On chaos and getting my groove back

Well, I did it. I graduated on May 15th. A week later, the board of the nonprofit I was running pulled my funding, leaving me unemployed. Then, while escaping to New York for a weekend, my toilet tank cracked, flooding my entire bathroom, my front hallway below said bathroom, and down into the two units below my apartment. This meant alternately living at my landlord's house down the block, or showering in the empty unit below mine, with the fear of strange construction men wandering past. After two weeks of that, and a wild wonderful wedding weekend in Philly, life started to get back to normal. In fact the toilet guy showed up at 7:30am, and though I was desperate for sleep, my desire for an operating bathroom won. After all of this, I knew I needed to do something to pull myself back together. So today, I baked. I listened to all of the fantastic NPR stories on WAMU (stream it on Saturday; it's really great). I made two pies. It's 90 degrees outside, nearly too hot to do too much, except to run to the grocery store to get a few extra things, so that I could make pies from the fruit in my CSA box this week.

Without further ado, here is pie #1 Strawberry-Rhubarb pie with Crumb Topping

Crust 1 1/2 Cups plus 1 Tbs all purpose flour (I use whole wheat) 2 1/2 Tbs sugar (vegan) 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (I gave it a good shake) pinch salt 7 1/2 Tbs chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 3 1/2 Tbs chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I use Earth Balance brand - vegan and less creepy than Crisco -what the hell is that stuff anyway?) 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze) 2 Tbs old-fashioned oats

Topping 2/3 Cup plus 2 Tbs old-fashioned oats 1/2 flour 1/2 C packed golden brown sugar 1/4 Tsp cinnamon 6 Tbs chilled, unsalted butter cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Filling 3/4 lb fresh rhubarb, cut on sharp diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices (3-4 cups) 2 1-pint containers strawberries, hulled, halved 1 Cup sugar 1/4 C cornstarch 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp nutmeg

For Crust: Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add the butter and shortening; rub in with fingertips until mixture looks like coarse meal. Add vanilla. Mix in enough water by tablespoonfuls to form little clumps. Use as little water as you possibly can, to keep the crust flakey. Also, keep your hands cold while playing with the dough. That's my little trick. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk, and wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. My crusts taste amazing, but they are ugly, and here's why.

Position rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper, lightly floured to 1/2 inch thick round. Peel off the top sheet of paper. Invert (this is as hard as it sounds - hence my ugly pies) dough into a 9 1/2 inch deep pie dish. Peel off the paper, and trim the extra dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Crimp the edge, and if you are talented, you can make this look very lovely. Mine does not. Stick this in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Line the crust with aluminum foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Brush crust bottom and sides with some of the glaze. Sprinkle with oats, then bake until crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Then cool crust completely on a rack.

For Topping: Increase oven temperature to 375. Blend 2/3 C oats, flour, sugar, and cinnamon in processor. Add butter, and pulse until the mix is crumbly. Transfer mix to a medium bowl, then stir in remaining 2 Tbs of oats.

For Filling: Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a heavy large saucepan. Let stand for 30 minutes. THEN bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until juices thicken, about 3 minutes.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Cover with crumb topping. Bake 20 minutes, until topping is golden and filling looks bubbly and delicious. Cool pie on rack for 2 hours, and serve slightly warm. I'm bringing this pie to a bbq this evening. Yum! (Recipe from the Bon Appetit cookbook)