Baking | The Life of Pi …. err…Pie Bird & A Strawberry Pie

“If you don’t let technology help you, if you resist good ideas, you condemn yourself to dinosaurhood.”
Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird A Strawberry Pie and a Pie Bird. Strange how good things happen at the same time. Around the week that the Life of Pi won an Oscar, the folk from Zansaar sent me something very interesting … a beautiful aubergine stoneware baking dish with an intriguing creature inside. They call it a Pie Bird!

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird Have you heard of one?  To be honest, I had no clue that such a charming creature actually existed. Google enlightened! From whimsical banter from when we used to chime “Four & twenty black birds baked in a pie” as toddlers, to Alton Brown who wholeheartedly endorses the pie bird, it seems to be quite a handy bakers tool. Many ardent pie bakers swear by it.

pie birdWhat might a pie bird be? It’s a little hollow contraption made of ceramic, that helps keep a pie base from getting soggy. It also prevents it from boiling over, sometimes even saving a pie from dramatically exploding!

A pie bird, pie vent, pie whistle, pie funnel, or pie chimney is a hollow ceramic device, originating in Europe, shaped like a funnel, chimney, or upstretched bird with open beak. Funnel-style steam vents have been placed in the center of fruit and meat pies during cooking since Victorian times; bird shapes came later.

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird Pie funnels were used to prevent pie filling from boiling up and leaking through the crust by allowing steam to escape from inside the pie. They also supported the pastry crust in the center of the pie, so that it did not sag in the middle, and are occasionally known as “crustholders”. Older ovens had more problems with uniform heating, and the pie bird prevented boil-over in pie cooking.

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird Fancy my delight when I received it as also the beautiful aubergine pie dish from the Mason Cash collection. It’s a handy dish to bake a classic apple pie, or maybe a chicken / vegetable pie. The high quality stoneware dish has a wide lip that  makes it ideal for pie crusts while the stoneware construction ensures that it heats evenly.

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird I enjoyed ‘playing with it’. It gave me much food for thought, Life of Pi and pie bird quotes flying through my head. You see, at the same time, the younger teen was doing a film review on the Life of P. There was plenty of Pi / Pie happening!

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird I wanted to make an apple pie but I had my last stash of red luscious strawberries from the recent Pune trip. I thought a strawberry pie just might work. It did and the pie baked up beautifully. Once completely cool, it stepped out of the dish gingerly with no trouble at all. It’s a good size baking dish for a meal for two, or maybe part of a meal for four.

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird I was in a hurry to slice the pie so the juices ‘leaked’ a bit. It sliced just fine a while later! The dough is a normal short crust that I substituted with a little cornmeal. Cornmeal works really well in all my galettes. This was my first double crust pie. It worked great. A classic American apple pie served with vanilla ice cream seems likely in the future!

Strawberry plum galetteI had some leftover dough, and about 1/2 a cup of left over filling. Could I just let it sit? Of course I couldn’t. The leftovers made a neat little galette which included one left over plum from an earlier baking project. The galette was crisp and full of fruity goodness. A drizzle of unsweetened single cream … delicieux!

Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Jam making | Kumquat Marmalade … In Season & in plenty!

“I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.”
D.H. Lawrence

Kumquat MarmaladeIt’s a happy feeling just looking at a jar of homemade Kumquat Marmalade, characteristically bitter-sweet and delicious. Life continues to race, the days forever busy. A feeling of strange uncertainty takes over at times, like I’ve forgotten something, maybe missed a deadline.  It’s not the ‘end of the year‘ panicky feeling, or the ‘before exam restlessness‘. Then again, maybe like marmalade, life is bitter-sweet too!

Kumquat Marmalade I like to enjoy what I do, relax and vegetate sometimes, yet the modern day rat race of sorts is woven into every second that ticks by. Can’t figure out what happened to those laid back times of yesteryear.

KumquatsThen in this feeling of being on a roller coaster comes a small break … jam making. Thankfully it’s a process that you so totally get immersed in, that the unsettled feeling is forgotten. The marmalade kept me on my toes, more so because junior decided to get involved.

KumquatsRight from plucking the fruit off the tree, to shooting fruit in baskets, to grabbing some away from the dog, stirring, bottling … he was there all the way! {Little Coco had her eyes peeled through-out}CocoI have been fascinated by the fruit since I was young. No one ever ate them, too tart of course, but they were so pretty! And the colours? Inspirational! Then a few years ago, a lady in the neighbourhood let us into her guarded little secret of making bitter marmalade with these. You will not imagine how many kilos of sugar disappeared into jars of jam once we were ‘fruitily enlightened‘!Kumquat Marmalade Every one we knew and their cousins were gifted bitter marmalade with glee. The hard work of snipping peels and stirring the jam until translucent well worth the look of amazement on the happy recipients faces. For the past 3 years this is all I do come winter, and everyone in the neighbourhood knows where to send their fruit.

KumquatsCall it the strangeness of nature, but the much in demand lime tree just doesn’t seem to bear fruit like the kumquat tree. Kumquats finds little use among common growers and are not commercially sold in India. Yet, almost every household in North India proudly sports a kumquat tree, also called ornamental orange. The fruit fall and rot once ripe as even birds don’t feed on them, they are so tart!!

