summer camp musings, and the all-butter pie crust dough, revisited

Madeline wanted to attend a sleep away camp this past summer, but I didn’t let her go. I couldn’t imagine having her gone for an entire week. She would miss home too much. We would miss her too much.

Back when I was a kid, probably Madeline’s age or a little older, I wanted to go to camp in the summer. I remember pouring over brochures for camps in other states, far away states like North Carolina and Maine, and I investigated attending the YMCA’s Camp McConnell here in North Florida. As I debated the merits of each camp, my thoughts were filled with images of singing songs around a campfire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores, boating in the lake, and horseback riding. And then I thought about being away from my parents for an entire two weeks. I chickened out. I never went to summer camp.

When the flyer from Camp McConnell came home in her backpack a month ago, Madeline begged us to let her go. Not wanting her to have the same regrets I did, I agreed. After all, it was just for two nights, not fourteen.

In the weeks that passed after I signed the registration and paid the fee, I offered to let her back out of going. Just in case she was getting the jitters, like I was. But she wasn’t. Unlike me, Madeline was resolute in her decision, and she wasn’t nervous about being away from home at all. And as we dropped her off early Friday evening, she radiated with excitement…and independence.

With Sam away at a football game on Saturday, and with Madeline away at camp, Oliver and I were left to our own devices. That morning, we went to a bat festival with my friend Julia and her three boys. The afternoon was quiet, though, and my thoughts turned to baking. With Oliver occupied by a Disney movie (Peter Pan), I decided to make pastry dough in anticipation of baking a pie on Sunday.

My original dough is wonderful, and I use it all the time during pie-baking season. However, after rolling out the two disks, there isn’t enough left over for making decorative touches, for patching holes in torn crust, or for, you know, nibbling. So, I reworked the recipe, adding extra flour and adjusting the amounts of butter, salt, and sugar.

I like this new and improved version of the recipe better than the old one. The taste is very similar, if not the same, but there is more dough to work with. And to nibble on, if you so choose.

And the weekend camp? Giving Madeline a little freedom was just what she needed. She had a wonderful time, made some new friends, and loved being away from home. She tells us she wants to go back in the summer. She did amazingly well. And you know what? So did I.

Yield: 1 9-inch double pie crust

All-Butter Pie Crust Dough

This recipe makes enough for one 9-inch double pie crust. If you’re only making a single crust pie, cut the recipe in half. For best results, chill the flour and the food processor bowl and blade in the refrigerator first.

I like to save time by cubing the butter in advance and storing it in a tightly sealed container in the freezer. This way, the butter is ready when I am.


3 cups (12.75 ounces; 375 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces; 43 grams) granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cubed, well-chilled or frozen
2/3 cup ice water (approximately)*


Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, then add the flour mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add cold cubed butter and pulse just until a coarse meal is formed. Add 8 tablespoons water to the dough and pulse a couple of times. Add more water by the tablespoon, pulsing after each addition, until the dough begins to clump together in moist clumps.

Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and divide dough in half. Flatten each dough ball gently into a thick disk and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour before rolling.

Make ahead: Dough can be kept in refrigerator up to one week. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 1 month; double wrap in plastic prior to freezing.

*Note: You may need a little more or a little less water than 2/3 cup. I keep a bowl of ice water on the counter right next to my food processor and measure the water out by the tablespoon as I go.

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22 Responses to “saying thanks with dinner, and pound cake for a crowd”

  1. 1
    Paula - bell'alimento — September 19, 2012 @ 8:19 pm

    Your team is very lucky indeed. I have a soft spot for pound cake.

  2. 2
    Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — September 19, 2012 @ 8:33 pm

    I think your team is lucky to have such a thoughtful attending and your patients are extremely lucky to have you and your team. I speak from experience when I say that patients and their families appreciate, maybe more than you can imagine, a kind word and a thoughtful gesture from those who provide care. But, you already knew that. That caring and thoughtful shows through every word of this post 🙂

  3. 3
    Mallory — September 19, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

    Lovely. Those first days can be so scary and intimidating and with monthly rotations, first days occur, well monthly. Thank you for sharing and there is nothing better than pound cake – so simple, yet always hits the spot.

