man, the dope said there’s still hope.

I want to talk about Bruce Springsteen, but I’m not sure where to start. It’s so cliche – the girl from suburban New Jersey in love with The Boss, so in love she’s contemplating a Springsteen tattoo, so in love she goes to concerts and cries for the first hour, or maybe on and off for the whole thing. But cliches don’t come from nowhere, and the feelings clogging my chest during Springsteen shows are some of the truest I know.

I grew up on Springsteen, but as with so much of the music my parents liked when they were young, it had been filtered into Greatest Hits collections by the time I came along. We had Springsteen’s Greatest Hits, and sometime when I was a teenager we got Born to Run and Born in the USA on CD – Born to Run turned me inside out just as bad thirty years after it came out as it did to folks in 1975 – but the deep dives were my own.

It really started in 2008. (That’s 33 years after his debut album, for those of you keeping score at home.) I don’t remember why, but I decided to take my dad to see him that summer. We saw him from the nosebleeds at Giants Stadium touring in support of Magic, and I was done. I’d never seen anything like it – never seen anyone play so long, love the crowd so hard. I remember going back to my desk job at the University of Chicago Press and watching live video after live video, reaching for that magic. I remember sitting in my apartment listening to Magic again and again, astounded at how good he still was, how his 2007 work was still fresh and vital without abandoning his sound. I saw him again in 2009 on the Working on a Dream tour, also at Giants Stadium, and got to hear him play Born to Run top to bottom, right in the middle of his set list. That tour was the last time he was going to play that version of Giants Stadium – they demolished it in 2010 – and he opened with an acoustic version of “Wrecking Ball” (which would later appear on his 2012 album Wrecking Ball), saying goodbye to the stadium where he’d so many times loved on Jersey and been loved back.

My love quieted down after that. I still loved him, but the near-obsession that had burned through me for a year cooled, and he became more a part of my life’s fabric, less a star. When he released local tour dates for 2016 – his first since 2012, though I didn’t realize it at the time – I took one look at the prices and opted against going. The idea of digging into his catalog deeper than the trifecta of Born to Run/Darkness on the Edge of Town/Born in the USA was always in my mind, but listening to music thoughtfully is something that demands a lot from me, and I kept not getting around to it. But last spring, I decided to make the time. I decided to listen to him from the beginning to the end, spend as much time as it took to get intimate with each album, and make some sense of this forty-plus year career that still meant so much to me.

I listened to Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ (January ’73). I listened to The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (September ’73). I did this over and over and over, until I felt I was beginning to understand them. Then I listened to Born to Run (’75) and Darkness (’78), both of which I already knew, with a more critical ear than I ever had. I was thinking a lot about Bruce, formulating some insights and figuring shit out, and having quite a time of it.

And then a funny thing happened – Prince died. I’ve never known much of Prince’s work (though I like what I know), so I wasn’t personally affected, but the depth of mourning I witnessed was staggering. Bruce was playing Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn that weekend, and he opened his first show with “Purple Rain.” And I thought about the fact that someday Bruce was going to die, and I knew that was going to knock me to my knees in the way celebrity deaths never do, and I bought a ticket for the second Barclay’s show two days in advance. It was $144. I didn’t pay it off for months.

My seat was more or less in the next county, but it was directly opposite the stage and there was no one sitting to my left. The tour was in support of the 35th anniversary reissue of  The River. He played that album top to bottom. I’d never heard most of it before, and I’d been apprehensive about so much new-to-me music, but I was floored. I danced and I sang and I cried. I cried when he sang, “Let there be sunshine, let there be rain, let the brokenhearted love again.” I cried when he sang, “At night on them banks I’d lie awake and hold her close just to feel each breath she’d take.” I cried at any number of other completely senseless times, at meaningless lyrics, when it all just got to be too much to keep inside.

