Thursday, July 29, 2010

Testing...testing....Please give me your opinion!

I need your help. I don't know which pie to make so I am taking a poll. Please tell me what you think.

Here's the story:

On Sunday I am making the desserts for a small wedding. There will be no wedding cake, only an assortment of pies. At the tasting several months ago with the bridal couple and the bride's parents, the flavors of pies were chosen for the wedding. The list included banana cream, chocolate cream, peach pie, berry pie, pumpkin pie, strawberry rhubarb and also....coconut custard pie.

The mother of the bride suggested coconut custard. When she did, someone else said, "You mean coconut cream pie?" to which she replied, "No! Coconut custard pie!"

I confess that I had never made a coconut custard pie but I consented to making it because I was confident that I could with a recipe. But in researching recipes I am finding that coconut custard pie isn't easily defined.

This week I tested two recipes that are very different from each other. I am still unsure what I should make for the wedding. If you have any experience at all with coconut custard pie, I would appreciate some input! It is not part of my pie lexicon so I'm not sure if there is a strong opinion about what coconut custard pie should be. Pies are often regional in their origin and sometimes they are brought down through families with a cultural history. I don't know if this is true for the bride's mother. I have no way of asking her either. Help me out if you have any ideas!

Here is my first coconut custard pie. The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Baking Book.

By the way, I'm sorry you can't give these pies a taste test. That would be helpful wouldn't it? I'll describe them for you though.

This pie had an egg, milk and sugar filling with toasted coconut. The coconut floated to the top and the filling underneath was very sweet. The style of the pie reminded me of a pecan pie. There was lemon zest in the filling and the flavor of it was very prominent. This pie was not very coconutty, even with the toasted coconut. If I made it again, I would eliminate the lemon because it was just too strong and I would use coconut milk instead of whole milk to try and bring out more coconut flavor.

The second pie I tried is a Martha Stewart recipe for Coconut Custard Pie.
The filling was cooked like a custard on the stovetop with coconut milk, eggs and sugar. I added some untoasted, sweetened, shredded coconut to the filling.

My tasters all loved this pie the most. It was smooth and creamy like a... coconut cream pie. From what I can tell with my research the only reason this wouldn't be called a coconut cream pie is that it doesn't have a layer of whipped cream on the top.


A custard is basically an egg pudding. Usually it has milk or cream in it. So a banana cream pie and a chocolate cream pie are actually made with custard too. I think that this second pie is technically a coconut custard pie but is it the kind of custard that the MOB was thinking of? (MOB= Mother Of the Bride)

Other recipes I have seen for Coconut Custard are more similar to a pumpkin pie (which is also a custard, made with eggs and milk) where you bake the mixture of eggs, coconut milk and sugar in the crust instead of cooking it on the stove top. This would be another possible way to go.

So please help me out here. Which do you think is the type of pie that I should make to give the distinction of being a Coconut Custard Pie?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random thoughts of the day

*Today I met with two bridal couples.
One couple ordered and tasted four different cakes.

*This weekend I have three weddings.
Two hundred servings of cake. Two kinds.
Fifty servings of pie.
Fifty more servings of Summer Berry Pie.

*I can't find any fresh strawberries in the valley.

*Next month I have nine weddings.
Two were just booked this week.

*I really need a secretary. Or assistant. Or something.

*This week is county fair week. Today I missed seeing my daughter show her goats.
She won Champion and Grand Champion ribbons on her applesauce cake and whole wheat bread.

Just letting you know why I'm not a very good blogger lately.
Not that I'm ever a good blogger, but this week I have an excuse.

P.S. I miss my grandsons. I wanna sniff a newborn!!!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


While at my daughter's, I tackled a few projects for her. This was the last one I did before I left on the most humid day in the history of the universe.

Katie had this ancient little cabinet she picked up somewhere for little or nothing. It had a tin drawer that stored bread back in the days when the loaves weren't wrapped in plastic bags.

I'm happy to report that my daughter, like her mother, does not shy away from color. She is not afraid to take risks.

With delightful results!

And while the can of paint is open, why not something to match?

It is completely appropriate to paint a pantry door red since that color stimulates the appetite.
One can only wonder what the Amish neighbors thought as they drove by my painting station that day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Michigan Garden Tour

Wherever I go I like to tour gardens. I particularly like to tour the gardens of people that take special thought in the design and execution of their gardens, thinking creatively and having fun with it, resulting in gardens that are a delight to explore.

For a tour of a few Michigan gardens we had Katie's midwife, Susan, as a guide and coordinator.

