn’t have gotten me out of the kitchen had she tried.

This is what you'd call soft serve.

This is what you’d call soft serve.

Making ice cream is like magic. First it’s cold, then it’s hot, then it’s cold again. Some folks might not consider this method very easy. And while it’s certainly true that not all ice creams are cooked first, cooking the base makes such a creamy difference (it’s also what makes it French). Besides, wouldn’t you rather eat cooked egg yolks?

Actually, probably the most difficult thing involved is splitting and scraping the vanilla bean. Mama showed me how to do it. Carefully cut it in half the long way, then hold onto one end with your finger pressed onto it. (If you need the whole pod, don’t cut all the way through so that you separate the whole bean; if you do, just do the next step with each half.) With the other hand, take the blade of your knife (either edge), and run it down the cut you just made, so you’re flattening the bean and scraping the seeds from inside it at the same time.

If you look closely, you can see the edges of the bean where the seeds were scraped out.

If you look closely, you can see the edges of the bean where the seeds were scraped out.

Okay, maybe this ice cream is a bit more complicated than scraping a vanilla bean, but when you taste it, you won’t even care.

Love, Jude

French Vanilla Ice Cream
(that will make you forget all your cares)

2 cups organic heavy cream
1/2 cup organic half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
5-6 organic egg yolks (1/2 cup)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, half and half, sugar, and vanilla bean (pod and seeds) just to a boil.

You can see all those lovely vanilla bean seeds, and the pod adds a ton of flavor, too. Just look how thick and creamy it looks already.

You can see all those lovely vanilla bean seeds, and the pod adds a ton of flavor, too. Just look how thick and creamy it looks already.

Meanwhile, set yolks in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients and whisk gently to break them up. Once the cream is hot, pour a little bit (about 1/2 cup) into the egg yolks while whisking. (Mama says if you’re using a bowl that skids while you’re whisking, put a damp towel or washcloth beneath it.) Then slowly add the remaining cream to the yolks, whisking constantly. Mama calls this tempering and says that without it, the eggs would coagulate. I say the word “coagulate” is almost as bad as the word “moist.”

This is how the yolks look after just a little bit of tempering. See? No scrambled eggs.

This is how the yolks look after just a little bit of tempering. See? No scrambled eggs here.

Now you can do either of two things: You can pour everything back into the saucepan and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom of the saucepan), until it reaches 170˚F, which is how hot you want your eggs to be to render them safe. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can tell when it’s ready because it coats the back of a wooden spoon and when you run a finger down the back of the spoon it creates a channel that the cream doesn’t run into. This will take about 10 minutes. If you’re worried that you might scramble your eggs—they get pretty close if your heat is too high or you don’t keep stirring—then keep your cream mixture in the bowl and set it over a pot of simmering water (the water should not touch the bowl).

When the cream doesn't slip back into the channel on the spoon, it's called nappé, and it means your custard is done.

When the cream doesn’t slip back into the channel on the spoon, it’s called nappé, and it means your custard is done.

Et voilà: You have your custard base for ice cream. (Aren’t you even a little excited?) Now strain it into a clean bowl. This will collect all the stray bits of coagulated egg and vanilla bean. (Rinse off that bean and stick it in  jar of sugar for vanilla sugar!) From here, let it cool a bit, then put it in the fridge to cool completely. If you’re in a bit of a rush, have your clean bowl (the one that’s going to receive the strained custard) sitting in a larger bowl filled with ice and a bit of water, and be sure to stir the custard periodically as it cools.

Straining ensures your custard is as silky as you deserve it to be after all that work.

Straining ensures your custard is as silky as you deserve it to be after all that work.

Pour your cold custard into an ice cream maker and process and freeze according to directions. (I’m just a toddler. You can’t expect me to explain everything.) If you want to add flavors, such as nuts or chocolate chips or bits of fruit, wait until the ice cream is nearly done churning before doing so.

Churn, baby, churn, and work your magic.

Churn, baby, churn, and work your magic.

Once it’s churned, stick it in the freezer, and just try not to think about it all the time. This recipe makes about a pint of ice cream, but it can easily be doubled…you know, in case you didn’t make challah bread after your angel food cake.

Come on, you've seen me lick spoons and spatulas before. Why should ice cream custard be any different?

Come on, you’ve seen me lick spoons and spatulas before. Why should ice cream custard be any different?

Note: Mama says you can subtly change the flavor of the custard base by steeping herbs (such as mint or chamomile) in the cream as it heats. One of her favorite blends is steeping lavender flowers in the cream, then adding honey during the final cooking phase or churning phase (depending on desired texture).


