Apple pie, round two.
Never in a million years, after spending years tweaking the ingredients of my pie crust until I had it just the way I like it, did I expect to be attempting to make pies without flour or butter. Never! Yet, here I am, as it wouldn’t be autumn without apple pie. Partly because I myself can no longer eat butter and partly because the sprout now wants to be sure that he’s eating what we’re eating by feeding himself directly from our plates, I went in search of a dairy-free gluten-free pie crust recipe that would taste decent. For this, I invested in The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook, which promised to deliver.
The first attempt at pie was not a success, pretty much entirely because I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. Yes, I know, you would not be the first, last, or most vociferous to point out that not following the recipe at least the first time I make something means that we never actually know what the recipe tastes like. Point taken. In this case, I didn’t follow it because the very expensive special rice flour had not yet arrived in the mail AND I wanted to see if the very expensive special rice flour was actually necessary or if the only fairly expensive special flour mix from the store would work just as well. The answers are yes and no respectively, mostly because the gluten-free flour mix from the store is mostly bean flour and as you might imagine, bean crust does not taste super fabulous in a pie. I addressed the problem by dousing each piece in maple syrup (should you ever find yourself in this situation and need a solution). In addition, I forgot the dollops of fake butter for the filling in my rush to get the crust on before it dried out and totally fell apart, so there were some challenges all around.
The second attempt produced a respectable (albeit ricey) pie, using Pascal’s crust and baking instructions and my regular apple pie filling. The quirks of the gluten-free crust are that it doesn’t move as it bakes. It basically dries out and keeps its shape, so the big domed up top you make over the raw apples is still a big domed up top once the cooked apples have compressed into a normal-sized pie. While perfectly edible and nice looking when it comes out of the oven, it’s a bit of a pain in the keister to cut a piece without breaking the crust or to fit the pie into the handy-dandy pie container when it’s time to store it. The best way to address these issues is to only share the pie with really good friends and eat it all as soon as possible so it doesn’t need to be stored.
Not only is it already March, but the month is nearly half over. Yikes! I got sucked into a black hole of sick household members and even less sleep than before that led me to not be able to type anything coherent but instead simply stare at the computer screen and try not to drool whenever I’ve had a couple of free moments to myself. I’ll try to do better.
What have you missed? I took the lazy man’s path and stopped doing the Dark Days Challenge when the host became unable to keep up with the round-ups due to circumstances in her own life. We continue to eat locally, I just am not making any effort to be creative or branch out from our regular recipes. I did plan to post about the soup I made in the summer that we recently ate from the freezer, and the recipe is this: make leek and potato soup, dilute with a bit more water, add pre-cooked chopped kale and a can of white beans at the end (and probably more salt; I use the mushroom seasoned salt that we get from our farmer). It’s good, and makes for more of a meal than regular leek and potato soup. I also made macaroons, since I was craving the ones I’d had in Portland with dried apricots, pecans, and a dark chocolate bottom. The macaroons were delicious, and I managed to make them last a whole week (!) by putting them in the freezer. I need to remember that option for future cookie cravings, because I love to make them but really don’t need to eat quite so many at a time.
What else? I managed to get outside and clean out the garden beds in the front of the house, so now the daffodil sprouts can actually see the sun. The crocuses are up, and I’m looking forward to seeing which daffodils bloom; you never know which ones will survive both the replanting and the hungry squirrels. I’ve been working on my garden plans for this year, but they really deserve their own post. (Stay tuned!)
