Real quick, before strawberry season is over, let’s make a pie!
The other day when I saw a photo of one of Rachel’s crumb-topped strawberry rhubarb pies, I suddenly just had to have a strawberry rhubarb pie of my own. Thankfully, I still had a couple parbaked crusts in the freezer from my pie crust videos (Part 1 is up, and Parts II and III are in production, which is just a fancy way to say “I’m editing my eyeballs out”), so I baked one up. (It was freezing cold that day, so I spent the whole afternoon running the oven — pie, sweet potatoes, a gratin, beets — in hopes of getting some feeling back into my fingers and toes. It worked, but only a little.)
2-3 cups chopped rhubarb 2-3 cups strawberries (halve, or quarter, the large ones) 1 rounded tablespoon granulated tapioca ½ cup sugar 1 parbaked butter pie crust 1 recipe crumbs (see below)
Toss the rhubarb, strawberries, tapioca, and sugar together and let sit for about 30 minutes so the tapioca softens a little. Put the filling in the parbaked pie shell, top with crumbs, and bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the filling is bubbling in the center and crumbs are brown. Cool, and store at room temp; I keep our pies in the jelly cupboard. Serve with vanilla ice cream. (I like to briefly reheat my pie; my husband likes his unheated.)
for the crumbs ¾ cup all-purpose flour ½ cup brown sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 5 tablespoons butter
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients — I use my fingers — and pile on top of the pie prior to baking.
Emma was due last Wednesday. All week, I was on edge, moody and impatient and unsettled.
The day she was due, Emma acted totally normal, except it seemed to me that she was eating an awful lot, and aggressively fast, too. Was I imagining things? Or was I just now noticing how much cows ate because I was staring at her so much? Or was excessive grass-munching the cow version of nesting?
When my husband came back in from milking Daisy the next day, he reported that Emma still seemed perfectly normal, which made my stress levels shoot even higher — I had events planned for the next day and I really didn’t want to have to reschedule OR miss the birth. But there was nothing I could do about it, so I headed out on a walk.
When I got back an hour later, the kids were down in the field. “How’s Emma?” I shouted. They called something back, but I couldn’t hear what. Then my son gestured for me to come down. So I went into the house to change into old sneakers and grab my camera and phone — but they were nowhere to be found. Which meant only one thing: the kids had them. Emma must be in labor!
I dashed out the door without even taking time to change my shoes (sorry, new sneakers!) and sprinted down through the field, arriving at the bottom just in time to see Emma getting to her feet. I’d missed it! I was so irked, but when I realized the kids had documented it for me, I calmed down. I mean, the birth was over so there wasn’t much I could do about it anyway, right? (But seriously! An hour-long labor and delivery? Good grief! Emma’s basically a bovine birthing goddess.)
I spent the next couple hours down in the field, watching as the calf figured out how to stand and then nurse — getting myself nice and sunburned in the process. The flies were nuts; they coated the new calf so thickly it looked like she was diseased. (Once the calf dried off, they mercifully dissipated somewhat.) I was hoping to see the afterbirth but I never did, though later that day I noticed several vultures down in the field, so maybe they got it?)
Our whole weekend revolved around Emma.
How engorged is too engorged? It can look pretty bad in the beginning, but as long as the calf is nursing and the udder isn’t hot to the touch, it’s probably fine. After a couple days, the swelling and hardness reduces dramatically.
When do we separate the calf? At the one-week point.
How much should we milk in the beginning? Once a day, a pint from each quarter, and gradually increase as we go. (We didn’t know this and way over-milked in the beginning and then I spent an anxious day or two worrying we’d over-milked — she’s fine.)
Is it common for a new mother to have diarrhea? Don’t know — might be the additional grain we’re giving her?
We’re still relatively new to this family cow thing, so we’re figuring it out one step at a time. Actually, this stage of the milking process is all new to my husband since our younger son took care of Daisy for the first six months. And speaking of my husband: he is good at a lot of things but planning and preparedness is not one of them. Lemme ‘splain.
Before a big event, like, say, a second milk cow, I stress and worry and fall apart while my husband pretends nothing is happening which makes me stress even more and then when the anticipated inevitable happens, he falls to pieces. This means that not only do I have to deal with the extra expected work, I also have to contend with a husband who is wildly upset and indignant about the unanticipated inconvenience. I mean, who could’ve known that a pregnant cow would actually give birth, right??? The audacity!
So a few weeks back, in anticipation of a couple stressful weeks post-calving, I laid down some ground rules, the gist of which boiled down to: If you prefer to wait to the last minute to get stuff done because you work best that way, fine, but don’t snap at me when you get frustrated.
So far, he’s holding up his end of the deal admirably well. While he chases Emma around the field and stomps about searching for proper-length hoses and tries to figure out how to put a halter on a cow, I practice lots of standing, waiting, and tongue biting. “Stop smirking!” he shouts as he makes another lunge for the calf, and then we both bust up laughing. He knows!
As for Emma and the calf, they’re both doing great. When it comes to milking, Emma’s a dream. As long as she has her calf next to her, she just placidly stands there. The couple times I’ve hand milked her, I can actually rest my head on her side.
