Quiche!

Question: What do you do with left-over pastry?

Answer: Make quiche, of course!

I had some left over pastry* from my Pi-Pie, so I figured that I should use it before it became un-useable (however long that is). I wasn’t in the mood to make another pie, so I thought “Why not make some quiche?” I had eggs, I had cheese, I had bacon… I didn’t have much else, but that would do.

I eyeballed that there should be enough pastry for about 4 mini-quiches, which would give me 4 meals**, so I cut the pastry in 4 pieces and went about rolling it. Now, I’m not that good at rolling really nice circular pastry, but I’ve decided that quiche doesn’t have to be neat.

Therein lies the difference between baking and cooking. For me, baking means being really precise about how much stuff I put in, while cooking is more flying by the seat of my pants. With baking I take meticulous notes, but cooking is just me throwing things in the pot/pan until it tastes good.

A good example of my cooking method is how I made these quiches. I only have 2 small tins, so I could only make 2 at one time. I got out two eggs, beat them up a little, added some pepper and cream, and then the cheese and bacon. I divided the mixture between the tins, trying to keep the division of bacon & cheese equal. The tins looked a little under-filled, so I added more cream of course.

I set the oven to 350F and put them in for 20 minutes. After that I glanced at them and saw that they still wobbled, so I left them in for another 10 minutes. That seemed to do the trick.

For my second batch I mixed up the eggs, pepper, and cream, and then divided it into the tins. Then I added the bacon and cheese, to ensure that each quiche had enough. When mixing it all together, I had to be careful not to pierce the pastry, but it only needed gentle mixing. Then, based on the previous quiches, I put it in the oven for 30 minutes. Et voila!

And that’s how I make quiche. I really liked the taste of the pastry, so I consider that recipe a winner. Also, I made my co-workers very jealous of my lunch***, so double win!

quiche2
As long as it tastes good, it doesn’t have to look good.

*Actually, I think I made the full recipe of pastry that time, but only used half of it to see if I could get away with using only half of it. Thus, left-over pastry.

**I’ve started meal-planning lately and it’s working out really well, since I don’t mind eating the same thing for lunch 3-4 days in a row.

***We keep trying to out-do each other with our delicious foods. It’s quite fun.

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Homemade Bread

I seem to be in a ‘make all the things I never wanted to make before’ mood these days.  Pies, tarts, bread…  What’s next?  (Oh man, it’s choux pastry, isn’t it? I’m not ready yet! I need more time!)

I was getting frustrated with having to walk to the grocery story for bread – bread which I could make myself if I bothered!  I don’t live near a grocery store, and I always squish the bread on the way home, so this was truely in my best interest.

I also have memories of when my mother used to bake bread.  She would make it in a large white plastic bowl & cover it and put it in the dining room to rise.  And she would always make small buns for my sister and I, so that we had something fresh to eat out of the oven.

Plus, homemade bread tastes better for some strange reason.

I found the recipe online, and it looked simple enough so I thought it’d give it a try.  I’m all about the simple, as you probably know by now.

The first issue I came up against was when it was time to incorporate the flour.  I always have this problem, even with pizza dough.  Bread is not my strong suit.  I tried to mix all the dough in the bowl by stirring, but I think I might have to use my hands more, and possibly do some of the flour-incorporation on the counter.  Notes for next time!

My second issue was that I thought I had 2 bread tins, but I didn’t*.  I only had 1 regular loaf tin, and two mini loaf tins.

Always check your equipment before you bake.  Ingredients, time, & equipment.  Be prepared!

After filling the big and both small tins, I still had dough left over.  So what’s a Newfoundlander** to do?  You guess it – TOUTONS!

touton1

I’m not going to lie to you – this was my first time frying toutons (because bread).  There was no recipe***, so I was flying by the seat of my pants.  I wasn’t sure if I had to make them into shapes and let them rise again, but I did it just to be sure.  They were a bit thick and I think I had the heat in the pan too high, but in the end it’s just salty, fried dough.  I also need to buy some molasses for future attempts…

Back to the bread – which I think turned out pretty well, all things considered.  I could see a few flour-spots (where the flour hadn’t fully incorporated), but the loaves made a hollow sound when I tapped them on the bottom.  I took the small loaves out a few minutes before the big loaf, but I think I’m safe to leave them for the full time.

bread1-turn
I can’t rotate the picture for some reason.  (*shakes fist at technology but that doesn’t solve the problem at all*)

Once the buns are out of the oven you can brush some butter on top to give them that shiny, greasy look, or you can not.

Not quite perfect, but good enough for a first attempt.  Also, homemade bread = yum!

*the recipe is for 2 loaves, which is great for a single person who doesn’t want to be drowned in bread

**I haven’t lived in Newfoundland for years, but I was born & raised there.  You can take the girl out of Newfoundland, but you can’t take the Newfoundland out of the girl.

