Sunday, December 27, 2015

Chasing the Light

So, the darkest time of the year is upon us, and we are hard pressed to maintain our good cheer in the midst of grey drizzle, no sunshine, and months of winter looming ahead. Uncharacteristically, there is not even any snow to lighten things up, although the warmer than usual temps have helped. The Market Square rink may be closed for now,

but at least there are flowers blooming in December--a first in my lifetime.

With Christmas, for a little while we are able to push back against the gloom, with friends, good food, and candlelight. Knitting in red helps raise the mood, of course. Here's Isabel's Wolfe Island Gansey in progress. I'm having to work hard to get this done before she heads back out west.

On Christmas Eve, we ventured out on foot to the choral eucharist at St. George's Cathedral. Unexpectedly, the service was from the Book of Common Prayer (considered one of the three most influential bodies of writing in the English language, did you know?), with the beautiful language I still know by heart from my childhood. The music lived up to the words, and the entire thing was quite lovely and moving, including the walk back home in the dark, silent early 19thC streets.
For dinner, we lit all the beeswax candles we could find and ended the meal with our favourite mincemeat pie (vegetarian version). What's Christmas without apples, raisins, spices, and pastry? The recipe follows:

All-Purpose Pastry
(Makes two 9” crusts)

I use this for both sweet and savoury dishes, everything from fruit pies to quiches. It’s extremely quick, ridiculously simple, and delicious, and best of all, there’s no flour mess all over your counter and floor. What more could you ask for?

2 c unbleached flour (you may include up to ½ c whole wheat flour)
½ tsp salt (optional, depending on what’s in the filling)
½ c canola oil
½ c water
waxed paper
rolling pin or substitute such as a wine bottle or large glass

Stir the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add the water and oil and combine gently with a fork, then once everything is moistened, your hands. I move the resulting ball around the bowl to grab every crumb of flour, BUT DON’T OVERMIX OR KNEAD, or your pastry will get tough. Remember, knead bread, not pastry. If you’re making something with a top and bottom crust, divide into two balls; otherwise leave as one.

Moisten your countertop and place a sheet of waxed paper down (the dampness will hold it in place while you roll out the dough). Place a ball of dough on the paper and flatten it a bit with the heel of your hand. Then place a second sheet of paper on top. Roll from the centre out until the desired size is reached. Peel the top sheet off and lift the pastry, placing it bottom up into your baking dish. Peel the bottom sheet off and shape it in place, making sure to ease out any air bubbles from underneath. If you are using a top crust, repeat the procedure.

Mincemeat Filling
4 medium apples
1/2 c dark raisins
1/3 c apple cider (non-alcholic)
1 orange
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

Peel and chop the apples. Mix with the cider and raisins. Grate the orange peel, then squeeze the orange for its juice. Add both to the apple/raisin mixture. Simmer in a covered pan until the apples are tender. Stir in the sugar and spices. This can be prepared ahead of time, but should be reheated before filling the pie. 

To assemble, line a 9" pie plate with half of the pastry and cut the second half into strips for a lattice top. Pour the filling into the shell. Cover with the lattice top and bake in a 400F oven for 40 min or until the pastry is golden. The pie should be cooled for a while before serving it warm. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful sweater -- design and color!

    I second the vote for the pie crust; it's the only one I've made for decades. It's so easy and always flaky.