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Julia’s Pie Dough with Lard

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When I was in high school, I was a vegetarian.  I decided to become a vegetarian for a few reasons.  For one, I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.  It’s a story about the turn of the century industrialization of the meat industry… ugh.  I couldn’t look at a piece of meat without wanting to throw up.  Also, I developed a very close friendship with a girl named Julia who was also exploring life without meat.  Together we transitioned to chicken only, and then onto meat free.  I’ll admit I slipped occasionally, but for the better part of high school and the beginning of college, I made due on a whole lot of black beans.

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This website is proof positive that I have rejoined the meat eating world, but now I try and consume a little more consciously.  Dan and I buy all of our meat organic, cage free, antibiotic free, etc.  I’m more comfortable being a part of the food chain when I know what has happened to the food I’m consuming.  Julia and I used to talk about how we would eat meat if we were farmers, and we could guarantee that our animals had been treated right.  Funny enough, that is exactly what Julia is doing these days.

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After graduating from Vassar, Julia moved to Los Altos, California to work at Hidden Villa Farm.  Hidden Villa is a teaching farm that uses its facilities to teach the bay area about farming and social justice.  Julia has had an incredible experience there, and she’s learned more about animal husbandry than most of us will ever know.  As part of her wedding gift, she gave us lard that she harvested from Hidden Villa, along with her pie dough recipe.  Lard plays the same role in doughs as vegetable shortening or butter, it’s just a fat that helps hold the dough together.  And this dough was incredible.  It was flaky and delicious, the perfect compliment to the caramel apple pie I made on this brisk October day.

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Julia’s Pie Dough
Source: Julia Fiore

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp salt

6 tbsp lard

8 tbsp butter

1 cup ice water

All ingredients should be cold.

Mix together flour and salt.

Cube butter and lard, and work into dry ingredients with your hands or a pastry blender.

Use a wooden spoon to stir in ice water, a little at a time.  When the dough is able to easily form a ball, separate in half and wrap with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate 30 minutes, then roll out for your pie.

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Blogoversary

Happy 1 year, Biscuits and Such!

So one year ago today, on what was a basic WordPress blog, I started this website.  My first post was Country Style Steak with Jasmine Rice.  It was photographed horribly in an apartment I can only now associate with bed bugs (but also had bad lighting).  The steak turned out alright, but not great, and I remember wondering first if I was making the right choice, and secondly if I thought anyone in my family would find it (or worse judge me about it).

A year later I’ve gotten an incredible amount of positive feedback about this site, and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to push through.  I am excited every time I cook something for this site and I love every minute of it.  It’s given me an outlet, a hobby, a place to put my frustration, love, and energy.

I was planning a little something for the blogoversary, but I severely underestimated how exhausted I would be after the wedding. I’ve been doing nothing all week and I still feel like I’ve been hit by a very large, opinionated bus.  I promise a wedding post is coming (accompanied by one of Beaufort Grocery’s recipes), as well as some exciting news in other areas of the b&s world.  For now, I wanted to thank you all for making this site so special for me, for giving me a reason to keep doing it.

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Charm Cake

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I know that this is going to be a “duh” moment, but the big epiphany that I had about wedding planning is that you’ll spend all your time compromising.  We’ve found that everyone has an opinion and most of those opinions conflict.  A lot of what the wedding has become is a meld of ourselves and the people closest to us.  We’ve tried to insert ourselves in every nook and cranny so that it comes off as ELENA! AND! DAN!  From the invitations that I letter pressed myself to the place cards Dan designed, the wedding will be as much us as we can make it.

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We’ve also tried to make the wedding as southern as possible.  Call it a theme wedding, but we really wanted to highlight the parts of the south that we love.  Dan may hail from Pennsylvania, but that boy is a sweet tea devotee.  We’ll be serving pulled pork barbeque, our tables are named after plants indigenous to North Carolina, and our first dance is to The Luckiest by Chapel Hill natives Ben Folds Five.  Along the same lines, I’ve been trying to flavor the wedding extras with southern touches.

