double-ginger blackberry plum pie

Image: Olaiya Land

Pie is a surprisingly divisive topic. I’ve seen perfectly sane bakers on the verge of a fist fight over whether the best crusts are made with butter or lard. I’ve heard pastry chefs talk mountains of trash over other chefs’ under-baked or over-browned pies. I’ve seen people almost in tears because of a soupy filling, ready to throw in the towel and give up pie-making forever.

I get it. Pie is not the easiest baked good to master. The different water and pectin content of fruit makes the filling tricky. A golden, flaky crust takes patience and attention to detail. I understand why so many of you are intimidated to bake up a pie of your own. 

But I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t be.

Image: Olaiya Land

I’m not going to go so far as to say that pie is easy. There are about a dozen steps for baking a lovely one. To do it right takes the greater part of a morning or afternoon. But a bubbling-hot pie, fresh from the oven is a thing of beauty. And a still warm slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is one of life’s great pleasures. 

In this respect, pie is like a lot of other great experiences. It’s daunting and takes work and sometimes feels unattainable. Like actually understanding wine. Or finally buying a pair of jeans that make your ass look amazing. Or finding that perfect someone to grow old and grey with. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Or venturing to a glorious city like Paris on your own--which is precisely what I’m currently doing. Despite the fact that this is my favorite city in the world, and that I’ve been here more times than I can count, and that I actually enjoy being alone, I feel out of sorts and awkward. I woke up feeling like this whole trip was a bad idea and that I’d be much happier at home in my own bed. 

Luckily, I’ve had these exact same feelings often enough to know that they aren’t true. They’re just my mind trying to trick me into playing it safe. 

But guess what? Life is entirely too short for always playing it safe. There are too many inspiring people to meet and too many new places to discover. And too many luscious pies to bake.

Image: Olaiya Land

So I’m here to remind you that if you think there’s something spectacular on the other side of your dreams, it’s always worth the discomfort it takes to get there. Even if the thing or person (or pie) turns out not to be as life-changing as you’d hoped, the journey will leave you that much richer.

So I want you to bake yourself a gilded beauty of a pie before the late-summer fruit is all gone. (To help you on your way, I’ve got step-by-step instructions for you below.)

Even if your pie turns out a little more “rustic” than you’d hoped, it will be a delicious reminder that life is too short to let fear come between you and your dreams.

Image: Olaiya Land

Double-Ginger Blackberry Plum Pie

  • 1 recipe flaky pie dough (see below)
  • 2 lbs firm-ripe plums (I used Italian prune plums, but any mix of plums will work)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1½ oz. (1/4 cup) candied ginger
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 oz blackberries (about 2 cups)

Flaky Pie Dough

  • 1 lb + 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 5 oz (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) lard, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1 whole egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (or 3 tablespoons cream or milk), to glaze
  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado, demerara or sanding sugar (regular old sugar will work, too)

 

*Notes: I straddle the Great Pie Crust Debate by using both butter and lard in my crust. The butter adds flavor, but also extra flakiness as the water in the butter is transformed to steam in the oven and creates little pockets throughout the dough. The lard creates flakes as well, adds tenderness and, due to its higher melting point, makes the dough easier to work with. I render my own leaf lard or buy it from Bob's Quality Meats or Rain Shadow Meats here in Seattle. If you don’t want to use lard, I recommend an all-butter crust (just sub butter for the lard in this recipe)--it will be delicious and only a bit harder to work with. If you work quickly and your ingredients are super cold before you begin, you shouldn't even notice any difference.

- Freezing your lard before you begin will make it easier to cut into pieces.

- Some varieties of plums can release a lot of juice once you sprinkle sugar on them. If your plums give off a lot of liquid, you’ll need to pour most of it off before baking to avoid a soggy crust and loose filling.

- If you manage to save some pie for later, don’t refrigerate it! This ruins the beautiful, flaky texture of the crust. Just tuck it under a dish towel and leave on the counter overnight.  

Image: Olaiya Land

Before you begin, make sure your butter, lard and cold water have been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. If the weather is warm or your kitchen tends to be toasty, chill your flour as well.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Separate the pieces of chilled butter and toss them in the flour mixture to coat. Do the same with the lard. When all the pieces of fat have been coated in flour, pick up a piece of butter or lard between your thumb and first two fingers. Slide your thumb over the butter or lard while pressing down on it in order to form a long, thin strip. Drop this strip back into the bowl so it becomes coated with flour. Continue until all the pieces of butter and lard have been flattened. Some of the flakes will break and the dough will take on a slightly crumbly or sandy appearance, which is just fine. Place the bowl in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to re-chill the fat.

