Baking comes easy as pie for Clarissa Randolph, who learned the art growing up in Green Bay, Wis. In addition to her tasty treats, Midwestern fare and Indian food are also at home in her Mission kitchen.
Caring for her family means Randolph creates a home-cooked meal almost every night for husband Karsten and their 14-year-old daughter, Mia. Formerly a physical therapist, Randolph now focuses on creating works of art, whether it’s with oils on canvas or her edible epicurean experiments.
Q: Being from America’s Dairyland, of course your recipe has both butter and sour cream in it …
A: Well, you can take a girl out of Wisconsin, but you can’t take the Wisconsin out of the girl. … I was set to send you my recipe for Cheddar Cheese Potato Soup, because I know that in Wisconsin, we typically only cook from the four main food groups — cheese, cheese curds, bratwurst and beer — and these ingredients are either in the soup or go great with it.
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Q: Why pie?
A: When I think of home and food, I think of childhood summers and my Grandma Clarice Hansen. She was a tiny thing whose family emigrated from Denmark to a farming community in Denmark, Wisconsin.
This was her recipe, although my mom, Pat Saunders, said that sour cream pies were a traditional Belgian specialty and that the farmers in Denmark, Wisconsin, were not just Danish; there were also Belgian and Polish immigrants. Nevertheless, this is the recipe that showcases what I think is special about Wisconsin: its culture, dairy and endless thickets of blackberries.
Q: Did you get bitten by the baking bug early on in your life?
A: Well, my first pie was as dry as a cat’s tongue, and my family would affectionately nickname my kitchen mishaps. “Lead Cake” was one that sticks with me after I made a particularly dense dessert. Luckily, my older brother Jeremy was known as the garbage disposal, so it all worked out. My mother had a job and ascribed to the adage, “if you can read, you can cook,” so I was left to my own devices.
My other grandma, Relda Saunders, lived with us and was a terrible cook. She was big into substitutions — like the time when she used a can of refried beans instead of pumpkin for a pie. But through it all, I learned how to cook and became comfortable trying new things. I continue to learn how to make dishes by taking “Cooking With Jyoti Mukharji” classes, which come in handy since every Friday I make Indian food for dinner.
Q: Are you passing all these cooking lessons on to your daughter, Mia?
A: On some level, cooking from scratch is becoming a lost art, but I think the millennials are trying to get back into the kitchen. I also think it’s important to pass along recipes to Mia and make sure she feels comfortable and free to make mistakes and her own version of “Lead Cake.”
Mia is responsible for Sunday dinner, from start to finish. When we started this, I was under the romantic delusion that we would cook these idyllic, simple meals together. But with the help of the internet, Mia chooses ambitious recipes, like a Thai fish dish, and wants to do it by herself.
As for my overall style of cooking, everything I prepare is made from scratch and uses whole, natural foods. I like to think of it as honest cooking, and this is the lesson I want Mia to learn. Even when I make dessert, I don’t pretend that it’s a health food or swap out ingredients for something less fattening or sweet. It’s important to savor food exactly as it was intended, and that means no refried bean substitutions.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Blackberry Sour Cream Pie
Makes 1, 9-inch pie, serves 8
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon pieces
1/4 cup cold water
For the filling:
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 beaten egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
For the topping:
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 tablespoon pieces
1/3 chopped pecans
To prepare crust: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and salt together until combined. Evenly place frozen butter pieces on top of flour mixture and pulse until butter becomes the size of large peas, or about 10 pulses.
Pour water into the food processor and pulse until incorporated, or about 6 pulses.
Test dough by pinching it together: dough should be soft and hold its shape. If the dough feels dry and does not hold together, sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over the dough and pulse 3 to 5 times, until desired consistency is achieved.
Working quickly, form pastry into shape of ball and place on large sheet of waxed paper.
Roll out pastry, using a lightly floured rolling pin, until it becomes a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Carefully pick up piece of waxed paper and invert it into a 9-inch pie pan. Without stretching or making holes in the dough, ease pastry into pan. Allow pastry to spill over the sides of pie pan and prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Using excess dough, create a fluted edge on top of pie pan and set aside.
To assemble pie: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare filling: In a large mixing bowl, whisk sour cream, sugar, flour, egg, salt and almond extract together. Gently stir in blackberries until evenly coated with sour cream mixture. Turn mixture into prepared crust and cover edges with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.
Bake for 30 minutes. While pie is in oven, prepare topping: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse flour and sugar together until combined. Evenly place cold butter pieces on top of flour mixture and pulse until mixture becomes the consistency of coarse crumbs. Stir in pecan pieces and spoon over top of pie after the first 30 minutes of baking.
Return to oven for an additional 12 minutes, or until topping is golden.
Allow pie to cool at least 4 hours before cutting. Pie can also be served chilled, by placing in refrigerator at least another 4 hours after cooling.
Cut into wedges and serve.
Per serving: 434 calories (51 percent from fat), 25 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 78 milligrams cholesterol, 50 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 284 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.