We pulled up to the unassuming building off of the highway and all of us exited our vehicles. We were on day two of our Ohio Amish Country trip, driving from the Inn at Honey Run to our next destination. But since we were food bloggers, on a food press trip, we were incapable of going more than two hours without food. So a stop at Miller’s Bakery in Millersburg, Ohio was in order. It was there that I found my inspiration for these Blood Orange Strawberry Rosemary Crust Fry Pies with Buttermilk Glaze.
I had woken up early that morning with the air and landscape crisp and sharp, like only a wet Spring morning can be. Looking out the window as we drove down the highway and backroads of Ohio made me feel as if I were in an Andrew Wyeth painting, moody and perpetually in the golden hour. It was a part of America that I was only familiar with via paintings and literature. To experience it first hand was to be transported back to a time when people didn’t have cell phones, computers or digital cameras. It was both surreal and strangely comforting, like the hazy nostalgia of a childhood memory that I never really had, only read about.
Miller’s Bakery is an Amish bakery, with fresh baked goods done the old fashion way. When I say old fashion, I mean every dough and batter is mixed by the workers, from handwritten recipes pulled from laminated faded index cards. Measuring cups, hand crank mixers and mixing bowls line the walls and shelves and Amish workers bend over tables stirring dough, slathering frosting and dipping baked or fried goods. It was a true feast of the senses when we walked in back to look at their kitchen.
Of course, I could probably spend hours in the kitchen, running my hands over the dark patina of the well used baking pans and measuring equipment. Something about the history of each item used there, along with spiritual presences of every baker who had passed on her knowledge, worker to worker, made the kitchen resonate as if it had a life of it’s own. Some people go to church to find comfort and a sense of self, but for me, all I need to do is walk into a well loved kitchen to find myself.
Of course, the baked goods themselves are all wonderful, slightly sweeter than what I’m used to eating. I’ve grown accustomed to the ridiculous baked goods from San Francisco, where each baker is trying to out do the next one with their crazy flavor combinations. Sumac infused foie gras donuts! Sweet potato chai chocolate ice cream! Tobacco crumbled Earl Grey pot de crèmes! It’s hard to parody the food scene in San Francisco as it’s only a half step away from reality, and one only needs to browse through my own blog to find flavor combinations that would probably make the average joe blink twice. But looking around Miller’s Bakery, all I saw was authentic straightforward baked goods as if time has frozen in 1953. Whoopie pies the size of frisbees, cinnamon rolls generously covered in icing and donuts for a mere 85¢ each. If I had room, I would have eaten every single treat there, and still walked out only a few dollars lighter and several pounds heavier.
When I got back to San Francisco, I couldn’t help but create a more slightly more complicated version of what I saw and tasted at Miller’s Bakery, with seasonal blood oranges, early Spring strawberries and that hint of savory with rosemary in the crust. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m a product of my environment and I bake what I’m inspired to bake, which usually involves what ever is in season at the market, combined in random but seemingly logical way (at least in my mind). I’m okay with that though, because even though the flavors are very San Francisco, the fact that it’s a handheld fry pie just makes me nostalgic with the very real memory of my trip to Ohio Amish Country in Ohio.
Special thanks goes to The Inn at Honey Run, The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls and Murphin Ridge Inn for hosting me for this trip to Ohio Amish Country. All travel, accommodations, meals and tours were provided by the hosts. That said, I was not compensated otherwise for what I wrote above and everything I have written is my own opinion.
By Irvin Lin
There is a small narrow window of time when late winter blood oranges and early Spring strawberries are in season but I do love the combination of the two. The ruby red blood orange shines against the sweet fresh strawberry scent packed into these hand held pies. The touch of rosemary in the crust, along with the savory scented leaf lard cuts the sweetness a bit and frying it in the extra virgin olive oil give it a slight earthy groundedness, not in a dirt sort of way but more of a fresh grassy way. Don’t use the cheap supermarket lard, but actual rendered leaf lard to get the best results, but if you don’t have access to it, feel free to substitute a trans free shortening.
Recipe loosely adapted from my pal Jenifer Ward’s recipe. I can only hope that my bastardization doesn’t offend her delicate southern sensibilities.
2 medium blood oranges
400 g (2 cups) granulated white sugar
80 g (1/2 cup) cornstarch
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint (1/2 lb) strawberries
560 g 4 cups flour
230 g (1 cup) leaf lard or shortening
2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk (well shaken)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
230 g (2 cups) confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk (well shaken)
1 – 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1. Wash and dry the blood oranges thoroughly. Quarter the blood oranges lengthwise. Slice each quarter as thinly (with the rind) to about 1/8th to 1/16th inch thick. Place orange slices in a glass or ceramic bowl and add the white sugar. Toss to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for at least 8 hours (or overnight).
2. Once the blood oranges have macerated (that’s a fancy word for sitting around in the sugar) add the cornstarch, vanilla extract and salt. Stir until the cornstarch has dissolved (the liquid will turn cloudy and opaque). Scrape all the filling into a medium sized pan and cook on the stove top at medium high heat. Watch the pan and stir frequently, to make sure the bottom doesn’t scorch or boil over (if it starts to bubble up too high, turn the heat down). Once the filling has turned translucent (about six or seven minutes) remove from heat.
3. Chop hull and remove the stems from the strawberries. Chop them into 1/2 inch pieces and toss them into the blood orange filling, stirring to incorporate.
4. Make the dough by placing the flour, lard (or shortening), rosemary and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, squeeze and rub the lard and flour together until the fat is incorporated into the dry ingredients and it starts to resemble cornmeal (little chunky pea sized pieces of fat is good, so don’t overwork the flour). Add the buttermilk and toss with a fork until the dough starts to get shaggy and stick together. Start working the dough with your hands to incorporate the buttermilk in.
5. Once the dough has formed, divide it into 12 pieces. Flatten each piece into a 5 inch round circles and place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each dough disk. Don’t overfill it, and try not to use too much liquid, you want more solids than liquid in the pie. Wet one side of the dough disk and fold over the dough and press to seal completely. Decoratively crimp the sealed edges with a fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
6. Pour the oil into a medium sized shallow pan with a high side. Heat the oil to 350˚F (or, if you don’t have a candy/deep fry thermometer, save a tiny bit of dough and toss it to test – if the dough sizzles like crazy it’s time to fry). Reduce the heat of the stove to medium high and carefully place on pie in the pan. Using a wooden spoon, carefully splash oil over the top of the pie as the bottom of the pie cooks (be careful with this technique – you don’t want to splash oil onto yourself). Continue to do this, until the bottom of the pie is a golden brown (the top should start to brown a little as you have been splashing the oil over the top of it). Once the bottom is golden brown, gently flip the pie to finish cooking the other side. I used a combination of the wooden spoon and a pair of tongs to flip the pie. Once both sides are golden brown remove to a wire rack placed over a sheet lined with paper towels. Let cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining pies.
7. Once the pies have cooled, make the glaze by melting the butter in a medium sized bowl in the microwave. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the butter and add the salt, vanilla extract, and buttermilk. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Spoon the glaze over the cooled pies and let the glaze dry before serving.
Makes 12 fry pies.