Image: Olaiya Land

Drizzle the cold water and vinegar onto the chilled flour and fat mixture, tossing constantly with a flexible silicone or rubber spatula or a large spoon. Continue adding water until the mixture is moist enough to form a dough when you pinch it together. If you have used ¾ cup of water and the dough seems dry, give it a few more turns with your spatula or spoon and then pinch off a golf ball sized piece of dough. Squeeze it and see if it wants to come together into a dough.  If it is too crumbly and won’t form a dough, add a bit more water, a couple teaspoons at a time, until the mixture forms a dough when you pinch it together.

Turn out the dough (it will be shaggy) onto a large work surface and gather it together into a ball. Do not knead it as this will toughen the dough. Divide it in half with a bench scraper or knife. Form each half into a ball and then flatten each ball into a disk about 3/4-inch thick. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap or parchemnt and chill for at least an hour before rolling. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or placed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 2 months.  If frozen, thaw the dough in the refrigerator overnight and soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Image: Olaiya Land

Roll out one disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough into a pie plate. Lift and press it into the edges of the plate.  Do not stretch the dough into the edges as this will make your crust shrink as it bakes. Trim and crimp the edges of your crust and place the pan in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the other disk of dough to roughly 1/4-inch thickness.  Cut out a circle roughly 1 inch larger than the top diameter of your pie plate.  For a latticed pie, cut this circle into wide strips.  Place the strips on a plate and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Image: Olaiya Land

When you are ready to bake the pie, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat it to 425°F.  

Cut the plums into quarters if they're large or halves if they're small, discarding the pits. Place the plums in a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the lemon juice and ½ cup of the sugar. Set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes. Pour off the juice from the plums, discarding all of it except for ½ cup. Toss the peaches (and ½ cup juice) with two tablespoons of the cornstarch, the candied and dried ginger and a pinch of salt. 

Place the raspberries in a medium mixing bowl and toss with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of sugar. 

To fill the pie crust, pour half of the plum mixture onto your well-chilled or frozen bottom crust. Arrange half of the blackberries over the plums. Top with the rest of the plum mixture and then the rest of the blackberries. Place the dough strips from the refrigerator on top of the berries, weaving them into a lattice pattern. Trim the edges to overhang by ¾ inch. Fold the top edges of the lattice over the bottom crust, tuck the edges under and crimp. Place the filled and topped pie back in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes. 

(I know, I know. There’s a lot of chilling and freezing and waiting around. But taking the time to par-freeze your pie will help keep your crust from slumping in the oven.)

Brush the top crust with the egg wash (or cream or milk) and then sprinkle with the sugar. Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake until the crust is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking until the crust is dark golden brown, about 45-60 minutes longer.  I like my crust deeply caramelized.

Remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool before serving. (The longer you let it cool, the easier it will be to slice.)

Serves 6-8.

Image: Olaiya Land

almond-oat berry bars

almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land

Around this time of year, I usually get a bad case of end-of-summer FOMO. As the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, I feel an overwhelming urge to cram in as many summer-only activities as I can manage. A picnic at the shore. A trip to the fair. Just a few more melty popsicles.

More camping.

More swims.

More pie.

But this year, something’s different. I head to Paris in just over a week; when I get back, summer will be long gone. I keep waiting for the panic to set in, but it has yet to make an appearance.

almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land

I have a hopeful theory as to why this might be; this year, I haven’t been pushing myself like a crazy person. I’ve realized that my body usually knows what I need--all I have to do is listen. (Which is of course much harder than it sounds, especially when your head is swimming with tons of “shoulds” and “ought tos” and other annoying thoughts.) 

This summer, I’ve managed to stay tuned in to what my intuition and my body are telling me. If my body says it wants pancakes for breakfast, we have pancakes. If it says it isn’t hungry, we wait to eat until it is. If it says it’s tired of sitting at the computer and wants to take a walk in the middle of the day, we lace up our shoes and head out the door. If it says take a nap, we snuggle up on the couch. (Mostly. Naps still aren’t my fave.)

almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land
almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land

I still struggle with going to bed when I’m tired. And zoning out on Instagram when I’m bored. And eating chocolate when I know I’m not hungry. But I’ve been amazed at how much better I feel when I listen to my body and trust my intuition. 

