Like any good North American girl, I am obsessed with pumpkin flavoured things. Actually, I suppose it’s the cinnamon, ginger and cloves that I love most. Spicy treats, from pumpkin pie to gingerbread to apple cider, are my favourite so it’s easy to see why fall/winter are my favourite food times.
The main differences between life in Canada and England begin to creep up as fall (or autumn, as it is called here) begins. There is no Thanksgiving, and confusing holidays such as Bonfire Night take precedence over Halloween. My British friends are absolutely baffled by the Pumpkin Hysteria that has come over me. I find myself in Starbucks every morning ordering a coveted PSL (100% of my pre-winter blubber gain can be attributed to Pumpkin Spice Lattes).
Truthfully, Canadian Thanksgiving is probably my favourite holiday, so the fact that it goes by completely unnoticed here is more than a little bit unsettling. But, I try my best to soldier on! Last year I Skyped into dinner with my family (tucking into turkey and casserole at 9pm, while they ate an early dinner at 2). This year I’ve decided to make a pumpkin pie to share with my colleagues even though there was a good chance that they would hate it.
This was my first time trying to perfect a gluten free pie crust and… well, it wasn’t the easiest.
Attempt #1 ended up a sticky ball of dough. I put in a bit of extra water to try and compensate for the dryness usually found using gluten free flour, but I suppose I overdid it. It was rollable, but too sticky to then remove from the surface it was rolled on… regardless of how much flour or parchment paper I used!
Attempt #2 was drier… a crumbly drier. It was, again, rollable. This time it could be removed from the counter, but certainly not in one piece! So I kind of did the best I could, patching bits of rolled dough up until it filled the dish. Oh my, the dish. A massive dish, indeed. That I then had to fill.
I added two cans of pumpkin and one large can of evaporated milk with sugar and spices to make the massive amount of filling needed. I know, I know, canned pumpkin should not be allowed. But I have a very small kitchen and the idea of gutting and cooking a pumpkin was a bit too much to bear, especially not knowing how long it would take to get a palatable crust.
The end result was massive, but not horrible. It took a whopping 2 hours to bake before the filling was set. Yes, the crust is quite crumbly (as you can see, some heavier bits of the outside have crumbled off already), but who doesn’t want a crumbly crust?
Pie seemed to go down well with the colleagues (with over half eaten between 7 of us by lunchtime) although it’s probably not their favourite dessert! It’s probably not my favourite dessert, but after two years without it I’m definitely devouring as much as I possibly can, using “it’s Thanksgiving!” as an excuse.
Mmm… breakfast pie!
As I write this I am the very stereotype of a single girl on a Friday night. Let me paint the scene for you: it’s 8:15pm and outside it is pouring down with rain. Flashes of lightning illuminate the sky every so often and I brace myself for the impending thunder (I am frightened by loud, sudden noises). My dinner consists of piri piri hummus and gluten free cheese crackers. The playlist on Spotify is called “Sad Girl Song Day” (although Florence and the Machine are trying to convince me to “Shake it Off” for some reason– she sounds a bit too chipper for this playlist, to be honest).
What else is there to do but pick up my (signed, woooo) copy of Ruby Tandoh’s new baking book, “Crumb.” I received this at a special launch event with ELLE UK earlier in the week, but haven’t really had time to look at it much during the busy, busy week.
You should know, writing, photographing and designing my own baking/recipe book is a major dream of mine. Of course, I don’t aspire to have it widely published, but I think it would be a fun and fulfilling project. And that is one of the reasons I am interested in baking books even though the recipes are a lot less relevant to me now. I must say my first impression of Ruby’s book is that it is incredibly attractive. The book itself is sturdy with a fabric spine. The type is crisp and bold. And the photos are gorgeous. The whole book is matte which gives it quite a rustic feel. Ruby’s tone of writing is quite conversational– certainly a bit bolder than when she speaks in front of a large group of strangers, but just as lovely. The whole effect adds up to a feeling of warmth and that’s definitely what you want from a baking book!
When I lived in Canada I took full advantage of my parents’ large kitchen with their huge oven, fridge and ever important Kitchen-Aid mixer. Now, in England, my kitchen can fit only me, my fridge is half sized, and I barely have the counter space for a loaf of bread, let alone a bunch of fancy kitchen appliances. So, I love Ruby’s no-nonsense approach to baking, making all of her recipes incredibly accessible to any of us who may find ourselves less-than-blessed in the culinary wares department.
I also really love the sections which explain why a bake may have gone wrong. We’ve all had a disaster where a cake has collapsed in on itself, but if you’re unsure as to why that can happen these sort of tips can be really helpful and give you something to look out for on your next attempt. Baking might seem artsy and creative, but it really is a science and it’s important to know the effect different kinds of heat can have on a bake, or the amount of air in a dough, etc.
