In the wilds, with pastry.

Friday, March 11, 2011

(sorry for photo heavy post)

Ok, who took my week away and what have you done with it? Is it just me or do the days seem as if they’re getting shorter? Oh wait, they are! (In our hemisphere anyway :) )

Thanks for visiting while I was away camping.  We had a great time (thanks for asking), and I had a chance to play with a couple of new toys.

The hammock.

And the tripod.

Remember the cake baking attempt the last time we went camping? We thought perhaps lifting the base of the camp oven off the coals might help prevent charcoalisation.

Instead of cake though, I attempted an apple pie this time. Shortcrust pastry seems to scare many cooks, but it’s really not as difficult as it sounds. Take it from me, if I can make it from scratch while camping, you can definitely do it in your home kitchen. The key things to remember when making pastry is to use a light touch, and to chill, chill, chill.

And once you get a taste of home-made shortcrust pastry, it’s pretty hard to go back to storebought.

Let’s take a look at how it went:

First, the ingredients: Sometimes I use a proper recipe, and sometimes I just wing it. Most of the time, the ratio of flour and butter that I use is just under 1 part butter to one part flour. This makes quite a short and crumbly pastry. For an easier to handle pastry, use more flour. Check out this  Gourmet Traveller link for more information and a basic pastry recipe.

This time I used 1 1/4 cup plain flour, 100g butter, pinch of salt,  1/8 cup water and grated rind of 1/4 lemon - optional (can also be varied by using a spice such as ground cinnamon to flavour). (I didn't have any scales, I just used the markings on the butter paper to cut the right amount).

Chop the butter into small cubes, then cut it into the flour.

When the butter is about pea-sized, start "rubbing-in". This means gathering the flour and little bits of butter between the fingertips (fingertips only), and letting them fall through, rubbing lightly as you go. Do not be tempted to squish the bits of butter or grab the flour in your palms. Keep rubbing in until the flour resembles breadcrumbs. Don't worry if one or two little bits of butter remain. The rubbing-in process does take quite a long time.

When it looks like this, slowly add the water and stir with a spatula or flat blade of a knife until it starts coming together.

Gently knead the dough together. I try to handle it as little as possible at this point. When it looks sort of clumpy together, I tip it onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat it into a disc, then wrap it up.

If you have a fridge, stick it in there to chill for at least 15 minutes. If you are camping, stick it on ice, grab a drink while you're at it :).

After chilling, roll out the pastry to required thickness. If camping, use makeshift rolling pin.

Press into tart pan, prick base with fork. Chill again, for about 15 minutes. Sometimes, pastry cases are baked blind, but in this case I filled everything up and baked it.

In go the cooled, stewed apples. I used 3 apples (2 granny smith, 1 royal gala), 3 tbsp of sugar, and a squeeze of lemon juice. This does give the tart a bit of a , ehem, tart finish, but we like things a little sour over here at the Skewer place. Leave out the lemon if you prefer it sweet.

Decorate the top. Hard to do well with limited tools :)

Bake as long as it takes to get a golden crust.

Voila, an apple pie. A bit burnt at the bottom, but very highly edible. Next time I think I need to line the camp oven with something to stop the direct, high heat from burning the bottom of things.

(Just scrape it off, it'll be fine)

What it really needed was a scoop of ice-cream but I still haven’t worked out how to do that bit yet :) (Actually, we carted the leftovers home and ate it with ice-cream, and it certainly lived up to expectations).

Have a great weekend.

Ps - to those who asked about the mole, here's a pic of it. Not sure if I'll do a post about it, since I'm not sure if it was very authentic as I had to do a lot of substitutions. It was very tasty though.


Barbara said...

Love the hammock photo, Shaz! We used to go camping a lot when I was a kid....and continued when my kids were young. Very ambitious to make a pie! I think you did a super job.

Hungry Dog said...

Pretty impressive! I'm sure I wouldn't attempt pastry crust on a camping trip...I find it hard enough to do at home with all the right tools. For the record,the mole looks great.

Heavenly Housewife said...

That is just so awesome, you made a pie in the woods??? You rock! You are the type of person I'd want with me in case of emergency LOL. Looks like a super fun time
Stop by my blog when you have a chance and enter my giveway for an $80 gift card!
Have a lovely weekend.
*kisses* HH

Vanille said...

I always enjoy your camping posts, but I know, I've already said this before...
So impressed by your open air kitchen and what you're able to cook !
Love the bottle as a rolling pin ;) And yes, homemade shortcrust is the best really.
Enjoy your week-end too !

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

wow baking when camping. I am so impressed.

shaz said...

Barbara - the kids had more chances to enjoy the hammock than I did :) I think I actually cook more when camping, because there's really not all that much else to do.

Hungry Dog - I have to admit the campgrounds are pretty civilised, there's running water for washing and rain water for drinking (both need to be fetched from a central location), and we can drive in. I wouldn't be attempting this in a hike-in/ hike-out location.
Heavenly Housewife said...

Heavenlyy Housewife - Did you just say giveaway? Oh goody!

Vanille - thank you :) But like I explained to Hungry Dog, it's quite an "easy" campsite. Not sure how I'd go in a proper rugged camping spot.

Malay-Kadazan girl - thank you.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Shaz I don't know if I have said this before but I have thought it-have you ever thought of putting out a cookbook for camping friendly items that are delicious too? :)

Sasa said...

Oh my god, I thought I was fancy making soba while camping but pie? PAH! You take the cake (heh) lady.

chocolatesuze said...

heh @ just scrape it off! she'll be riiiiight :P

Linda V @ Bubble and Sweet said...

Wow that is just so amazing, I could imagine it made the campsite smell delicious. Maybe layers of brown paper lining like they do on fruitcakes would work?

PlumLeaf 李葉 said...

Can't believe what you achieve whilst camping! Baking? You nutter! But your apple pie looked V-e-r-y good! Perfect even (after scraping!)!
I was going to say, a quick ice cream is frozen fruit and cream in the food processor - then remembered that electricity and a food processor may be a little hard to come by in the woods... (Excuse me Mr Bear? Can I just borrow your food processor & electricity please? lol )

JT @areyouhungary said...

Wow, I like so many am still impressed with your combination of baking and camping. Must be soo satisfying to pull that pie out of the camp oven!

grace said...

how very macgyver of you! i'm impressed, shaz, and i'm glad to see the little bit of char was dealt with in an appropriate fashion. :)

shaz said...

Lorraine - thanks for the fab suggestion! Might take a few years for me to get my act together. By which stage someone else would have probably done it.

Sasa - heheh, thank you. Soba is really impressive though.

chocolatesuze - and she was.

Linda V - excellent suggestion. I was thinking tea-towel but that would have meant sacrificing the tea-towel.

PlumLeaf 李葉 - Mr. Kitchen Hand already complains I bring along too much stuff, I can just imagine his face if I said I was bringing the food processor :) There's a central (very basic) camp kitchen/ BBQ area and I think there are plug points there, but not sure, never checked. Refrigeration would be the tricky bit.

JT @areyouhungary - oh yes, was very happy with myself!

grace - no char left here :)