friday feast: barbara’s back!

via Sifu Renka

Happy Poetry Friday!

It’s been awhile since my last Friday Feast, and I’ve missed the soul-enriching nourishment afforded by beautifully crafted poems. Only fitting that since the last poem I featured at the old LiveJournal blog was by Barbara Crooker, we begin the 5th course of alphabet soup in this new cyber kitchen with another of her food poems.

The subject? Pie Crust!

Oh yes, my Quest for Pie continues. ☺ And I am a crust person through and through. Not to say I don’t love all the fillings —  it’s just that a light flaky crust defines a pie. Such a difference between bland cardboard or soggy goo, and perfectly baked, golden richness — just the right soft crumble, gently yielding its precise measure of flour, fat, and water, alerting your taste buds to pastry nirvana.

via The Cooking Photographer

Making good shortcrust pastry is an acquired skill, a tricky proposition that requires flawless technique, practice, and that indefinable something only obtainable through the touch of human hands. And if they’re your mother’s hands? Then it approaches the sacred, a place where loving memories, family pride, and a desire to distill the essence of childhood prevails.

by Barbara Crooker

Light as angels’ breath, shatter into flakes
with each forkful, never soggy-bottomed
or scorched on top, the lattices evenly woven,
pinched crimps an inch apart.
My ex-husband said he’d eat grasshoppers
if my mother baked them in a pie.
Smooth tart lemon, froth of meringue.
Apples dusted with cinnamon, nutmeg.
Pumpkin that cracks in the middle
of its own weight. Mine are good,
but not like hers, though I keep trying,
rolling the dough this way and that, dusting
the cloth with flour. “You have to chill the Crisco,”
she says. “You need a light touch
to keep it tender; too much handling
makes a tough crust.”

Gather the scraps, make a ball in your hands,
press into a circle. Spread thickly with butter,
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, roll up, slice, bake.
The strange marriage of fat, flour, and salt
is annealed to ethereal bites. Heaven is attainable,
and the chimes of the timer bring us to the table.

~ Literary Lunch (Kentucky Writers Group) © 2011 Barbara Crooker. All rights reserved.

via Bella Dolce

Barbara: My favorite recipe comes from Betty Crocker (for whom I am sometimes mistaken — I even got a check from a magazine once, made out to her):

for an 8 or 9 inch double pie crust:

1-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup oil (I use a heart healthy blend)
3-4 T. ice water

Stir the salt into the flour. Add oil, mix with a fork until the particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle the ice water in, a tablespoon at a time. Gather into a ball, divide in half.

(This part is my special trick:) Wipe the counter, place a sheet of waxed paper down. Place ball of dough, top with another sheet of waxed paper. Roll into a ball two inches larger than your pie plate. Peel off the top sheet of the waxed paper. Use a small paring knife to help you. Remember that this is like Play-Doh; any tears can be pinched or squished back together, and you can’t hurt the crust!

Invert, and place the pie crust round in the pie pan. Peel off the bottom sheet of waxed paper (which is now on top). Pour in filling. Repeat with second crust. Once it’s in place, crimp the edges together, either with a fork, or pinch it with your fingers. Cut slits on top to vent the steam. Brush the crust with milk (I use a small paint brush), sprinkle with sugar. Most pies bake at 425 for 45 minutes, but this will vary depending on your oven.


I’m anxious to try Barbara’s (Betty’s ☺) recipe, because I like to avoid hydrogenated fats (Crisco). My experience has taught me that using all butter makes the dough (though flavorful) hard to handle. A Crisco crust is great for flakiness and making lattice tops. I’ve used half-butter and half-Crisco to good results. Barbara agrees that the oil recipe probably wouldn’t work as well if you’re attempting to make a lattice top crust. But certainly for a single crust French Apple Pie, custard, pumpkin, or lemon meringue, the oil crust is fine. BTW, the wax paper trick really works!

Hmmmmmmmmmm — here’s something to inspire you to make a pie this weekend:

via Dan4

♥ Today’s Poetry Friday host is the Shockingly Clever Coffee Maven, Karen Edmisten. Coffee goes well with pie, yes? As does tea and lemonade and milk and water and juice and champagne and raspberry cordial and pencil shavings (just checking to see if you’re paying attention).

♥ To prove how daunting making a good pie crust can be, check out this post by Dorie Greenspan. Seems even she’s been terrified of rolling.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

23 thoughts on “friday feast: barbara’s back!

  1. I don’t really care for crust – eating or baking, but once I made a PERFECT one and couldn’t figure out how I’d done it!! Cold ingredients and a marble slab really help. And now I will have all of these other little hints to help me out. Thanks! Those pictures are truly gorgeous; now I feel like I ought to challenge myself to attempt a perfect crust again!


