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‘Aha-ahaaa’, said a wise, sparkly-leotard-clad Swedish lady once, ‘All the things I could do/If I had a little money. It’s a rich man’s world’. Yes, indeed. This week, I sympathise entirely: after the recent, vaguely depressing finance review chez Cakery Bakery, I was on a strict no-spend till payday. My baking criteria therefore consisted only of finding something for which I already had most of the ingredients.
BBC Good Food’s 101 Cheap Eats seemed like a good place to look, and it was: I decided on the lovely-looking pecan tart (a pecan pie, to the rest of us), for which I’d only need a small bag of pecans and a top-up of butter. The thing putting me off was the prospect of making my own pastry. I’ve only ever bought those made-for-a-lazy-person slabs of pastry dough, and had heard terrible things about palette knives and rolling pins and adding too much cold water (what on earth is a palette knife?).
The BBC didn’t help much: I read the recipe and was immediately nonplussed by the instruction to ‘bake blind’ the pastry case. No explanation was offered. Was I supposed to know this mysterious art already? Were you perhaps forbidden from opening the oven door when baking, in order to heighten the suspense? The magnificent WikiHow had the answer, plus some helpful diagrams – you put the pastry in the pie dish, put some baking paper over the pastry, and then pour in some dry lentils (!) over the top. The pastry is baked but prevented from rising uncooperatively. I was relieved, and also, I confess, quite pleased to find some use for those lentils (if anyone knows how to cook lentils without turning them into little tooth-breaking bullets of death, I’d be an interested listener).
Well, the pastry wasn’t nearly as frightening as I’d anticipated, although neither does it look as nicely ridged and even as it does in the shops. The overall effect is a bit amateurish. But forget how it looks: the pie smells so good in the oven that you’ll have difficulty waiting till it’s done before sticking your finger in, and thankfully, it has a taste to match.
Deliciousness: Oh my. This pie is where other well-behaved pies go when they die. You won’t be able to stop eating it. Dribblingly good.
Complexity: Quite fiddly, but once you get your head around the pastry and lentils bit, it’s doable. There’s plenty of time while the pastry is cooking to prepare the filling, so you don’t feel like you’re in a rush.
Washing-up pile: A modest six; easily done.
Casualties: The pie, almost: an unfortunately-timed misstep when carrying the plate to the table nearly resulted in a faceful of nutty treacle. And wouldn’t that have been a really excellent Saturday evening?