Deep Dish Categories

 

05
March
2017

Pie Palooza! Come & get it!

Celebrate Pi Day, 3.14, on 3.12 (March 12th)!

Pi Day Pie!  3.1415926535898 and so on

If you're in the Albuquerque area, here's your chance for a pie blowout.  It's a fundraiser for SAGE* and there will be all kinds of delicious pie for sale by the slice ~ or take your chance on willing a whole, homemade pie by participating in the pie walk!  Mmmm, will it be apple?  Pecan?  Chocolate?  Blueberry?  Lemon?  Mocha Cream? 

Best of all, you can donate a pie you made.  It's a good cause and every baker who brings a pie to donate will receive a "Pie Pals" refrigerator magnet to keep you inspired.  Please try to deliver your pie no later than 12:45.

When:  Sunday, March 12 (as close as we could get to actual "pi day," which is 3.14).  Location:  Pie Paloosa at the N'MPower Center, 136 Washington SE, Ste. E, Albuquerque, NM 87106.  Time:  Starts at 1:00 p.m.  Come early for the best selection!  Event ends at 3:00, and all pie must go!

*Pie Palooza benefits SAGE Albuquerque and their efforts to support LGBT elders. They provide training to senior service organizations on the unique challenges for older LGBT adults and they have ramped up efforts to create many more social opportunities for the older LGBT community.  They offer 4 different monthly gatherings and are creating more events of interest all the time.

03
January
2016

What is a "Pie Crust Promise"?

Why beware?

What is a

Well-intentioned resolutions:  We all know them, remember them from earlier Januarys.  Like neighbors you never really liked but who live nearby, unfulfilled resolutions keep showing up.  Sometimes those noisy old resolutions even party together into the night, keeping you awake. 

Usually, we want to look better, feel better, do better.  We want to be better. 

But beware "pie crust promises."  Guess who said those words?  Mary Poppins, the movie nanny who flies with her umbrella, guiding the young children under her care.  Julie Andrews played Mary Poppins in the old movie with Dick Van Dyke, where they created a world of belief and magic.  The family she comes to help is dysfunctional in Part 1, with the father figure working too much and ignoring his family, especially the children.  In Part 2, Mary imparts wisdom along with playful imagination, and in Part 3, healing occurs and the dad comes around to value his children.  Then Mary Poppins flies off.

So how are New Year's resolutions like pie crust promises?  As Mary said, they are, “Easily made.  Easily broken.” 

It's true that we only get to be humans on the planet when we have a body with which to do that.  Going back to the idea of resolutions, then, "being better" for me this year is about just gently (so as not to break it) agreeing with my Self that I'm going to love this body better.  I'm going to listen more to what it needs and wants and less to what my mind says “I” need and want.  

So, I know that my body loves:

  • sleeping for 8 or 8 1/2 hours almost every night.  I can do that.
  • sinking into warm water and drinking lots of clean water.  I can do that.
  • getting low-impact aerobic exercise almost every day.  I can do that
  • sipping the green juice from Trader Joe's that I thin out a little with sparkling water.  I can do that.
  • releasing stress and embracing creativity through meditation.  I can do that. 

And my mouth loves good pie, of course!  And sometimes my mind likes a glass of cool, dry champagne.  I can do those, too.   That’s all part of being human. 

This year, I'm being careful about promises to myself.  I'm only making ones that are positive and loving, ones that are easy to keep and less likely to be broken.  Then I know I will look, feel, do better.  

Join me?  Let's be better, together!

I'll be your pal,

Rebecca

22
January
2015

"I need to make pie!"

National Pie Day, Jan. 23

Frangipane Pear Tart

“I need to make pie!”

My neighbor friend told me over the wall that her uncle’s wife is dying, and her uncle feels lost.  “I need to make pie!” he had exclaimed.  His heart is breaking, and he needs to make pie.

What is it about making pie that grounds us, gets us quiet and centered, back at peace with the world, even if just for a few minutes?  Is it the fact of doing something with our hands?  Or making space to do something creative?  Maybe it’s because it’s a solitary activity, one done without a lot of other people?  Perhaps any solitary, creative activity would serve.  Probably so. 

Whatever your reason for needing to make pie – or to eat it – here’s as good as any:  Friday, January 23, is National Pie Day.  It’s official!  Go for it.  Make a pie, buy a pie, but share pie on Friday!  Teach someone else, if you can.  Take a pie to your favorite nonprofit agency for the staff to enjoy, or to the fire station, or to your book club.  Take one to your neighbors.  You’ll be making people very happy and, hey, does it get better than that?

