Sunday, January 30, 2011

"The Pastry Queen", Royally Untested for Home Kitchens

Okay, that is a premature judgment, one that may hold water in the long run or not. To date, however, I have tried two recipes from "The Pastry Queen, royally good recipes from the Texas Hill Country's Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe". Each produced far more than what the yield predicted and each produced mixed results. 

You may recall that in the past week, my kitchen has hosted Muffinpalooza and, by request of the Pint-Sized Farmer and because I was bored with blueberry and strawberry, I searched online for a good orange muffin recipe. The one that sounded the best to me referenced this cookbook as its source. "Essence of Orange Muffins" contain fresh-squeezed orange juice, grated orange zest, and all things real (I have a personal rule against using recipes that call for Crisco or margarine or, though it does not apply here, canned cream soups).  The predicted yield? 8 Texas-sized muffins, which I translated, incorrectly, as one dozen regular-sized muffins. 

Yes, I should have known better when the recipe called for 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and a full cup of butter. My go-to blueberry muffin recipe calls for a scant 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 Tbsp butter. But this was the seventh time I had made muffins in as many days. I, the Muffin Maker, was punchy and soldiered on without judgment until I realized I had enough for more than two dozen muffins. Since I have teenage boys in the house, this wasn't an issue of who's going to eat all these muffins, and they received glowing reviews; but, I am against prevaricating recipes. I'm the Congressman Joe Wilson of The State of the Kitchen Address.

Nevertheless, I ordered the cookbook. Last October, during a visit to Dallas and Austin, my friend Julie and I skirted Texas Hill Country and I wanted more. Creating desserts from a diner located in the German-immigrant-founded Fredericksburg gave me romantic visions of walking from a rustic kitchen onto a weathered front porch after spending the day hard at work baking for the ranch hands. As the screen door slammed, I would wipe my hands on my flour sack apron and, with the back of my hand, brush the mussed hair from my careworn forehead. Across the prairie, I would spy my burly man, quickening his pace as he saw me until he vaulted the porch steps and wrapped his sinewy arms around me.

Um, wait, where was I?

Oh yeah, fried pies. Today, on the Second Bake One's Frustrations Away Sunday, I planned on making fried pies, "Fourth of July Fried Pies" to be specific, only constructed on January 30th. For years now, I have been using Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe for my pie crusts. Fail-proof and food-processor-friendly, it takes me all of ten minutes to make and roll. But, because I am a glutton for punishment, I followed Rebecca Rather's recipe instead and I'm sorry I did. Too voluminous to prepare in the food processor, calling for six, SIX cups of flour, I struggled to work in the butter, incorporate the ice water, and roll out the dough. Stiff and dry, it was difficult to roll to the called-for 1/16th inch thickness. After much huffing and puffing, and just when my triceps were about to retreat in disgust at their futile mission, I stopped at 12 6-inch circles with over half the pie dough unrolled. The recipe called for 12 5-inch pies in total. 

The results were good though not trailblazing. I filled each uncooked pastry circle with a heaping tablespoon of either a blueberry, boysenberry syrup mixture or a chopped strawberry, strawberry preserve mixture. After folding the circles turnover-style, I sealed them and crimped the edges with a fork. At this point, my energy reserves were near empty and my arms flat-out refused to lift the fryer from its cupboard. Rationalizing that baking was healthier anyway, I followed the alternate instructions, painted an egg wash on the pies, and baked them at 375 for 20 minutes instead of the called-for 12. 

Will I make the pies again? Yes, but I won't use this Rather Untested in a Home recipe. 

Don't expect another lick of accomplishment from this exhausted home cook today. My sinewy-armed man awaits and I need to reserve the little bit of energy I have left.

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