Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Attempted murder? We shall see.

I am determined that I will learn how to make good pie crust. Sure, it's probably impossible considering my hot hands and genetic predisposition to pastry that could make a good coating for the space shuttle (no bitty piece of insulation could nick THAT stuff!). But a woman can dream, can't she? I mean, I don't actually eat the stuff so I am not even sure what a good pastry should taste like. But if I understand correctly it should be tender and flakey. Sturdy enough to hold it's shape when cut but easily shattered with the edge of a fork. It should hold it's own to tangy fruit fillings but not have an overbearing flavour of it's own. Golden brown, no soggy bottom, and good right to the fluted edge. Can that be so hard?

Apparently yes, because the crust is part of the reason I hate pie. Soggy bottom crusts, too sweet and goopy fillings that are more corn starch than fruit, and a top crust with all the personality of a wet cracker. Bleah. I especially hate the way the fat coats my mouth after eating the crust edge. Shortening, thou art my nemesis. I want fruit bound together with a flavourful syrup, not a few tired pieces of stringy cherry peels floating in a pool of snot. I want a pie crust that I can eat, and fillings that even I might be tempted to try. Why? Well, being out of work I have some time on my hands ;).

And it so happens that the first of the rhubarb was ready for use. The rhubarb in my garden is an offshoot from an offshoot (ad naseum) of an original plant grown and used by my grandmother's ancesters in Manitoba. It is not a red variety. The stalks tend to be thick and green, with just a tinge of pink on the peel. I have heard people refer to their own rhubarb as "pink and sweet". Yeah. Mine? Green, and just thinking about it makes my cheeks pucker LOL. We used to break off stalks (I swear as thick as our wrists) and dip them in salt to eat them. SALT, not sugar lol. The flavour is very good when cooked, but the colour? Well......they look like little boogers. Because of that I like to add something to colour the juices. A strawberry or two, a handful of frozen blueberries, that sort of thing. This time I cooked a handful of cranberries and forced them through a sieve. I also added two small apples to make up a slight underweight of rhubarb (the recipe called for two pounds and I was just shy).


I used a pastry recipe gleaned from the internet that suggested for every 1 part flour, you use 1/2 part fat, and 1/2 part again water. So for 1 cup of flour, you would use 1/2 cup fat and 1/4 cup ice water. One pinch of salt per cup of flour. Double that for a two crust pie. I used all butter because I didn't want to use shortening. Used the typical method for making pastry but cut half the butter into the flour until it was coarse crumbs, then cut the other half in until it was the size of small peas. Coat the flour for tenderness, add pockets of fat for flakiness. It's an Alton Brown thing. Two pinches of salt, and I tossed with the ice water. Brought it together with my hands (quickly) and divided it into two pieces - which I pressed into disks, wrapped, and chilled overnight.


I have to say, they rolled nicely and I had no trouble getting it into the pie plate nor placing the top. The top had warmed a bit so it was hard to pinch my crust - next time I will be sure to chill both the bottom and the top crust while I am making the filling.


I used a foil lined cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips. But it seemed like more liquid seeped OUT of the pie than could possibly be left IN the pie. I am worried my friends. Worried that the crust will be wonderful but all the sugar syrup leached out, leaving me with a sour and inedible filling. I am afraid. Very afraid. But the pie has been sufficiently cooled, and armed with some vanilla ice cream, DD and I are about to take a taste.















**BRB**

O.M.G. The top crust was flakey and tastey. The filling was tart and tangy and went perfectly with vanilla ice cream. The bottom crust was sturdy but easy to cut, flakey, and cooked perfectly all the way through. I ate my piece in two minutes flat! Dd said it was very good, the crust is better that MIL's, and it was a little sour but with ice cream not too sour. I agree that it would be too tart to eat without the ice cream. I might add more sugar next time. With rhubarb, it's hard to judge. Tomorrow I might try a small piece drizzled with a glaze made with milk and icing sugar and see how that works out, for those people that don't want ice cream.

It held it's shape nicely after being cut, with just a little of the fruit falling over. MAN it was good! I don't know, maybe I was just craving rhubarb or something LOL. No murder here. I have to say, it was the best crust I have ever made. And the best crust I have ever eaten!














For the filling (adapted from "The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book"):


2 pounds cleaned and sliced rhubarb (I used 2 small apples plus enough rhubarb to make 2 pounds)
1/2 cup cranberries, cooked, forced through a strainer (My addition to make it pink)
1 1/2 cups sugar (use more if you like it sweeter)
1/4 cup corn starch
pinch salt
butter or margarine


Preheat oven to 425. Toss the rhubarb with the cranberry puree, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Spoon into prepared crust. Add a top crust, cutting a hole in the center and slits for steam to escape. Flute the edges. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch any drips. Place pie in bottom portion of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.


Reduce the heat to 375 and bake until the filling bubbles in the center and the pie is golden brown (1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes). Let cool for 1 hour to serve warm, or longer to serve later (mine cooled for about three hours). If the top is getting too brown, cover with foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.


That's it! I did go the full baking time. I wanted to make sure it was done through. Nothing worse than a raw center! It wasn't even close to over-browning. Also, I chilled the bottom crust while I was working with the filling. I have seen enough shows to know that when working with an all butter crust, the trick is in keeping it cold as much as possible. And make sure you do a better job of pinching the ends than I did 'kay?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Now cut that out!

Hey you, earthquake. STOP. I know that we aren't directly effected and that the parts of Canada that did feel it only had minor tremors. But I am convinced that you are the reason that we have been woken up two separate nights (as it happens, coordinating with the original quake and the aftershock episode so far) with odd happenings. The first night, we were sleeping with the windows open. There was a robin that was awake and squawking and DH and I had a little conversation about why he would be awake at night, but then drifted off. At about 3 am, all the birds outside were going so crazy that it was almost deafening! I woke up thinking that somebody was playing a tv or radio or something in my room at full volume. I had to shout at DH to ask him what was going on, and his answer was "What? I can't hear you!". We had to close the windows. The birds were still going ape out there, but at least it didn't sound like they were IN the house. The next morning we heard about an earthquake, and did a sort of "Hmmmmmmmm". Last night (or should I say this morning?) at almost 6:00 am DH and I were roused from our sleep by an odd, electric, buzzing noise. It was clearly coming from inside the house, but it wasn't an alarm clock or fire alarm or anything like that. DH went down to look around and discovered a pool toy (a frog fountain that floats on the water, spins, and spits) had somehow turned itself on and was running. Now, that frog has sat on that shelf since we put it there in the fall. And this is the first peep...er...BUZZ we have heard from it. The morning news talked about people feeling afershocks from an earthquake. Coincidence? Is it possible that there was the barest of motion all the way over here, just enough to shake little froggy awake but too subtle for the rest of us to notice it? Whatever is going on, I hope we are done with night time shenanigans for at least a little while. Trust me when I say I need my "beauty sleep".