Springsteen shows are theater as much as they are musical performance. There are things that always happen: there’s an audience singalong for the first verse of “Hungry Heart.” There’s a particular riff the audience sings on “Badlands.” Bruce crowd-surfs (most of the time). The band takes requests made by fans in the know, and in the pit, on huge oaktag signs. Bruce selects these personally. During this particular show, he brought a 10-year-old girl on stage to sing “Blinded by the Light.” This was after the band had played The River in its entirety, which by itself would constitute nearly a full live show for any other musician, but for Bruce was just about half. He played for three hours and forty-five minutes that night. When he released dates for a tour extension, I dropped $150 without batting an eye to see him in August. Bruce is worth the debt, and I wanted to be on the floor.

The thing about Bruce’s music – everyone knows the rockers, the crowd-pleasers, the ones he plays at the end of his live shows with all the house lights up. “Born to Run.” “Thunder Road.” “Born in the USA.” “Prove It All Night.” “Rosalita.” “Jungleland.”And it’s not that these songs aren’t great, because they are. They light you up on the inside and make you want more from your life, make you want to grab hold of your future with both hands. But that’s only one side of Bruce, and the greatest joy of my ongoing deep dive has been learning how diverse his music is, what a truly great musician and bandleader he is, that his music isn’t just fun but good, creative and interesting and complex. Greetings from Asbury Park and The Wild, The Innocent, which I listened to all spring, bear only the faintest overt hints of the incredible rock and roll to come, and I fell for their weirdness as much as anything else. I fell particularly in love with the crazy wordplay in “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” the neon-and-spray-paint vision of New York it depicts that may not have ever really exists, and with the innocence/experience of Spanish Johnny and Puerto Rican Jane in “Incident on 57th St” exploding into the youthful house party invincibility of “Rosalita.” He doesn’t play the stuff on those first two albums nearly as much, and anyway, the first two times I saw him I didn’t know any of it, but the fact is I had never heard any of the deep tracks off those two albums played live. But this time – last week, August 30th, the weather about as perfect as ever gets – he told the crowd that this was the third of three shows he was playing at MetLife Stadium (the new Giants Stadium), and he was going to try to play stuff he hadn’t gotten to on the first two nights. And so for the first two hours of a four hour show, he didn’t play a single number from after 1973. He played “Incident” and slammed straight into “Rosalita,” and he played “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” I cried when he sang, “Man, the dope says there’s still hope.” At the end of the day, you can distill at least 2/3 of Bruce down into that lyric. There’s still hope.

Bruce himself is an interesting guy. He’s incredibly smart and ever-increasingly political, and he has a career whose richness puts that of his musical peers to shame. This is a great New Yorker profile of him from 2012. He’s acutely conscious of his role as a bard for the working classes, for young people from small towns who need someone to show them the way out. But he also wrote a song about police murder of black men in 2000, after Amadou Diallo was murdered, that is just as wrenching today as it was 16 years ago. He has three kids he raised in New Jersey, one of whom has grown up to be I shit you not a fucking fireman. By all appearances – which can, of course, be deceiving – his marriage is enviable. His wife, Patti Scialfa, tours with the E Street Band, and he’s still singing love songs to her on stage and talking about her “long, sexy legs.” I say all this because I want you to know, and I don’t know where else to put it.

It’s a cliche, the girl from Jersey in love with Springsteen, but cliches don’t come from nowhere.

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mamma mia and the sexuality of grown-ass ladies.

::knocks on door, dusts off furniture, peeks around corner into dark hallway, promptly falls into large hole created by rotten floorboards::

….. ow.

Uh, hi guys? Hi. It’s been a minute. But, you know. Y’all still love me, and probably no one is still reading this anyway, SO. Let’s talk about Mamma Mia!

A musical built around ABBA’s hits, Mamma Mia! has the inauspicious designation of being more or less responsible for the wave of jukebox musicals currently dominating Broadway. It was a massive success onstage in both New York and London’s West End (and, apparently, 40 other countries). That isn’t usually a sign that the property in question is particularly interesting or transgressive (though Hamilton is doing its damnedest to prove that opinion wrong), but whoever wrote this thing managed to sneak some seriously progressive shit under the radar. Not only is the film adaptation the happiest movie in the world,  it’s also an unashamed and unabashed celebration of female sexuality – particularly older female sexuality. Which just makes me love it more. Obviously.

