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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10 Responses to “the august guilt-week, and a recipe: strawberry cookies”

  1. olga — August 8, 2014 @ 1:02 pm

    I think that the work you do is so important and makes such a difference in people’s lives, that when Maddie is a bit older, she’ll see your dedication to it in a whole new light., and respect you for the choices you are making. No one ever said balance was easy (says a childfree person) but we all constantly try. Be gentle to yourself – you’re doing the very best you can, and believe it or not, you’re a pretty dedicated parent from where I sit. Hope this week – and the next – are filled with guilt-FREE relaxation. xo

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — August 8th, 2014 @ 4:41 pm

      Thank you so much, dear Olga. Guilt and I are close friends, but I’m going to try to leave her behind for a while.

  2. Azu — August 9, 2014 @ 11:04 am

    These cookies have an incredible color and I bet they also taste delicious!

  3. Cherie — August 9, 2014 @ 11:29 am

    Merry, I think you’re making a wonderful choice. Knowing that there will be a week of Mommy being home with them will make day camp and the lack of your presence far easier to bear.
    In addition, these years are short, when they want you so close and can indulge in that complete ‘freedom’

    I’m so grateful to have spent summers with my children when they were younger – now not only one, but two have begun ‘working’ – my 14 and 16yos volunteer at a wonderful day camp for handicapped children/adults – and it is a wonderful experience for them – but I do miss those carefree summer days and we enjoy the few days that separate school from camp all the more because of the busy schedules we now now have.

    Those are memories we’ll never forget, and you and your children will treasure them. While guilt may have begun it – it’s a reward for all of you. Your job is such that there is urgency in every moment of it – and there will never be a ‘good’ time to take off, but breaks are necessary both for your children and yourself, and for your career, because it helps keep you balanced to have them, as Olga points out.

    Enjoy every moment 🙂

  4. Kate @ Savour Fare — August 9, 2014 @ 11:31 am

    We make my M do school-sponsored camp, too, but then we fork out a (not small) amount of money to send her to the local day camp that has been In business for 80 years. Four weeks of archery, swimming, fort building horseback riding, mudding and lots of outdoor play, and nary a peep of “why do you have to work?”

    That said, I try to take some time off around spring break, to just hang out.

  5. Paula — August 10, 2014 @ 5:42 pm

    With both my kids now parents themselves, I’m past the guilt stage you are experiencing as a working mom but I can still empathize. It is really tough to find a balance that keeps everyone smiling. So glad that you decided to take that extra week. Seems as if you and your kids got a lot out of it.
    As for these cookies you baked…first time I’ve seen a strawberry cookie recipe and it looks like a keeper.

  6. Mallory @forkvsspoon — August 14, 2014 @ 8:50 am

    Looking back, my brothers and I placed that guilt on my mom each and every summer and she too, always took a week off to just spend with us and to go swimming and exploring. It really was the best. Growing up and looking back, I understand the struggle she felt and how hard it must have been.

  7. MJ what a beautiful piece. I know telling you to relax and enjoy your “guilt week” is easy but it sounds like you did just that. Good for you. What lucky lucky kids you have. XO

  8. Bridget — April 16, 2015 @ 10:39 am

    Merry Jennifer, these cookies are fantastic! I can’t believe how strawberry-y they are, and I love the fluffy texture.

  9. Angie — January 5, 2018 @ 6:31 pm

    I’m going to make these cookies next month. They’ll be perfect to use for my strawberry shortcake cheesecake instead of graham crackers.

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