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Blueberry Blackberry Crumb Pie

30 Aug

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There is no good way to ease into this, so I am just going to say it– WestCoastKef has left us the City of Angels. And when somebody who has been THERE for your husband the way WCK has, you throw a party and bake the man a damn pie.

Intel from his Beloved led me down the berry pie path, and Smitten Kitchen brought me to this mixed berry crumb pie. They are better at life than I could ever hope to be, and so I will reproduce the original recipe verbatim below.

But, first, some photos.

Immediately upon arrival, WestCoastKef had my living room looking like a photo shoot for his debut album, Bojanglin’ Back Home, which drops late 2017. COP THAT.


What’s the number one sign your people are really ready to celebrate your ass? Double fisting bottles.


… which escalated quickly. One bottle down approximately 1 hour into party.


There are many hilarious interceding #turntup photos and videos, but we are grown ups with bills to pay and the internet is a scary place so instead… a jump to the group shot at the end:


WestCoastKef– we will miss you mightily. And while I will pretty much never forgive you for bringing Settlers of Catan into my husband’s life, you can bet we will still be on the first spring break flight out to LA.

And now, the pie:

Smitten Kitchen’s Blueberry Blackberry Crumb Pie

For the crust

  • 1.25 c all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea or table salt
  • 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1/4 c very cold water

Forthe filling

  • 4 c blueberries
  • 2 c blackberries
  • 3/4 c sugar (for a moderately, but not very, sweet pie)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 7 TBS tapioca flour/starch or 5 1/2 TBS  cornstarch (I used cornstarch)
  • Pinch of salt

For the crumb topping

  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1.3 c all-purpose flour
  • Two pinches of salt


Make pie dough:
– By hand : In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and sugar. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. (Some people like to do this by freezing the stick of butter and coarsely grating it into the flour, but I haven’t found the results as flaky.) Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add another tablespoon of water.
– With a food processor: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add butter and pulse machine until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Turn mixture out into mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup cold water and stir with a spoon or flexible silicone spatula until large clumps form. Use your hands to knead the dough together, right in the bottom of the bowl. If necessary to bring the dough together, you can add the last tablespoon of water.
– Both methods: Wrap dough in a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes. Longer than 2 days, it’s best to freeze it until needed.

Heat oven: To 400°F (205°C).

Roll out crust: On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a 12 to 13-inch circle-ish shape. Fold dough gently in quarters without creasing and transfer to a 9 1/2-inch standard (not deep-dish) pie plate. Unfold dough and trim overhang to about 1/2-inch. Fold overhang under edge of pie crust and crimp decoratively. Save scraps in fridge, just in case.

Par-bake crust: Freeze for 15 minutes, until solid. Dock all over with a fork. Coat a piece of foil with butter or nonstick spray and press tightly against frozen pie shell, covering the dough and rim and molding it to fit the shape of the edges. Bake for 20 minutes, then carefully, gently remove foil. (Set the foil, still molded, aside. It will come in handy later.) If any parts have puffed, just press them gently back into place. Patch any tears or cracks with reserved dough scraps. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and leave oven on.

Meanwhile, make filling: Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

To make crumb topping, stir sugar, zest, baking powder, flour and salt into melted butter in a large bowl with a fork until crumbs form.

Assemble and bake: Pour filling into crust and scatter crumbs over the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes with these two important things in mind:

1. This crumb browns much more quickly than the pie is done. Grab that piece of foil you set aside from the parbaking phase and upend it over the top of the pie to protect it against further browning once it reaches the color you want. This might only take 20 to 30 minutes.

2. Fruit pies are done when you can see bubbles forming at the edges, with some creeping through and over some crumbs. If it takes longer, that’s better than an underbaked pie.

To serve: Try to let the pie cool until close to room temperature before serving. This gives the pie thickener a chance to help the pie set. The pie will be even better set after a night in the fridge. Bring it back to room temperature before serving.


Giving Thanks

27 Nov

I wondered a couple of years ago if we had lost our ability to be grateful. The cynical side of me worries that the November narrative of thanks is just another bad example of hashtag activism– seems like we’ve barely finished proclaiming to the world how grateful we are for the things we already have before we rush out the door to accumulate more ish we don’t need for people who may not even express how grateful they are to receive it. But–since today is Thanksgiving and not Day 1 of Intro to Cultural Critique– I’ll just leave that right there.

Instead, here are two interesting takes on being grateful. One comes to us from an amazing runner in North Carolina who is taking every moment she has by the horns:

The other is directed at Christians and use of the word “blessed,” but I found it a thought-provoking and universal reflection on what we’re grateful for and how we talk about our thankfulness: The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

Happy Thanksgiving, Keftanis! I hope you all find something to be thankful for, today and every day.


Love, Actually, Is All Around

21 Aug

This has been a disappointing week for humanity: a sad sentencing outcome for Bradley Manning, chemical warfare in Syria, an unimaginably tragic killing in Oklahoma… all of these in addition to the injustice, indignity, and inequity running around the world on a daily basis.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the evil we see, to become jaded by the sheer magnitude of need, to fall indifferent to the basic requirement of every human to feel worthy, loved, and welcome. We live side by side with intense suffering and learn to protect ourselves by ignoring the needs of others.

Antoinette Tuff changes all that. If you haven’t heard, she’s the elementary school book keeper who prevented a potentially catastrophic tragedy from taking place when a heavily-armed man entered the school. Much attention has been paid to the outcome of her heroic efforts–but I think the real story is the remarkable compassion and empathy with which she diffused a truly life-or-death situation.

Can you imagine the courage of heart required to share your own life’s struggles with someone who entered your place of business with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition? The amazing amount of faith required to stay calm and comfort a man who could take your life at any moment? What if–instead of compassion and connectedness–she had responded to Michael Hill’s actions with disdain and dismissal? If, rather than find the spaces in which she and Michael were inextricably bound as humans, she had focused on the boundaries and divisions we create and cling to as suffering-saturated Americans? I am so thankful Antoinette Tuff had the courage to care, and am inspired by her commitment to making sure Michael Hill knew that, through it all, he was not alone in his struggle.

“My pastor has been teaching on how to anchor yourself in the Lord, and so I just sat there and started praying. I realized at that time it was bigger than me, he was really just a hurting young man, so I just started praying for him. And just started talking to him about some of my life stories, and letting him know that it was gonna be okay.”

Marilynne Robinson writes that “the only way to limit the regret we feel for our inadequacy toward one another is consistent … and imaginative respect.” Is there any better example of that “presumptive and attentive” respect than Antoinette Tuff? Listen here to the full audio, starting at about 1:04.  So many of those praised as heroes deflect praise by saying that they did “just what anybody else would do;” what makes Antoinette Tuff so special is that she did exactly the opposite of what almost all of us would do. I can only hope I would be as caring as she was in the face of an AK-47–but I can be sure I bring more of Antoinette Tuff to my family, my neighbors, and my patients. Consistent and imaginative respect–it may be what saves a life.

Not a sermon, just a thought.

I LIVE For This

27 Nov

Jada Pinkett-Smith, when asked why she let her daughter, Willow, shave her head:

“This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete. The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be. More to come. Another day.” 

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