Thursday, July 1, 2010

What we eat

As part of a global trend towards being more aware of what we eat and in an effort to increase my repetoire of homespun skills I have been learning to make sourdough bread, preserves, cheese and even my own lime cordial.

One homepsun cooking skill I have never mastered is pastry making. In fact until yesterday I had completely given up the idea. I have a friend who could teach me. Her fruit mince pies are legendary. Alas, though, she does not make vegetarian pastry. Yes I've tried recipes, but I have a very strong suspicion that the recipes leave out some vital clues. This theory is borne out on my pastry making disasters and over heard comments such as "you couldn't make pastry today".  Is there some mystery then associated with the weather? There certainly is with bread. Its 7 degrees celcius in my house right now so bread simply isn't going to rise. But I haven't found any pastry recipes that talk about the weather or the right pastry making temperature. It must be something that good pastry makers simply know.

The reason for my new interest in learning about pastry is twofold. One I like pastry. I made quiche for years without it. The egg simply seals itself and cooks beautifully, but it doesn't taste as good. Pastry is an indulgence I grant you but one I am going to have to forgo because of the second reason.

It has to do with what I found lurking in my cupboard. Cupboard, not fridge, not freezer. I found pastry lurking in my cupboard and it was perfect!

Did you read that right? Do you want me to clarify just to make sure. Pastry in my cupboard in a perfect, edible even attractive state.  No it shouldn't have been in my cupboard, and not since New Year's Eve but I sort of forgot about it.  Neighbours were coming round on New Years Eve so I made some nibblies. A sheet of puff pastry cut into squares and then baked makes a great alternative to crackers. Perfect with pesto, olive tapenade or hommous.  But the neighbours didn't eat much so I had all these puffy, crispy little squares left over. It was New Year surely some one else would pop by. I put them in a container, and, well, forgot about them. Until this week.

These pastry squares are old enough to go to college but they aren't having any mold growing competitions. They're not even soggy. They, as I have said before, are perfect.

What do the manufacturers put in that stuff? I mean really, do we want to eat food that can lurk in the back of a dark cupboard for 6, no 7 months and come out perfect.

So help me please, dear readers, to discover the secret of making perfect pastry with fresh wholesome ingredients including vegetable shortening or butter that will taste great but not survive a nuclear holocaust.  Its that or I give it up for forever.

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