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It’s not too late to make popsicles!

I’d wanted to write about popsicles for some time, but Mama kept me pretty busy during the summer. Since I just finished the very last one, I thought better late than never. And you can still get good cantaloupes from your farmers’ market, so why not make a bunch of popsicles to enjoy on those Indian summer days that are still to come?

I’m sure you know how much I love frozen treats, whether they’re gelati or popsicles. I especially liked making these with Mama! She showed me how she cuts the cantaloupe, and then I put the pieces in the blender. Mama added the juice of a fat juicy lime and a bit of sweetened condensed milk (she thought this might make it more like a creamsicle). Then I covered my ears so she could whir it.

Jude on Food: You need a little bit of sugar in your popsicles to keep the melon from freezing solid.

We tasted it to see if it needed more S.C.M. (it did), and she whirred it some more.

Mama gave me a big slice of melon to munch on while I figured out these popsicle molds--they're from when Mama was a kid!

Mama gave me a big slice of melon to munch on while I figured out these popsicle molds. They’re from when Mama was a kid!

I helped pour the popsicle mixture into the molds. Mama had to take a few deep breaths, as I tended to miss the molds, but I did a pretty good job overall, she said.

It's amazing what a little kid can do when you take a deep breath and just let him.

It’s amazing what a little kid can do when you take a deep breath and just let him.

The hardest part was waiting for them to freeze…and then getting them out of the deep freezer, once Mama moved them from our kitchen freezer after I started helping myself.

Love, Jude

Cantaloupe Popsicles

1 lovely ripe cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Juice of 1 lime (or 2, if you prefer)
1/2 small can sweetened condensed milk (more or less, to taste)

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and frothy. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until set.


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Dessert on the grill?

Yes!

Mama went and made that bluecherry pie, and the house has been hot ever since. She brought home some lovely, luscious apricots from a farm stand, and she decided it would be worthwhile to adapt a simple oven recipe to the grill (since she was using it to cook dinner anyway).

Apricots are at their peak right now. In fact, they’re probably on their way out in most places. Mama will be lucky if she can get any more this weekend (but she sure put up a heckofa lot of them). The little ones you get in grocery stores in early June don’t have anything on the sweetness and suppleness of those freshly picked from the tree. And they’re the perfect size for me to hold as I munch around the center stone, which actually comes out fairly easily. (But whether I throw said stone or give it to Mama to throw away is anyone’s guess.)

Mama says you can grill fruit directly on the hot grates. She lightly oils or sprays either the fruit or the grates. Sometimes she mixes a bit of honey with something sour like lemon or lime juice and brushes that on the cut side of the fruit. And that’s it. Grill it until it has grill marks on it and gets somewhat soft. If you want to push it until it’s very soft with deep grill marks, that’s up to you!

For this recipe, however, Mama used foil and closed the lid of the grill to simulate the inside of an oven. The foil caught the fruit juices, as well as the melted butter and brown sugar, so there was no mess to clean up afterward.

A pat of butter, a spoon of brown sugar, and a hot grill are all these little apricots need to become just a little more special.

A pat of butter, a spoon of brown sugar, and a hot grill are all these little apricots need to become just a little more special.

The good news: I got to enjoy these with ice cream!! (The secret news: I would’ve eaten them without it, they were so scrumptious.)

The warm apricots started melting the pecan ice cream. Mmm....

The warm apricots started melting the pecan ice cream. Mmm….

Go ahead an try this with any type of stone fruit–plums, peaches, nectarines. But don’t forget to try it with apricots.

Love, Jude

Grilled Sweet Apricots

3 apricots, halved & pitted
1 tablespoon butter, cut into 6 pieces
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Get your grill going. Ours is gas, and Mama had it on medium-low, but it still got up to about 400°F. Place apricot halves, cut side up, on a sheet of aluminum foil. (You can do this directly on the grill, as Mama did, or prepare them ahead of time and transfer the entire sheet of foil to the grates.) Add 1 piece of butter and ½ teaspoon brown sugar to the center of each apricot. Close the lid of the grill and cook until butter & sugar are melted and apricots are soft and gooey, 10–15 minutes. Perfect as a treat on their own, or even better with ice cream. Be sure you eat all those sugary, buttery juices, too.

Serves 3 people.

Note: You don’t have to be exact about the measurements, and clearly, you can increase and decrease the amounts for as many apricots as you like. If you want to make these in the oven, lightly spray your baking pan and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until they’re soft and starting to turn golden.