Finally, politics are driving me a little nuts these days. On the local level, I was heartened by the way our surrounding neighborhoods embraced a rally in opposition to the Westboro Baptist Church (my favorite sign said, “Thanks for bringing the community together!). On the national and state level things are pretty sucktastic, as I don’t need to tell you because you’re an educated person who reads the news, right? Local delegates tried to play politics and sank Maryland’s equal marriage bill: I hope no one votes for anything those two people support for at least a decade (because I’m sleep-deprived, and that makes me surprisingly petty). All the money we have left after donating to NPR, Planned Parenthood, and the unions is being squirreled away so that we can live during the impending (Freudian slip: I nearly typed “impeding”) government shut-down. After using my energy taking care of the sprout, I have absolutely none left for filtering or using polite language: it’s gotten a little sailor-ish around these parts. Thank mother nature for oxytocin, I cannot imagine how much crabbier I would be about all of this without the mama hormones. (Of course, I’d have orders of magnitude more uninterrupted sleep, so maybe it would balance.)
And now: back to thinking about spring and daydreaming about the garden!
I have to admit, I am struggling with the Dark Days Challenge at the moment. Things would be a lot easier (I tell myself) if I were eating dairy: I’m imagining turnip gratins and all kinds of quiches. However, dairy is not to be until sometime next year, so we’re making do. The Week 8 meal is not that creative, but it’s entirely representative of many of our winter meals: a favorite recipe for spiced chicken breasts, the cornbread recipe from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant (adapted to use white whole wheat flour, whole grain corn meal, and rice milk), and roasted turnips and radishes (a white and green kind that is new to our CSA this year). The only new thing about this meal is that I actually ate some radishes this year, instead of just letting them wither in the crisper until they were ready to become compost!
Roasted turnips and radishes.
Spiced chicken breasts.
Today is National Pie Day. To celebrate, we baked a cherry pie from the freezer (made in the summer with fresh sour cherries from Harris Orchards). It didn’t look as pretty as the lattice-top one I made a couple of years ago, but it was delicious. The end.
All that’s missing is Agent Cooper.
Postscript: I am not clear on how pie is going to become more trendy than cupcakes this year, but I suppose marketing will do that for you. Not that I’m a cupcake fan, it’s just that pie is harder to systematize or individualize. Also nearly impossible to eat on the street on your way back to your fourth-story walk-up after Sunday brunch (yes, I’m talking to you, New Yorkers!), unless Hostess “pies” are what’s becoming trendy. And they’re just gross. [Upon further web-browsing, it appears that what are becoming trendy are tartlets, which makes sense. I foresee many laughing Europeans as this pastry of long-standing sweeps the nation.]
Christmas dinner: the table.
Christmas dinner: roasted chicken.
Christmas dinner: roasted sweet potatoes and squash, apple, and cranberry bake.
Christmas dinner: cornbread sausage stuffing.
The meal for Week 4 of the Dark Days Challenge was surprisingly easy to come up with: it was our planned Christmas dinner. Because there were only three adults eating this year, I roasted a chicken instead of a turkey (although I was tempted at the last minute by some local heritage turkeys still available from a local farmer). The chicken was from Smith Meadows Farm in Virginia, and we added sides of roasted sweet potatoes (on hand from our CSA), butternut squash and apple bake (with the last butternut squash from our CSA and some of the remaining apples from Larriland Farm), and pecan-sage cornbread stuffing (with pork from Smith Meadows, Maryland cornmeal and eggs, and organic veggies, herbs, and nuts). The meal was rounded out by home-canned cranberry sauce and pickled beets from last year’s stores.
Christmas desserts: Mom’s dark fruitcake, Gran’s light fruitcake (made by Mom), jam thumbprints, mince tarts, molasses cookies (very soft wafers instead of chewy discs because I forgot half the flour), and lemony roll cookies (unglazed since that just never happened).
Two things that didn’t last long: my aunt’s toffee and our mince tarts.
We didn’t have local bread, but the desserts were on target: the mince tarts were made from home-canned mincemeat (one of last year’s projects) and included pear brandy made and estate-bottled by our friend’s German uncle. Need I say that they were delicious? The jam thumbprints were also reasonably local, using blueberry jam from our trip to Maine last year that had been languishing in our cupboard waiting for a good reason to be eaten. Besides those two contributions, organic and sustainable and using ingredients mostly from the Northeast is the best I can say for dessert. Well, and also that everything was addictively good!