Personally, I’ll be taking pie to my women’s group.  Doesn’t matter where – just know that if you share pie, the world will be a little sweeter, and hearts will be a little happier, even if just for a little while.  Even hearts that are breaking with the loss of a loved one.  May we always be united by love and, if we’re lucky, pie.

Warmly, Rebecca

P.S.  Want ideas for pies to make during winter months?  Check out:  www.piepals.com

14
March
2014

It's Pi Day!

It's Pi Day!

Pi* day is here!  It is March 14th today (3.14), near the “Ides,” about which we’ve been warned.  Is there some warning related to the 14th?  Heck, no.  Only that we not have too much Pi. 

What would that be, too much Pi?  Maybe being too numerical, too caught up in calculating, in figuring, in trying to plot things out, needing to have an explanation that makes perfect sense, where everything adds up and comes out as expected, according to the formula.  While math is exacting and can be beautiful – as with fractals – how much of life is precise like that?  Why do we seek that?  I think we seek that kind of left-brain calculation because we’re uncomfortable with the unknown, the fluid, with the ebb and flow of “that which is taking form” and “that which is releasing form.”  In other words, with the messy truths of life on planet Earth.  Things are always taking form and leaving form.  With every breath, we ourselves change.

Yet we try to establish truths and constants, with some hope that they will comfort us, make us feel safe, make us feel like we understand and have a measure of control. 

What significant thing in your life came out exactly as you expected?  Name one thing.

Me either.  Can’t name one thing.  And today, I find that comforting.  I’ve reached a stage in life where it’s no longer important to invest in expectations, or at least not in calculating and planning so much.  

Now, it’s more about setting intentions and then letting go of expectations about how things will actually turn out.  Now, I tend towards, say, the intention of having a good time, or of being relaxed, or of enjoying time with friends, of being healthy, of being productive or compassionate, or of creating a garden I’ll enjoy, rather than investing energy in any details about those things.  It’s so freeing this way.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t get exacting sometimes!  I do, including around pie.  There are times when measuring matters, like getting the proportions among flour, salt, Crisco and ice water just right, or making the “perfect” lattice.  It’s also true that if my intention is to put love into what I’m doing, it seems to come out well enough and meanwhile, I’m not stressing.  Yay!

So, while I’m glad there are numbers like pi (3.14………), and that some people get a kick out of them, I’m not invested in them.  I’m more interested in any excuse to make and share pie, so if it’s Pi Day, that’s good enough!

Special thanks to a true Pie Pal, Peter, who found this photo of a Pie Day pie.  May you always have good pie, dear friend.

 

*Pi is a special number, representing the ratio between a circle and its diameter.  It can only be expressed in an exact way through the Greek letter “Pi,” as the numbers to the right of the decimal never terminate (thus 3.14159265359…).  Can you tell my partner is a math nerd?

 

Photo credit: Real Science-4-Kids

 

20
February
2014

Passing on Pie?

Can you? Will you?

Rebecca & 2 young friends make pie

There are two kinds of Pie People.  Those who will eat any pie and those who are pie snobs.  I’m the latter.  Both types love pie.  How great is that?

Can you pass on a piece of pie?  It depends?  What about a piece of mass-produced pie?  You know – crust that can bend a fork and overly sweet canned fruit filling?  Maybe, maybe not.  Can you pass on a piece of really good pie – one with a flaky crust and flavorful fruit inside?  Less likely!

But that’s not the point.  There’s passing on a piece of pie, and there’s passing on pie:  the knowledge of how to make good pie and the recipes that go along.  That is passing on pie and is something I value.

Check out these photos that celebrate both of those 2 essential things: 1) teaching others to make pie, the craft of pie, the love that goes into making a delicious pie, and 2) passing on favorite pie recipes.Chocpiepaperedsm

Look at this gem!  It’s a hand-scribbled recipe shared by a Pie Pal who’s now in her 60’s.  It’s a recipe she’s been making for friends every year for G.O.K. (God Only Knows) how long.  Thanks for sharing it, Chris!  (It was our pie of the month recently).  How many of us have family recipes like this, written out by hand and tucked somewhere in the kitchen?

 

And check this out:  another Pie Pal teaching her granddaughter how to make a pie.  How sweet is that? 