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Pie making for beginners

Because Papa just came home from two weeks abroad, Mama decided to treat him to one of his favorite pies—the sour cherry. And because she recently picked blueberries, she figured she’d toss a few of those in there as well. Behold: the “bluecherry” pie.

Pie recipes abound, particularly in the summer months, and they all seem to have their own recipe for what goes on the bottom. Whether you call it pâte brisée, pâte sucrée, pie crust, or pastry dough, Mama suggests finding a pie dough recipe that works for you and sticking with it. That way, you’ll always have it in your back pocket if you’re in the mood to make a pie. (I don’t know why you’d keep a recipe in your back pocket all the time; I’m just telling you what she said.)

A basic recipe is 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, and 1 part cold water by weight. There’s no magic in the fat you use (butter, cream cheese, coconut oil, lard);  it’s really just a personal preference. Mama likes the idea of an all-butter crust for its flavor and flakiness (and its naturalness, of course), but a 50-50 butter-shortening crust is a little easier to work with. Whatever you choose, keep your fat cold. Cube it then put it back in the refrigerator while you assemble the rest of your ingredients. Same with your water. You want that to be cold-cold-cold. Mama says this is because you don’t want your fat to melt before it goes into the oven. If it melts beforehand, it won’t have a chance to release steam as it melts—and the steam is what causes those heavenly layers of flakiness in any good crust. Do you think your croissant would be so light and airy if the baker used warm butter? Think again!

Before making your dough, gather your flour, sugar, salt, and butter--but get that butter back into the fridge as soon as you dice it.

Before making your dough, gather your flour, sugar, salt, and butter–but get that butter back into the fridge as soon as you dice it.

You can make your crust by hand or in a food processor, which is easier, but then you have to clean it. Mama tends to make it by hand because she has better control over it. If you use the food processor, only ever pulse it—don’t run it! Combine your dry ingredients first. At its simplest, this would be just flour (or a combination of flours), but you really ought to add a pinch of salt for flavor, as well as a bit of sugar. If you’re making a savory crust, omit the sugar and experiment with some herbs.

Add the fat (butter in this case) and cut it into the flour. You can use forks, two butter knives, or this handy pastry blender.

I was overzealous in cutting in the butter, and flour landed in my eye.

I was overzealous in cutting in the butter, and flour landed in my eye.

You want to break up the butter into smaller pieces while coating those pieces in flour. Some folks say it should resemble peas, but peas are green, and I just don’t see how this looks like peas.

This is what your dough should look like before you add the water. Do YOU see any peas in there?

This is what your dough should look like before you add the water. Do YOU see any peas in there?

Now you add your water. Drizzle it over the dough (or run it through the feed tube of the food processor while pulsing), then stir with a fork. You can start with about ¼ cup water, then add about 1 tablespoon at a time to get it to the consistency you want. Mama says there’s never a precise measure for this, as a lot of factors are variable: if your kitchen is warm, if your butter is starting to melt, if your water isn’t supercold (I did tell you to put it in the fridge), if you’re using a combination of flours other than all-purpose, etc. What you don’t want is to make a smooth ball of dough. If you end up with this (easy to do in a food processor), you’ve overworked the dough, and it’s going to be tough, rather than flaky. Test it by clumping a bit of the mixture in your hand—if it holds together, it’s wet enough.

See how the dough in the bowl doesn't look like dough at all? But look what's squished in my hand. Perfection.

See how the dough in the bowl doesn’t look like dough at all? But look what’s squished in my hand. Perfection.

Turn it out onto a counter then gather it all together. Again, don’t overwork it. If it’s sort of shaggy at this stage, that’s alright. Don’t manhandle your dough, and you’ll get a tender crust in return. Form it into a disk (or 2, if you’re making a pie with a top crust—but make one disk slightly larger than the other), wrap it well in plastic wrap, then refrigerate for a minimum of 30–60 minutes. This gives the gluten time to relax. Gluten is the protein in flour that holds the crust together and gives bread dough its structure. But like a toddler without a nap, it’s a little temperamental and needs some time to chill out.

You don't need a perfectly smooth ball of dough right now. Remember that you're going to take a rolling pin to it after it chills.

You don’t need a perfectly smooth ball of dough right now. Remember that you’re going to take a rolling pin to it after it chills. (Do you like my shirt? Grrr.)