When I was first experimenting with listening more closely to what my inner compass had to tell me, I was afraid I’d never want to do work again and slide down into a black hole of sloth. The opposite has been true. When I tune into what I really want and need, whether it be a nap or a new pair of shoes, I have more energy and enthusiasm for work. Some days I spend most of my time doing things I find fun and energizing: shooting with my camera, walking, knitting, cooking for pleasure, reading. Then when my tank is full, I usually feel like getting some work done. The part I’ve been most astonished by is that when I engage from a full tank, I can turn out better quality work in a fraction of the time--and not feel drained by it. For someone who has always been more stick than carrot with herself, this feels like an absolute miracle.

almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land

I think all the pleasures--large and small--I’ve managed to fit into my summer have chased the FOMO away. If summer ended tomorrow, I wouldn’t feel cheated. That said, in the time I have left before I take off for France, I intend to relish all the summer treasures that come my way--including more sweet summer berries from the farmers market. 

These jammy bars are about as simple as summer baking gets and a delicious way to work a few more juicy berries into your life before we head into fall. I hope you’re soaking up all the goodness the season brings, with lots of sunshine and very little FOMO.

xo,
Olaiya


Almond-Oat Berry Bars

  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 9 ½ oz. (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup raspberry preserves
  • 1 cup mixed berries (I used raspberries and blackberries)
  • Vanilla ice cream, to serve (optional)

*Note: baking these in an 8- or 9-inch pan yields a fairly thick, cake-like bar. If you want a thinner, crisper bar, bake them in a larger pan.

almond oat berry bars. Styling/Image: Olaiya Land
almond oat berry bars. Image/styling: Olaiya Land

Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle. Butter an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

Combine the flour, sugars, oats, almonds, salt and ginger in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse just to combine. Add in the butter and pulse to combine. Add the egg and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, scraping down the bowl as needed. Set aside 1 ½ cups of the crumble mixture.

Press the remaining mixture into the bottom the prepared pan. Spread the berry preserves over the mixture, leaving 1/2-inch border. Press the berries into the preserves then crumble the reserved 1 ½ cups mixture over the preserves. Bake until lightly browned, 40 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting into bars.

Take your berry bars to the next level by serving them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe adapted from Anne Thornton

northwest niçoise salad

Image: Olaiya Land

A few weeks ago, I threw together this salad with my haul from the farmers market. I wasn’t aiming for anything in particular as I grabbed ingredients from the fridge, just a quick supper. But as it came together, I realized I had made a sort of a Pacific Northwest version of a Niçoise salad.

After I made the salad again a couple weeks later, my thoughts turned to the many little ways I’ve managed to weave pieces of my travels to France into my Seattle life.

Unlike the many books out there suggesting you can transform yourself into a Parisienne overnight with a little red lipstick and a few glasses of heart-healthy red wine, I don’t think the French mystique can be exported wholecloth to the other side of the globe. Let’s be honest, most Americans are not ready for 5 sinful weeks of paid vacation or multiple glasses of wine over lunch on a Tuesday. 

Image: Olaiya Land

Though it would be challenging, ridiculous even, to go full-on French here in the U.S. of A., I happen to think there’s a lot to be gained by folding cherished bits of another country’s way of life into our own. So I sat down and made a list of some of the Paris-inspired habits that have improved my life:

First up is walking. Seattle is not a particularly walkable city. It’s easy to get in your car for every little trip. In Paris, you walk. Once I started going everywhere on foot in Paris, I realized that those walks around the city gave rise to my best thinking. They created a space to disconnect and unfurl my thoughts in a way I can’t behind the wheel of a car or crammed against a stranger in the Metro. Now I walk everywhere I can. It’s helped me drop a dress size (while still eating croissants and cream puffs on my tours), shake stress more easily and come up with better ideas than I would otherwise. I've decided walking is one of the best (and easiest) things I can do for my body and my mind. 

Next, is the very French art of making yourself feel beautiful. It is no secret that Parisians don’t run around grocery shopping or dropping their kids at school in their sweats. In Paris, when you leave the house, you dress like an adult, preferably an attractive one.

Before traveling to Paris often, I was a bit more--shall we say, lackadaisical--in my get-out-the-door routine. Especially since, as someone who works from home, I don’t actually need to get out the door most days. But all-day pajama parties are a thing of the past! I may not be pulling on my sexiest heels for a trip to the butcher (though don’t put it past me), I have discovered that I feel more confident, competent and beautiful when I take the time to wear clothes I love, brush on a coat of mascara and apply a hint of my favorite perfume. 

Image: Olaiya Land

On a related note, I’ve decided to prioritize skincare over makeup. For the most part, French people have gorgeous skin. I have developed an elaborate, Beautiful-Mind sort of theory as to why this is the case. But the short version is that they seem less stressed than Americans and they learn to care for their skin at an early age. (It's a thing. If you have a French friend, ask them at what age their mother introduced them to a formal skin-care regime!) 

