Crumb topping

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I spent Labor Day weekend eating and greeting at Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Revival in upstate New York. She had asked friend and professional baker Ellen if we would make 80 pies for the event. We spent two days processing fruit, rolling dough and heating the chilly kitchen with Molly’s two ovens. Ellen and I ended up with lemon meringue, pecan, peach, sour cream rum raisin, buttermilk, blueberry, Wisconsin cherry and apple.

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Adorned with layers of hefty clothing and our favorite aprons, we served slices to the Revival guests who approached our stand. The program’s art intern had constructed and painted a pie wheel, displaying the different flavors available. Excited and slightly liquored patrons flung the handle, sending the painted rolling pin in a mighty spin. If it landed on something they liked, they would ask for it. If not, we would give them whatever they wanted. Cherry was the hit, maybe because it was bright in an otherwise gray landscape of dark clouds that weekend or maybe because I was telling everyone it was my favorite.

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Earlier that week Ellen had tasked me with making large batches of her favorite crumb topping. After making it, I left the ziplock of it open on the table, ready for snacking. I offered it to the video editor working tirelessly out in the dining room. She looked at me with mild skepticism but then tossed a few crumbs in her mouth. Eyes wide she asked, “What is that?” I told her: butter, sugar, almonds and oats. Yum.

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This topping would be great on many pies like cherry, peach or apple.

Topping for one 9-inch pie/Ellen Gray

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, pulse ingredients until crumbly. You can also make this in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment. Cover your fruit filling with the crumble and bake as directed by the recipe.

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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The moment I saw Ellen the baker, a fellow participant, pulling a tin of homemade biscotti from underneath her bed, I knew I was in the right place. Molly O’Neill’s Longhouse Food Scholars program in Rensselaerville, New York—a place where food would be discussed all day long and where a group of people from all over the country could gush about their shared passion.

Normally when I think of biscotti, I imagine long, stale logs of cookie, which you inevitably slobber on it as it cuts the sides of your mouth. Ellen’s biscotti are something else, something special. They’re toothsome and soft, giving way to fudgy graceful bites.

Of course, I asked Ellen to teach me the craft of making biscotti.

Ellen reminded me I should always sift the dry ingredients—a step I usually skip over—and later when it seemed like the dough might crack, she said, “It’s okay. At the end of the day, it’s just a cookie.”

While chopping chocolate, Ellen told me about creating this recipe during years of working in restaurants and bakeries. She made it her personal mission to take the idea of a biscotti but make it more chocolaty. We melted butter with the chocolate in a double boiler. Her trick is to use melted chocolate, combined with an under baked approach for a richer flavor and texture.

While waiting for the biscotti to bake, we were sitting writing and heard a friendly neighbor through the window, “What’re you all making in there? Chocolate chip cookies?”

Ellen sprung from her chair and said, “When you smell the chocolate take them out!”

Makes 24 biscotti/Ellen Gray

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (Ellen uses Dutch Process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 eggs, plus 1 egg white for a wash
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 6 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • 6-8 ounces coarsely chopped almonds (or your preferred nut)

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baker powder and salt. Set aside.

In a double boiler, or very carefully in the microwave, melt the 2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate with the butter.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs and almond extract with the sugar until fluffy. Add the melted chocolate mixture. In three parts, slowly add the dry ingredients. Add the 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate pieces.

The dough will be sticky. Turn the dough onto parchment paper, form a ball and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, cover in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap, and slightly press the tops of the logs to form a flattened cylinder. Place the logs on a parchment-lined sheet tray. Mix the egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush all over the tops.

Bake for about 25 minutes. The tops will still be soft to the touch. Let them cool.

IMG_1995 Slice the logs crosswise with a serrated knife into the size of biscotti you prefer. Then stand them up on a sheet tray again and bake at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on how crispy you like them. I would do closer to five. Then let the biscotti cool again before eating.

Ginger Peach Pie Filling

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I said goodbye to Bellingham, my home of four years, in mid July.

I first drove to Missoula, Montana for a visit. Of course, this also involved the usual eating tour: A slice, or several, from Biga Pizza, a raspberry cream cheese filled croissant from Bernice’s and a creamy scoop of maple walnut ice cream from Big Dipper.

Before I knew it I was getting dropped off at the Seatac Airport and heading to New York. 36 hours and two snack vouchers later, thanks to an infamous airline, I arrived in the tiny town of Rensselaerville for the month-long Longhouse Food Scholars program founded by food writer and author Molly O’Neill.

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I came with the normal amount of nerves, but as soon as we were asked to introduce ourselves by saying our name and favorite food, I knew it was going to be okay. Someone would say, “Pie” and everyone in the room would swoon before telling us about their favorite pie. It took over an hour to get through 10 people. Food enthusiasts? I think so.

This recipe for ginger peach filling comes from pie extraordinaire Kate Lebo of Seattle. I emailed her frantically before Julie’s birthday in July to get a recipe. We all loved the filling, which was sweet and slightly spicy from the ginger and cayenne. I’m not including a crust recipe quite yet because the whole wheat one I used was not right.

Makes 1 pie/Filling adapted from Kate Lebo

Ingredients

  • 5 medium or 7 large ripe peaches
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 2 tablespoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • pinch of cayenne
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • turbinado sugar
  • double crust pie dough

Combine honey and chopped ginger in a saucepan over low heat for 20 minutes.

Preaheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove your bottom dough from the fridge, and roll it in a circle out to fill your pie pan. Make sure it is pressed down gently into the pan. Cut off any excess overhang. Poke a fork into the bottom crust a few times. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil the peaches for about 4 minutes. Then immediately put them into an ice bath. After a few minutes in the ice bath, they will be really easy to peel with your fingers. Pit and slice the peaches so they are 1/4 inch think or so.

Put the slices in a bowl and squeeze the lemon over them. Add the powdered ginger, cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Pour the honey mixture over it and toss. Adjust for flavor as needed. Perhaps you like it sweeter or spicier. Sprinkle the tapioca flour over it and toss again.

Roll out the top crust. Pour the filling into the bottom crust. If a lot of liquid has accumulated in the bowl, you can leave some of it out. Place the top crust over the filling, and seal the edges decoratively if you’d like. Cut steam vents with a knife in the center of the pie.

In a small bowl, mix the egg white and 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the whole pie with the mixture. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top.

Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes on a sheet pan, until the crust is “blistered and blond.” Rotate the pie 180 degrees on the pan to ensure even cooking, and lower the temperature to 375. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden and the juices start to bubble. This will take longer if the fruit is frozen.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.