PatAddie12.13ed.sm

This is happening all over the country and it makes me very happy.  If you have a pie-teaching story or picture, share it!  The rest of us would love to see you in action, teaching a friend or family member your techniques.

Why does this matter – passing on pie?  Ours is a culture that’s all about fast:  fast food, fast information, fast work, racing through our days.  You know all this.  Even those of us who try to choose a more mellow pace are still swept along sometimes, finding life going too quickly, feeling pressure to keep performing and producing. 

Pie is about slow.  It’s about taking care, doing things by hand, like peeling apples or washing berries or separating eggs.  It’s hands-on, for sure!  It’s about being in the present and humming. 

Back to passing on pie.  If we, those of us who still make pie from scratch, don’t teach the next generation or two how we do it, what will become of our recipes and knowledge?  I’m pretty sure a YouTube video won’t compare to being shown by you how to roll a crust and crimp it.  I’m pretty sure a 30-second clip on Google won’t really help your grandchild understand what “cut in the shortening until it looks like cornmeal” means.  Who will teach children the importance of chilling the dough or using a pie crust shield to prevent the outer edge from burning while waiting for the juices to bubble at the center of a cherry pie?  And who will help the children in your life learn how to weave a lattice?

Please!  Be inspired by this recipe and make a folder full of your favorites to pass on to others in your family.  And, even better, share two or three of your favorite pie recipes here on Pie Pals.  It’s easy to enter your recipe and then you’ll be sharing it with the whole world! 

Please!  Be inspired by this photo and teach someone who’d like to learn how to make pie.  Spend a morning together and create a fabulous memory.  How the pie turns out is irrelevant, even for pie snobs, because it’s the making it that’s good. 

And for sure, someone will eat it. 

29
October
2013

Top 8 Pie Recommendations for Fall

Apples, Nuts, and Maple...mmmmmm!

Dutch Apple Pie

Nothing like smashing your index finger in a car door to set back blogging and pretty much everything else you do with your primary hand.  So, Deep Dish friends, let me keep this brief!

The Fall season is upon us and it’s definitely pie time.  Here are my top 8 recommendations for pies to enjoy this season in no particular order:

Pick one or two and go!  All recipes are free at www.piepals.com

Watch for the November “Pie Pals e-Newsletter,” coming soon, where you’ll get suggestions on how to make and freeze fruit pies for easy holiday desserts, info on the Slow Food movement, Q&A on tapioca in pies, and the recipe of the month.  Not already getting the newsletter?  Sign up here.

Here’s to cozy and sharing pie love with family and friends,

Rebecca,

Your Pie Pal

30
September
2013

"Pie Story," by Sandy Bryan, "Best of Show" Winner 2013

How I Got Hooked on the Pie Contest

STATE FAIR PIE CONTEST

By Sandy Bryan

Guest Blogger, Pie Pals

The State Fair Pie Contest is one of the most fun things in my year.  I got started years ago (1986) after a visit to the Torrance County Fair, where I visited the exhibit building and saw the Pie Contest entries on display with their ribbons.  There were only a few pies, of course, and I was fascinated to realize that there was a pie contest, that regular people brought their pies and entered the contest, and that they were awarded ribbons. 

I remember thinking, I could do that!  I wondered, where and when is the Bernalillo County Fair?  Then I realized that in Albuquerque we have the New Mexico State Fair.  I was a little daunted, but I found out where and when to enter, then baked a blueberry pie sweetened with maple syrup, and off I went.  I won a blue ribbon, and I was hooked!

The next year I baked a cherry pie with cherry brandy for Pie Contest.  I won a blue ribbon and Best of Show!  Now I was really hooked!  Since then I have entered every year except one, when a family emergency took priority.  Some years I have come away with a second or third place ribbon, and a couple of years ago I came back empty-handed for the first time. I realized that probably needed to happen at least once and accepted it as a part of the life of a hard core pie baker.

After the blueberry pie and cherry pie successes, I moved to another pie I liked, perfected that pie, eventually won a ribbon for it, then moved on to another pie.  I say eventually, because in some cases I’ve won a ribbon the first time I entered a particular pie category, and sometimes I went back two or three or more times. 

