16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Monday, June 5, 1911: Mother, Besse and Ruthie flew around today a baking pies and cakes. I thought it be fun to swipe one, but oh, the result.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Grandma’s married sister Besse came to help her mother and sister bake pies and cakes. It sounds like Grandma didn’t help—I wonder why. As a 16-year-old, you’d think that she’d be a competent baker (or at least could help with some of the easier tasks). But instead Grandma apparently was clowning around—and swiped a pie—and got into trouble. Whew, what punishment was referred to as “the result”?
What kinds of pie did they make? My favorite old-fashioned spring pie is Rhubarb Sponge Pie. (I got this recipe from my mother-in-law. However, it is an old-time Pennsylvania recipe—and the Muffly women may have made a similar pie.)
Rhubarb Sponge Pie
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups rhubarb
9 inch pie shell (see recipe below)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Beat eggs slightly. Add flour, nutmeg, sugar, and salt; Beat for 1 minute. Add milk and beat until blended. Stir in rhubarb. Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake (1 – 1 1/2 hours*) until knife inserted into center of pie comes out clean.
*This pie takes a long time to bake. If the rhubarb starts to turn brown (burn) before the center of the pie is solid, reduce heat to 300 degrees.
Any pie pastry recipe—or a pie pastry purchased at the store— can be used to make Rhubarb Sponge Pie. But for a really flakey crust with an absolutely awesome taste, make an old-fashioned pie shell using lard.
I absolutely love the recipe below. At the stores where I shop lard can be surprisingly difficult to find—and I am always searching for it so that I can make really good pies. (Clayton and Elizabeth, thank you for the lard that I used to make the pie in the photo!)
In any case, here’s the recipe:
Old-Fashioned Pie Pastry (1 crust, 9 inch)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup lard
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water
Put flour into bowl. Cut in shortening using two knives or a pastry blender. Add water and mix using a fork until dough starts to cling together. If needed, add additional water.
Gather dough together in a ball. Flatten into a round circle on lightly floured surface (a floured pastry cloth works well). Roll dough 2 inches larger than needed to fit pie pan using floured rolling pin. Fold pastry into quarters; unfold and fit into pan.
Trim edge of pastry 1/2 inch from rim of pan. Flute pastry to create edge by pressing between fingers that are moving in opposite directions.