"I noticed there were additional comments made in red, and a wine jelly stain, somewhat faded in the upper right-hand page corner, which came from a syrup that was poured over the cake. I also found a typed version that had been altered slightly, most likely by my grandmother, evolving with the taste buds of time."Read More
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From curator Rozanne Gold: This scrumptious recipe was submitted to Handwritten by Dale Bellisfield. From a fabulous career as one of New York’s premier graphic designers, she transformed herself into a clinical herbalist (and holistic nurse) who now makes her home in Pine, Arizona. Dale has a practice in integrative medicine and, like Hippocrates, thinks of food as medicine. She is a wonderful cook who once created a dish of black rice with gorgonzola, porcini and espresso for me. I am so grateful to have her wonderful mother’s handwritten recipe, and to share Dale’s memories. www.herbaldale.com
Sue Inoff's Double Crust Lemon Pie by Dale Bellisfield
I just dug this out of my overstuffed, seven-inch-thick file, a jumble of recipes I've been gathering over the past two years as inspirations for a “breast health” cookbook I’m working on. It fell out of the file so easily, it was like my Mom was saying hello. This copy of the recipe was meant for my two sisters, Joanne and Sally, and me. And it is one I will happily share with my daughter Samantha, and now with all of you!
My mother’s Double Crust Lemon Pie was her signature, and our favorite among many of her delicious home-made dishes. She was an adventurous and excellent cook, and a foodie before there was even such a designation. Much to my Dad's anxiety, though, she loved to experiment with new recipes whenever they hosted an event — be it birthday party, July 4th gathering, Thanksgiving dinner, family home-coming, baby shower, whatever. Although I never caught a whiff of any failures, this one was an experimental blockbuster-turned-mainstream, with many repeated command performances. And it never made Dad anxious.
Only Mom complained about it. She would rail about how time-consuming it was to slice those lemons "paper thin" after having grated and peeled them. And about the effort of making the two crusts it needed. But we didn't really care. We were only consumed with selfish greed about devouring that pie sometime in the very near future. Please, Mom??
This particular dessert was most often associated with our annual "crab fest" dinner, held in the hot Maryland summer at my folks' house. It was a big gathering of friends, neighbors and family that filled our entire basement. And it celebrated the peak of Maryland’s blue crab season. Every year we looked forward to the slimy, messy ritual of cracking open those bright red, steaming-hot, juicy crabs onto tables covered with layers of newspaper to absorb the excitement and the entrails. No plates.
There was a certain skill to separating the sweet, briny crabmeat from their tenacious salt and spice-encrusted shells. And as you cracked open the claws, and then sucked out the shell fragments to catch whatever fleshy morsels might still remain, your mouth/eyes/sinuses all dripped from the inescapable fiery spices caked on the shells, on your fingers, on your napkin and on your beer. But we knew relief was coming.
The lemon pie. This made it all calm down — the lemony sweetness of the creamy filling, the hit of those paper thin, gloriously tart lemon slices suspended within it, and the cinnamon-y crust. They formed the most exquisite combo of flavors that perfectly balanced the intensity of the spiced crabs and beer. More than 30 years have passed since I last ate that pie. But I can taste it still. Suddenly it feels like it’s summer.
Sue Inoff's Double Crust Lemon Pie
2-1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
6 eggs (reserve 1 teaspoon egg white for top crust)
3 large lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
(squeeze from additional lemons)
1/2 cup water
cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll out bottom crust into pie tin.
3. In a mixing bowl, add sugar, flour and salt. Blend in butter and eggs until well mixed. Grate lemons to get 2 teaspoon zest. Add to bowl.
4. Cut rind and white pith from 3 lemons and slice lemons very thin. Add lemon slices to bowl with lemon juice (squeezed from additional lemons) and water. Stir well and pour into bottom crust.
5. Cover with top crust, sealing (I dampen bottom crust edge) and fluting edge. Brush top pie crust with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
** Note from RG: Prepare enough pie crust for a deep-dish 9 or 10” pie, top and bottom crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Let cool before serving.
