I’m an odd combination of traits. I don’t mean this in some self-aggrandizing, quirkier-than-thou, braggart kind of way. For the most part, I’m really quite bland. But there are strange impulses that share a moment in time in my mind and body, that really ought not be paired together. For example, I absolutely adore attempting to cook/bake new things. There is nothing better in this world than trying something different, and having the courage to expand, even if the results are not ideal. But, at the same time, I experience an inordinate level of anxiety whenever trying something new.
Here’s my “how to reduce/create anxiety when trying a new dish” rule book:
- Look through some food-porn blogs, and find which picture makes you drool the most. Pick that dish as the new thing you’d like to conquer and eat.
- Incessantly peruse 10-30 different recipes of the same dish, just so you know you have the best one.
- Pick one or two or three of the best, but keep going back to aforementioned 10-30 recipes, just in case you missed something.
- Buy all the ingredients from the winning recipe, but if there are any differences between that one and the second or third best, make sure you buy those groceries, as well. Just in case.
- For the few days leading up to your new cooking adventure, study the ingredients, measurements, techniques, and method. Do that at least 10 times before you even think about beginning the process of cooking something different.
- The night before your new cooking adventure, visualize your pending experience. Imagine how much time you’ll need in order to perform at your best, and arrange your next day accordingly.
- A half hour before your planned cooking time, do one last comprehensive review of the recipe and method. Perhaps find a couple of videos that make a similar dish, and absorb all the knowledge you can handle.
- COOK, while obsessively revisiting the recipe.
- Prepare to eat, and cross your fingers (and hope to die if the food tastes like shit).
This is pretty much an unfiltered list of how I handle the creation of a new dish.
Why do I behave this way? Why am I a chronic over-preparer? What is the worst thing that could happen? The answer, my friends, is all in my penchant for self-doubt and my fear of disappointing others and myself. I’m not entirely sure from where this mode-of-being comes, but I know it to be a very integral part of Yejin. But I find that my self-doubt, when not all-consuming, is actually very motivating and productive. I don’t cower when self-deprecating thoughts come my way. In fact, I try harder, work more comprehensively, and enjoy shouting “in your face!” (to myself, like a crazy person…) after a successful adventure. However, I should note that this is probably pretty unhealthy. I do wish I could just enjoy an activity without being consumed by the prospect of joy or disappointment. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’ll deal with my anxiety by being overly prepared, and hopefully, by enjoying the delicious fruits of my labor.
I’ve never made pie before, which explains the completely imperfect lattice top. But there is something so satisfying about making and rolling your own dough. Also, I really enjoy the process of heating blueberries, because eventually, it turns into this beautiful dark color, and bubbles like a thick cauldron concoction. In any case here’s the recipe I decided to use (and study, and restudy):
Recipe taken from America’s Test Kitchen
Foodproof Pie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cold, cut into 4 pieces
- 1/4 cup vodka, cold (see note)
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 6 cups fresh blueberries (about 30 ounces) (see note)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated on large holes of box grater
- 2 teaspoons grated zest and 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
- 3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca, ground (see note)
- pinch table salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1. For The Pie Dough: Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about two 1-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds; dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into 2 even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
3. Remove 1 disk of dough from refrigerator and roll out on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 12-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll into pie plate, leaving at least 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around circumference, ease dough into plate by gently lifting edge of dough with one hand while pressing into plate bottom with other hand. Leave dough that overhangs plate in place; refrigerate while preparing filling until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
4. For The Filling: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, place rimmed baking sheet on oven rack, and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place 3 cups berries in medium saucepan and set over medium heat. Using potato masher, mash berries several times to release juices. Continue to cook, stirring frequently and mashing occasionally, until about half of berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly.
5. Place grated apple in clean kitchen towel and wring dry. Transfer apple to large bowl. Add cooked berries, remaining 3 cups uncooked berries, lemon zest, juice, sugar, tapioca, and salt; toss to combine. Transfer mixture to dough-lined pie plate and scatter butter pieces over filling.
6. Roll out second disk of dough on generously floured (up to 1/4 cup) work surface to 11-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using 1 1/4-inch round biscuit cutter, cut round from center of dough. Cut another 6 rounds from dough, 1 1/2 inches from edge of center hole and equally spaced around center hole. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and unroll over pie, leaving at least 1/2-inch overhang on each side.
7. Using kitchen shears, trim bottom layer of overhanging dough, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so that edge of fold is flush with outer rim of pie plate. Flute edges using thumb and forefinger or press with tines of fork to seal. Brush top and edges of pie with egg mixture. If dough is very soft, chill in freezer for 10 minutes.
8. Place pie on heated baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until juices bubble and crust is deep golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes longer. Transfer pie to wire rack; cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.
Since I’m a bit of a nut, I also decided to make empanadas, today. They’re filled with ground beef, shallots, red peppers, olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper, and cumin. Gotta love making dough for both sweet and savory treats!
Moral of today’s entry: My obsessive behavior surrounding the creation of something new serves as the release valve for my undying anxiety…and the end results are usually pretty delicious. So, until I figure out how to mollify my constant state of anxiety, I think this’ll do just fine.