I sit at a desk for most of my work day, hunched over, with my head extended unnaturally from my body. That’s a helluva lotta hours to be positioned in such an non-ergonomic way. As a result, my neck, shoulders and back get mighty tight. Try as I may, I constantly forget to push my shoulders back and do some stretches. This has resulted in an impressive plethora of big, tight, rigid knots throughout my upper body.
It never bothered me before, as I’ve been working like this for years now and my posture is worse than Quasimoto’s (but better than Kristin Stewart’s) but lately, I’ve been plagued by almost-constant aches and pains. To remedy this, the Husband and I went to a Chinese massage complex last Saturday afternoon. You read right – not a massage parlour but a massage complex. It’s in a strip mall in Richmond and the space itself is simply a row of rooms filled with masseuses from mainland China torturing their customers.
There’s no soothing music, no trickling water fountains, no scented massage oil, no soft, comforting hands gently rubbing your muscles as you’re lulled into sleep.
This is hardcore. It’s massage on steroids.
My lady had hands of steel, akin to vices with merciless, undulating grips. She was small and wiry, often perched on the edge of the massage table like a bird of prey, her entire body suspended over me as she kneaded – nee – pulverized my troublesome knots. Her elbows and forearms were utilized a good 90% of the time for maximum efficacy and pain-induction.
Good crunches: eating potato chips, cracking crab claws with my freakishly strong teeth, biting into corn on the cob
Bad crunches: the sound of my massage on Saturday – my knots were crunching the entire hour I was at this den of distress with my mistress of misery.
It hurt so bad.
See the rubber ball gags in Chief Wiggum and Snake’s mouths?
I needed one of those simply to stifle the screams that were slowly inching their way out of my throat.
As I emerged from the complex, eyes squinting and blinking in the harsh sunlight, I clearly needed something to blunt the memory of my ordeal.
It’s summer time. What says summer more than juicy, sweet, fuzzy peaches? It’s pie time.
I’ve only ever made pie twice in my life. Once was a dismal failure with apple pie over a decade ago. The other was a blueberry pie that turned out pretty good. Both times I used pre-made pie dough. This time, I was determined to make it myself.
I used Mark Bittman’s recipes from How to Cook Everything. His pie dough called for the use of a food processor. I only have a tiny one cup processor so that wasn’t going to work. I’m doing this old school – by hand!
Two-crust Pie dough (from my 1998 edition of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything“)
2 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 small pieces
6 tablespoons ice water
Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add the cold cut butter. I used a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture looked like cornmeal.
Sprinkle the 6 tablespoons of water over the mixture and blend it together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add a bit more water if it’s too dry.
Shape the mixture into a ball with your hands. Flatten it into two discs, wrap them in plastic wrap and put them into the fridge for 30 minutes (or the freezer for 10 minutes).
The dough came together easily enough – I was impressed it looked like how I imagined it should. Then I started messing up.
Mistake number 1 – I didn’t shape 2 discs of dough for the bottom and upper layers of the pie. Instead, I made one big disc which screwed me over when I tried to create two rounds of dough from it. I cut it in half to make two pieces and because they weren’t round, it didn’t make a circular crust. My first attempt at trying to shape it into a circle with my hand warmed the dough too much and it was too soft to use. I had to smush it back into a ball and put it in the freezer. I smartened up with the second piece – I rough handled it into some semblance of a ball and rolled it out. Not perfect but it’ll have to do.
To pre-bake the bottom layer, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the dough into a pie plate. At this point you should prick the dough all over with a fork – mistake number 2: I didn’t prick the dough all over with a fork. Arrrgghhhh. Crimp the edges of the pie or press it down with the tines of a fork to make it look pretty – mistake number 3: my pie dough wasn’t large enough to go all the way up and over the sides of the pie plate therefore I didn’t make the edges pretty. Arrrrgghhhh.
Take a large piece of foil and fold it over. It should be big enough to cover the entire crust after it’s been folded. Smear one side of the foil with butter and place it butter-side down over the pie crust. Fill the foil with dried beans, rice or pie weights. Bake it for 12 minutes. Remove it from the oven, reduce the heat to 375 degrees F and carefully remove the foil with the weights. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust is a beautiful shade of brown. Remove the pan and cool on a rack.
Because I didn’t prick the pie crust, it was puffing up in the oven. It also shrank so that the pie crust only went up the side of the pie plate 3/4 of the way. I freaked out a bit and pulled it out of the oven before the completion of the baking time. Oh well – that can’t hurt, can it?
Peach Pie Filling (adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”)
2 pounds or 6-10 peaches depending on their size
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar (you can add or subtract depending on the sweetness of your peaches) and extra for sprinkling on the pie crust
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (or 2 tablespoons instant tapioca)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
Milk (as needed)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
I used 10 small peaches for my pie. To peel them, I boiled them first so that their skin would come off easily. Mistake number 4: I totally boiled the peaches too long. They were half cooked and some were pretty mushy. Hell, it’ll be fine after it’s baked. No one will ever know!
Slice the peaces to whatever size suits your fancy. I made my slices thicker cause I like them to have a bit of bite instead of dissolving away after baking. Mix together all the dry ingredients and toss the peaches with this mixture. I wasn’t really “tossing” the peaches since a lot of them were super soft and melty from the zealous boiling.
Pile the peaches into the pre-baked pie shell, making the pile a little higher in the centre. Dot with butter. Mistake number 5: I forgot to dot with butter.
Cover with the top crust. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers – this could not be done since I had to tuck the upper crust in so that it would connect with the shorty pie crust underneath. Beat an egg with a bit of milk. Brush the top crust with the egg mixture and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Cut vents into the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking.
Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and bake another 40-50 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown. Cool on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature.
Now, Bittman wrote a very important sentence into his recipe: “Do not underbake.” I paid no heed to those words. I totally underbaked my pie. While the crust looked golden, crisp and finished, it was soft and doughy underneath when I tasted my pie. Devastating! Mistake number 6.
The peach filling was tasty though, especially with Breyer’s French vanilla ice cream (that I totally scored for only $2.97 on sale). I also loved the combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger.
I guess it’s not bad for a first try. And surprisingly, the pie tasted great the next day, and the day after that. Why, only last night I was eating it straight from the pie pan while it rested on my lap, forking pie into my mouth, on the couch in front of the t.v.
I’m all about class, you know.