The basic story, strung around 20+ ABBA songs, is that of Donna (Meryl Streep, who has maybe never been more beautiful) and her daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried at her most charming). Donna owns a hotel on a Greek island. Sophie is getting married. She doesn’t know who her dad is, but based on a very old diary of Donna’s, she has three guesses, and she’s invited them all to the wedding without telling Donna. Right off the bat – the song setting this scene (“Honey, Honey”) is the second number in the show – we have an opportunity for shittiness and slut-shaming get turned on its head. Donna fucked so many dudes the summer she got pregnant that she doesn’t have any idea which of them is the father of her kid, and no one gives a shit, her kid least of all. Sophie’s pissed she doesn’t know who her father is, but she’s not mad about the ho’ing around that created the confusion. At no point does anyone, including Donna’s three former paramours (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård), say a word about it – except Donna, briefly, before her friends shut her up, because everyone is in agreement that she’s being silly.

Donna’s two best friends, Tanya and Rosie, are played with abandon by Christine Baranski and Julie Walters, and let’s take a sec to do a quick check-in on actor ages, because we all know they’re one of my bugaboos. When Mamma Mia! was filmed, Streep was 58, Baranski was 55, Walters was 57, Brosnan was 54, Firth was 47 – a mere babe! – and Skarsgård was 56. All the leads in this film were within 11 years of each other, the youngest actor was a dude, and the oldest was a lady. Take a moment and really let the remarkableness of that sink in, given the landscape. And (spoiler) who winds up together? 58-year-old Meryl Streep and 54-year-old Pierce Brosnan. It’s one of the great joys of Mamma Mia! to see actors playing to their actual ages and romancing their peers.

…. Mostly. Because I gotta say, it’s also a joy to see women in their fifties being portrayed as sexual objects for folks of any age. That’s best illustrated by Christine Baranski’s killer version of “Does Your Mother Know,” sung to the much younger bartender who thinks she’s the hottest thing he’s ever seen and during the performance of which she manages to seduce a beachful of men.

Baranski is a trained singer and dancer, not to mention a consistently magnetic screen presence – I’d personally watch Christine Baranski Sings the Alphabet and Dances the Times Tables with great interest – and she sells every inch of the number. But just as critical to its reception is the obvious adoration she’s met with by every man who looks at her, all of whom are considerably younger. She’s not just sexual, she’s powerful. Watching her is a rush.

But as a viewer, I think the biggest rush comes from the staging of “Dancing Queen.” Rosie and Tanya start singing it to Donna to cheer her up, but it very quickly becomes more than a bonding moment between three friends, transforming instead into a rallying cry of sexual power and ownership for all the women in the village. (Follow along in the video.) At 1:50, Rosie, Tanya, and Donna bound into the courtyard of Donna’s hotel, where a bunch of locals are helping with the preparations for Sophie’s wedding. As they dance towards the waterfront they rapidly collect a following of women of all ages, singing, dancing and leaping along with them, their faces confident and joyful. Take particular note of Streep during the second verse, especially her body language on, “Looking out for another / Anyone will do.” At 1:55, a young woman watches them pass through the courtyard with naked longing on her face – seriously, whoever that chick is, she’s doing some serious face-acting – and the moment when she runs to join the growing mob feels like a triumph. At the end of the number, when all the girls and women in the village are dancing on the dock with Donna, Tanya and Rosie and they point outwards, singing, “You can dance, you can jive,” it’s hard not to feel that they’re singing to you, the viewer. It’s hard not to feel buoyed by their joy. “Dancing Queen” manages to be a celebration of women as powerful, sexual beings; a statement of ownership of that identity; and an assertion that it’s only one part of what it means to be a woman. I’m not one for sisterhood pretty much ever, and I’m certainly not one for dancing, but when Meryl Streep calls me the dancing queen, I almost believe her. I definitely want to be on that dock with her.