    1. Okay, you know I love you, but how can you not love crust? Ack!

      You’re right about cold ingredients — iced water is important, added a tablespoon at a time (too much can make the crust tough). On humid days, you need less water. And as the poem says, you don’t want to over handle the dough. . .


  2. How I love this poem. And how I love Barbara’s attempts to recreate her mother’s piecrust with some modifications because we really aren’t our mothers.

    I haven’t baked a pie from scratch since I was 14 but I’m *thinking* about it. To me, the crust is everything–I don’t much care what’s inside either. I eat the rim of my pie slice first because it’s a big chunk of crust. And then I turn the pie over and eat the bottom crust (yes, I make a mess). And my husband, perfectly illustrating the Jack Sprat theory, eats the filling in his pie and leaves me his crust.


    1. “the crust is everything” — further evidence of our twinness

      I always save the rim for last, so its goodness will linger in my memory. Cute that Frank leaves you his crust. Such a gentleman! 🙂

      Sounds like it’s time you baked an egg custard pie . . . but don’t give any to Boxcar Willie.


  3. there has to be a perfect balance of crust, but it has to be made by someone else: i can handle almost anything in a kitchen except when it come to baking, i’m hopeless.

    the last part of the poem, that’s the stuff. sometimes, no matter how much work goes into the main event, it’s the honorable scraps that shine brightest. i would much rather have those improvised cinnamon sugar rolls than the pies their sibling crust surrounded.


    1. Well, yes — those cinnamon sugared scraps are the perfect reward — a friendly, well deserved crusty coda after investing concentrated effort in the main event. 🙂


  4. The poem is delicious, especially served à la mode:


    For water-ices, cheap but good,
    That find us in a thirsty mood;
    For ices made of milk or cream
    That slip down smoothly as a dream;
    For cornets, sandwiches and pies
    That make the gastric juices rise;
    For ices bought in little shops
    Or at the curb from him who stops;
    For chanting of the sweet refrain:
    “Vanilla, strawberry or plain?”
    We thank Thee, Lord, who sendst with heat
    This cool deliciousness to eat.

    ~ Allan Laing


  5. Wow! I leave for two weeks and you cook up a whole new blog/site! You’ve been busy on your blog “vacation”!!!

    Pie crust and pies. Haven’t gone there yet. YET. There’s always time to wedge (ha ha) another specialty in with the cheesecakes and the chocolate cake!!

    Tiny request — would you mind changing your settings so that your entire post (instead of just a snippet) can be seen in Google Reader? It’s a very selfish request…please forgive me…and if you’ve got things set just the way you like it, no biggie…


    1. Yes, see what happens when you go to Belgium? Please give me advanced notice before your next big trip, so I can remind myself not to go crazy again.

      A good compromise: Chocolate Cream Pie. I’m sure your cheesecake and cake wouldn’t mind.

      Just for you, I’ll change the settings. I’m never sure if people prefer excerpts or entire posts in a reader. I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with extra scrolling — some of my posts run long, and I’m always conscious of the imposition, especially for people who subscribe to hundreds of feeds.


      1. There was a huge conversation on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group recently about posts with “jumps” and such. The majority of those who weighed in said thumbs down to the extra click. It seems like such a small thing, but when you consider the way we have changed as readers (so much more skim and scan) it’s actually quite helpful to have the whole article right there. You KNOW I’ll come in and comment whenever possible, but this way, I’ll be able to better keep up on all the yummy goodness of your site. THANKS!!


  6. Oh, Jama, here I am — salivating again at your posts, and applauding your talent for finding exactly the right photos to go with the poetry. I love Barbara Crooker, and I love crust and I love your new blog home. Huzzah for you and the new Alphabet Soup!

    But, TadMack: “I don’t really care for crust” … Really?!? Is this possible? I feel so confused ….


    1. Hi Karen!

      Had to laugh at your reaction to T.’s not liking crust. Phew! I’m glad someone else is as incredulous as I am.

      Thanks for liking the new Alphabet Soup — and your love of Barbara Crooker is further evidence of your meticulous taste in poetry :). You definitely deserve another big piece of pie.


  7. Yum, yum, Jama – you’ve been missed! Your posts always make me so hungry, but the poetic side of me is more than satisfied with such stuff as Barbara’s “lattices evenly woven.” Delicious!


    1. Thanks for missing me, Robyn. Barbara’s been so generous sharing her delicious poems with us. I’m looking forward to featuring more :).


  8. I married a man who doesn’t care over-much for pie but when he eats it, he leaves the crust… I think he’s insane. I adore pie…and I most especially adore the crust. I will have to try that recipe to see what I think. Love the poem. The angel’s breath is perfect. Makes me want to go bake!


    1. Carlie, you are a girl after my own heart (i.e., crust) :)! Do let me know what you think of the recipe if you try it. If it’s too delicious, your husband may just eat it . . .


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