I’m grateful Jenny Alexander for reposting my blog and I’m touched by her heartfelt and thoughtful comments.
“Your mother made the best apple pie in the world.” So said my dad’s sister, auntie Glenys, when I visited her the last time before she died. Apple Pie was my mother’s signature dish – but that is a story for another time involving Canada, my dad’s first fiancé and a sense of competition!
As the daughter and sister of two amazing cooks, pastry making for me, is fraught with all sorts of dangers, complications and anxieties. Too many issues around ‘cold hands’, my hands being ‘too warm’, ‘cold water’, resting, rolling.
Suddenly, my daughter grew into a cake maker of flourless chocolate brownies, ginger bread houses (ok one collapsed and the dachshund pulled the other off from the table using a table runner – clever full, later sick, dog, unhappy daughter!) She made banana loaves, Victoria sandwiches so that I was left feeling a bit superfluous in the baking world while doing the mundane chore-cooking at meal times. My boss’s cakes are a delight: choux pastry, cup cakes – yellow and light and fluffy. Auntie myra’s Victoria sandwiches too big to fit in a tin so they were transported covered in tinfoil!There was no point everyone seemed to be better than me.
Each week I’d watch Berry and Hollywood, taking on board their criticisms without even trying to bake or make, so that cake and pastry making became a sort of something I could no longer do. Yet, as a young stay-at-home mum I loved it so!
There were scone making competitions with a friend, coffee mornings and I did it and juggled being Mam to three young boys. However after relocating and being busy – working and single parenting to four – baking was something that I lost.
I began withan afternoon tea for friends
So fast forward to later in this year, back at work, I needed something meditative, repetitive and productive. I made sausage rolls as a ‘practice run’ for Christmas. Ok, I cheated buying ready made puff pastry – but even Delia does that. Besides, I needed to brush up my handling skills, so with beating eggs, brushing and gluing, I was transported back to childhood where I was allowed to help, all pinnied-up with my own basin and whisk. I graduated to pasties, then I was ready for the biggie – making my own shortcrust pastry.
Now any over anxious cook – AKA my mother – would have you believe that the most precarious part is transferring pie crust to the dish and it is. But I wasn’t on the set of Bakeoff; Hollywood, Berry, Torode, Nigella and Delia were not in my kitchen. -at least not physically. What was there to be scared of?
Quite a bit it would seem. That moment when the uncooked crust hovers in the air before settling in the dish is the worst. It could crack, split slide down the sides. Trimming the sides and knocking up the edges like a pro, I was relieved. It wasn’t perfect but, it was edible and tasty. Presentationally , it all leaves a bit to be desired. I haven’t mastered the knack of getting the amount of filling correct. My pasties were uniform, but shaping the sausage rolls was difficult – I’d forgotten how!
But it was good to get baking once more. Afternoon tea,Ladies?