Having not been born into a culture that teaches its youth how to cultivate glowing skin, I've had to hack my own quasi-French skincare routine. It involves some fancy-sounding French cleansers and creams--and even a dramatic spritz of thermal water! But it works. My skin has never looked better, which means I spend almost no money on makeup and still get to feel like a total babe. 

Parisians are also great at turning a few stellar ingredients into an amazingly satisfying meal. I’m talking a plate of creamy burrata, fruity olive oil, some aged ham and a handful of Sicilian almonds. Or maybe a pint of perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil, feta and dill spooned over a slice of toast or a pan-seared lamb chop. Or, a personal favorite: a whole steamed artichoke accompanied by a bright, lemony aioli. You get the idea--delicious, sophisticated flavors that come together in a flash. I’ve made it my mission to master this kind of weeknight dinner sorcery and I think you should, too. It’s creative, delicious and way more satisfying than grabbing take-out.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This one has been the biggest game-changer for me: Sitting down at the table for all meals. No phones. No TV. No scarfing a burrito over the kitchen sink or shoveling a sandwich into my face while I drive. 

Eating a meal undistracted allows you to slow down and fully taste what’s going in your mouth. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s a pain in the ass; I want to grab something quick and run out the door. Or answer emails over lunch. But I am amazed at how much more delicious food has become since I started eating this way! The bonus side effect is that I need less food to feel satisfied. (Why has it taken me so long to figure this out?!?)

Last, and most certainly not least, is wine. Yup. Wine. Before Paris became a regular part of my life, I was more of a weekend drinker: maybe a cocktail with friends before dinner or glass of wine if we had a bottle on hand. Now we always have a bottle on hand! Not that we’ve turned into great lushes. But I’ve fallen in love with some of the natural wines I first tasted in France. And there's something magical about how a glass of wine with dinner serves as a marker of sorts, a signal that the work day is done and that things can become a touch looser, more fun. With friends, the best conversation always seems to start after a bottle of wine has been opened and everyone’s feeling buzzy and bright and a little more open than usual. (And then of course there's that whole heart-healthy thing.) So when it comes to pouring myself a glass or two, I'm most definitely a convert.

Image: Olaiya Land


There you have it, friends: Some of the things Paris has taught me about how to live a beautiful life. I hope this list encourages you to work the most inspiring elements from your own travels into your everyday life. Drop me a line in the comments below if you do--I’d love to hear what habits you're making your own!

XO,

Olaiya


To experience the best of Paris for yourself, join my September Paris Revelry culinary & culture tour! There are still 2 spots left. Click here to grab yours!


Northwest Niçoise Salad

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 1 lb. young wax beans (or green beans), stems removed
  • 1 cup shelled English peas (from 1 pound unshelled peas) or thawed frozen peas
  • 6 breakfast radishes, shaved lengthwise
  • 1 cup cherry or other small tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon mint, cut into chiffonade (thin strips)
  • 3 tablespoons whole cilantro leaves
  • 8 oz hot smoked wild salmon, broken into bite-size pieces

*Notes: If peas aren't your thing, try subbing in shelled fava beans or cooked chickpeas.

- The vegetables (except tomatoes), eggs and vinaigrette can all be prepped up to 2 days before serving. Store covered in the fridge and bring to room temperature before assembling the salad.

Image: Olaiya Land

Heat enough water to cover the egg in a small saucepan over high heat. When the water comes to the boil, add the eggs and cook for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water and run cold water over the eggs until they are cool to the touch. Peel, halve and set aside.

On a separate burner, fill a large saucepan ⅔ full with water. Salt generously (it should taste like the ocean) and bring to the boil over high heat. (You’ll use this to blanch your vegetables in a moment.)

While the eggs are cooking, make the vinaigrette. In a medium bowl, combine the shallot, mustard, vinegar, a generous pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Adjust seasonings and set aside.

When the salted water has come to a rolling boil, add the fresh peas and cook for about 1 minute (no need to blanch if you're using thawed frozen peas). Remove with a slotted spoon or spider to a small bowl and cover with ice water. Add the beans to the pot and cook to your desired doneness (I like mine to remain a little snappy). When done, transfer the beans to a medium bowl and cove with ice water. When completely cool, pour off the water and dry the peas and beans well.

To assemble the salad, place the beans, peas, radishes, tomatoes, herbs and salmon in a large bowl along with the herbs. Salt lightly and toss with some of the vinaigrette. Add more vinaigrette to taste. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and arrange the eggs over the salad. Salt the eggs and pour a bit of the vinaigrette over them just before serving. 

Makes 4 servings.
 

Image: Olaiya Land