***I didn’t even stop to look up a recipe online. What was I thinking?!

Chocolate/Chocolate Holiday Cupcakes

Step 1: Make cupcakes

Step 2: Ice cooled cupcakes*

Step 3: Spend more time than you should mucking about with really sticky candy** to make holly leaves and berries, but you can’t use a knife because it keeps getting stuck in the candy and not cutting, so you have to use your hands, even though it means washing your hands a billion times in the process, and why is it so difficult – I mean you’re only making 12 of these things; all so that these cupcakes look festive.

Step 4: Eat all of them.

cupcakes

_

*I also cut the cupcakes in half and piped chocolate mousse in the middle, just to make them a bit more fancy.

**I used Airheads because I didn’t realize they would be that sticky.  At least they looked & tasted good.

 

Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie 2 – Pie Harder!

Now that I am a pie-master* I figured that I could do something I’d wanted to do for years. I was going to celebrate Pi Day with an actual Pie actually made by my actual self!

I added extra sugar to the pie crust, which made it better. Is it the best? Probably not, but it suffices. I did cut back a little on the sugar for the filling but I wouldn’t do that next time. Rhubarb’s tart, y’all.

Also, I decided to take Hollywood’s advice and mix the pastry with my hands.  I’m a very hands-on baker usually, so it seemed right.  It only got weird when I added the cold water because the mixture was quite slimy until the water was fully integrated.

This time I decided to use a smaller pie tin. I only have 2 sizes, so I really hoped that it would be fine. I’m pretty sure I rolled my crust too thin**, but the filling was a bit too much. The solution to this is obvious, of course. No, I’m not going to buy another pie tin or put in the correct amount of rhubarb – next time I’ll simply make a mini-pie or 2 to go along with the big pie!

I did not attempt a lattice this time ’round. Instead I went with a full cover. However, that’s a bit boring, so I decided to cut some diamonds in the crust. Then I decided to put little ‘pi’s around the edges, in honour of Pi Day. I still had a bit of pastry let over, so I cut out diamonds to adorn the rest of the crust.

Also, I forgot to do an egg wash.  Turns out the egg wash makes the pie look much more finished (and prettier).

pipie
C’est magnifique, non?

Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie (modified)

Preheat oven to 375.  Put the tray in the bottom third of the oven.

CRUST****:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes (1/2 in)
  • 2-3 Tbsp ice-cold water

Mix together flour, sugar & salt.  Rub in butter until finely crumbled.  Add water, 1 Tbsp at a time until pastry forms.  Separate into 2 pieces, wrap with plastic & chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.  While that’s happening…

FILLING:

  • 600g frozen rhubarb
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a large saucepan, over high heat.  Boil, then reduce heat to medium.  Cook, stirring often, until mixture is very thick (20 to 35 mins?*****). Stir in vanilla and cool for 5 minutes, or however long it takes you to roll out the pastry for the bottom & transfer to the pan (be sure to get it to the edges!).  Fill with the rhubarb mixture.

Roll out the second pastry piece and put over the top of the pie.  Crimp the edges with your fingers or a fork.  Use remaining pastry for decorations.

EGG WASH:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp water

Beat egg and water in small bowl.  Brush over the top of the pie.

Bake pie in lower third of your oven, at 375F until golden brown (50-60 mins).  Transfer pie to a rack & cool at least 1 hour.

Happy (Belated) 3.141592 Day!

*Pie master in that I’m the best pie-maker in my house. My cat has yet to figure out the rolling pin.

**The recipe probably stated how thick to roll out the pastry, but I didn’t pay attention***

***I just checked and it had no note of how thick the bottom pastry should be. Vindication!

****This is half the original recipe, so if it’s not enough for you then you could double it.

*****The recipe says “until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, but how is a person supposed to know that?  Should you take out the boiling mixture and put it in a measuring cup? But it’s boiling?!

Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie

I went 33 years without ever making a pie. I prefer cakes and cupcakes anyway, so why bother? With pies you have to make pastry for the top and bottom, and you’ve got to make the middle part. There’s so much that can go wrong!*

But I figured that I would never be marriage material if I couldn’t knock out a pie every once in a while.

Just kidding! Being single means more pie for me!

I decided to make a rhubarb-vanilla pie because I had a recipe for it**. I also had really delicious Mexican vanilla extract, which had been a gift from a friend who went to Mexico (it has real vanilla pods inside).

I tried to make my pastry in my little food processor, but it was too small and I had to keep scraping the sides. I think I could do half the recipe without problem.  Then again, Paul Hollywood recommends making pastry with your hands so you know the feel of it…

I used less rhubarb (because they sell it in bags of 600g instead of 750g, and I couldn’t be bothered to purchase an additional bag, let alone measure it), but I didn’t think to change the amount of sugar or vanilla. This cut back on the tartness of the rhubarb, so not a big deal.

Also, making this filling is probably similar to how you make jam, so I could probably make jam! Oh yeah, I’m totally marriage material now!

pie1
Jammy-goodness.

Side note: if this is your first time working with pastry DON’T GO FOR THE LATTICE!  No matter how easy the recipe makes it looks it will not be that easy! The filling will stick to the pastry and the strips will tear! Lattice-weavers, I tip my hat to you.

