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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25 Responses to “a good day and tres leches cake”

  1. Adriana — April 27, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

    Loved the story of the donkey farm. In one of my first trips out to California, I had a friend stop the car so I could take a picture of farmed ostrich, which I had never seen before. I didn’t try to reach out for them, but it was awesome just stopping and seeing them in all their tall, live glory. If I had fun and didn’t even get to see one at arm’s length, I can only imagine how happy your kids were! I love tres leches cake, but haven’t tried to make it myself. So many people do a great job with it around these parts! My favorite version is actually called ‘Cuatro Leches’, which also has dulce de leche in it.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 27th, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

      Oh, I bet you have access to some amazing versions of this cake. I cannot imagine adding dulce de leche to this cake – I might never stop eating it.

  2. Amy | She Wears Many Hats — April 27, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    I’ve yet to make a tres leches cake yet, and I don’t know why. It does look mighty fine. Mighty fine indeed.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 27th, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

      Oh, you should totally make one, Amy.

  3. First off, the story of Oliver wanting to see Eyeore made me smile ear-to-ear… those photos are so cute. Second, tres leches cake has been on my list for several months to make. After this ringing endorsement, I might just have to tackle it this weekend!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 27th, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

      You won’t be disappointed, Kimmy. I promise. 🙂

  4. Brian @ A Thought For Food — April 27, 2011 @ 5:50 pm

    So adorable! What a cute story!

    And now you have me drooling over this cake. How divine that looks!

  5. DessertForTwo — April 27, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    Tres leches and pineapple upside down cake fight for #1 cake in my book. Yours looks great!!

  6. Donna — April 27, 2011 @ 9:12 pm

    Thank you so much for posting the tres leches cake recipe and delictable photos. For Easter I made my totally trashing (but delicious) cake that we call “Orgasmic Coconut Cake.” The original name of the cake was “Decadent Coconut Cake” but at some point my cousin got confused and now the misnomer has stuck. At Christmas I made tres leches and on Sunday two of my nieces asked for the recipe. All I had to do was direct them to your blog for both the recipe and photos. Perfect timing!

  7. This cake looks phenomenal! So moist! I completely agree with you about homemade whipped cream (I say this right after I posted a cake with cool whip frosting-ha).

  8. So wonderful that you had perfect day! The cake looks amazing and just wish I had a slice in front of me right now.

  9. Adora's Box — April 28, 2011 @ 8:37 am

    Aren’t donkeys just so cute. Now that my children are grown, I really miss those squeals of delight when they see animals. We are not in tune with tres leches cake here in the UK although I’ve heard of it. Gosh, that sounds really decadent and wicked. Three kinds of milk and heavy cream! Wow!

  10. Lynda — April 28, 2011 @ 10:29 am

    This cake sounds and looks sublime. Lovely post!

  11. Lora @cakeduchess — April 28, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Oliver is adorable petting the eeyore. I am also never as happy as when my children are:)Such a sweet post. Your tres leches cake is making me HUNGRY! Looks fantastic MJ:)

  12. Joy — April 28, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    I love love tres leche cake. That looks wonderful.

  13. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — April 28, 2011 @ 11:12 pm

    Sounds like an amazing day… And, the cake looks equally perfect! Can’t wait to give the recipe a try.

  14. marla — April 29, 2011 @ 8:06 am

    Your tres leches cake looks wonderful, but that time with your family is precious and priceless. Love that you found the Eeyore farm for your son 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — April 29th, 2011 @ 10:26 am

      Thanks, Marla. Yes – you’re right. The day with the family was just wonderful. One of those seemingly-rare days when everyone is in a good mood and there’s very little bickering. And then the donkeys were the icing on the cake. 🙂

  15. Anita Menon — April 30, 2011 @ 7:09 am

    A lovely day out with family. Nothing beats that!
    The tres leches cake seems like the best thing in the world right now. I have book marked it. thank you for sharing:-)

  16. Aggie — April 30, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

    That Eeyore story has got to be the sweetest story ever. How awesome to run into a couple of Eeyore’s on the side of the road…

    And the cake. I can seriously just taste it. Even though I am not even sure I’ve ever had it or know what it would taste like. I’m going to save this recipe for a special treat, I have a feeling it will wow anyone I serve it to.

  17. Katty's Kitchen — April 30, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

    I love this story–and what is NOT to love about tres leches cake! I refer to myself in Eeyore terms when I’m having a gloomy day and say I need to nail my tail back on just as soon as I can find it! 🙂 A good day for you and Oliver, too!

  18. Mauna — May 1, 2011 @ 12:16 am

    James just made this for my parents. It was a huge hit with everyone. My mom deemed him the ultimate son-in-law!

  19. TheGourmetCoffeeGuy — May 5, 2011 @ 12:47 am

    Delightful story. Donkeys are actually very intelligent animals and have some characteristics that make them excellent companions for farmers in many parts of the world. The Tres Leches Cake sounds incredible, moist and hard to put down… Nice photos, thank you for sharing.

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