We started at her own dairy farm where her rambling yard revealed the blooms of a Midwestern summer.

The flowers that were at the peak of bloom were these tall, beautiful garden phlox. We saw them in a number of colors this day including bright pink. I feel inspired to add some to my own gardens.

Touring gardens is an especially fun activity when there are little surprises and hidden places to discover. Sue's vegetable garden was behind a charming gate and was accented with art made with found objects.

Susan's garden was distinctly farm style and well-established.

But the whimsical touches made this garden unique.

Our next stop was at the home of another of Susan's birthing moms. This young mom had a well-fed two month old baby as well as two other small children but still had time to grow a lush vegetable garden. The property was formerly a hog farm and the ground was so fertile it produced the tallest asparagus I have ever seen.

A third garden was at the home and studio salon of a massage therapist. We entered her gardens through this massive and lushly grown grape arbor.

It provided a quiet shady spot for a hot July day.

The sprawling garden had an interesting style and layout. It seemed very unplanned and random in its plantings and yet held its own charm.

There were hundreds of varieties of plants growing in small plots. There were no long farm rows in this garden.

The Michigan rains produced some tall amaranth!

This garden had vegetables, perennials, culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as annual flowers and vines planted shoulder to shoulder.

Adding more charm were the flocks of free range chickens roaming with their broods of chicks.

Katya, the gardener, was experimenting with this planting of cucumbers and lettuces.

The cucumber vines grew on the wire shading the lettuces from the hot mid-summer sun and the wire made the cucumbers easier to find and pick as they hung down from the vines. Another inspirational idea!

These inspirational Michigan gardens were very different from any Oregon gardens I have toured. Wandering through them was a great way to spend a hot summer day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Last Day

Do I need to say how difficult it is to leave this little guy who will change in the blink of an eye? I won't be able to watch him grow and develop and learn every day.

Once again during the night he was wide awake when his mama needed him to sleep. So he laid on a pile of pillows in my bed, content to look around and oblivious to the normal night-time expectations of sleep. He was so happy and observant for a two week old baby. When I put my face close to him and talked to him, he burst out in a huge, body-engulfing newborn smile, -twice- exuding pure and genuine baby happiness. I knew without a doubt he knows me and my voice and likes me too! But that will all fade from his memory when I am gone as it is replaced with all the other things he needs to learn about.

It was the same with Jonah five years ago. I had to leave after spending two weeks bonding with him during night-time wakefulness. But now my older grandson knows me, loves me and remembers me. Some day the same will happen with Evan too.

So if you are a grandparent living close to your grandchildren, be thankful and be there. You are privileged.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Under Construction

Blog changes imminent and in progress....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Inside an Amish Kitchen

We went a-visiting the other day, down the gravel road to the Glick dairy farm to see Ruth's kitchen where she was making her blackberry pies.

The cabinets were all free-standing pieces of handmade furniture. This was made by her brother-in-law. I was interested to see that the cabinet's oak panel doors are exactly like mine which were made by my father.

The water comes from a well pump outside. It had a small gas motor attached for ease of running a hose to the cattle in the barn.

The July heat was hovering in the mid-90's. The wood cook stove was stoked up for baking.

The fire box on the left side was glowing with warmth- which would feel fantastic in January- but not so much in July.

On the right side is a place to heat water. The girls dip the scalding hot water out to carry to a washing station where it goes into a bowl for cleaning dishes.

There were no counter-tops, only a couple of tables as work-top spaces.

Ruth made beautiful, perfect looking blackberry pies. She used a stopper from a cut glass oil pitcher to make the designs in her lard crust.

Baby's Day Out

It's been a busy time here at my daughter's place. Busy and yet quiet. I've never felt so relaxed. Besides trying to help the new baby get his days and nights straight (night=sleep, day=play), and spending time with my grandson, I've been helping with home improvements, chores and gardening. No schedule. No meetings, phone calls or mega-cake-baking episodes. That starts again next week.

Yesterday Katie and her boys and I ventured out for some good old mid-western style antiquing.

Antique stores around the country are different and unique and Michigan has its own style too. There were lots of furniture pieces that were recognizable as Amish made. Many that I wished I could take home with me. Lots of junk that people want to call "antique" and plenty of items that weren't even older then my shoes. But I did find a few treasures to take home.

My favorite place was here:
It was more of a folk art store than a true antique store. It had a mixture of recently made folk art, older pieces and new country reproduction lines.

This cabinet would look great in Katie's butter yellow kitchen!

If you enjoy magazines like Country Living, you would love this store.