I recall my quest for the blue ribbon for pecan pie.  After the first time I entered and failed to garner a ribbon, a friend remarked to me that her neighbor had been the judge, and he was a fan of a very sweet pecan pie.  Well that’s okay, I don’t do that.  I went back the next year, and there was a different judge, who raved about the beautiful whole pecans in the winning pie.  My pecans were chopped. The next year, the judge went on about the way chopping the pecans releases the volatile nut oils, enhancing the wonderful flavor of the pie.  What to do!  Meanwhile, my loyal friends who served as pie tasters were going through the agonies with me!  What to do to get that ribbon for pecan pie?  Finally, on about the fifth or sixth year, I had my partner, a former precision machinist, come to my kitchen and cut each pecan half crosswise into four perfect pieces, mixed my filling, put it in the pie shell, then covered the top in concentric circles of pecan halves.  Whoever’s judging, here’s your pie!  I finally got my blue ribbon and moved on.  Thank goodness!

All this is to illustrate the trials and tribulations of a pie contest.  You really challenge yourself to do your best.  Sometimes you get a ribbon, sometimes you don’t.  It sure is fun!  I’ve involved the people in my daily life, giving ongoing updates on my research and test pies, having pie tastings to get their input.  Sometimes I’ll make a batch of pie filling, divide it into several parts and add different ingredients to different samples, then bake into mini-pies for side-by-side testing.  That’s one way to figure out what tastes best. 

After winning several ribbons, I challenged myself to see if I could win blue ribbons in every category.  This has meant developing skills in baking pies I’d never particularly considered, and it has widened my pie baking knowledge considerably.  Without meaning to, I’ve become an accomplished baker, far beyond where I was at the beginning. 

This is exactly what pie contest should do for all of us.  All it takes is stepping out and entering your first pie, and the road opens up before you.  Whether you win or not, you learn.  The judges give their critiques and often point out how to remedy the problem, so you know what to do next time. 

Probably the main thing a competitor needs to know, and what people complain to me about when the subject of pie baking comes up, is how to make a good crust.  Do that, and you’re on your way.  There’s lots of information available on every aspect of pie baking, whether you’re looking at your cookbook collection or searching on line.  No reason not to learn it, and do it, and dazzle your friends and wow the judges!

As for this year’s contest, I entered the “Tart” category for the second time.  Last year I won second place for a dazzling coconut tart.  This year I brought a Chocolate Coconut Tart that was inspired by a conversation with a friend about German chocolate cake.  The tart consisted of a pre-baked classic tart crust with a cooked bittersweet chocolate custard. This was topped with coconut and chopped pecans which had been tossed with a bit of melted butter.  The whole thing went into the oven just long enough to toast the coconut and pecans, and it was off to Pie Contest.  I was hoping for a blue ribbon, of course, and I got it.  And, joy of joys, it also got Best of Show!  I am over the moon!

People who come to Pie Contest see their comrade/competitors year after year. It’s a great sense of camaraderie.  And we cheer new entries to the group.  I’ll be back next year, of course.  I hope to see you there!

Sandy has won 13 blue ribbons and four Best of Show rosettes over the years at the New Mexico State Fair Pie Contest.

22
September
2013

Happy Anxiety at the Pie Contest

Here's how it came down

Happy Anxiety at the Pie Contest

A happy anxiety rises in the air as the judging begins.  Folding chairs squeak and restless movement settles into a collective forward lean.  Attention turns to the former university president’s wife, who is holding the mic and who has been running the show, at least at home, for years.

“Welcome to the 2013 State Fair Pie Contest!  Today we have16 categories of pies, and 61 pies altogether. They look just beautiful and so delicious!”

Contestants and their friends are impatient for the judging.  Four judges work, each one taking one type of pie at a time: first the apple pies, then blueberry, then cherry.  Next come the peach, peanut, pumpkin, and pecan.  Finally the “other fruits” -- an interesting and diverse bunch, including pears, plums, and luscious apricot hand pies – plus the chocolate and tart entries.

judgesatworkedThe judges take their time, and ours, considering the pies.  They check the bottom to see if it’s cooked enough (“No soggy bottoms!”), see how it cuts and holds together, taste the crust, taste the filling, taste the crusts again, all while keeping a poker face.  They really do give attention to each pie or tart, noting the strengths and weaknesses, and labor over deciding which ones to honor.

In each case, a third, second and first place ribbon are awarded and winners announced.  The best part of the whole thing – well maybe the 2nd best – is how everyone applauds one another.  It’s the most generous audience you’ve ever seen.

And the delight, oh, the joy, of winning!  Sandy, one of the community of pie bakers who’s been entering for years, won “Best of Show.”  You should have seen the bright sparkle in her eyes when it was announced that her tart won!  She was one happy camper, and everyone there was happy with her.