  4. 4
    Macaroni Mama — September 19, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

    I love this blog, MJ.

  5. 5
    Lana — September 20, 2012 @ 1:21 am

    It could have been me standing there that July, second-guessing myself, the heart threatening to jump out of my chest, the pulse in mid-hundreds:) That’s what makes you a great doctor and a wonderful human being.
    My dad is a doctor (retired, but it never stops:) and I remember him silent and grave on many days and nights. When I was in Serbia this last summer, I went to see a woman he personally mentored and taught for years (ObGyn). She still adores him, and I can only imagine what a great impression you leave on your interns.
    Your story touched me, especially after my mom succumbed to cancer this summer. I know how important is that human touch, a kind word, and understanding only your MD can offer.
    BTW, the pound cake looks lovely and I don’t doubt for a second that the students look at you with awe:)

  6. 6
    Kathryn — September 20, 2012 @ 4:25 am

    Every post of yours is so finely crafted and yet it seems so effortless. It’s a complete joy to read.

  7. 7
    Jenny @ BAKE — September 20, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    this is an absolutely brilliantly written post, it really made me smile!

  8. 8
    Melanie @ Nutritious Eats — September 20, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    Great stories and lessons shared. I admire Doctors so much and you amaze me that you have all these other talents too.

  9. 9
    Winnie — September 20, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    Echoing the thoughts of everyone who has commented that this is a terrific post. You are such a special person…I am so honored to call you my friend. xoxo

  10. 10
    Paula — September 20, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    I’m sure members of your team have peeked into your kitchen and experienced the same thing you did when you peeked into your attending’s kitchen years ago. Loving you and working with you must come easy to all of them.

  11. 11
    ~ callee ~ — September 20, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    I adore the plate you served the pound cake on – those are gorgeous! I absolutely love saying thank you with supper as well. I am so glad you have such wonderful groups of people to work with!

  12. 12
    Aggie — September 20, 2012 @ 11:27 am

    You are so real MJ, I just loved reading this. I know your students appreciate everything you have taught them.
    This cake is absolutely gorgeous.

  13. 13
    Denise — September 20, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    I love that you bring your team into your home as well as your heart by nurturing them with food. We recently started doing the same when he hire staff for a big project, and was surprised by how grateful they were. Not only for a home-cooked meal but to be let into our lives beyond work.

    I applaud people in your line of work – strong and courageous. Our niece is studying to become an oncologist, I find her very brave, I do not handle death very well and feel I would be a basket case all the time. Bravo for what you do and the difference you make in people’s lives.

  14. 14
    Heidi — September 20, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

    What a fabulous blog, loved reading this and that cake looked amazing x

  15. 15
    Diane Barnes, RN — September 20, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

    After 28 years of nursing, I can tell you it is true: a smart doctor knows what a valuable resource the bedside nurse can be. It’s great to be appreciated. Thank you!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — September 22nd, 2012 @ 7:39 am

      No, thank YOU!

  16. 16
    Lynda - TasteFood — September 20, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

    I like women with messy kitchens. xo.

  17. 17
    Mary — September 20, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

    I am continually blown away by your beautiful humanity and attention to the nuances that knit everything together. Bravo!

  18. 18
    Di — September 21, 2012 @ 11:23 am

    The cake looks delicious. Preparing food is so wonderfully comforting, isn’t it? It’s like a good friendship, always there when you need it. What did you make for dinner?

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — September 22nd, 2012 @ 7:39 am

      My husband cooked three chickens on the Big Green Egg smoker (love when he helps!) and I made some macaroni and cheese and a roasted ratatouille to go along with it.

  19. 19
    Carolyn — September 22, 2012 @ 5:38 am

    Such a wonderful, touching post. Today is my birthday, and this is definitely one of my gifts, so thank you. My dad passed away a few years ago from a messy combination of Hodgkins and CLL, and although he had wonderful, compassionate doctors, it helps a lot to feel this much genuine humanity behind your profession. xx

  20. 20
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — September 30, 2012 @ 10:28 pm

    Pound cake is one of my all-time favorites, and this version looks just perfect. What a lovely way to say thank you! 🙂

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