There are a thousand other things to love about Mamma Mia! There’s Amanda Bynes’ sweet, high soprano and ebullient performance. There’s the total focus with which Pierce Brosnan bravely tries to sing (and even hits the right notes, more or less), an attempt which three different film reviewers independently compared to three different animals. There’s the electric chemistry between Streep and Bynes as mother and daughter, whose relationship felt deeply familiar to me as a young woman whose mom is her best friend, and their devastatingly beautiful rendition of “Slipping Through My Fingers.” (Major, major tearjerker warning on that. I underestimated how much it would make me cry even having seen it already, and legit found myself pushing down sobs on an airplane. It wasn’t classy.) But for me, the best selling point is the joy it finds in 50+-year-old women and the delight in takes in their sexual power. How many movies can you say that about?

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yet another way to cook chicken.

It’s officially winter. So let’s talk about warm, cold-weather-tasting, stick-to-your-ribs food. We have to, because the next several recipes I have to share with you are only appropriate for the summer months, because I am a monster.

Chicken with apples in honey mustard sauce is a gem by the wonderful Elise at Simply Recipes. As you might have guessed by its name, Simply Recipes is a low-profile, non-fancy food blog serving up highly delicious recipes without bells and whistles. It’s one of my all-time favorite blogs, and this recipe is a great example of why. It’s simple to make, requires no unusual ingredients, and is incredibly delicious. It’s the poultry counterpart to this pork dish that I wrote about in 2011, and I must say that I strongly prefer Elise’s take on these same elements – mustard, apples, cider, meat – to Jenny and Andy’s. Here’s how she makes it, with my own tiny changes included. You’ll need:

1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 apples
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Start by prepping your sauce: whisk together cider, chicken broth, cornstarch, honey, and Dijon, and set aside. Let the flavors marry. You’ll definitely have to whisk again before adding to the pan, as cornstarch has a tendency to turn into cement if you let it sit, but don’t worry, it will quickly re-mix.

Slice your chicken breasts in half longways to make four thin filets (and pull off the chicken fingers too, if they’re there). Salt and pepper them in the pan – this is a great way to kick up your flavor base, as opposed to doing it on the plate – and brown in olive oil on each side, about 4 minutes per side (if your oil was hot enough to begin with).

Once the chicken is brown, turn the heat down to medium and add the apples, which you’ve previously prepared: core, don’t peel, slice thin, bam. Mix them in around the chicken and let them soften for a few minutes, then add your cider mixture. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and let it cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is done and the sauce is reduced and the apples are lovely.

This is great cold weather food. Cook it ASAP.

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my recipes: corn, chicken, and potato stew.

In my quest to use up some motherfucking corn, I created a stew of corn, chicken and potatoes, inspired as loosely as it is possible to use the word by some excellent-looking corn stews in Good Maine Food, a borderline insane cookbook I acquired on a trip to Maine last summer and which I should probably tell you about at some point because it is just delightfully batshit. Anyway, here’s how you make my stew. I came up with it using my own brain. You’ll need:

3 slices bacon (I tell you what brand you want here)
1 small onion
1 green bell pepper
1 fresh hot cherry pepper (not the kind from the jar!)
2 good-size boneless skinless chicken breasts (or whatever part of the chicken you prefer; I like BSCB, as I’ve decided to call them, because they’re super easy and chunk up nice but you can do your chicken however you like)
3 – 4 large ears of corn, kernels stripped
Two handfuls of potatoes
Chicken broth
Heavy cream
Salt
Pepper

Obviously, these quantities can be monkeyed around with in whatever way you see fit (though I don’t recommend fucking with the aromatics until you’ve made this at least once). Add whatever veggies excite you. Go buckwild.

