Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thinking about Pie

OK, I’m riffing on a recent post (see below) by a friend, but I found her thoughts with me this afternoon as I made pie dough for this week’s Thanksgiving festivities. As I happily measured and patted the stickiness that I hope to turn into two lovely pumpkin pies, I realized that my pie journey had been a long one and that, while my pastry skills are still just OK (and that I am, in turn, quite OK with OK), both my baking and my life skills have really changed since the dark days of the boxed Jiffy pie crust (baked with love and fun, but zero skill), frozen pie crusts (just yuck), and the gloppy par-baked goo that went right into the trash (looking back, no love for pie or self in that mess).

I have learned that making pie requires achieving some minimal inner peace and an acceptance of oneself. For me, I needed to accept my own imperfections, acknowledge I needed help, ask for that help, and then trust my own hands and instincts to make it happen. At the same time, I had to learn that pie dough is not perfection, a ragged mess might actually be a step in the right direction, mistakes can be fixed, and – at the end of the day – it’s just a pie crust.

Regardless of what experts will tell you about baking being a science (and it normally is), to make a pie crust, you need to surrender yourself to the Pastry Gods, take a breath, and go with what feels right, even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.

Here’s hoping that the lovely round discs in the fridge will turn into something tender and flaky for Thanksgiving.

For much more eloquent recent pie musings than mine:

Zen pie by Love and Onions -
My friend and pie teacher becomes the student.

GIVE THANKS! Caramel Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie by Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker
This will certainly be next year’s pumpkin pie filling attempt. Super-detailed photos and notes on from a professional baker on her version of pie dough take a lot of the mystery out of the process.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sautéed Honey Bananas

Faced with a number of bananas that appeared shortly before dinnertime (see previous post on the largesse of neighbors), I was inspired to make up come for dessert. I got to thinking back to my childhood and to fried or honey bananas, something a bit like this.

Dessert in restaurants was always special – our family might have eaten out often, but dessert was not a regular part of our dining experience. Once in a while, when I was truly lucky, we ate at a fancier-than-some Chinese restaurant and could order the banana dessert. I don’t remember its name, or really much more than that the bananas were fried, perhaps shocked in cold water, and coated in some very sticky honey. The insides were warm and gooey; the outsides were crisp and sweet. And my chocolate-preferring little self loved every fruity bite.

Without the energy to research this childhood treat, I threw some items together to make sautéed honey bananas:

Melt some butter in a non-stick frying pan, perhaps a tablespoon.
Let it melt (but I bet brown butter would be awesome).
Add a good amount of honey, a little cinnamon, and a smidge of nutmeg.
Let it all heat into a gooey sauce.
Add some halved and quartered bananas, heat them through for about 5 minutes and turn them to coat.
Serve warm in a bowl. Or over ice cream. Or under ice cream that’s been topped with homemade chocolate sauce…