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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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