But start with bacon. Cut your three large (because you were sensible and bought the kind of bacon I told you to buy) strips of bacon into small pieces and render them until crispy. Lift your little crispy bacon bits out of the pot – I like chopsticks for working with bacon better than any other kitchen utensil – and set aside. Into the bacon fat put your diced green pepper, diced hot cherry pepper, and diced onion. Breathe deeply for several minutes.

Once you’ve acclimated to how fucking good your kitchen smells, go ahead and add your chopped chicken. Again, I like boneless skinless breasts because they are incredibly easy to work with, particularly in a preparation like this where you’re just adding them into a mix of stuff, but you could definitely level this soup up by making chicken stock with a whole chicken, using the chicken you used to make stock in place of the BSCB chunks, and using the stock you made as the base for this soup. But I’ve never made chicken stock and I certainly wasn’t going to start on COOK ALL THE CORN Day, so I used BSCB.

Mix your chicken chunks all up, then add your corn kernels (stripped from the cob aggressively, using a chef’s knife to get all the awesome corn goo out the cob) and your potato chunks. Oh, and just for the record, you chopped everything beforehand because this is soup, and soup is one of those things where actually doing a mise en place will legit save your dumb ass. So you add your corn and potatoes, and then over everything in chicken broth. I would say two cartons should do it? You might need more than two cartons, but you can always top off with water. Anyway, cover everything, add a good slug of heavy cream (maybe 1/2 cup if you feel like measuring) and boil! Then cover, simmer until the potatoes are donezo, and you’re done.

Make this now. Thank me later.

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corn muffins twice.

I mentioned to you earlier that I joined a CSA this summer? One of the …. consequences? I’m comfortable with the word “consequences” – has been a staggering proliferation of corn in my kitchen. There is no recipe that can use up this much corn. There are no two people that can eat this much corn. I spent an entire Sunday cooking almost exclusively recipes involving corn and the pile did not appear to have reduced at all. I think right now I have approximately twenty ears of corn in my fridge. Would you like some corn? I’ve got some corn.

In the spirit of, you know, having a little corn, I tried two corn muffin recipes. (Pro tip: corn muffins are a terrible way to get rid of a gangfuck of corn in one’s fridge. One batch typically calls for the kernels from one ear of corn, and that is insufficient to my needs.) One was smitten kitchen‘s corn, buttermilk, and chive popover recipe; the other was Melissa Clark‘s Fresh Corn Muffins with Maple Syrup. Let’s start with the popovers.

Popovers, if you’ve never had them, are light, fluffy creations, full of air and meant to be eaten hot. As such, they’re not a great candidate for a make-ahead breakfast, and that’s on me. I also didn’t have chives by the time I finally got around to making these, so who knows – maybe they were the missing ingredient that would have put the dish over the top. What I can tell you is that the finished product was seriously Not Great. First of all, as I alluded to earlier, these don’t keep for shit. I made them hoping for a week’s worth of breakfast at best and a few days at worst, and they were hard as unappetizing rocks by the next morning. Worse, though – they didn’t even taste that good. The black pepper did not complement the corn, but it did dominate the flavor profile of the popovers.

These were a failure. I ate one. Maybe try them if you’re making popovers for a crowd to eat immediately and you take out the pepper. Otherwise, avoid.

Melissa Clark’s muffins are a different story! Let me tell you right off the bat, they don’t taste like maple. Foolishly – foolishly! – I thought this meant I could leave the maple syrup out with no effect on the flavor as long as I boosted the sugar. You guys, I was so wrong. It might be because the maple-less batch I made was also made in a loaf pan large enough to swaddle a baby in and I’m pretty bad at figuring out how to adjust recipes for larger pans, but the maple-less batch did not hold a candle to the enmapled batch, despite the fact that the enmapled batch did not taste at all like maple.

It did, however, taste delicious. These muffins are fantastic. You should make them. I made no adjustments to the recipe, except that I don’t know where Melissa Clark lives that she can get maple yogurt in large enough quantities to put 1 1/4 cups in her muffins, I’ve only seen maple yogurt once and I bought it because it had a water buffalo on it and it didn’t taste like maple at all. So I did what she said to do and mixed some more maple syrup into the recipe along with plain yogurt. Next time I might use extra maple syrup, because goddamn right am I making these again.

