Thursday, May 5, 2011

LCM 4th Anniversary Today: Reflections on my blog-child

Shoofly crust Like everything with children growing up, this 4th blog birthday snuck up on me. Four years old! It seems like yesterday when I wrote the first post about morning in Little Compton—time to wake up and start thinking about what’s for dinner while drinking coffee, ideally while strolling outside, followed by a piece of pie for breakfast (and then for lunch…).

Naturally, I devoted motherly attention to my blog during its first year, learning as I went about how to make it work (getting the photos right, for instance). The doting continued well into the second year, but then the blog entered the metaphorical terrible twos (and threes). But I can’t really blame the blog for this; it’s more like I became a neglectful mother. A guilt-ridden one, of course, but neglectful nevertheless. Busy working (Moving! So many papers to write! Courses to teach! Grading!). I really wonder if people realize that the vast majority of consistently updated blogs are written by people who don’t work—or for whom the blog is their work. Maybe I’ll get to that point some day.

Of course, there are also those bloggers, including many fine ones, who do work, but are still so young (let’s say, under 40 or so) that they have the energy to do their cooking and blogging at night. I was like that once, but alas, no more—I do fade at the end of the day. So until I retire (ha), or am able to work from home to allow cooking-in-between (ha), a neglected, on-again, off-again blog it will be. I do try to compensate for all the silences and weak-sister posts during the summers when I have more time (and when there is more fruit and veggies and other bounty for inspiration), and for the most part, I think I’ve done all right on that score. Thank you for your patience.

Which I hope will be rewarded. For better or worse, I am one of those people for whom hope springs eternal, in a Pollyanna kind of way, so I expect the blog, as it enters its 5th year, to smooth out a little, and to return to a more regular rhythm. I may not match the nearly 5 posts a month of the first couple years, but I am not ready to give up my child yet. I don’t at all mind not having lots of comments on my posts; while I’d like more because I think it would mean I’d be reaching a more diverse reader group, I get lots of emails instead; that’s the kind of reader I have, and I like the friendliness of it and the fact that people feel a personal enough connection to actually write. In fact, I’ve made friends through my blog, and good ones: who knew? I want to return not just to cooking for you, but to writing for you, well. I still have lots of New England specialties to cover. And pies to make before I sleep, and pies to make before I sleep.

Speaking of which:

New England-y Shoofly Pie

This is for you, racheld, as promised. Shoofly pie is one of the pies my Pennsylvania German grandmother used to make; I have made it a little more New England with maple syrup, completely consistent with its general genre of “syrup pie.” There’s lots of room for variation here, in both the sweeteners used and the spices. Shoofly pie is a classic pie-for-breakfast kind of pie, right up there with fruit pies, possibly because of its strong flavor that goes well with coffee. Serves 8—because it is rich.

Pastry for a 9” pie prepared according to your favorite recipe, or this one. Use a glass pie plate if you have one.

1 c flour
½ c firmly packed light brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter, softenedShoofly rolled
½ tea cinnamon
¼ tea cardamom
1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
big pinch ground cloves
Pinch salt

½ c unsulphured molasses (mild or strong, to your taste)
¼ c pure maple syrup
¾ c boiling water, cooled slightly
1 large egg
1 tea vanilla extract
½ tea chocolate extract (optional, but nice)
1 tea baking soda

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Roll out the pastry and fit it into a standard 9” pie pan; crimp the edges, and chill the crust while you make the crumbs and filling.

Lightly mix the flour, sugar, and spices and work the butter in with your hands to form crumbs. Set aside.

In a small bowl or large glass measure, mix the molasses, the maple syrup, extract(s), baking soda, and hot water. Beat the egg and stir it into the syrup mixture. You can either pour this into the pie shell and top with the crumbs; layer it, beginning and ending with the crumbs; or about half the crumbs into the filling as I remember my grandmother doing. Doing this or layering makes for a slightly “dryer” versus “wetter” pie, as shoo fly pies are often described.

Bake the pie for 10 minutes; it will puff up (and some of the filling may rise above the crumbs as in the picture; that’s OK). Reduce the heat to 325 F and bake for another 20-25 (likely) minutes, until evenly brown and lightly firm but still springy in the center. Remove and cool on a rack to warm room temperature. You can serve it with whipped cream, ice cream, yogurt (which is good), or on its own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                  Shoofly slice2


And here, made with the re-rolled pastry scraps, is a jelly tart, just like my grandmother used to do, made with last summer’s seedless raspberry jam. Eaten hot out of the oven as the cook’s treat—delicious.