Out of the achievements in my life, this trumps them all: I BAKE PERFECT PIES!!!! They are better than most cafes and I say this without any exaggeration: these pies can be sold in shops! First time baker and already a Master Baker (hee hee, get the
bun pun?). When my friends were eating my pies, I declared to them solemnly, “Thank you for being here, sharing the proudest moment of my life.” I wasn’t joking. Baking has been a very rewarding and fulfilling experience: it made me feel accomplished. I’m not going to eat any humble pie: I’m gifted.
Photo Taken from Little River Gallery
Maybe not very gifted, just good at following instructions from the cookbook of the world-renowned celebrity baker of Baker & Cook, Dean Brettschneider’s Pie, which has 80+ recipes, clearly segmented into savory and sweet pies. I baked one of each. Within the savory pies, the sections are further divided into seafood, vegetarian, etc. Unlike kungfu masters of the past who only imparted 90% of the skills to the disciples for fear they revolted, Brettschneider gives his 101% in the cookbook. Which is why my pies turned out to be out of the world. Besides that these extremely, extremely delicious recipes are easily replicable in your own kitchen and good enough to be sold in cafes–I, first time baker, did it with perfect ease!–the fusion recipes are also original and interesting, often combining several different types of cuisine in one pie. (Did I mention the pies are delicious? Oh, I should say it one more time or ten: delicious, delicious, delicious!)
Every recipe comes beautifully illustrated with a full-color photo, which makes you salivate and arouses the desire to bake. (Huccalily, domestic goddess in training, who was around to witness my triumph over pie, said that she felt very inspired to bake after seeing the cookbook.) The photos also let you know how the pie is supposed to look like and yes, my pies turned out similar to the photos’.
Tips to handle the crust: (1) work fast and (2) don’t keep patting the dough because your hands will melt the butter, making it difficult to handle. Lift the dough gently and tuck in the corners so that the dough takes the shape of the mold fully, as shown in the photo.
Baking is often scary for first-time bakers but at the end of the book, there is a chapter devoted to tips on how to make and bake a good crust with step-by-step photos. Extremely useful for beginners. And if you’re afraid of making crusts, you can buy from supermarket and follow the recipes although the crux of a good pie is in the crust and Brettschneider’s crusts are AWESOME. For the pies I baked, the savory crust was flaky but didn’t crumble and the sweet tart shell of cinnamon-ginger broke cleanly.
Baking blind refers to baking the crust without any food. Here, we put we put baking beans and pebbles so that the crusts retained their shapes.
Hence, to summarize the strong points of the cookbook, the recipes are innovative, delicious and professional that are easily reproduced in your own kitchen, accessible to both dilettantes and pundits, and each recipe is accompanied with a colored photo. However, there are two extremely minor setbacks to the book, so minor that they’re not worth mentioning except that I’m nitpicking. Firstly, almost all recipes use weight as a measurement. On rare occasions–we found only 2 out of 80 recipes–the recipes state “cups.” All measurements should be standardized. If you’re using weight, use weight throughout the book and not switch to volume. Secondly, some ingredients are difficult to find in Singapore. For example, the salmon and leeks quiche I did requires fennel and I went to 5 supermarkets without finding the ingredient. But no sweat, if you’re missing the ingredient, just substitute it with a similar ingredient or if it’s not a key ingredient, omit it completely. I left out fennel and the pie still turned out delicious.
Before and After: Smoked Salmon-Leeks Quiche
The dough was made the night before and in less than 2 hours, I baked a savory and a sweet pie, salmon and leeks quiche and lemon-blueberry tart. The difficult part was the crust, that took some time to make and bake. But after the crust, you simply dump everything in. Due to copyright issue, the publisher has allowed me to share only one recipe–do not reproduce this recipe without permission–and it was such a difficult choice. How to choose between the sweet and savory? The quiche was moist and light in the sense that no salt was added (the salt came from the smoked salmon) but still filling. The leeks possessed a pungency that counterbalanced the fishy salmon. When you hit a dollop of cream, it was orgasmic. When the pie hit the stomach, it radiated a warmth. Very wholesome. On the other hand, the tart was wobbly in texture, like jelly, kickass sour and refreshing; you can eat a million tarts but not a lot of quiche. The olive oil made the tart silky and highlighted the crust. And the tart tasted exactly like the much raved about lemon tart at Baker and Cook. In the end, it’s the festive season that made me decide to give the tart’s recipe as the ginger-cinnamon crust is very Christmasy. Now you don’t have to go to Baker and Cook for the tart.
Before and After: Lemon-Blueberry Tart
Lemon, Olive Oil and Blueberry Tart with Gingerbread Crust
If you don’t like blueberry, you can add raspberries or strawberries. Serves 6-8.
First, some preparation work:
Gingerbread Spice Mixture
2 tbsp ground ginger
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground allspice (we left this out)
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
Shake all ingredients in a jar. Store jar until needed.
Gingerbread Crust Sweet Pastry
85g brown sugar
20g gingerbread spice mixture (see above)
Beat butter and brown sugar until a light creamy consistency. Add egg and mix. Sift flour and gingerbread spice and mix to a paste until it comes off clean off the bowl. Don’t overmix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
100g apricot jam
4 tbsp water
Bring to boil apricot jam and water in a pan. Strain through sieve and brunch on tart.
Gingerbread Crust (see above)
2 tbsp lemon zest
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 large whole eggs
3 large egg yolks
140g unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
Apricot Glaze (see above)
1. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick and line a 27-cm round loose-bottomed tart tin. Refrigerate for an hour. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Bake the pastry until crust is dry and crisp (about 10 minutes). Cool for 30 minutes.
2. Whisk continuously lemon zest, juice, sugar, cornflour, whole eggs and yolks in a pan and bring to boil over medium heat for 2 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and olive oil till smooth.
3. Pour the filling into pastry, scatter blueberries and chill for at least 2 hours. Brush with apricot glaze. Done!
Dean Brettschneider’s Pie is available at major bookshops and Baker & Cook outlets at Martin Road (near Robertson Quay) and Bukit Timah.
PS: Special thanks to a close friend who doesn’t want to disclose her name for supervising me bake.