Friday, 30 October 2015

Fallacious Pieday

This is the Pieday about which I should have posted, well, quite a while ago.
Britons* will probably be able to calculate exactly how long I have been procrastinating when I explain my reasons.
 I blame the Great British Bake-Off.
I was ready to write this post, I was even quite excited about this post.
And then they baked almost exactly the same thing.
And, of course, they did it better.
 So I, being apparently, ludicrously insecure, have been putting this post off ever since.
But no more!
 Behold, oh puny mortals the glory that is French Silk Pie!

Or rather that isn't French Silk Pie.
For a start, this pie is not French, it's American.
Furthermore the filling is not silk**, it is chocolate.
What is more, a more pedantic*** person than I would probably argue that it was not a pie but a tart.
This is clearly nonsense: it has a filling, it is surrounded by a crust, ergo it is a pie****.

What we made, however, was not a French Silk Pie.

We started out in good faith, with a standard recipe and hope in our hearts.
Somewhere along the way, though, we wandered from the true path, resulting in chocolate pastry, chocolate cream and about seventy five percent more theobromine cacao than the average confection.
And it was good.

We didn't make a French Silk Pie


165g plain flour
25g ground almonds
120g chilled butter
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
(Optional: a spoonful of cocoa and some sort of liquid).
75g not so chilled butter
150ml double cream
Dark chocolate (opinions vary on how much, I say just buy a bar and use it)
(Optional: more double cream and more chocolate)
A dash of vanilla

First make and chill the pastry.
It feels like I've gone over this a lot, but that may only have been inside my head so here goes.
First combine the flour and almonds in a bowl.
If you want to make chocolate pastry then take out a spoonful***** of flour and replace it with a similar amount of cocoa.
Grate in the chilled butter as quickly as possible given that you suddenly have six hands all trying to grate at once and at least four of them are rather warm and two of them are...sticky...eugh.
Stir in the sugar then add the egg and stir this gloopy mass with your myriad hands until you have a soft dough.
 Assuming you added the cocoa, you will find that you have not a soft dough at all but an awkward crumbly mass.
Add a splash or so of some sort of liquid****** and continue working the mixture as quickly and lightly as possible until you do have a soft dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and stick it in the fridge.

Scour Small Chef and Smaller Chef until they are no longer caked in dough-gunk and then scour the house for the library books.
Regret the opportunity to use a sentence involving zeugma.
Explain what zeugma is.
 On the way to the library listen to many examples of sentences that either are not zeugma or do not make sense.
When finally presented with an entirely rational zeugma-employing sentence do not shout "Yes! Yes! That's it! Finally".
 You will disturb the other occupants of the bus.

Come home, make lunch, remember you have a pie to make and get on with stage two.

Roll out the pastry, put it in your pie-dish, prick it all over, fill with parchment and baking beans and blind bake for fifteen minutes.
Take out the beans and things and give it another ten minutes, then take it out and leave to cool.

Place a bowl inside a larger bowl and pour boiling water into the larger bowl until it rises up the sides but does not spill.
Break up the chocolate and place it in the bowl to melt.
You will probably have to change the water a few times so put the kettle on again.
Mix the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and place on the heat.
Observe that Chefs Small and Smaller are now so well trained that they regard anything resembling a double boiler as though it were a nuclear bomb and yet they have no fear whatsoever of the very hot stove.
Make a note to work on this sometime.
Make a further note to look up pictures of burn victims when you have a moment.
If you're going to scare your kids, you might as well do it accurately.

Stir the eggs and sugar over the heat and keep on stirring until the mixture will coat the back of a metal spoon.
If you have a kitchen-thermometer then you should probably use it: in this case stop stirring when it reaches 160 fahrenheit.
Take the mixture off the heat, dump in the melted chocolate and a dash of vanilla and stir till smooth********.
Leave this to cool a little while you get on with the rest.

Now take it in turns to beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, dodging splatters of flying butter as necessary.
Stir the chocolate mixture into the butter and beat the whole lot until it looks fluffy again.

Take a clean bowl with higher sides than you think you will need.
Pour in the double cream and whip till it forms firm peaks.
Do not permit any chef to do this if you value your nice, clean********* kitchen.
Fight Small Chef for possession of the whisk if necessary.
 Why did you clean the kitchen the night before Pieday anyway?

Fold the peaky looking cream into the chocolate to produce something dark and wonderful and entirely healthy-looking.
Pour this into the pie shell and place in the fridge to chill.

Clean the cream and butter splatters off the walls.

If you feel the need for yet more chocolate, or if you just have a lot of cream and chocolate left over, then melt some chocolate********** in the same way as you did earlier, let it cool a little and whip the cream till it forms stiffish peaks.
Gently fold the chocolate into the cream and dollop this on top of your pie.

Shave yet more chocolate over the top with a cheese grater.

Contemplate new names for your creation.
Vote on the best one.

Save for dessert and serve in slim slices as it is very rich.
Wait till the worthy chefs are at their well-earned repose then finish the lot.

*Or at least those dwelling in Britain.

**Which would be revolting.

***Shut up.

**** Next week: I bend reality yet further to produce moussaka.
Which is definitely pie!

*****Tea or table, I won't judge.

******Milk, orange juice, whatever you like*******

*******But not that, ew,  that's a terrible idea, what were you thinking?

********Personally, I am always smooth.

**********I don't know.
Maybe a third of a bar?
How much do you have left anyway?
You know you can just eat it, don't you?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Twin Pieday

One thing that gets me horribly frustrated is when what looks like an interesting recipe turns out to go: "Buy cake mix, bake, ice* with this stuff from a tub and sprinkle with this brand of sprinkly stuff" or, worse, "Put ready-rolled pastry in tin, pour on pie-filling, bake".
Some things are truly soul-destroying.