A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This engaging story comes from Lari Robling, an independent radio producer and writer, currently producing “Voices in the Family” with Dr. Dan Gottlieb for WHYY in Philadelphia. A special pot of tea, carefully placed next to a handwritten recipe card, sets the scene to unlock the secrets to Bettymarie’s Peach Meringue. The card’s yellowed hue and tell-tale splotches hints at past mishaps, while a faded cursive “what’s cookin,” specifies Mom as the author, even calling her by name. Yet the story is not all peaches and cream. The cracked exterior of the cake becomes the metaphor for a complicated mother-daughter relationship, whose sweetness and love stand the test of time. A former restaurant critic for the Philadelphia Daily News, Lari is the author of a wonderful cookbook, Endangered Recipes, published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Lari believes that nostalgic memories created by food are the most evocative and compelling of all, especially if they’re handwritten. Thank you, Lari. Twitter handle @larirobling.
Bettymarie's Peach Meringue By Lari Robling
My mother was a terrible cook. I was about eight years old when I realized that calling the fire department wasn't a step in a recipe. Her impoverished cooking skills were always a puzzle because her mother, my grandmother, was an amazing cook. Grog's pies were legendary and people would find a reason to stop by around dinner — there was always enough food in the pot, and enough room around the table to set another place, or two, or even four! Yet, my mother left that home sadly lacking the ability to put a simple meal on the table. Maybe it’s no coincidence that I became passionate about food later in life.
There were, however, one or two things she did learn from my grandmother, and my brother and I were grateful for them. One such confection was a mass of fluffy whiteness covered in whipped topping and decorated with fruit. Despite its light texture, and much to our mother's chagrin, we called it Cement Cake. Although she took this as one of endless insults attached to her skill-less cooking, it was an apt description of what the cake looked like prior to being dressed up with fruit and cream — a cracked sidewalk.
This dessert is Pavlova-like (sometimes called Pavlov), and baked in a spring-form pan rather than laboriously piped out of a pastry bag. Preparing it this way results in a dreamy, marshmallow-like interior encased in a brittle shell.
The original version came from my grandmother's neighbor and called for “tinned peaches.” Over time, we swapped the canned peaches for fresh, or sometimes substituted fresh strawberries or blueberries, or other fruit in season. I've even used kiwi, which adds a nice tart contrast to what is basically a very sweet meringue. But the most exciting version was the one I made with the gooseberries from my backyard bush.
Eventually, the non-dairy whipped topping gave way to whipped heavy cream. And what I’ve learned is that the recipe is almost foolproof, as even my mother could make it reliably.
I was always curious about the origin of this recipe — did some cook lack a pastry bag and plop a Pavlov into a spring-form pan? Was this dish a regional Ohio thing where I was from? I finally found the answer when researching my book, Endangered Recipes and read The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook. There it was — Schaum Torte, a flour-less cake for Passover (that explained the non-dairy topping!).
I wonder how many countless handwritten recipes such as this one were passed over fences or across clothes lines over the years? From neighbor to neighbor, from mother-to-daughter, and now mother-to-son (my son Ben devours it anytime I make this cake), it is a beautiful testament to the nurturing bonds we share.
It’s nice to have a sweet memory of my mother to mollify our sometimes contentious relationship. And I don’t call it Cement Cake any more.
Bettymarie’s Peach Meringue
6 egg whites
2 cups, sugar
2 teaspoons, vanilla extract
2 teaspoons, apple cider vinegar
2 cups, heavy cream
1 pint, fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
(reserve some whole for garnish)
or fresh fruit of your choice.
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
2. To make the cake: Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar slowly while beating at slow speed. Blend in vanilla and vinegar. Spoon batter into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let cool (it will deflate and crack; don't worry you cover the whole affair up).
3. To make the topping: Just before serving, whip cream. Arrange fruit on top of cake, reserving some for garnish. Spread the cream on the top and sides of the cake.