And the calf, which we named Fiona, is super sweet and spunky. Half A2/A2 Jersey and half Devon, she has some seriously gorgeous coloring. Already it feels like she’s nearly doubled in size.
I decided to do a series on making pie crust. Here’s part one.
And the other weekend when I made waffles, I hooked the camera to the hanging lamp to film it.
This will be the last post of the “weekend watch” series — at least for now. I figure that by now y’all know where to look if you want to see the videos, and you probably have gotten a good enough feel for my video posting schedule and content, and you can always click the YouTube tab on my blog header to see the running tally of videos.
But if you haven’t subscribed, feel free! 1K subscribers and then I can monetize, woot! (And don’t worry: subscribers shouldn’t get any irritating alerts unless you choose to turn on the notifications — new videos will just show up when you open your subscriptions tab in YouTube.) Coming soon: videos about calving (!), grocery budgeting and shopping, cheesemaking, parts II and III in the pie series, what we eat in a week, etc.
Thanks for watching, friends, and have a good weekend! xo
Emma’s in the homestretch now. Her bag is bulging, and we’re checking on her at least three times a day. Soon!
Here’s how I tackle it.
Have a good weekend, friends! My husband just signed us up for a free trial of Paramount so we can watch The Lost City for family night movie this weekend, and tomorrow we’re going on a hike with friends. Oh, and I made that berry cobbler I filmed for YouTubed, only this time I used rhubarb and grape puree (mixed with a little brown sugar and some cornstarch) instead of blackberries and it’s so yum. xo!
Feeling… sluggish and bored. Zero energy. Therefore, I’m…
Drinking… English Breakfast tea with a little sugar and…
Forcing myself… to write this post, just to get something out. Must. Produce. Words. (Already I’m beginning to feel a little better.)
Mustering up the energy to… tackle some kitchen work. Seven-plus gallons of milk are culturing on the stovetop and will need to be turned into a cheddar in short order. It’s time to make yet another menu for the next week, and I have a whole bunch of small kitchen tasks I need to get to, like slicing a half ham, freezing some rotting bananas, mixing up some yummies for the week’s lunches, making a white sauce for supper. Once I jump in, it’ll be fine. It’s the period before — the dread transition — that kicks my butt.
Wishing… it would just rain already. The air is thick, the clouds low and heavy. It makes everything feel ponderous and blah.
Looking forward to… watching another episode of Julia with my husband tonight. We’ve both been enjoying it, me more than him (no surprise there), though the random Julia quips do make him laugh out loud with surprising frequency.
Reading…Here We Are, a memoir by Aarti Namdev Shahani about her family’s immigration story. It’s not a hard read, but it’s taking me forever to finish. Maybe I’m just not in a reading mood? Or maybe I’m just delaying finishing it because then I’ll have to find something new to read and, like I said: I dread transition.
Trying to remember… all four of Bryan Stevenson’s points in the talk he gave at my son’s graduation. That’s right: Bryan Stevenson, theBryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy (READ IT) and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, was the commencement speaker, whoop-whoop! (I joked to my son that none of us were coming to see him walk — we just wanted to hear Bryan.) To make change, Stevenson said, we must have 1) proximity to the people/issues/problems that we wish to help/impact/solve, and 2) hope, which is just another way of saying “being faithful,” but the other two points? I can’t remember! (And yes, I’ve devoted quite a bit of shower-time to racking my brains.)
Eating… my second iced maple pecan cookie of the day, mmm. I need to make another batch — I have some ideas for improvements — so maybe I’ll do that this afternoon? Also, I’ve been thinking about maple oat scones an awful lot lately. Might need to scratch that itch, too.
Babying… the roof of my mouth. I went on a baguette-making kick this week and my mouth took quite a beating from the (marvelously) crusty loaves. After eating yet another piece of fresh baguette slathered with butter, I announced to my husband that I didn’t want to eat anything else for the rest of my life. Just, fresh baguettes and butter. (And yet, I still want scones.)
Mulling over… the rising food prices. On my latest shopping trip, I spent twenty-five percent more than I thought I would. Is that an accurate representation of the rising costs or did I just overspend?
Ordering… another pair of Brooks running shoes, more rennet (soon) from New England Cheesemaking, and a second pair of crocs for my restaurant kitchen-worker daughter. She got one pair to keep at work and then she decided she liked them so much that she ordered another pair for at home. (She orders through our account and then pays us back.)
Listening… to this podcast on intuitive eating and perimenopause — again. Mind-blowing new concept (start at the 46-minute mark): just as pre-adolescent girls often put on extra weight before they hit puberty, women often gain extra weight when they are perimenopausal because — GET THIS — the extra weight is the body’s way of slowing the drop in estrogen and lessening the side effects of peri! The extra weight is not “a spare tire,” as it’s often called, but rather a freaking LIFE preserver. A shifting body shape isn’t a sign that a woman is letting herself go; rather, it’s normal and healthy. That this surprises me so much illustrates just how much I’ve absorbed our culture’s skewed perceptions of health and aging without even knowing it. I knew weight gain was common, and a thickening middle was maybe inevitable, but I had no idea that this was actually the body’s way of protecting us. I still don’t want it to happen, of course, but this new perspective helps me to be a little more gentle with myself — or something. I’m still trying to figure it out.