When you’re ready to assemble your pie, lightly flour your work surface and your rolling pin. Roll the dough in all directions (rotate the dough, not your body), taking care not to roll your rolling pin off the edge of the dough—just go to the edge. Keep rotating, so you know the dough’s not sticking to your counter and so that you roll a relatively even shape.

If you look closely, you can see butter smooshed into the dough--they're the lighter colored splotches. That's what you want!

If you look closely, you can see butter smooshed into the dough–they’re the lighter colored splotches. That’s what you want!

Transfer the dough into the pie plate (wrap it over your rolling pin to keep it from stretching).

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin, bring it to the pie plate, then unroll the dough.

Gently roll the dough around the rolling pin, bring it to the pie plate, then unroll the dough.

Some folks put the bottom dough back into the fridge for 15 minutes. If you have yet to prepare your filling, then go ahead and put the crust in the fridge in the meantime. If you’re blind-baking your crust (that is, baking it without any filling), it can go right in the oven. Either way, when you’re ready, fill your pie and top it with the other disk of rolled-out dough, if using. And don’t forget to save your dough scraps. Wrap them well and store them in the freezer, as they make for a very easy last-minute dinner or even a lazy-day pie.

Mama does this very simply—some might call her work “rustic.” Have fun with various types of topping. You can roll it out, tear it into pieces, then lay a patchwork of dough on top. (You could also just tear small chunks of dough off the dough ball and flatten them with your hands and skip the rolling altogether.) You can roll it out smaller than the size of the pie and lay it on top, without touching the edge of the bottom crust, making a “floating” crust. You can lay it on top and flute the edges or press them together with the tines of a fork. Or, you can make a lattice.

Like everything else, there are a couple ways to make a lattice crust, but here’s one that’s just as easy as…pie. (Come on, you knew that was coming.)

Roll out your top crust, then use a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or sharp knife to cut strips. Try to keep them as uniform as you can (but you can always call it rustic!). You should have 3 or 4 that are about 10” long, if you’re making a 9” pie. The rest can be shorter. You’ll need 8 strips total. Lightly moisten the edges of your pie crust that’s already in the pie plate; this will help the top crust adhere.

Your strips don't have to have crinkly edges...but their flaw are hidden a bit better.

Your strips don’t have to have crinkly edges…but their flaws are hidden a bit better.

Lay 5 strips vertically across your pie, evenly spaced apart.

You can see the blueberries and cherries and cubes of butter peeking out like they're behind the bars of a crib.

You can see the blueberries and cherries and cubes of butter peeking out like they’re behind the bars of a crib.

Fold down vertical strips 2 & 4, about halfway down. Then lay 1 horizontal strip across the middle, over vertical strips 1, 3, & 5. Then unfold 2 & 4.

lattice step 2/littlejudeonfood.com

Then fold down strips 1, 3, & 5. Lay 1 horizontal strip above the first horizontal strip, over vertical strips 2 & 4. Then unfold 1, 3, & 5.

lattice step 3/littlejudeonfood.com

Either turn your pie 180° so the bottom is now the top, and repeat the previous step. Or fold up (from the bottom) vertical strips 1, 3, & 5. Lay 1 horizontal strip, over vertical strips 2 & 4, beneath the middle strip. Then unfold 1, 3, & 5.

lattice step 4/littlejudeonfood.com

Now crimp the edges of the 2 crusts together. Brush with milk or egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 Tbsp milk or water) and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.

finished lattice/littlejudeonfood.com

When you make fruit pies, it’s always a good idea to put a foil-lined baking sheet on a rack beneath the pie to catch the inevitable spillover when the fruit juices start bubbling. About halfway through baking, you should rotate your pie too, for even browning.

You can see that the crust is started to get good and golden, but the edges are getting a bit dark.

You can see that the crust is starting to get good and golden, but the edges are turning a bit dark.

It’s also a good time to put pie crust shields or foil around the edge if it’s starting to brown too quickly.

You can use silicone pie crust shields like these, or create your own by tenting foil around the edges.

You can use silicone pie crust shields like these, or create your own by tenting foil around the edges.

As always, allow for the pie to cool, overnight if you can stand it, before cutting into it. This will give the juices time to set, so you’re not eating berry soup over a soggy crust.

Flaky crust of deliciousness...I'm guessing.

Flaky crust of deliciousness…I’m guessing.

I wish I could tell you what bluecherry pie tastes like, but I didn’t eat my dinner (grilled skirt steak with chimichurri), so I didn’t get any. Maybe tonight. Wish me luck.

Love, Jude