Before I dive into talking about honey at length, I just wanted to say that our wedding brought me more joy than I could have ever hoped for. My only regret was not being able to spend more time in Oregon with my family afterwards. But such is the working life! Once I get the photos from our photographer, though, I’ll put together a nice post about it. But for now, upwards and onwards!
About a month ago I hosted a honey harvest event with Kinfolk magazine up in the mountains in the outskirts of the Los Angeles area at a small apple orchard. I’ve always been intrigued by bees, but my love/obsession with them didn’t truly begin until I read this book by William Longgood. He writes at length about bees and their hive structure and hierarchy in a way that clearly conveys how remarkably complex it all really is. For example, did you know that when a worker bee finds a new source of pollen, she flies back to the hive and does a “dance” in which she precisely communicates the exact distance and direction of the new source? You can read more info about how crazy-detailied this exercise in communication here, but they’re basically able to talk to each other in this way, which is really mind-blowing when you think about how complex the art of communication is and how teensy-tiny their bee brains are.
|Orange blossom honey on the left, avocado blossom honey on the right.|
Back to the event: we had some local beekeepers come out, and they brought some of their hive along with them and explained the basics of beekeeping and how honey is made. Basically, bees suck up nectar from flowers and bring the nectar back to the hive. The nectar is chewed up by the bees and during this process they seep their own special enzymes into it that make it more anti-micorbial, so that it extends the “shelf-life” of the honey. They then put the honey in their wax combs and let it dry until it thickens (sometimes they speed up this process and fan it with their wings), and then they seal it up within the comb with more wax. And similar to the way different edible plants have different flavors, the flowers of those plants have different flavored nectar, as well. So while honey will always taste sweet, the delicate flavors of the honey will vary depending on the plants the nectar was drawn from. For example, in the photo above the dark honey was made entirely from the nectar from flowering avocado trees, and it has a richer more brown sugar-y flavor to it than the orange blossom honey to the left, which is more light and floral.
So of course, I ended up buying 8 bottles of honey (4 orange blossom & 4 avocado blossom) at the orchard and found myself brainstorming about all the tasty things I could make with this insanely good raw honey. I decided to look into a pie my mom had mentioned seeing at a bakery in Portland, and googled “salted honey pie” to see what I could find. The result was this recipe from the Four & Twenty Blackbirds bakery in Brooklyn, NY. I altered the recipe a bit to incorporate the rose water and added some more corn meal, but the jist of it is the same. A tasty, sweet honey custard filling with a sprinkling of salt over the top. You could use flake salt, but I used my pink himalayan salt because I liked that the color gave a bit of a hint at the rosy flavors that were waiting inside.
After the first taste, I immediately fell in love with this pie, and upon sharing it with friends the most popular response was “…..This is the best pie I have EVER. HAD.”
So I definitely feel like this one’s a winner.
There’s just something crazy-good about the sweet custard combined with the floral flavors and the salty crunch of the top crust. I’ve never had rose flavor combined with salt before, but my God, I am going to combine them for always after eating this pie. Please go make this, you will bring a whole new flavor combination into your life and be so, sooo happy about it.
Also, I’ve been doing a little housekeeping around the blog and after several months of effort, I have FINALLY updated and restructured the Index of my blog so you can choose to view recipes by type or season. I’ve also updated my About Me with a picture of what I actually look like, (although I still have a special fondness for my tiny door photo), and called Jeremy my husband for the first time. Going to be a while before I stop accidentally calling him my fiancé in conversation, though. (Sorry, Jeremy. Old habits die hard!)
But enough about blog housekeeping…go make some pie!
1 egg (for glaze)
1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
First make the pie crust. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. You have two options when adding the butter. 1) You could cut the butter into pea-sized pieces over the bowl. But this method usually means holding the butter in your hand which will warm it up, thus making less cold-induced flakiness. Or 2) You could cut the stick into general 2-inch cubes on a cutting board, add the butter cubes to the bowl and toss them to coat in the dry ingredients (this helps protect them from the warm air) and use this dough scraper to chop the butter cubes into smaller bits that are roughly pea-sized. This method is better because it keeps the butter colder longer. Add the rosewater, then begin adding the tablespoons of ice water while stirring gently. Grab a handful of the mixture and squeeze. If it generally sticks together when you let go, it is fine. If it completely crumbles apart, it needs a bit more water.
Roll it out into a 1 cm thick circle onto a well-greased and well-floured surface. Place it in the pie pan, trim excess crust, and cut out designs with a cookie cutter to place around the edge of the crust (optional). Secure the decorations by putting a spot (about 1/4 teaspoon) of melted butter on the back of the decorative dough piece and pressing down gently when placing it on the crust’s edge. Cover and place the crust shell in the refrigerator until use.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the eggs and cream until smooth. Set aside. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, and cornmeal until well blended. Add the rose water, honey, vanilla, and vinegar and mix until combined, then fold in the egg mixture until incorporated.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water until blended, then brush the pie crust edges with the egg mixture. Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the top turns golden but the filling is slightly wiggly. Remove the pie from the oven and allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Sprinkle the 2-3 teaspoons of salt over the pie and serve immediately. Note that this is not a firm and very eggy custard, and the filling will be very soft.