Glancing obsessively… out the window to see if Emma is showing signs of labor. (Not yet!)
Gearing up… to plant the garden. Even though I’m still missing winter (I’m secretly fantasizing about moving to Canada), I have to face it: summer is coming. So this morning I went to the greenhouse and picked up a bunch of starts — tomatoes, peppers, herbs, as well as some flowers.
The scone from my aunt. (Hers had dried cherries, too.)
She’d dry mised the ingredients prior to our arrival and then assembled and baked them while we chatted. When I asked after her recipe, she said it was the one in her cookbook but with a few changes which she then spelled out. I tried the recipe with her adaptations, but mine didn’t turn out anything like the scones she’d made for us — but that didn’t stop me!
Four bakes later (the photos are a mash-up from the various bakes), I landed on a pretty basic cream scone recipe, but with loads of chocolate chunks and chips, and then a ganache that gets layered in, like so:
first rectangle: spread with ganache and cut
smooshed back down into a rectangle again
spread with ganache
cut and stacked (you get the idea)
the layering complete: shaped into a circle and cut into wedges
It looks complicated, but it’s not. Just, a little messy — but the ganache is surprisingly satisfying to work with. Don’t be scared.
This wasn’t the first time I saw this ganache-layered effect. One of the bakers at Magpie had done something similar, but if I remember correctly, she used a single layer of ganache, and it wasn’t pressed down so, in the heat of the oven, the top layer often slid off. These scones don’t have this problem and there’s a lot more chocolate marbling, which I love.
I think there’s still room for improvement (a bit of buckwheat would be a nice addition, yes?), but when I sent some over to my mom with the kids, she emailed back, “What worries you about these scones? They’re lovely.” So perhaps I’m just getting silly obsessive? I am sconed out, after all.
Anyway. I’ve decided they’re plenty good enough, but if you find a way to make them even better, do tell.
Double Chocolate Scones
For some of the variations, I subbed in a little whole wheat or rye, and I think buckwheat might be good here, too. For the ganache, use semi sweet chips — not melting wafers, which don’t pack the necessary chocolate punch. And while I made one batch with mini chips in the dough, I like it better with larger chunks of chocolate, even bigger than regular sized chips.
for the dough: 2 cups all-purpose flour ¼ cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon baking soda 1 stick butter ¾ heavy cream ½-¾ cup chocolate, chunks and/or chips
for the ganache: ½ cup of chocolate chips with 2 tablespoons cream for the garnish: pearl (or sanding) sugar and a little more cream
to make the scone dough: Mix together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter, making sure to leave some chunks. Gently stir in the cream. Toss in the ¾ cup of chocolate chips. The mix should still be a little dry (the ganache will add some moisture) — take care not to overmix.
to make the ganache: In a small bowl, heat the ½ cup of chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons of cream in the microwave for 30-60 minutes, just until melted. Stir well.
to assemble: Dump the dough onto a work surface and shape into a rectangle. Spread a third of the ganache on two-thirds of the rectangle. Cut into thirds and stack, with the UN-ganashed portion ending up on top.
Gently press down the dough into a rectangle and repeat the process.
Aaaand repeat one more time, using up the last third of the ganache. (I’m writing this recipe with three ganashings, but sometimes I did it with two. Do what works for you.)This time, shape the dough into a circle instead of a rectangle and cut into 8 wedges.
Place the wedges on a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and the middle feels firm when pressed.
I usually keep a couple cartons of frozen chopped spinach on hand, but getting it from freezer to cook pot always feels like a bit of a production.
First, it needs to thaw, and since it’s basically a block of green ice, that takes awhile. Then the soggy spinach has to be squeezed and drained, which kinda makes a mess of my strainer and sink. And then, since by that point the spinach has turned into a solid baseball-sized lump, I have to break it into little pieces again. It’s not a terrible problem — and it’s certainly easier than growing and blanching it — but it is a deterrent.
Enter my latest brilliant idea: to do the frozen spinach prep — in bulk!
Here’s how it goes. I thaw a whole bunch of boxes all at the same time, do the drain-squeeze-shred thing, and then I place the bits of shredded spinach on a parchment-lined baking tray and flash freeze it. Once frozen, I re-package the spinach into zip-lock bags and re-freeze. Stored like so, I can grab as much (or as little) spinach as I want, and on a whim, too.
I’m loving the upgrade. Now that I’ve got spinach that’s accessible and easy (and cheap!), I pop it into white sauces, soups, quiches, scrambled eggs, whatever! Next up, green smoothies with frozen spinach. (I always thought one needed fresh spinach for smoothies, but I just took a quick whirl around the internets and learned that, according to some, frozen spinach is even better than fresh. Who knew!)
I realize my excitement might seem a little outsized — this is just spinach, after all — but it’s the little things. And spinach at the ready all the time is pretty darn awesome.