Glaringly obviously missing from this review is a review of, well, one or two of the recipes. Based on my experience baking they all look really solid (as if they wouldn’t be! This woman obviously knows what she is doing– she was the runner up in The Great British Bake Off and got a baking book deal, and I am just a lowly blogger). I’m really looking forward to adapting some to be gluten free… the doughnuts in particular! I haven’t had a doughnut in well over a year, and that is much, much, much too long! There are a few options that are gluten free (or have an ingredient that is very easily found in a gluten free form) such as the Blackberry Ricotta Cheesecake, Autumn Berry Pavlova, Lemon Meringue Roulade, and Bay & Blackcurrant Crème Brûlée.
Gluten or not, it is a great, thorough book that seems to deserve its spot on my shelf next to my copy of Mary Berry’s Cookery Course.
I’ve just returned from an event held by ELLE magazine to promote Ruby Tandoh’s new baking book, Crumb. Now, you may be thinking, what will I do with a baking book? Well, it is a truly gorgeous book. I’m very excited to try some of the recipes with a gluten free twist! (More on that when I am able to really sit down with it and write a proper review!)
Yay lowlight photos! Just pretend this is an abstract painting…
Since it was Ruby’s event, she of course did a bit of a chat with ELLE’s Editor-in-Chief, Loraine Candy. I was really interested in Ruby. She has a very distinct manner about her in that she is very quiet and seems to shy away from attention, but she is also extremely well spoken. She never seemed to hesitate in her answers and all of her responses seemed to flow in a way that I wouldn’t normally expect from someone who seems so introverted. I felt like I could really relate to her as she discussed preferring to cook for others and hating cooking for herself (one of the reasons I haven’t cooked much this past year is because it’s just me at home!). When asked about baking and cooking becoming more popular with women in our age group, she made some great points about it being “freed from domesticity” (yes, she speaks like that. Swoon!) but hoped it wouldn’t become too trendy.
The next seat over from where I sat with my friend Eleanor was occupied by two contestants from this year’s show– Chetna and Iain. Once Ruby had finished her talk, I decided to go over to say hello. They were honestly some of the nicest people I have met! I explained that I am from Canada and that last year was my first year watching Bake Off, which had been recommended me because I love baking. I told them about the time I made 300 chocolate chip cookies for my New Media graduation showcase. Then I told my sob story about not being able to eat gluten anymore.
They were super supportive of my plans to relearn and asked me a bunch of questions (like I said, nicest people ever!). They also asked us who we thought would win (unfortunately I’m at another thing tomorrow night so I won’t be able to watch “live” as it were). Iain encouraged me to apply for Bake Off, which maybe he does to every Canadian baker aspiring to regain her passion for baking after being told she cannot have any flour, but I felt really motivated to get back in the kitchen. It can be hard to explain the weird feeling of loss I sometimes have now that I’m no longer able to just wander into my kitchen, see what ingredients are lying around, and whip up something yummy (my mom used to come home from work on my free afternoons, smell something when she opened the door, and ask what I had made) to “normal” people, but since we obviously share a passion for baking I think they understood. I cannot gush about these two enough!
Before I said goodbye I asked for a photo, which you can see below (excuse my awkwardness, I was startled by the flash on my own iPhone camera). Unfortunately I seemed to trigger a bit of a reaction, because although we had a fairly decent chat without anyone paying much attention, as soon as the camera came out a queue seemed to form! Of course, being the sweet people that they are, they took as many photos as they could before having to dash off (it seemed to take another 20 minutes just to exit the bar!). I imagine with the finale being broadcast tomorrow they probably have a lot going on!
So, of course, at the event we received Ruby’s book, as well as some tea towels courtesy of Cath Kidston. I have a lot of tea towels but I’m not sure what to do with them, really. And the event was sponsored by Baileys so there were cocktails going around. And baked goods, naturally.
After I politely declined some baked goodies coming around on a tray, Eleanor proclaimed that I was “so bad at being [her] snack wingman,” so I made sure to grab some on the next round so she could try all of them. On the left is a strawberry flavoured basket thing with a Baileys goo inside. The top right was a pastry with peanut filling. And the bottom right was her least favourite, described as a “gooey crunchy biscuit thing.”
What a fabulous model. Thank you to Eleanor for taking one for the team and sampling these delicious things so that I could accurately depict them on this blog.
And thank you, again, to Chetna and Iain for taking the time to chat with a random Canadian girl and reinforce her desire to get back at the baking! It’s too bad it’s bed time because I am super inspired!