I know there are a million and one food blogs out there and what’s one more, right? Well, I did find a little niche that hasn’t been filled and that is pagan cooking. Not that the techniques are any different but pagans of various flavors tend to have celebrations of various sizes for the many different holidays and the eight sabbats throughout the year.
My husband is Wiccan while I identify as simply “pagan”. My belief system is based on the idea that nearly every religion and belief system has at least one small part of it that that rings true in my soul and the earth religions, the old ways some call them, resonate with me the most.
My goal here is to hit as many holidays and celebration days as possible. I know I won’t hit them all and if you celebrate a specific holiday, please feel free to share what it is that you celebrate and what kind of foods you typically serve!
This first post isn’t aimed at any specific pagan day of celebration (because I kept putting this off and got lazy) though it would be perfectly acceptable for any of the holidays in the fall from Fall Equinox (which was on September 22nd this year and will be on September 21st in 2012, to Samhain (Thank you Wikipedia!)). I know I just missed Samhain (pronounced sah-win) which I was really excited about posting but I was out of a lot of my staple foods and didn’t get enough cooking done in time. *sigh* Next year, I promise!
Fall is the harvest time. We live in an age in which we can get just about any food at whatever time of year that we crave it. Oranges in April? Sure! Apples in January that are crisp and sweet? Just run down to the store! I read a lot. Yeah, most of it’s fantasy or sci-fi, heck, even horror, but much of the fantasy that I read mentions meal preparation from time to time, including ingredients. Heck, I love The Belgariad and have read it multiple times wondering exactly how Polgara‘s cooking would taste. The authors describe using apples that are wrinkled and wizened, meat that is salt cured or dried, bags of beans or grains.
How many of us look at an apple that is a bit shriveled and toss it in the garbage disposal or compost pile thinking that it’s just too far gone to use? Do we take for granted the fresh meat available in the supermarkets? What about the canned beans that we toss into a pot to make chili?
Even with all of the baking I do, I still sometimes over buy and end up with fruit that shrivels, or greens that go limp. We even jokingly call our vegetable crisper drawers in the fridge the “automatic vegetable rotters” because it seems that once something goes into one of those drawers, it’s forgotten.
I came up with this recipe when I looked around my kitchen and saw a couple of pears that had seen better days next to a bowl of somewhat wrinkled plums that my caregiver had brought to me when they were fresh off of the tree. I couldn’t bear to let perfectly good fruit go to waste so I pulled out my favorite pie crust recipe and made a variation of my old standby, the Fruit Galette.
A galette is a rustic style pie that can be sweet or savory. It’s simple to make and I promise, the crust is a breeze!
Make your shortcake biscuits.
You only need one, maybe two, of these to absorb the juices of your fruit. Of course it’s hard to make just one or two of them. We dabbed a bit of butter and some lemon curd on the extras. Yummy!
Next, in a medium bowl, add your cold butter to your flour, sugar, and salt mixture.
It’s very important to keep all of this as cold as possible. The flakey-ness of a pastry crust is in direct relationship with the fats staying as cold as possible up until the time it’s put in the oven. Next time you take a bite of pie, take a look at the cross section of the crust. Do you see a lot of little gaps and holes? That’s where the bits of butter were until it was baked. Then the butter melted in the oven and was absorbed into the flour leaving those little gaps which, when taken as a whole, creates the whole “fall-apart-melt-in-your-mouth-flakey-buttery-om-nom-nom” that you’re looking for in a pastry crust!
Using a pastry blender (highly recommended!) or a couple of butter knives (if you’re like me and your old roommate took your pastry blender when she moved out) cut the butter into the flour mixture.
On that “keep it cold!” theme, I put the bowl, as is, in the freezer for about 10 minutes at this stage. It firms up the butter that might have softened while getting cut in, and helps to keep it cold for the coming working.
Ug… Can you tell the light wasn’t great coming in my kitchen window? It’s at its best first thing in the morning and well, I’m not a morning person. I get up at 9am. Usually…
Aaaanyway! If you have nitrile or vinyl gloves, this is a great time to use them! I keep a box in my kitchen for everything from shaping doughs to crumbling ground meat. It sure saves on hot soapy water and keeps me from having to dig the guck of the moment out from under my finger nails. *shudder*
Divide the mixture in two. Shape the cold crumbly mass into two rough disk shapes. Remember that the heat of your hands will melt the butter so make this step as quick as possible. Smush it all together and wrap it in plastic wrap or what have you then get it into the fridge, pronto!
After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but up to two days (great for make ahead pies for the holidays!) roll it out to the thickness you want. This will easily fit an 11 inch pie pan if you choose to use one.
In this case, we’re putting it flat on a pan. I use T-Fal Airbake cookie sheets. I swear, the only way to burn the bottom on anything you make on these pans is to burn the whole darned thing. I haven’t burned the bottom of a cookie, galette, or loaf of bread that I’ve cooked on these pans. Ever! Ok, I did burn a tray of cookies but it was the whole cookie. Evenly burned from top to bottom. I totally ❤ these pans!
In this case, I used two shortcakes, but one would have done it. It didn’t turn out nearly as juicy as I expected. It was moist, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t drippy like it would have been had I used some kind of berry.
Isn’t it pretty? 😀 I tried to pretty it up by alternating the fruit. It didn’t turn out too badly!
Ok, this part doesn’t have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, try for imperfection! See over on the left there? Where it looks like I transplanted dough from another spot to put it there? Well, that’s what I did! Galettes are not meant to be perfectly pretty. They’re “rustic” pies. The only thing I make sure of here is that there aren’t any holes for juice to drip out of. You don’t want to spend all night scrubbing baked on fruit juice, do you? I didn’t think so.