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Pie Cook-Through #5 and #6: Sugar Plum Pie & Banoffee Pie

I’m not entirely sure sugar plums are a thing. The farmers’ market definitely sells something it calls sugar plums – they’re about the size of a half dollar, scarlet on the inside and sweet as all hell, I eat ’em like actual candy – but Wikipedia and the Google machine, when asked, kick up only sugar plums the weird British candy and sugar plam the Tchaikovsky tune. In First Prize Pies, the cookbook from which I’m sure you remember all these pies are drawn, it seems pretty clear that author Allison Kave is drawing more on her fond memories of The Nutcracker in naming this pie than any sort of nod to actual plum physiology. (Do plums have physiology? I’m thinking no, but I’m also thinking that I’m really enjoying that use of “physiology.”)

Anyway: Sugar Plum Pie is a basic plum pie seasoned with cardamom and honey, and I have to say, I wasn’t wild about it. My assessment of the pie was definitely colored by the fact that pitting plums is a gigantic pain in the ass and I had to pit something like twenty, given the size of plums with which I was working. For me, that sort of time investment demands high return, and flavorwise, it just wasn’t here. I did not think the plums were improved by cooking, and cardamom …. I really, really love cardamom, and I think part of the problem here is me. The recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom, and I have not yet got through my head how powerful cardamom is, so I doubled it to 1/4 teaspoon. And the flavor was overwhelming. So while this pie was not a winner, I wouldn’t hold it against it just yet. I’m sure this is an entirely solid recipe for plum pie that I’d turn to again. If I felt moved to make it again. Which I don’t.

ON THE OTHER HAND BANOFFEE PIE.

If you, like me, are American, you can be forgiven for having one solitary reference to banoffee pie in your world, and that’s Keira Knightley in Love, Actually. You know, the part where she goes to visit Mark at his apartment to forcibly befriend him/get her wedding video and she says, “Bdlkjgvadf pie?!” and he says “no” and she says “It’d have broken my heart if you’d said yes” and then later she references her terrible taste in pie? You know exactly the scene I’m talking about, don’t front. Anyway, that gibberish word she says is “banoffee,” which is an English dessert pie combining bananas and toffee. I’d never had it, but my pie companion requested we make it for her birthday.

I’ve talked about this cookbook being fussy, and the banoffee pie recipe is a prime example. For the “toffee” component, just folded into the recipe, not printed in red or all caps or anything, no warning, Kave instructs you to boil a can of sweetened condensed milk, unopened, FOR FOUR HOURS. Now, if you read the wikipedia entry for banoffee pie you will learn that that is in fact the traditional way to make banoffee, but if you make one more click to dulce de leche, you will learn that that ubiquitous South American dessert which you can get at literally any market with a Hispanic clientele is just boiled sweetened condensed milk. So what I’m saying is that in the name of veracity, Kave has you spend FOUR HOURS PLUS TIME TO COOL on making something that you could probably get within ten minutes of your house with the exact same end quality.

So that’s fun.

Pain in the ass cookbook fussiness aside, this recipe is fucking flawlessly delicious. I wouldn’t have thought Carr’s Whole Wheat crackers would make a good crust for a sweet pie, but in reality they taste like what a graham cracker crust wants to grow up to be. The mix of fresh bananas, soft toffee, and whipped cream is perfect. I would eat this every day and twice on Sunday and I’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason to stop.

Because of the extent to which I intend to blog about this cookbook, I will not be publishing the recipes. However, if a particular pie speaks to you, let me know and I’ll be happy to send the recipe along privately.

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Pie Cook-Through #4: Ginger-Peach Pie

So you might remember I had a crust situation.