The round kumquat also called Marumi kumquat or Morgani kumquat, is an evergreen tree, producing edible golden-yellow fruit. Kumquat literally means ‘golden orange’. The fruit can be eaten cooked but is mainly used to make marmalades and jellies. It is grown as an ornamental plant and can be used in bonsai. The plant symbolizes good luck in China and other Asian countries.

Kumquat Marmalade “So much sugar? More? No Mama, No”! I forgot all my jam making skills, and I have made this jam umpteen times. “Is it done mama, is it done. Shall I stir? What if the bag of seeds opens? I think you haven’t tied it properly?” I could have tied up the thirteen year old, I was so nervous.

Kumquat MarmaladeThen I announced it was ‘plate test time’. “What’s that? Ooh can I do it? I think it’s setting. Ya. No. Noooooooooooo … cook some more Mama. OK, let me stir. Shall we cook more?” . I finally regained control of my bitter kumquat marmalade finally telling him I thought it was done {though I think I cooked it a little longer than I should have!}

Kumquat Marmalade It’s strange how when kids are part of a process, they love the food even more. It’s been marmalade and toast for the past few days no matter what. Double fried eggs, cereal … and then the call, “Mama, if it’s not too much trouble, can I have toast with marmalade please?” Did I tell you he was charming? Gosh, all the way!

A word of thanks –  Thank you Ziet Online for featuring me in Sunday Dinners.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

Baking | Pumpkin Pie Tartlets in a Walnut Shell with Spiced Ginger Cream. Happy Thanksgiving!

“Foodie friends – Rosa, Helene, Alessio, Deeba, Vidya, Jamie. Love learning new stuff from you now and then! Whether it be your blogs,inspiring tweets or delicious FB posts. Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate and thank you! :-)”
Fahad Khan via FB

Pumpkin Pie TartletHow beautifully can sentiments be conveyed. The lines above are a reflection of everything the inspiring food blogging  community and foodies share with large hearts. It’s a humbling feeling. Two small words like Thank You that can make the day shine! ‘Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate’. Thank you for being here. It’s Pumpkin Pie Tartlets in a Walnut Shell with Spiced Ginger Cream to celebrate the day!

Pumpkin Pie TartletsThanksgiving? There are some days which hold great significance in the Western world yet go largely unnoticed here. Every culture and every country however has a day they hold dear to say thank you for good deeds. For the baker in me, today is incomplete without baking a pie with a pumpkin, an opportunity to use this humble vegetable in a more fun way!

pumpkin puree from scratchAs aromas of pumpkin pie spice waft through the house, the lad will come sniffing the air hungrily. Pumpkin pie? YUM! I think I make this just because of him and his love for pumpkin {in dessert form}.This is also the only way both kids will eat the yellow veggie, rather hungrily devour it! This time of the year drives me to grab some pumpkin and roast it for puree.

Pumpkin Pie TartletsIt’s a humbling feeling to know that such a simple vegetable can give you such stunning end results. Since we are not a ‘pumpkin in the can’ country, the prep is always from scratch  Pumpkin or kaddu is extensively used in cooking on the subcontinent as it is cheap, grows abundantly and is nutritious. It sometimes sneaks into Indian desserts as well like halwa and barfi too.

Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

Adding pumpkin pie spice to puree energises the taste buds into reaching for higher ground, into appreciating how much more worth this humble yellow gourd can be! It’s simple to roast and make your own pumpkin puree, yet I find myself only ‘walking the roast the pumpkin plank‘ every Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Pie TartletsI wonder why? The Pumpkin Pie Tartlets in a Walnut Shell with Spiced Ginger Cream were really enjoyed by the family. The son gobbled his tartlet in a matter of seconds. Mmmm, these are GOOD!! They are simple to put together. I enjoy doing a walnut tart shell, inspired by the Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread Crust.

Pumpkin Pie TartletsBack to the TG moment. I have to say a big Thank You to Finla for these very charming and ‘so me’ ceramic ramekins she sent me {with ALL the other stuff} when her rockstar hub visited Delhi last month. I’ve been impatient to use them, and this seemed a good time to do so.

Pumpkin Pie Tartlets I love them; the colours and the feel full of rustic appeal. I wasn’t sure they would work well with tartlets. As you can see, luck was my friend {So was parchment paper. For that, gratitude to a sweet reader, now friend, Komal in Mumbai who continues to feed the ‘parchment monster‘ in me}. Big thank you!

Pumpkin Pie TartletsOn the topic of ramekins and parchment paper, a word about pumpkin pie spice. The spice is simple to make at home. It’s a mix of powdered cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. A good blend can be made in the 2:1:1 proportion i.e. 2tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground nutmeg.

Pumpkin Pie TartletsAnd if you are making homemade pumpkin puree, make sure your puree is not too watery. You will not get a nice well set pie. The puree should be thick and can be cooked down if it’s too liquidy. If you add the pie spice to it while cooking down, the flavours will mature well. I added some freshly grated ginger juice to my filling. Nice!

Pumpkin Pie TartletsTo tie up all the warm flavours in the Pumpkin Pie Tartlets, I spiced the whipped cream gently with some powdered ginger. I did attempt to make some walnut caramel shards but the raw sugar did not oblige! Pumpkin, walnuts, ginger, cinnamon …warm, comforting, filling, delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving you beautiful readers. Thank you as always for stopping by! I leave you with a collage of random things that make me happy.

Random 'happy' things

Don’t forget to tell me if you have something special you make with pumpkin!

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

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