One thing I dislike about recipes is the tendency to be vague (how big is a pinch and what’s a knob of butter?). It’s okay to cook with instinct, but what if you don’t have any instinct?
The recipe I found for Carrot Top Pesto said that you need the greens from 1 bunch of carrots. What does that mean? How many are in a bunch? Why is there no weight measurement?
When I made this I decided to half the other ingredients, just in case. I only had about 7 small carrots, so I wasn’t sure if I would have enough greens. Turns out I had enough for the full recipe.
Also, I discovered that my food processor attachment doesn’t work that well. The blades don’t go far enough out to the sides so there were still some stalks and leaves left in there and it was chunkier than normal pesto. I also didn’t measure my lemon juice (I didn’t have a lemon but I had some juice so I poured it in until I thought ‘good enough’ – see, even I’m guilty of vagueness!). It was quite lemony, but luckily I like things tart.
Carrot Top Pesto
greens from one bunch of carrots (8ish?)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon (1 Tbsp maybe?)
2 cloves of garlic
Wash and dry greens. Pulse in blender with other ingredients until it becomes a pesto-like consistency (or, if you’re like me, until you’re tired of trying). If it’s still pretty pulpy, add a bit more olive oil.
End Result: I spread this on a piece of bread and it was delicious – lemony, garlicy, and green. The next time I buy carrots I’m going for the ones with tops.
I love baking, but I’m not a big fan of cooking. That statement might sound ridiculous, but it’s true. I think it’s partly because if I’m cooking something for breakfast/dinner/supper I want the recipe to be easy and quick, since I’m probably hungry when I start making it and I want it now. Baking can take as long as it wants, because I’m baking treats which I should only eat in moderation. And if the recipe’s difficult then I have earned that piece of pie/tart/torte/cake/all of the above.
A friend of mine has a CSA – a farm share – but she went out of town this week so she graciously offered her share to me (I’m considering signing up for one, but I’m intimidated by all the greenery). Honestly, farm shares are pretty cool. The share she has lets you pick 6 things from their weekly offerings. The offerings change depending on what’s ready to be picked, but it’s local and fresh.
I chose strawberries, rhubarb, beets (with greens), sweet turnips (with greens), carrots (with greens), and bok choy. As someone who doesn’t cook much, and who only really cooks for one person, it’s a lot of stuff. Thankfully I didn’t have much on the go for the past week.
But I wanted to do my friend proud and make some damn good meals. So I went to the internets, looked up some easy recipes, and got to planning!
There’s no excuse – it’s a really easy recipe and I’ve made it a hundred times in the past. But this time something went horribly wrong…
Okay, maybe I’m being overly dramatic. It’s not like the world ended or people were poisoned. I just made a crappy, slightly-inedible crust. Sometimes things go wrong. It happens.
It’s been many years since I’ve made this recipe, and the last time I did it I used a pre-made graham crust which was already broken when I purchased it (they were all broken), and I didn’t care much for the taste of it. The time before that I accidentally made the base with Teddy-Graham-Cracker crumbs, which was WAY too sweet (especially since I didn’t realize the mistake until after I’d mixed in sugar).
This time I was going to make my own graham crust, and I was going to do it properly. Or so I thought.
I didn’t measure the butter, but it looked about the right amount & it gave me a good enough consistency (able to stick together but not lump together). Although I don’t think that was the problem…
Yup, I’m going to blame my oven.
It’s difficult for me to remember which recipes require the -25 degree treatment or the -50 degree treatment or can stay at the correct temperature, but this time I should have brought the temperature down by 50 degrees. I also should have taken the crust out when it smelled done (I have a strangely acute sense of smell when it comes to baking – when something smells done, it’s usually done). Instead I left it in too long and the crust was over-baked. Of course, I didn’t realize this until after I had put the filling on top.
So what’s a person to do when you’ve made cheesecake, but the crust is extremely hard to cut and chew? You make lemonade out of lemons and you scrape the filling off and eat it by itself.
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!
*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.
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!
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.
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?!
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.
*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.
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).
Rhubarb-Vanilla Pie (modified)
Preheat oven to 375. Put the tray in the bottom third of the oven.
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…
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.
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?!