After making that pie, I was mad, you guys. Making the crust made me mad. I didn’t want to be mad. I wanted to eat delicious crust wrapped around a fruity filling (that is, “pie”). So I did what I always do when some aspect of cooking kicks my ass: I went to my friends. I believe what I said was something along the lines of “FUCK PIE CRUST help me make it less enragingly.” My friends are smart and skilled and had many tips, and when I sat down to make this pie, I had all of their advice open in my browser, ready to be referenced at a moment’s notice.

My watchword was “calmly.” I decided I was going to have faith in the process. I was going to trust that this recipe would work, given that its creator is a fucking professional pie baker. And I was going to accept that pie crust is not something I can make in twenty minutes and be thrilled with the result.

So, that crust situation I had? I don’t have it anymore.

The crust for this pie was fucking impeccable. For days, it maintained a crisp texture and excellent flavor. It cut easily with only a little brittleness in the outer edge. It looked pretty. It was everything I’ve ever wanted my crust to be. Here’s how I did it.

* Everyone always says that EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COLD and now I believe them. I didn’t keep my dry ingredients in the freezer, but I did keep my butter in the freezer until the moment of incorporation. I took it out to chunk it, and I then wrapped it all up in a dish towel and put it back for the intervening minutes so it would be as cold as possible when I put it in the food processor. I mixed my milk and vinegar in advance and stored them in the fridge until the moment I added them to the dough. I think this definitely contributed to the level of crispness I was later able to achieve. (For those of you who don’t know, colder ingredients steam when they hit the hot oven, creating pockets of air that lead to fluffiness/flakiness. Here is an article about butter. For those of you who are facebook friends with me, you can see me learning all about this in the Note titled “serious baking questions.” from 2011.)

But I didn’t stop there. I refrigerated this bitch after I took it out the food processor and pulled it together (more about that in the next bullet). I then refrigerated the half I wasn’t rolling out (once I remembered I’d made a double crust recipe, which was ten frustrating minutes into the rolling out process. Amazing how much easier it goes when you’re not doing double work). And then once it was rolled out, I refrigerated the large rolled-out sheet. And then after it was pressed into the pie dish, I refrigerated the pie dish. Basically, I refrigerated for at least ten minutes and at most thirty minutes after every step and I am glad that I did.

* One of my biggest sources of frustration last time I made crust was that the quantity of wet ingredients called for in the recipe did not seem scientifically capable of moistening the quantity of dry ingredients. This time, I did add probably 2 tablespoons more milk than the recipe called for, but I really tried to stay minimal and stick to the recipe. I turned the dough onto the counter and, as last time, felt strongly that there was no way this was enough wet, but I forced myself to stay calm and trust the process, and I started working the dough. I didn’t full out knead it, conscious of introducing as little body temperature as possible into my COLD!!! dough. I just sort of pulled the dry bits at the edges into the middle and prodded and pressed and lo and behold it started to come together. I did this for a few minutes and then I refrigerated. Faith in the process, you guys, faith in the process.

* For rolling out, one of my friends recommended saran wrap between the crust and counter and more saran between the crust and rolling pin. I didn’t have saran, but I did have wax paper, and I foolishly assumed there would be no difference.

So, um. Wax paper is … waxed. It doesn’t have traction. And if you try to roll out a pie crust between two pieces of wax paper, it will slide all over the counter and you will become enraged.

Packing tape is your friend. It was mine. Just tape all your wax paper to the counter, get back to rolling out, and put saran on your shopping list.

* Remember you are making a double crust and do not try to roll out the entire dough ball as one crust. You will be mad.

I think that’s it. I think that’s everything. It was a long process but the resultant crust was so, so worth it.

Oh and the pie. Ha! The pie was fine. You toss peaches with fresh ginger, powdered ginger and sugar. I definitely prefer Deb’s peach pie filling, but this is my go-to crust, now and forever.

Because of the extent to which I intend to blog about this cookbook, I will not be publishing the recipes. However, if a particular pie speaks to you, let me know and I’ll be happy to send the recipe along privately.

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