4th of July Berry Pie

The past few weeks I’ve been in a heightened state of spring cleaning. Throwing out random receipts (except the ones from Sur and Moonlight Rollerway in LA, obv), old shoes, and a terrible hat collection has been my go-to pastime. As I ran out of things to toss from my room, I set my sights on the refrigerator. In it, I found remnants of my insanely brief smoothie faze: a bag of frozen mixed berries. Next to this sad ghost of a healthier me sat an unopened bag of frozen cherries, which were leftover from last week’s cherry pie. In a fit of glorious, cleaning-driven energy I whipped up this five berry pie. It’s based on a recipe from Food Network, though I changed it a little bit to make it tarter since I love a good tang in my pie. I also used a star shaped cookie cutter from Christmas to make cute stars to top the pie with, turning what would be a regular, ho-hum-da-dum pie into a stunningly fabulous Fourth of July Berry Pie.

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INGREDIENTS:

4 cups of frozen berries, thawed (I used cherries, strawbs, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)

2 Pillsbury pie crusts

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (you can use a little more or a little less depending on how sweet you want the filling to be)

4-5 tbsp cornstarch (depending on how thick you want it to be– I’d start with 4 and work your way up if you need to add more)

1/8 tsp vanilla

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tbsp butter, to dot

1 tbsp granulated sugar, to sprinkle

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DIRECTIONS:

Place berries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot berries and mix well. Mix in the lemon and vanilla. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool– I always lose patience and just wait until it’s not hot… oh well. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place one Pillsbury crust in the pie pan. Using a star cookie cutter, punch stars out of the other one. Set aside.

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Pour the cooled berry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Top with the star cutouts, then sprinkle the remaining tbsp of granulated sugar on top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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Ooey Gooey Lemon Bars

These lemon bars, a must for any citrus lover, are the best I have ever made. My lemon-obsessed cousin Lara is about to have her second child, so this post is a sort of homage to her. Her husband and she smartly decided not to share the baby’s name until she’s born. So while Lara’s in labor, I’ll be eating stacks of lemon bars contemplating possibilities– hopefully I don’t eat all of them and can bring her some after the delivery.

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Anyway. Lemon bars. I haven’t made these in a long while, partially because when I do, I eat the majority of the pan. But I’m glad that I did, because OMGARETHEYDELICIOUS. Prior to making these, the last time I had a lemon bar was when my good friend Mookie and I took a day trip to Santa Barbara from LA. We found a little cafe to eat in, but couldn’t find a parking spot where we wouldn’t be ticketed, so we bought our food and ate it in the car on our way back home. I think we both got portobello sandwiches of some sort, and two different pastries. The lemon bar I bought was so large; it was probably the size of at least four of mine combined. I ate it as we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping only to take in the cinematic sunset at a little beach next to a retirement home.

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Mookie picking up seashells on our way back home.

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If California was a lady, she’d be very photogenic.

I like these lemon bars because the zingy lemon flavor is the star, with the buttery, crumbly crust taking a back seat. Using good lemons is a great way to ensure a tasty result. The lemons I used this time around were so juicy and sweet, they almost smelled like yellow Starbursts. This recipe heralds from The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread, and I simply can’t recommend it enough.

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INGREDIENTS:

CRUST:

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

FILLING:

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 juicy lemons)

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

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Does that piece not look like Idaho??

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center of oven. Butter and paper a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. As you can see in the photos, I absentmindedly forgot this step. My lemon squares still came out wonderfully, but buttering and papering your pan makes the last few steps much easier.

 To make crust: Whisk together flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and work into flour mixture using a pastry blender or your fingers. I recommend taking the butter out of the refrigerator about five minutes prior to this step.

Pour crust mixture into prepared baking dish, pressing down with your fingers to create a 1/4-inch-thick layer along the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides, pressing firmly at the edges to seal. Transfer pan to freezer and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to oven and bake, rotating pan once during baking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and flour; stir in lemon juice, milk, and salt until well combined.

Remove baking pan from oven. Stir topping and pour into warm crust. Return pan to oven and continue baking until topping is just set but not browned, about 20 minutes.

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Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool completely.Once completely cooled, dust extra confectioners’ sugar over the filling. Use a fine mesh sieve for even dispersion.

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Cut into 20 squares. Serve immediately or wrap each bar tightly with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Leslie