This week I learned two things: pastry made by hand is really better and second, elderberries are special. I approached this post with abandon. Fresh elderberries just don't exist commercially. Living deep in an urban centre, I'm not inclined to go elderberry hunting, so what is left are dehydrated Frontier elderberries. I understood that the berry flavour could be concentrated, but it seemed like the only solution. What I didn't expect was the juice that came from the hydrating solution was intensely, intensely dark purple, and so, so sour, I found it was almost unpalatable. Still, I'm intrigued. My final, and lasting impression of elderberries are the seeds--always present and persistently crunchy, to one degree or another. Like pomegranate, I love the juice, but not the seeds. Same with elderberry. And so, I now appreciate their unique character, especially their flower's contribution to cocktails, and the versatility of the sour juice, but I'm not likely to revisit the elderberry fruit. The seeds were simply a deal breaker.
MAKING THE PASTRY
- I've been realizing, since the acquisition of my bread bowl, that my hands are good little machines, so I set out to make the pastry by hand. There's always ennui about keeping the butter cold, working fast, and not over smearing the dough. So I took a precaution or two and froze the mixing bowl and put all the mis-en-place in the fridge. Then I started.
- Then I pulled out my pastry cutter and cut the butter into cream cheese and flour.
- I can appreciate the plastic bag method keeps the dough in one place and probably keeps the butter colder because the plastic buffers the heat of your hand, but the method drives me crazy. So I recalled Thomas Keller tutorial on the fraiser technique and the way Julia child spoke about smearing the dough with the heal of your hand until it's manageable. This is what I attempted.
- Gathering up the dough
- Leaning into it. Doing the smear.
- Smearing some more, and gathering it up for another round...
- Trying not to let the butter get warm
- The pastry looks flakey already...
- Looking back, I probably could have continued a little longer, but at the time I thought I should stop and let the dough rest.
ROLL THE DOUGH FOR THE BOTTOM CRUST
- Admittedly, the dough was a little bit elastic. It didn't roll easily. I wasn't sure if it was on account of the hand method, or because it was too cold. My guess is that it needed more resting due to the handling.
MAKE THE FILLING
- This was straightforward. I much prefer cooking the filling before it goes into the pie shell. I just feel more confident that the filling won't be soup and that the bottom crust will be crisp.
- Here is where I really got interested. I threw the daisy cut out onto the hot stone to see how it baked up. When I saw all the layers, I was amazed at the difference of this hand made pastry versus the one that I make with my food processor. At first glance, it looks like puff pastry. I felt excited and encouraged.