And the best part?  Eating pie with friends afterwards. Pie, pie, pie everywhere!Friendspie2013ed

I’m going to ask some of the Pie Pals who were present at the pie contest here to share their ribbons and recipes, so watch for more in the next few days. 

I’ve posted my two blue-ribbon recipes, for peach and rhubarb-raspberry pies.  Please help yourself!

Cheers, Rebecca

30
August
2013

Easy Does It Pie for Labor Day!

Angel Pie

Easy Does It Pie for Labor Day!

It’s Labor Day weekend and time to chill a little.  It’s time to spend time with family and friends, maybe enjoy some really good food.

Easy as pie, as they say, and this one surely is as easy as they come.  Try Angel Pie and see if you don’t agree that this is one of the better treats you can make for a warm weekend of kicking back.  It’s light, fluffy, lemony and fruity all at the same time.

An added bonus:  it’s gluten-free!

While relaxing this weekend, I’m going to appreciate especially those who have been or still are part of labor unions.  They help make for a middle class in America.  Here’s to everyone who works hard and contributes to their families and community! 

18
August
2013

The Scent of Unconditional Love

Cinnamon Rolls After School

The Scent of Unconditional Love

School has started here in the Southwest.  Busses are plodding along full of children, parents are arranging their lives to accommodate school schedules, and teachers are facing a new year with this crop of kids and youth.

When I was young, still in elementary school, 11 perhaps, my maternal grandmother, Alice, came to live with us.  She had been widowed the year before, after 42 years as a farm wife in the countryside of North Dakota.  A woman of modesty and humor, she was married to the northern prairie and survived those years of plucking chickens, hot winds, feeding farm hands, growing most of the family’s food, and blizzards with grit and fortitude, as farming and ranching folks often do. 

After the farm sold at auction, she began a new chapter of her life.  Finally she was free to be her lively, travel-loving, urban self.  As a young woman she had traveled from North Dakota to exotic places like Lake Louise in British Columbia, and then worked far from home in Seattle.  She thrived in the energy of the city and only left when she was called home because of a dear cousin’s death. 

Marrying Adolph, the farmer who promised they’d move to town one day, she acclimated to life on the farm but never really liked it.  Like many women, she made the best of things and raised her children with love and attention -- and one eye on the horizon!

When she came to live with our family near Los Angeles, we just scooted over and made room, making her welcome.  She, in turn, looked for how to love us back.  And gosh, did she find ways!  One of them was baking.  You know where this is going.

Grandma Alice timed the cinnamon buns, the homemade dinner rolls and the cookies to be coming out of the oven as we were arriving home from school.  And then there was the bread, still warm, sliced and blanketed with butter.  We could smell the aroma from outside the house, dropping book bags at the door and running to the kitchen. 

Now, years later, I realize why I’m always drawn to bakeries and baked goods.  It’s not the sweets that draw me in, really.  It’s the unconditional love wafting on the aroma.  I don’t even have to buy anything.  The scent alone is enough to make me smile and say, “Thanks, Grandma!  I love you, too.”

So, friends, what aroma or scent reminds you of unconditional love?  Last night friends shared their versions:  the smell of rain, the smell of warm biscuits baked by a grandmother, a mother’s favorite blue soap.  And you? 

07
August
2013

Looking for Love at the Diner

How good is their pie?

Looking for Love at the Diner

It’s kind of like looking for love in all the wrong places.

I was on a road trip with three friends recently and, just in time for lunch, we saw this sign on a roadside diner.  The whole roadside diner idea was appealing:  comfort food, big booths with padded vinyl seating, and a waitress with her name on the back of her belt refilling coffee cups.  Perfect!

The sign promised pie, so we checked out the refrigerated pie case immediately, before even being seated.  Featured there was a selection of fruit and cream options, including cherry, apple, lemon meringue and coconut cream.  The hostess reassured us that, yes, everything was made right there at the diner, just like homemade.  Oh, yum!  This was going to be fun!

The booths were full of local folks, so we settled down at a wooden table for four in the annex.  Sure enough, Betty brought lots of coffee and we ordered everything from country fried steak to enchiladas to a Chinese chicken salad.  Everything was pretty good, given that we were many miles from the nearest sources of fresh ingredients. 

