Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cooking challenge #???

Oh hi everyone....remember me!?!

So, I've got about 4 posts brewing in my head (garden, travel, crafts, travel+crafts), but I wandered over to the draft section of the blog, and realized I also had 4 partially started posts on the go and figured it's time to finish one up! sooooo...here's my post on pastry I started a long long time ago, and seems appropriate given the bounty of delicious fruits coming into season that are begging to be sugared (or honeyed!) and served up in a hot and crispy hug of butter and flour. YUM!

Wild huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum) just came into season. Imagine my face when presented with a perfect cup of coffee - it looks the same the whole time I'm picking wild berries....my face hurts from glee.

There. I've thrown down a challenge that has been festering in the back of my mind for far too long. I love baking, and to me there's nothing so satisfying as filling those you care about full of fat and sugar to let them know just how you feel :)

Between sweet pies, and savoury dishes (having chickens = quiche as a staple go to), pie crust has been, and continues to be one of those things that I'm always trying to master, and yet I feel I always come up short. The sad truth is that I've never been totally in love with my pastry recipe. Rebars' whole wheat pastry has been my most common crust for many years (i figure whole wheat flour neutralizes calories from butter. Basically a scientific fact....at least in my mind), but sometimes you want to hang up your birkenstocks and just make the best gosh darn crust you can!

Over Christmas I tried a new recipe that had egg and vinegar in the pastry. Craziness. I've never used anything other than flour, butter and cold water... So this just started the wheels turning.. What else is out there that I've missed?!?

Then I consulted with one of my favorite chefs, d.raab to see what his mum's go to pastry was made of. Get ready for this.... It has vodka in it! I decided to give this a try. I wanted to make our neighbors a thank you pie for taking care of our house over  the holidays... What better time to work on my pastry skills! So I decided to meet my challenge (which never got posted until now) head on! Here's the picture diary of what went down, along with a little shout out to my new pie plate courtesy of the mom-in-law.

Delish it was! But I want some variety...some experimentation...some....shall we say....culinary challenge to push my pie making skills to the next level. What's your recipe? What's your secret for perfect crust? Don't handle it too much? Fondle it fearlessly? Just butter? or a little of that oh so nasty crisco!? Food processor, stand mixer or only the sweet and tender crushing into submission from your own muscles?

I'm going to hope that some of the gents over at science shoots etc. feel comfortable enough to pitch in - I know there's a couple of stupendous pie-makers over there:)

Happy August my friends.



  1. woooeee! Pastry! I can maybe attempt to do a half-ass job at this!

    I have lots o' raspberries that I picked *thinking* that I would make jam but now I don't want to. So now I have 7ish lbs of berries to....make pastry things with!

  2. And more comments:
    1) I've successfully channelled my inner Miss Piggy and consumed at least 5 lbs of the 7 lbs of raspberries I picked.
    2) Look at this shit. Crazy. http://now.msn.com/louise-caola-owner-of-poppy-and-lulu-bakes-cakes-that-look-like-dinner
    3) I was curious about the vodka in the recipe. Why? I asked. And google answered. Some people say the alcohol (vs. water) prevents the formation of gluten, making for a flakier crust: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-review-vodka-pie-crust-68851

    But then others say the alcohol burns off anyway so that point is moot. They suggest saving your vodka for some yummy drinks and premix just some of the flour with the fat first (to coat the butter bits) and then incorporate the rest. http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bella/2012/10/vodka-pie-crust.php

    Seems like some testing is in order!

    I'm not a huge pie maker (my secret to a perfect crust is to hide the pillsbury crust box before the guests see it) but I've always wanted to try to make baklava. I feel like this is a lofty goal for a non-pastry girl, but I might give it a go. Maybe at least try a "cheat" recipe. I'm sure they're out there.

  3. I like that suggestion of coating the butter bits in some flour first...gonna try that one. I've frozen a batch of sour cherries that will make a delicious pie one day soon!

    Thanks for the thoughts Mara - and raspberries are meant to be eaten...I'm sad that our raspberry season is over.