Brush the milk or cream on with a pastry brush. Simple!
Next, sprinkle on some raw sugar. You can use regular white sugar in a pinch but I find that the raw sugar looks more striking and gives it a great crunch when it hits your mouth. (And wipe away that pesky milk ring if you have one like I did. Scrubbing that off was a pain!)
Ok, I know… Natural lighting!! Well, by the time I got to take this photo, it was evening and the pictures without the flash just didn’t do the golden brown crust justice!
See my patch job? Yeah, it shrank a bit and didn’t stick but it still doesn’t look bad, and man was it tasty!
So, funny story time; I’m disabled and have a hard time doing a lot of things around my house so the state pays a really sweet gal to be my caregiver. (No, that isn’t the funny part. Hush now!) Anyway, Mary is a doll! She helps me around the house and joyfully offers herself as a guinea pig for all of my cooking and baking. When she showed up the morning after I baked this, of course I offered her a piece to go with her coffee.
Now on a side note; do any of you get those little tiny ants in your kitchen? I always called them sugar ants until my husband told me he called them piss ants. Supposedly they got that name for how they taste when accidentally eaten with food. In his case, it was two bowls of raisin bran when he was a kid. (You see where this is going now, don’t you?)
So yeah, we have ants from time to time throughout the year. Ant traps, spraying, bait, nothing really keeps them out permanently so we keep the kitchen so clean even my mother would approve. (This is the woman who won’t use my bathroom because no matter how clean it looks, she’s sure that I was slip-shod in my cleaning and she’ll get some horrible disease if she sits on my toilet. Whoooole other story is my mother.)
Back to Mary and the Galette. There weren’t very many ants on the counters that morning and I’d had the galette covered except when cutting a piece. No ants visible on the pie! So she ate it. And she sang my praises! And she had another slice! And she sipped her coffee and we chatted and she ate. Then she looked down. And there was an ant on her plate. And we both gasped and she peeled back the edge of the crust and there were more ants!
I think there were a dozen or so that she found in that piece. She went home and told her granddaughter that she had ants for breakfast. Of course she wasn’t believed. Who would eat ants?! Mary did tell me that she didn’t notice any particular pissy flavor though… ;D
Recipe by Rowan – Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Photos by Rowan
- 1 Pie Crust (see recipe below)
- Shortbread Biscuit (see recipe below) (Use only if your fruit is especially juicy!)
- Any canned or homemade pie filling of your choice (½ of a can per crust is likely enough. Use your judgment.)
- Slices of whatever seasonal fruit is available (I used alternating slices of pears and plums)
- 1-2 T cold unsalted butter (NOT margarine! YUCK!) cut into ¼ inch cubes (optional)
- 1-2 T granulated or brown sugar (optional)
- 1-2 t ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1-2 T milk
- 1-2 t raw sugar (large grain)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Roll out your dough into a 13 inch round and carefully transfer it to an edgeless (and lightly greased) baking sheet (or if it has an edge, just be careful not to break the crust).
- If you’re using the biscuit: In the center of the crust, crumble one shortcake biscuit and spread it around leaving 3 inches or so between the edge of the biscuit and the edge of the crust.
- Spread your pie filling or layer sliced fruit over the biscuit crumbs. If you are not using premade pie filling, scatter butter, sugar, and cinnamon across the fruit. (I forgot this step, silly me!)
- Fold the border of dough over the fruit, forming a pleated half cover, with the fruit exposed in the center.
- Lightly brush the dough with the milk then sprinkle the crust with the raw sugar.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown.
- The galette is best served warm with some vanilla bean ice cream but it’s still good at room temperature.
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 t granulated sugar or 1 T powdered sugar
- 1 t salt
- 2 sticks ( ½ pound) unsalted butter, cold and hard
- ¼ shortening
- 1/3 cup plus 1 T ice water
- In a bowl mix flour, sugar, and salt.
- Working quickly, to prevent softening, cut butter into ¼ inch cubes and add to flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, chop the butter into pea sized pieces.
- Add shortening and with a few quick swipes, cut the shortening into a few large pieces and distribute through the flour mixture.
- Continue to blend with the pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some pea sized pieces. Do not let the mixture soften and begin to clump; it must remain dry and powdery.
- Put mixture in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to firm the fats again. Remove from freezer.
- Drizzle the water over the fat and flour mixture. Cut in with the blade edge of a rubber spatula until the mixture begins to form small balls. Press down on the dough with the flat side of the spatula. If the balls of dough stick together, you have addend enough water, if they do not, drizzle another 1-2 tables spoons of water of the mixture. Cut in the water the press with your hands until the dough coheres. The dough should look rough, not smooth.
- Divide the dough in half, press each half into a round flat disk, and wrap tightly in plastic.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably for several hours or for up to 2 days before rolling. The dough can also be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 6 months, thaw completely before rolling.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 ½ t baking powder
- ½ – ¾ t salt
- 1 T granulated sugar
- 5-6 T cold unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- ¾ c milk or half and half for richer flavor
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients. Drop in butter and cut it into the dry ingredients with 2 butter knives or a pastry blender tossing the pieces of butter with the flour mixture to evenly coat and separate them as you work. Continue until largest pieces of butter a no bigger than peas but no smaller than ½ of a pea so that the biscuit will be flakey.
- All at once, add the milk. Mix it in with a rubber spatula or a fork just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- With a lightly floured hand, gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently against the sides and bottom of the bowl 5-10 times, turning and pressing any loose pieces into the dough each time until they adhere and the bowl is fairly clean.
- Shape the biscuits as you wish either rolling and cutting or taking a small amount into your hand and shaping it into a rough ball.
- Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10-12 minutes or when golden brown. To help it brown you can brush the tops with milk or melted butter.