Then the moment we’d been looking forward to:  sharing a piece of pie.  There was lots of talk and we finally agreed on the coconut cream, as it did look the most beautiful and all of us were in the mood for few bites of something sweet and blissful.  And if the pie was shared four ways, no great harm would come to anyone’s diet!

CococreamedShockingly awful.  I mention this not to disparage the café but just to be real with you about what commercially made pie is like these days.  Can you imagine pie so bad that four of us couldn’t finish one piece?  It’s true:  the crust was dense and tough, the filling was starchy to the point of gakky, and the topping seemed to be a cross between whipped cream and plastic.  Really!  We left most of it on the plate.

Do you find yourself looking for good pie and frequently being disappointed by what’s served?  Me, too.

So, my friends, I’m proposing that we once again commit to making pie and teaching others how to make pie and then enjoying it together.  Let’s keep good pie alive! 

And what do you think about making a list of places in the U.S. and Canada where it’s possible to buy a really good piece of pie, based on your experience and judgment?  I’d love to compile a list! 

Start thinking about where you go for good pie in your area and in the next newsletter (Sept.), we’ll set up a system for collecting your personal endorsements and posting them with pictures on a list here at Pie Pals so we can all find that good pie when we’re traveling.  Who knows?  Maybe we’ll take more road trips, just for the sake of finding a good piece of pie! 

Yours in the search,

31
July
2013

A Festival for Bread!

How great is that?!

Bread Festival, Paris

The aroma of bread, freshly baked and warm, was wafting from a huge white tent right next to Notre Dame in Paris.  That scent, even more than my curiosity, pulled me into “La Fête du Pain,” the festival of bread.  Where else but France, where bread is so fundamental, a cornerstone of the diet? Served at every meal in generous quantities, bread is one delicious business!

Their bread is delicate, flavorful, needing no spread of any kind.   It stands very well on its own.  Indeed, it is considered rude, gauche even, to ask for butter.

bagettesbakingedSo there was the white tent, beckoning.  I succumbed to the lure and became engulfed in the world of French baking.  Ovens lined the entire back wall of the long space and we, the hungry admirers, could watch baguettes turning golden.  We moved along the other side of the tent, with dozens of bakers busy at work in between:  kneading dough, rolling dough, shaping dough, tending the rising, tending the baking – all oblivious to those of us gawking and drooling nearby.

As we moved along the aisle, windows to the left revealed the spires of the famous cathedral, yet we couldn’t help but give our real attention to other chefs pitting cherries, peeling applies, sprinkling cinnamon, and stirring crème Anglaise.    Tarts and pastries were underway and coming out of the next set of ovens.  Oh, be still my heart.  I want that, and that, and that!pastriesed

Finally the counter for viewing the results of all that pastry pampering and an opportunity for making a purchase.  How to choose?  Will it be the apricot turnover, the apple galette, a slice of the raspberry tart or a whole loaf of fresh bread?   What would you choose?

InsideLaFeteedI chose an authentic community event.  The day was a national holiday in France and between the natives and the tourists, Paris was swarming.  The line to get into Notre Dame was 4 people wide and a quarter mile long, winding past the grandstands and down a narrow street.  Cathedrals are important places of worship, art and history and, at that moment, a festival full of life and vibrancy was more attractive.  “La Fête du Pain” was about something essential and universal, something humans make with love and creativity in the present moment to share with others.  

Choosing to live life in the present, whether it’s at a festival in the park or a walk with a loved one down one’s own street, is a way to acknowledge how grateful we are for life, how wonderful it is to be breathing and living today.  May your days be filled with such choices, and with the aroma of fresh, warm bread.

Cheers!

Rebecca, Pie Pal #1

 

23
July
2013

Fruit tarts and baguettes, oh my!

Watching What I Ate

Fruit tarts and baguettes, oh my!

I watched what I ate on a recent trip to Europe.  Yes, I watched as I ate croissants for breakfast, mopped up melted cream and cheese with French baguettes at lunch, bit into Swiss macaroons filled with Kirsch, and bagettesedinhaled delicate (yes, it’s possible) pizzas in Italy.  It was all sort of mesmerizing, really, all of those breads and pastries and calories, just disappearing in front of me. 

Then, they did reappear behind me.  I gained a pound or two while there, but my legs got stronger and thinner because of the walking, and walking, and walking, and walking.

One day, near the end of the trip, I told Havens, “The main thing is, I don’t want to walk as far today as we did yesterday.”  We walked further.  We were in Rome, after all, and were told we had to see the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican.  We were staying in a neighborhood, Travestere, which looked on the map like a mile or so from the renowned chapel. 