Thankfully I had some left-over pastry so that I could cut out small stars to cover over the breaks in the lattice. When in doubt, try to hide your mistakes.  And it worked!  I even had someone compliment on how pretty the stars looked.

pie3
I must have showed them a different picture…

You may notice the strange edging around the pie.  This is because my plate was too big and I didn’t have enough filling to take it to the top.  So instead of a horizontal edge I had to have a vertical edge.  Would the extra 150g of rhubarb have made a different?  Who knows.

The crust was okay (I made a note to add more sugar next time), but the filling was pretty great. In all, I thought it was a very successful first attempt at pie making.

As long as it’s edible it’s a win!

*let’s not even bring up soggy bottoms.

**which had been cut out of a magazine and taped into a recipe book and ignored for years.

Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart

It started with watching too much Great British Bake Off.

gbbi

I like to have something playing in the background while I cook and do dishes, and, well, Series 6 was fun and it had been a while since I’d watched Series 2. As a Canadian I probably shouldn’t be this in love with the program, but I adore baking and shows with contestants who aren’t douchecanoes*.

It was after watching the last half of Series 6 and the first 5 episodes of Series 2 that I decided I was up for the challenge of making a Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tart.

The recipe had been torn out of a magazine, taped in a cooking book, and ignored for a few years**. However, since I was now able to make pie (something I only attempted after many years of avoiding it like the plague) I figured I was up to making a tart. The ingredients weren’t anything crazy, and it didn’t require me buying some weird ingredient that I would never use again and would sit in my fridge until way past it’s due date.

I almost recanted, but once you’ve make the crust there’s no going back. There’s no point in letting a crust go to waste, so you might as well make the toppings. The crust was a bit crumbly, so I went outside of the recipe and added a bit of cold water to it to make it more pliable. Pressing it into a pan was another matter, but I figured that nobody was going to see all those finger-shaped indents anyway.

Also, I’ve never blind-baked anything. I didn’t have any of those bean-things that they use in the show. I did have a bit of rice from a failed attempt to make brown-rice-tea, so I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to bake that.  I didn’t have a lot of rice, but at least I tried. Did it work? Well, nothing exploded, so I consider that a win.

The caramel was the funnest part***. At one point I found myself thinking “I’m making caramel from scratch. What the hell is wrong with me?”. I did this as I was watching GBBO S2E6 (aka the Croquembouche episode). I was stirring the water and sugar to make sure that the sugar was dissolved, but it wasn’t turning a light amber like the recipe said it would. Then I heard Paul and Mary tell Mary-Anne that her caramel had crystallized because she had stirred it. I immediately put down the spoon.

In my defence, the recipe didn’t say to not stir it.  It didn’t say anything about stirring – for or against.  How was a non-caramel-maker to know?

My second caramel faux-pas happened when I was supposed to add the cream and salt. I took the caramel off the damper (so that it wouldn’t burn), but then it started to thicken up, so I had to put it back on the damper (which had been turned off but still had heat) and hope that it would melt again.  It did.

See – don’t forget your pencil!  That recipe now has very specific instructions regarding caramel written in.

Then it was time to make the chocolate part. This was quite uneventful after the caramel-drama. If I had to go back, I would not include salt in the chocolate part, because there was more than enough in the caramel for the whole thing. Then again, maybe I was supposed to use chunky salt instead of ground salt…

tart1
Chunky salt would definitely photograph better, but look at the chocolate shine!

The recipe said to fridge it for 2 hours before serving, but I’d give it at least a day. The day-later piece tasted less salty than the 2-hour-later piece.

I also made a note about putting less cream in the caramel. That stuff, while delicious, barely set. When I cut a piece the caramel oozed out and threatened to overflow from the tray. My solution was the prop one side up so that the caramel oozed back towards the tart. It’s been in the fridge for days and it’s still oozing. Caramel is a tricky mistress.

tart3
Looks just like the picture, eh?

Also maybe I’d use milk chocolate instead of 70% dark chocolate, but that’s purely a personal preference.

Now it’s time to put away the GBBO before I decide to do something even more mental, like attempt choux pastry.

*they help each other whenever someone needs an extra hand!

**that’s how I roll.

***no it wasn’t.

Don’t Forget Your Pencil

While towels* can be very useful in the kitchen (the amount of times I wash my hands or spill something would surprise you – or not), I always make sure that I have a pencil nearby when baking.

Whenever I make a recipe for the first time, I always treat it as a trial run.  What works perfectly for someone else might not work for me.  Maybe it’s too salty or not sweet enough for my taste.  Or maybe I completely misunderstood the instructions and need to write it a different way so that there are no misunderstandings in the future.  Or maybe I had a thought about a fun ingredient to add to it.  Whatever it is, I make a note of it in the recipe to be better prepared next time.

So here’s to the recipes I need to make a second time (Salted Chocolate and Caramel Tart), the recipes that don’t require modification (Chocolate Chip Cookies), and the recipes I just can’t get right (Wheaten Bread**).

Pencils ready!

*see: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)

**this bread will be the death of me