I appreciate people at parties who love to talk. They hold court, enjoying the lime (CaO) light, and relieve the rest of us from having to exert much effort. They entertain the masses who smile, nod, drink, laugh on cue, and ask more probing questions in the infrequent lulls. I love those people. Luckily I married one.
Small talk bores me. I can ask questions and follow a monologue just well enough to ask another related question when required, but I rarely actually hear the entire answer. I’d rather discuss something deep (like exponential growth, misinterpreted lyrics, Netflix, any book by Stephen King) or interesting (like global warming, natural selection, kinetics and mechanisms of organic reactions, impeachment), but with the crowd yelling and music playing, I can barely hear anything, and after awhile reading lips takes too much effort.
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, invitations to parties.
In my youth, being invited to gatherings–being included in any fashion (even tagging along with my nice sister whose friends wished I wasn’t there but I didn’t care because my sister was there)–was some odd sign of acceptance. Decades later, finding new and innovative excuses to stay home is the hobby. (This is taking longer to reach my point than I anticipated. If I were speaking to you face to face, I’d have already misinterpreted your pained expression due to indigestion or tight shoes and abruptly cut my story short. But without such social facial clues, writing lets me ramble.) My current point: I’m trying to describe a contraption called an apple peeler-corer-slicer and the debacle said machine caused during Bake 2.
I’ll try again.
In the olden days (the 90s) there were frequent weekday evening parties hosted by women with themes of burping plastic bowls, make-up to fix our ugly faces, candles that cost a fortune, and baking supplies (cue the TA-DA music). Whenever I was invited to one of these soirees, I knew they sought my money, not my dynamic personality. Once there, we were quickly plied with wine to loosen our purse strings. (I needed two glasses. I’m cheap.) I’d smile and listen and drink my glass of box wine, munch on chips, while I searched the bottom of my bag for dimes to buy a $1 spatula, or $2 eyebrow pencil, or $28 unscented votive candle. The first time I attended a baking supply party I got out my checkbook, declined the wine, and bought everything: cookie scoop, glass bowls, a whisk, a cookie press…you name it. One of my big splurges was an apple peeler-corer-slicer. What an invention! Apple pies galore!
I’ve probably baked a hundred apple pies in my life. I anticipated using that thing so much I’d just leave it clamped to my countertop. Turned out I like peeling apples by hand. I find it a soothing challenge to peel an apple in one curl. So my apple corer-peeler-slicer has rested and rusted in the box on the top shelf since before my current students were born.
Bake 2 called the APCS contraption out of retirement. Just like Old Bear was brought down from the dusty attic in the children’s book OLD BEAR. (Never read it? You should.)
For my second bake of this new series, I chose Apple Beehives from page 202 of Linda Collister’s THE GREAT BRITISH BAKEOFF. The puff pastry recipe (page 210) includes nice pictures of how the pastry should look during processing the six “turns.”
I’ve never made puff pastry. Apparently the absent food processor could have made a smoother initial mix than the blob my hands created. I mixed, made the ball, cross cut the top and let it rest in the fridge while I pounded the butter.
I rolled the dough to a star (sort of) and placed the square of pounded butter on, folded in the corners of the star and sealed in the butter.
I rolled the square of butter in pastry to a long runway, paranoid to avoid butter leaks. I then folded it like a letter. (Daughter asked “Which letter?” Answer: the one that goes in a business envelope.) I turned the trifold 90 degrees (this is called a “turn”) and rolled it like a runway and folded it like a letter again, which prompted the next question: how many layers of butter will there be after six turns? Answer: More than 700. More than 700! MORE THAN 700! (Do you have more than 700 of anything in your life besides nickels? That’s a large number. Exponential growth, boys and girls. The power of 3.)
After repeated rests in the fridge (the dough, not me), turning and rolling and enveloping and, and, and, I used my pizza cutter and biscuit ring to cut up the pastry as directed. The apples waited patiently.
The directions called for “eating” apples, which I am happy to do every day to keep the doctor away, but which confused me when used as a descriptive adjective. Google didn’t know how to help when I entered “eating apples” as a search term. I decided “eating apples” meant Fuji, or Pink Lady, or Delicious, uhh, the kind we eat. I bought Fuji and moved on.
It was finally time to get that apple corer-slicer-peeler out of retirement and remember how to work it. I clamped it to the counter and attached the crank with the handle and long screw. I examined the sharp parts and found a crumpled paper of directions in the bottom corner of the box. (Yes, I still have the box.) Turns out the apple peeler-corer-slicer can either
- just peel,
- just core and slice, but CANNOT
- just peel and core.
My potential beehives required choice 3: naked hollow apples, not sliced. Foiled again. I cored the apples quite brutally with a long knife producing pentagonal hollows by pushing out the centers with my thumbs. I then happily hand-peeled the apples and set them on their pastry cups.
I prepared the buttery honey-and-nut filling and spooned some into the apple centers. The directions said to “stuff the apples.” My giant pentagonal hollows allowed the filling to plop to the bottom. Oh well.
I carefully wrapped the long strings of 700-layer pastry around the apples. This part was the most fun and satisfying. The pastry could have definitely been rolled and stretched much thinner. Next time.
The darlings got a milk wash and a sugar sprinkle before a long bake in quite a hot oven.
My first attempt at Apple Beehives tasted like pears. They were not quite sweet enough but were vastly improved by a sprinkle of powdered sugar. The puff pastry was certainly the most delicious part.
Next time I’ll use Macintosh apples, roll the pastry even thinner, make a double batch of filling, and add a drizzle of warm cream cheese frosting. Half the puff pastry is waiting in the fridge for a future bake.
Today I will tackle Bake 3, a concoction of nutty upside-down fudge-frosted brownies to accompany us to a neighborhood dinner party where I, per my type-cast role, will listen, smile, and nod.