as documented here, i am relatively new to the world of the pie-obsessed. and my first pies were all of the mixed-berry variety (i’ve been mixed-berry/pastry focused since third grade, when pepperidge farm raspberry turnovers were a dessert staple). thankfully, however, i’ve branched out in the pie filling department (i can get just the tiniest bit set in my ways when it comes to a particular ingredient /flavor/food item) and am newly preoccupied with strawberries and rhubarb; just about the tastiest of pie fillings, given the tart/sweet dimension. so preoccupied in fact, that i insisted on picking more than i could use and freezing much of it, in an effort to insure that i would be eating strawberry rhubarb pie past june. which i am.
so, full disclosure here: i am not technically a pie person. or a bread-baking person, for that matter. i have always been very much a cake person (i happen to believe there are two camps: the pie/bread camp and the cake camp). however, my allegiance began to shift last summer (just a bit) and i found myself not only craving pie, but baking it, as well. (i suspect the shift away from cake and towards pie, may have had something to do with the copious amounts of icebox cakes i was developing (and eating) last summer for the icebox cakes cookbook (chronicle books, spring 2015), but who knows.although i had made more pie than i care to admit when i worked at baked, when i started making pies last summer, i did not yet have a go-to pie dough recipe. thankfully, i had found this on the internet months earlier and had stowed it in my recipe folder for a rainy day. it is an excellent, excellent recipe (not surprising, as it is judy rogers influenced) and served as a perfect jumping off point for me as i began developing my own recipe. perfect for two reasons: one, it calls for salted butter and two it asks that you “fraisage” the butter and flour together (a french technique whereby you incorporate butter into flour by using the palm of your hand to smear the former into the latter on the counter), before folding the dough in thirds several times, like a business letter.i knew something about fraisage from having made tartine’s galette dough, and something about business letter folds and pie dough and increased flakiness from rose levy beranbaum’s the pie and pastry bible (she mentions it on page 28, if you’re curious) and so i knew that my own pie dough recipe would include such techniques. i loved the idea of salted butter (salt-aholics like things like that), but knew mine would be full fat, as per the four and twenty blackbirds sisters. they also inspired me to add cider vinegar to my recipe (i decided on just a tablespoon, but to compensate for its addition, removed a tablespoon of water to keep my liquid measurement at only 1/4 cup), as well as a bit of sugar. and, finally, developing a pie dough recipe calling for pastry flour seemed like a no-brainer, as rose levy berenbaum, as well as tartine, as well as julia child, all insist it contributes immeasurably to the flakiness factor.
i first learned about the “world’s best cake” here (although the original recipe is sweet paul’s) and thought it sounded completely amazing: fluffy cake, with a baked, slightly chewy, yet crispy, marshmallow-y meringue, layered with creamy whipped cream. so very “world’s-best” sounding to me, in fact, that i knew then and there that i wanted to develop my own variation with a coconut twist (in my world, a cake with meringue and cream demands coconut).a little bit of internet research revealed almost no recipes for cakes with baked meringue (save for this one) and only a handful for “world’s best” cakes other than sweet paul’s (such as this one). sweet paul’s version was republished here and here. but no one appeared to be tweaking it. because i had other goodies up my sleeve in need of developing, i put my thoughts of the world’s best cake on hold, until i saw this, an espresso, cinnamon, maple version, and decided i, too, had to make my mark on the world with an attempt at the best.
my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream when i was a kid was mint chocolate chip. but not any mint chocolate chip: i loved mint chocolate chip ice cream from baskin robbins – i loved everything about it – the green color, the creaminess, the mint/chocolate flavor combo. but what i really loved the most, was the size of the chips. this was not a mint ice cream with chunks of chocolate throughout, or actual chips. instead, baskin robbins’ flavor included tiny, shaved, or grated, bits of chocolate, that contributed to the most perfect balance of chocolate to mint, as well as adding just a hint of texture to this otherwise super creamy treat.
so, the whole buttermilk bar thing started when i was having dinner with friends and they mentioned a doughnut they had eaten in los angeles. a mere mention, and i was instantly smitten. and not with the doughnut’s purported attributes (which i insisted they share with me), but with the name of the doughnut: BUTTERMILK BAR. brilliant. who doesn’t want to eat a buttermilk bar??