So I decided that today we would prove, once and for all, that actually putting the time and effort into making something properly is entirely worth it.

We made two Cherry Pies.


One packet of shortcrust pastry
One emergency packet of puff pastry
Two eggs
50g ground almonds
350g plain flour
200g caster sugar
150g cold butter
A little milk
Two tins of cherry pie filling
1kg cherries**
Vanilla essence or one vanilla pod
Lemon if you like it

First make pastry for the home-made pie.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter quickly.
Toss the butter in the flour then rub lightly with the fingers until it forms breadcrumbs.
Hand Small Chef the first egg and ask her to crack it.
Clean up the mess from the exploded egg, get another egg from somewhere and quickly crack and separate two eggs, leaving the whites for meringue-making or healthy-but-unappealling omelettes, or something like that.
Dump the egg yolks, the ground almonds and 100g of sugar into the flour mixture and mix with the hands until everyone is covered in yuck.
Add a splash of milk and work the mixture gently together till it forms a dough.
Wrap this in cling film, place in the fridge to rest and go out to the library taking special care to remember to bring your library books.

Come back from the library, find the library books and put them by the door to try again tomorrow.

Now you can start making pies.

Send both chefs to wash their hands.
Get out your laptop or music system and put on Sweet Cherry Pie.
Rock out sedately in the kitchen while waiting for their return.
Put a large pan on the stove and pour in the other 100g of sugar along with a dash of vanilla.
Turn on the heat and leave the pan to its own devices until the sugar has turned to caramelly gloop.
Issue a Terrible Warning as to what will happen should anyone touch the stove, the pan, or the hot sugar.
Make a note to find a copy of Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales.
Find Smaller Chef a handkerchief.

If you have fresh cherries place on on top of a small-necked bottle, take a straw and push this through the cherry and into the bottle, neatly extracting the stone and depositing it in the bottle.
Take a moment to appreciate how amazing this trick is, then stone the rest of the cherries in the same way.
You now have a bottle full of cherry stones.
Make a note to look up kirsch recipes.

Next, roll out the shortcrust pastry and cut to fit your pie-dish.
Cut the rest of the pastry into ten strips, long enough to reach from one side of the dish to the other.
Fit the pie base into the dish.
Now open the tins of pie-filling and pour the bloop into the pie case.
Shake the cans gently to release their contents if they don't easily pour out.
Send chefs Small and Smaller to wash the pie-goop out of their hair.

When they have returned and the sugar in the pan is thoroughly gloopified, pour the cherries into the resulting caramel along with a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like it, and a good splash of kirsch.
While this is cooking down, finish topping the first pie.

Take five strips of pastry and set them across the filled pie dish.
Place one strip across the centre of the dish, crossing the other strips then fold every other strip back across this centre strip.
Take the next strip and set it across the two or three strips that have not been folded back, a little away from the folds.
Unfold the folded strips over this strip and fold back the strips that were previously unfolded.
Place another strip over the strips that are now unfolded and then unfold the folded strips back over them.
 Now fold back the strips that you originally folded, again, on the other side of the dish and repeat the  previous couple of steps: laying down a strip, unfolding the folded strips and folding back the unfolded to cover that side in the same way.
You should have a charming latticework top.
Failing that, take this opportunity to discuss the work of M.C Escher.
Tuck the ends of the lattice-strips under the main pie case and crimp the edges all the way round.
Put this pie in the fridge to chill before baking.

Assuming that your cherries are now a pleasingly dark and glossy mass, sprinkle in two tablespoons of cornflour and stir till thickened.
Take this pie filling of the heat and set aside to cool.
 Now roll out your homemade pastry and cut to fit another pie-dish.
Discover that when you try to cut this pastry into strips it crumbles to fine crumbs of nothing.
Mutter "What have you done to my beautiful wickedness" and get the emergency puff pastry out of the fridge***.
Roll this out and cut strips ready to top this pie like the last one.
Place the pastry case in the fridge to chill till the pie filling is ready.

Watch Small Chef improvise interpretive dance on the subject of cherry pie.
Admonish Small Chef and inform her that dancing in the kitchen is strictly forbidden.
Enjoy the sweet tang of hypocrisy.

Fill the homemade pie case with  homemade pie filling and top with tragically unhomemade pastry strips as you did the last pie.

Cook the pies, one at a time if necessary, in a high-to-moderate oven (we went with 200 degrees) for about thirty five minutes.

Eat a slice of each, for comparison purposes, with a damn fine cup of coffee.
Wonder what you're going to do with the rest of the pies****.
Further wonder what to do with the information that everybody prefers the homemade pastry, but two out of three chefs prefer the tinned filling***** and Richard obstinately continues to dislike cherry pie.

Consider that the advantage of homemade pie is that you can tinker with the recipe until you get it right.
Wonder how many pies you're going to have to bake before you manage this.

*Actually, it usually says "frost".

**We ended up using frozen ones, as cherries are not in season, so missed out on the cool cherry pitting trick.

***What are you talking about?
Everyone has emergency pastry in the fridge, haven't they?

****The answer, of course, is: freeze them.


******Make a further note to re-read Asterix.