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As a thank you to my amazing bridesmaids, I planned a really special bridal luncheon.  My father took the five of us out on a sound cruise around the Beaufort/Morehead area and we sipped champagne, nibbled on fried chicken and pineapple, and finally, partook in a charm cake.

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A charm cake is part of a traditional southern wedding.  Essentially the idea is that it’s a fortune telling cake.  You hide charms inside the cake attached to a ribbon, and each of your bridesmaids pulls a ribbon and finds their fortune!  Usually the charms are similar to something you would find on a charm bracelet, different charms mean different fabulous things for the receiver.  The baby carriage charm means that the bridesmaid will be having a baby soon.  The engagement ring means the bridesmaid will be getting engaged soon.  The anchor means the bridesmaid’s life will be stable.

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But I didn’t want to foretell that my sisters, best friend, and cousin would be BABIED! and MARRIED!  I’m fine with stability, but I just didn’t dig the vibe of the stereotypical charms.  I may not seem it because I am, in fact, getting married, but I don’t subscribe to the whole these-are-the-things-you-must-do-in-life idea.  So I decided to make my own charms.  A little lighter, a little more fun.  So I predicted that my bridesmaids would eat the world’s most delicious taco, or finally get that Hogwarts acceptance letter.  Perhaps they will find their face on a cereal box or learn how to smile with their eyes, you know, things every twenty-something woman really desires with her whole heart.

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I bought wooden nickels and a felt pen at a craft store and set to work, combining my wit and lack of drawing skills to make eight charms, two for each of my bridesmaids.  Some charm cakes are bunt cakes so the charms are just sort of draped over the middle, but I wanted to have the charms in between the layers of cake.  Instead of risking the ink leaking into an otherwise perfectly edible cake, I made each charm a vellum envelope and attached the ribbon to that.  When it was their turn, each bridesmaid pulled out a charm, snipped the envelope open, and commenced teasing me for what a dork I am.  I’m fine with it.

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As far as the cake was concerned, I wanted something light to compliment the finger sandwiches.  We had the luncheon the same day as the rehearsal dinner, so I didn’t want to be too stuffed by lunch, and thought a white cake with marshmallow icing would be perfect.  I made the cake while I was still at home the week before the wedding to save myself time and effort, and just froze the layers.  Then, the Saturday before we left, our shiny, beautiful, Carolina blue KitchenAid mixer (a gift from our friend Emily) arrived, and I just had to bake something.  So I thought, why not make another cake- a practice run, if you will.  And I’m glad that I did.  The cake part was fine, but the marshmallow icing I made was not exactly what I was hoping for.  I should preface this by pointing out that I’m not really a cake person, I like pies much more, and I really don’t like icing, especially vanilla.  This icing was fine by vanilla icing standards, but instead of adding lightness like I’d hoped, the marshmallows just added sweetness.

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So when I made a second batch of icing, I decided to do so with marshmallow fluff instead of melted marshmallows.  The benefit of marshmallow fluff is that it retains the flavor of the marshmallow but has the right texture.  I found when I melted marshmallows they just became runny sugar.  They lost all of their marshmallow fluff and flavor, which is so the point of marshmallow icing.  As a result, the second icing I made with marshmallow fluff, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract.  The finished product was light, fluffy, and creamy, the perfect texture and flavor.  The cake itself was all together fabulous and the charms were, well, charming.

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Now wish  me luck, I’m off to get married (twice)!

Charm Cake
Source: Food Network

Cake:

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg whites (3/4 cup)

3/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set a rack at the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. Combine egg whites, milk and vanilla extract. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and smooth top with a metal spatula. Bake cake(s) about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack, remove paper and let cool completely.

Icing:

3 cups powdered sugar

4 sticks butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 jar marshmallow fluff

Cream butter and sugar. Whip in marshmallow and vanilla.

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