“June and I have paid with our souls for taking fantasies seriously, for living life as a theatre, for loving costumes and changes of selves, for wearing masks and disguises. But I know always what is real. Does June?” – Anaïs Nin, December 30, 1931
The past few weeks have been spent in a turbulent state of desire and upheaval. My mind is thriving elsewhere. That’s for sure. I doubt it will ever arrive. I’ve never felt whole in any one place. It’s like this hybrid, this disassociated fragment of myself that I never could quite control, exists in an entirely different world. And then comes the night.
I look forward to its return and greet its vastness with open arms. And when its darkest, I climb outside my bedroom window and sit on the sill. Never a fear of falling, plummeting to the ground below. For I have plummeted to far worse depths than whatever physical is beneath me. I chart the constellations. I can show you the head of Hydrus, the beginning of Orion. From which star did we descend here? I must possess knowledge of each star. I must, possess. I hold all of them before me, I hold none of them before me.
Mind begins to drift. For I do not belong here anymore. I’ve always struggled with the tedium of everyday life. For I am something, someone, that has never been able to be tied down. Not by rope, not by hands, not by bounds. I miss the intensity of New York, the smoking opiate lined streets of Paris, the sulfuric call to prayer of the Middle East. This new me that has experienced a different kind of world craves a life far from the old. And yet, I am here. It’s the last time before I leave for good. The people around me don’t change as much as I. Wingless, flowers yet to blossom. Some never bloom, never awaken. And that’s okay too. We’re all built for different trajectories. And clearly the magnitude of mine is something that’s greater than just this one blood and body. The paint on the sill decays under the weight of it all.
If there’s anything my travels taught me, its that just being, will never be enough. I’ve always had a serious case of discontent and wanderlust. And the more that I return home, the stronger my desire to leave again. I must keep moving, to keep my thwarted past from consuming my all. Because the past is still a shadow, and it still clouds my body with its cold. Oh, the Freudian aspect of it all! I’ve always had the desire to live on a grander scale, unpredictable and nomadic. Intensity and rhythm. I believed that once I returned home, I would be inspired to write again. To finally publish. But the truth is, all I returned with was a never-ending tiredness and a stronger desire for the sleeplessness and jazz of the city. So, I keep moving, keep creating. One can only yield.
So, here’s two pies to demonstrate my inability to commit. The first, an apple and rose flavoured pie, with the flakiest lattice and sweet pie crust rosettes. The second, a dulcetly mellow buttermilk honey custard pie that’s lightly flavoured by a hint of lavender and adorned with a thick layer of chantilly crème. Each, just as delicious as the other. I think pie could possibly be my new favourite thing to make. It’s homely, comfortable. It’s easy as. You can trade the lavender for rose petals or even earl grey tea leaves. You could use your favourite pie crust recipe too. It’s all delicious.
APPLE AND ROSE PIE
For the crust:
340g all-purpose flour, 2 tbsp. granulated sugar, 1 tsp. salt, 130g cubed unsalted, 20ml apple cider vinegar, 145 ml iced water
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the butter and use your fingers to coat it in the flour. Using a pastry cutter or metal spatula, begin to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles a coarse meal-like texture with pea-sized pieces of butter running through it. Combine the apple cider vinegar and iced water. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the iced water mixture over the flour/butter mixture. Use a bench scraper or spatula to mix until incorporated. Keep incorporating the iced water mixture, adding in a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough is beginning to come together to form a ball with some dry and flaky bits remaining. Squeeze and pinch the dough to form a smooth ball, adding a few drops of water if necessary. You have added enough water when you can pick the dough up and squeeze it together without it falling apart. Split the dough into two discs, flatten each and cover the halves in a layer of plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour before using, or preferably, overnight.
For the filling: (roughly adapted from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book)
6 large, red apples, thinly sliced (about 550 to 600 grams), 100g granulated sugar, 75g light brown sugar, 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. vanilla bean extract, 2 to 3 tbsp. rose water, 1tbsp. lemon juice
Place the sliced apples into a large bowl. Add in the granulated sugar, light brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Toss with your hands to combine. Add in the vanilla bean extract, rose water and lemon juice. Toss again until evenly combined. Set aside for assembly.
1 large egg, lightly beaten (for the egg wash), raw sugar (for sprinkling)
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease a 23 cm (9”) pie dish. Set aside.
On a floured surface and with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one of the dough pieces into a 30 cm (12”) circle, about .4 (1/8”) thick. Let the dough sit out at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling, if it’s too cold the edges are likely to split. Carefully place the dough circle into the prepared dish and use your fingers to press the dough down and into the edges of the dish. Set in the refrigerator whilst you roll out the remaining dough.
