Tuesday, February 3, 2009
This month's You Want Pies with That Challenge was chosen by Mary the Food Librarian and is exactly what you would expect from The Food Librarian:
"Literary Pie (really, what did you expect from the Food Librarian?) Libraries have a wide range of books and materials...and "literary" simply means the written word. Your pie can be inspired by Shakespeare, John Grisham, the latest Chick Lit, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, or anything else that came from the fabulous imagination of your favorite author. The Food Librarian says: "Bonus points from me if you've visited your local library in the past year!" :) Have fun, and eat your words!"
I was really excited by this challenge as I have always loved books and have been recently thinking alot about food inspired in books. My first idea and attempt was inspired by A.A. Milne's Winne the Pooh and was a honey-custard pie in a whole grain crust. Let's just say it was a complete and utter failure. Me and custard/creme pies just aren't friends yet and it will take more time than I had this past weekend to work it out. Not being one to take failure lightly I decided to regroup and re-concept and came upon a book that was a childhood favorite of mine, The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
The Velvet Room is the story of Robin, a young girl who is one of many children of a family of migrant workers. He father finally gets a permanent job on the McCurdy ranch in California. It is on the ranch that Robin finds the old and abandoned Las Palmeras house and what becomes her beloved hideaway, the Velvet Room. It is a grand old library full of books with lovely velvet drapes and benches (which why Robin named it as such) where she is able to escape from her everyday life and get lost in a book.
The inspiration from the pie came from the day Robin and her siblings were all sent to work pitting apricots. The following quote was so visual to me and provided exactly the inspiration I needed for my pie:
"When Robin picked up the first apricot, her mouth watered. It was always like that at the first of the season. They tasted wonderful for the first day or two, but after that you were sick of the very smell of them. The apricot was still warm from the sun and so ripe that the juice ran down Robin's chin as she bit into it. She wiped her chin on her skirt and started to work." (p. 120 iUniverse edition)
I knew I had to do something with apricots and decided I wanted something very rustic and simple, since Robin and her family would not be eating fancy-schmancy sweets, if any at all. It was with this thinking that I decided to make an Apricot Crostata.
Robin's Apricot Crostata
PATE SUCREE - (Sweet Pastry Dough) from Clemence Gosset at Gourmandise Desserts
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
¼ tsp assorted spices (optional- cinnamon, ginger, etc)
1 cup good quality apricot jam
zest from 1 lemon
1 blood orange - peeled and sliced into rounds, make sure pith is removed
1. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar with the paddle attachment (I used the dough blade on my food processor).
2. Add the egg and beat well. Add flour, spices (I used ginger) and vanilla (again this was all done in my food processor).
3. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hr. Roll out your dough (you'll need about 2/3 - 3/4 of the dough you made) to an 11" circle and carefully transfer to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper
4. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix jam with lemon zest and spread onto crust, leaving a 1 1/2" border. Gently fold the border over the jam to enclose the dough, pleating it to make a circle. Evenly space the orange rounds just around the inside of the crust.
5. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Let cool for 1 hour before serving.
I added the blood oranges slices because they were on sale this week at my grocery store and I thought it would be nice color and the acid from the lemon zest and the oranges balanced out the sweetness of the pastry and jam. Plus since the book takes place in California, I figured I could take the liberty of using oranges.
I learned how to make this pastry a few years ago when I took a baking class with Clemence Gossett of Gourmandise Desserts. She had just started giving classes and was working out of a small kitchen in Venice, CA. He business has grown since then and I have regretted not getting to any of her new classes in her new space as it was this class that gave me, a self-proclaimed non-baker, the confidence to bake more. She swears by using a scale in baking and since I've gotten one I have to agree. It allows for more precise measurements and is much less messy that using measuring cups and spoons. But onto the pastry, it is perfect and so easy. We learned to make this for use in lemon curd tarts and chocolate tarts, but it can also be used for delicious butter cookies or as I found for a crostata. If you are in the LA area take one of Clemence's classes they are great!
The boy loved this as the crust tastes alot like shortbread. I loved the flavor and the ease of this. I think this is a great dessert to throw together for a dinner party as it's easy and can be made in advance. I'm actually grateful my first attempt didn't work out because it allowed me to make this delicious treat. Enjoy!