We started late and did not beat the crowds.  It was mostly uphill and through narrow streets, with one spectacular panorama of Rome along the way.  New satellite dishes adorn ancient villas and fountains are likely to appear around any corner.

The wait to get into the Vatican with a line ¼ mile long and 4 people wide, would be 3 hours.  In the heat.  It was not for the socially claustrophobic!   I excused myself.  So, more walking.  I headed for the green river that runs through the city, and sought the solace of quiet, wide water and sidewalks shaded by sycamores.

Nearly back to the small hotel room with the orange curtains and red bedspread, I stopped for a cappuccino in a bistro with an outdoor patio.  A breeze carried the scent of honeysuckle and my eye rested on violet bougainvillea.  Ah, life is good.  And yes, I’d love a little cookie with that, thank you!

Here’s to enjoying summer! 

Warmly,


Rebecca

Pie Pal #1

26
June
2013

Snails in Pastry? Yuk!

Best Laugh in Europe

Snails in Pastry?  Yuk!

French snails.  Known as “escargot,” they are a delicacy, rich and a bit squishy, served drenched in butter and garlic.

Approaching the pastry case in a bakery on the Left Bank of Paris, I offered my finest, “Bonjour!”  Ready to order something in my hopeful French, the young woman asked, “What would you like?”   Set aback by her English, I was flustered and studied the case with a frown.  How to choose only one of those delectable, luscious, yummy pastries?  Only one?

My eyes settled on a huge spiral of perfectly baked pastry, swirled with a bright green and dark brown filling.  “Escargot,” it was labeled.  My eyes popped and my stomach turned.  Oh no, I thought to myself, oh, no, that’s just wrong.

“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” I ventured, hoping for reassurance that it wasn’t really snails.  “Oh, that,” she reassured me, “pistachios and chocolate.” 

And so it was, and I sighed with relief and started to laugh.  I laughed so hard I could barely speak to order one.  I laughed at myself for thinking the French would do such a thing, at myself for imagining snails in pastry, laughed at the green and brown filling that might have been. 

It was the finest pastry I had in France.  No, in all of France, Switzerland and Italy.

And what I really loved was the good hard giggle I gave myself.  What a lesson: an unexpected visual, an unexpected filling and flavor, all perfect, as French pastries are.  Just like life, when we’re open to the unexpected.

16
April
2013

Gluten-Free Pie Crust 101

 Gluten-Free Pie Crust 101

Take a look at this dough!  Oh, my gosh.  This was the gluten-free dough after chilling, before rolling.  It was a mess:  look at how it had crumbled into a bazillion pieces already.  Nothing seemed to be holding it together in any way…how was I ever going to roll it out and get it into the pie dish?

Dutifully, I worked on a cold surface, dusting the rolling pin with more gluten-free flour.  But it just cracked and split and went this way and that, with no pretense of “rolling out.”  This was one radically uncooperative crust. 

Finally, I had to get rough with it. I did something I would never do with wheat crust:  rolled back and forth, back and forth across the dough, pressing hard. It cracked and split at will, and I could almost hear it laughing at my efforts.  I rolled harder.  What in the world was going on here and what would hold this dough together?  The xanthum gum?  The eggs?

With a great deal of persuasion – rough play, really – I got it big enough and loosened it from below.  Okay, whew.  Then, going into the plate, it ripped into 9 pieces.

Onto Plan B:  there would be no lattice on this cherry pie.  The top crust would be made into small pieces intentionally and laid on top.  Meanwhile, the bottom one was pieced together, pinched and patted and molded with fingers to fit and to form something of a lip on the crust.  There would be no folding together of the two crusts, either.  Instead, I built up the lip enough to then use a fork and make a little pattern going around the edge.  That would have to do.  My perfectionist self was getting a lesson in gluten-free realism!

Cherry Pie with hearts top crustAs you can see, the top crust was pieced together by making cut-outs using a cookie cutter.  I highly recommend this solution, as it allows you to create an attractive top without the drama of trying to transfer a large, rolled piece of dough intact onto the pie.

The recipe came from a well-known flour company’s Web site and featured their own gluten-free all-purpose flour.  I’ll post the recipe and comments on the results in the next “Deep Dish” blog. 

Til then, to your health and to happy gluten-free baking,

Rebecca

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