Roll out the other half of the dough into a circle, about the same dimensions as above. Use a ruler to measure and cut out 8 x 3.8 cm (1 ½”) thick strips, using a very sharp knife or a fluted pastry wheel. Set the the strips aside on a lined baking tray and in the refrigerator. Re-roll the scraps from the dough, into a rough rectangular shape. Tightly roll the longest edge of the dough towards you to form a long cylinder. Use a knife to slice the cylinder into 6 – 8 pieces. Use your fingers to pinch the bases of each piece together to open up the top to form a little rose shape. Then, using any remaining scraps, use a sharp knife to cut out a few little leaves. Set the roses and leaves on a tray in the refrigerator.
Remove the pie crust from the refrigerator and pour in the apple filling, spreading it evenly over the base.
Remove the dough strips from the refrigerator. Begin to weave the lattice by laying 4 (half) of the strips horizontally over the pie so that they are nearly touching. Make sure to use the longer strips in the middle of the pie and the shorter strips towards the edges. Next, fold half of those strips back on themselves. Lay one piece of the remaining dough strips vertically over the pie so that it lays over the unfolded horizontal strips. Make sure that this strip is placed in the center. Unfold the folded horizontal strips so that they lay over the top of the vertical strip and fold the strips running under the vertical strip back over the top. Lay another dough strip vertically over the pie, making sure that it’s as close as possible to the preceding vertical strip. Continue this process, swapping the folded and unfolded horizontal strips and adding a new vertical strip each time until the pie is completely latticed. I know this sounds all very confusing if it’s your first time doing a lattice, so here’s a step-by-step lattice instructional that I find useful!
Trim any excess overhang with scissors or a sharp knife, then roll the edges inwards towards the center of the pie. Firmly crimp to seal. Place the pie on a lined baking tray and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before baking.
When you are ready to bake, remove the pie from the refrigerator and brush the top of it with a light glaze of the egg wash. Sprinkle over the raw sugar to coat. Bake, for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling and the pie crust has turned a deep golden brown colour. Remove the pie from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack and let it cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
BUTTERMILK HONEY CUSTARD PIE
For the oat crust:
120g rolled oats, 40g all-purpose flour, 30g cornmeal, 75g light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 100g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Heavily grease a 23 cm (9”) pie dish. Set aside.
Place the oats, flour, cornmeal and sugar into the bowl of a medium sized food processor. Pulse until the mixture forms that of a coarse meal. Some larger pieces of oat are okay. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture is just beginning to come together and the butter is evenly incorporated throughout the dry ingredients. Spread the oat mixture over the base of the pie dish, using your fingers to press it into an even layer and up the sides of the dish. Set in the refrigerator or freezer until firm.
Place the dish on a baking tray. Place a layer of aluminum foil, shiny side face down, over the crust. Scatter some pie weights, dried beans or rice over the foil, making sure to concentrate them around the edges rather than the center. Par-bake, until the pie shell is just beginning to develop some colour, about 12-15 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and place the pie back in the oven to continue to bake for a further 5 minutes. If the crust begins to slump or crack, use the back of a spoon to gently push it back together then let it continue to bake. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely before filling.
For the buttermilk honey custard:
210ml buttermilk, 200ml heavy cream, 2 tbsp. dried culinary lavender, 250g honey, 100g granulated sugar, 50g all-purpose flour, 20g cornmeal, ½ tsp. salt, 85g unsalted butter (melted), 3 large eggs, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. vanilla bean extract, a few drops of culinary lavender oil to taste (optional)
Combine the buttermilk, cream and lavender into a medium sized saucepan set over medium-high heat. Heat, stirring often to distribute the lavender, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Turn off from the heat and set aside to cool until room temperature.
Meanwhile, combine the honey, sugar, flour, cornmeal and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk until evenly combined. Pour in the melted butter and again, whisk until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking until they are evenly incorporated throughout the batter. Use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the infused buttermilk cream mixture into the bowl, discarding the lavender buds. Vigorously whisk until well combined. Stir in the lemon juice, vanilla bean extract and lavender oil, if using.
Pour the filling into the cooled and par-baked crust. Bake, for about 45 to 50 minutes. Make sure to turn the pie halfway through cooking to ensure that it evenly colours and bakes. The pie should be golden brown, the edges of the custard firm but the centre still slightly soft and wobbly. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool to room temperature completely before placing in the refrigerator and chilling until cold before covering in the chantilly crème and serving.
For the chantilly crème:
200ml heavy cream, 75g powdered sugar (sifted), ½ tsp. vanilla bean extract, dried edible lavender buds (for sprinkling)
Place the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk, on medium speed, until soft peaks are just beginning to form. Pause mixing and add in the powdered sugar and vanilla bean extract. Continue to whisk until firm peaks are just beginning to form. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Spread a generous layer of the chantilly crème over the top of the cooled pie and scatter over a few lavender buds (if desired), before serving.