Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April Snow

Tulips in my garden on Sunday, April 20. Who'd have thought it was 85 degrees a week ago?
Pretty as the snow is, peach and cherry trees in the Umpqua Valley are in full bloom right now and were damaged by the frost, snow and hail over the weekend.

Umpqua Valley Farmers Market Opens

April 12 was a perfectly glorious day for the opening of the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market. Thirty-three vendors set up shop in the Mercy Sleep Center parking lot across from Office Depot under clear blue skies. Sunshine and temperatures in the 80's brought the whole town out for a beautiful outdoor shopping adventure.

I had to break my cardinal rule about not buying anything until I walked all the way through the market once because The Baklava Lady was almost sold out and I didn't want to miss my chance. She had a special going--five wedges of baklava for $10--so I bought one of each variety she had left for our Sunday dessert.

After trying a sample, I bought some chorizo from Sweet Briar Farms , which I later diced and sauteed into some farm-fresh scrambled eggs for a "breakfast for dinner" meal.

I can't remember what it was called, but I couldn't resist buying a decadent granola, peanut and chocolate chip concoction from The Olde Town Bakery.

In addition to baked goods, produce (pretty much limited to lettuce and other greens so far) and transplants, there were chainsaw carvings, beaded jewelry, baby blankets and gifts, flowers,

I was also excited to find artwork and greeting cards made by local artists. I picked out unique Mother's Day and Father's Day cards and a few others just to have on hand for birthdays and thank you notes. What talent we have in this area!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Perfect Peach Pie

This perfect peach pie is my personal favorite pie of all time! Peach-picking at one of our nearby u-pick orchards is a fine way to spend a summer day.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. I bake pies directly on the preheated baking stone that pretty much lives in my oven.

Prepare the fruit filling:
5 cups peeled, pitted and sliced fresh peaches (about 6 or 7 depending on the variety)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Slice the peaches into a large bowl. I use a 2-quart glass measuring bowl so I know when I reach 5 cups. Be sure to drain off any water that accumulates in the bottom of the bowl or the pie will be too juicy. Sprinkle the peaches with lemon juice. Stir the sugar, flour and cinnamon together and then toss with the peaches. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes to get the juices flowing while you prepare the crust.

Pastry for crust:
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, very cold
6 – 8 tablespoons ice water
Stir the salt into the flour in a large bowl. Cut a 2-tablespoon piece off of one stick of the butter and set aside. Using a pastry blender, cut the remaining cold butter into the flour until well-distributed and no large chunks remain. Add 6 tablespoons ice water while tossing the mixture with a fork. Add additional water as necessary and continue tossing gently just until all of the flour is moistened. Do not stir vigorously or the crust will be tough!

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board or counter and press together into a disc. Cut in half and set one half aside. Roll out the other half into a circle a couple inches larger than your pie pan. Place in the pan allowing it to hang over the edge. Fill with fruit filling and use the reserved 2 tablespoons butter to dot the top of the fruit. Using a sharp paring knife, trim the edge of the dough so it comes just past the edge of the pan. Roll out the second disc into another circle about the same size as the first. Place over the fruit filling and trim so it hangs over the edge of the pan by about 1 inch. Now, tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and press to seal well all around the pan. Then you can make a decorative edge with your thumb or by pressing with fork tines. This keeps the juices from bubbling down under the bottom crust and burning.

Cut a small hole, about the size of a Cheerio in the center of the crust to allow steam to escape, then cut slits or a design in the top being careful not to accidentally cut through to the bottom crust. Brush or spray the top lightly with water and sprinkle evenly with sugar. I like to use coarse, light-brown demerara sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees for 35 – 45 minutes until the crust is golden and you can see the juices are bubbling through the hole in the center of the pie. Cool on a wire rack.