I loved the well-made folk art.

Behind the store was a charming garden area.

We explored the quiet setting.
Katie looks a bit pregnant in this photo doesn't she?

Evan slept in this baby wrap for two hours while we walked around shopping!

Jonah checked to see if Mr. Brown Bear was in residence.

Our jaunts out and about take us through Michigan's rural farmland.
Driving home, we all took delight in getting a close look at these sand hill cranes feeding in a low, wet area. Only a couple more days and I'll be back in the Great Northwest.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Portrait Session

This is what Katie and I did with the baby today-
we had some fun with a cute little pumpkin.

There are a few more like these on Katie's blog: Paintsplashes

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Can Be An Epic Failure Too



My darling daughter insists that I need to show more of my failures and foibles---

My charred chickens, crumbling cookies and leaning towers of cake.

Just to keep it real.

To show that I'm sooooooo not Martha Stewart

And that it all really is just Pie in the Sky.

So here you latest in a long line of baking failures. And I won't even give you my excuses. Because I could tell you about how difficult it is finding my way around someone else's kitchen, even my own daughter's, and anyone can see that cornstarch and baking powder look exactly alike and even more so when the cans are exactly the same color and brand.

But I'm not going to give excuses. All you need to know is that stuff happens. To me. All the time. I just don't always blog about it.

Cupcake Fail

Friday, July 16, 2010

Country Life

This evening I took a walk down the country gravel road. The sun had already dipped below the horizon and the navy blue sky was edged in pink. On each side of me the road was banked with the blooms of shoulder high Queen Anne's Lace. The half moon shone down on the fields where the fireflies sparkled and flickered, reminding me of a concert crowd waving their Bic lighters for an encore. We don't have fireflies in Oregon and they are a special part of Midwestern summer that I miss. They are other-worldly, like fairies rising up at twilight with their magic light.

The frogs and crickets began chirring their night music while in the distance I heard that there were still Amish out and about although it was almost completely dark. This local community is not allowed to use rubber so the steel wheels of their wagons, carts and buggies make a loud crunch and clatter on the gravel road that can be heard half a mile away.

As I passed one Amish farm the family with their six small children was eating dinner at a table on the porch with a lantern glowing in the middle. I thought this was charming and odd at the same time. Enos, the father, had just visited us an hour before while we finished our al fresco dinner on Katie's deck. I wondered if we had somehow inspired him to have his family eat on their porch. Nathan confirmed to me that he has never before seen an Amish family eat a meal on their porch. When I passed the farm again on my way back home, several of the children came running out to give me some freshly baked bread. Ruth, their mother, appeared from the house to chat with me and I asked her if she had been baking on this terribly hot day.

Ruth: Oh yes. That is why we were eating on the porch. The kitchen is so hot from baking.

Me: Do you have a wood cook stove?

Ruth: Yes, my oil stove isn't working so well so I'm using the woodstove.

Me: I suppose you do all your canning on the woodstove in the kitchen too?

Ruth: Oh yes, I do. Tomorrow I'm going to bake blackberry pies too. I want to bring you one.

Me: You need a summer kitchen, don't you? So you can be outside.

Ruth: Yes, that is what I am dreaming of.

These families that work so hard to sustain themselves without modern conveniences not only don't have electricity but they also don't have indoor plumbing. Their farmhouses are often very large, with expansions and additions. The other day I marveled at the cost for the average man of building such large houses and was reminded that the Amish don't wire or plumb the houses which greatly reduces the cost of construction. They simply frame the walls and put them up. So poor Ruth, after baking all day in 95 degree heat on a wood fueled cookstove must then wash up her dishes without the convenience of hot and cold running water. When she retires to bed she can only hope for a breeze to come through the window to cool her because they use no fans. There is also no cool shower to wash away the sweat and grime of the day.

This all saddens me because their ascetic lifestyle seems so pointless. Their arbitrary rules, which are different in each community, are bent when they can be. Some members move to other communities where the rules might be less oppressive. If anyone chooses to leave the Amish religion, they are shunned by all, including their own families for the rest of their lives. The initial appearance is that the Amish lifestyle is simple and without modern-day stresses and yet it is actually very difficult and lacking in rest or comfort. My son-in-law, Nathan, who is a minister of a church here, has had conversations with them about religion and he says their focus is on their rules, and they have trouble even talking about Christ Jesus at all. I can't help but question whether they know the true freedom of the Gospel message of Christianity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Minimum Daily Requirement

Here is your recommended daily dose of Baby Sweetness.