How vodka helped me make pies for my wedding.

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Absolut Pie.

So. Hive. Let’s talk about that crazy plan of mine to make all the pies for our wedding. ‘All the pies’ consisting of 7 different flavours, and two pies of each. I like baking, I thought it made sense. Cinnamon Buns was as supportive as ever, and let me fill our freezer full of tasty in-season fruit over the summer. My original plan was to have all the pies done and frozen before the end of May, for our late-June wedding. That, I am not ashamed to tell you, did not happen. Nor did I do anything about pies (apart from stock up on butter) in the first week of June. It was the middle of June when I thought to myself ‘ok Cinnamon Bun, better do something about those pies’.

I made 3 batches of the usual pastry recipe – butter, flour, water. It was all a wee bit crumbly, and I was scared to add too much water, so I just pressed it into lumps, wrapped them in cling wrap, stuck them in the fridge and crossed my fingers. This did not go well. When time came to roll out the pastry, it just crumbled. I tried again, it crumbled more. I did what I always do when I’m baking and thinking – I ate a little piece. Then I munched on a little more while trying to press it into submission with my hands. I ate what stuck to my hands. I threw away that batch (sneaking a bit more to eat before it hit the trash) and tried one of the other 2 batches I’d made: the same problem.

At that point I carved a little chunk off with a knife to nibble on while I thought. It was then that I remembered this amazing pastry recipe, and figured I should give it a go. The pastry I had made was obviously too dry, but I had added more than the required amount of water. What better recipe to use than one that adds extra liquid in the form of vodka, which will evaporate completely when baked, leaving just a regular pastry? It’s the obvious answer for baking in a climate as dry as Calgary’s!

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A day later I pulled out the Absolut (for the pie), and the Van Gogh Espresso (for the cook – if you haven’t tried this yet, DO IT. On the rocks. So yum.) and got my pie on. This time, I made one pie’s worth of pastry, let it sit in the fridge for an hour, then tested to see how it worked out, instead of making 3 pies worth of stuff that wasn’t going to work, like the last time. It rolled out beautifully! That got made into the first strawberry-rhubarb pie. Once that pie was complete and in the freezer, it was time to production line everything. Sadly, my food processor is too small to do a double batch of this recipe, but once I knew it worked, it was easy to follow the recipe (mostly, I used 1/3 cup water instead of 1/4 cup) 4 more times in a row, to make pastry for 4 double-crust pies. The little pile of trimmings from pie #1 was just sitting on the cutting board, and I’d sneak a piece or two as I was measuring flour, in between sips of my espresso-on-the-rocks.

Once I started making up the pies (strawberry-rhubarb as well as sour cherry that night!) there were even more trimmings that I snacked on, until I realised I was feeling a little woozy. Wait a minute… if I’m adding vodka to the pastry so it is wet enough to work with before baking, and the vodka will evaporate after baking… I’m just eating vodka-soaked flour and butter bites. Ergh.

Pastry-induced headache aside, I made 5 pies that night and managed to find enough room in our freezer to stash them away (just). We baked one the next day, to see what baking a whole pie from frozen was like. It was pretty easy! An hour at 350 and we had a delicious pie. I’m planning another post with details of the recipes and tricks I used, at this point that will definitely come after the wedding (ie: when I have made all of said pies!).

A couple days later I made some blueberry pies, and took this photo before wrapping them up:

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Six pies, with the baker’s little helper.

The plan at this point is to run these six pies to Cinnamon Buns’ mum’s house, because she has an empty chest freezer to store them in, and a bigger oven to cook them in when the time comes. Six pies is also the limit of our freezer space. It was four, until I reclaimed some space by making the two ziplock bags full of blueberries into two pies full of blueberries.

Are you a baker? TRY. THIS. PASTRY. It makes it so easy! If you’re a snacker like me, just don’t plan on driving anywhere after you make it.

Have you found wedding help in unexpected places?

Desserts! Onna Stick!

Any other Pratchett/CMOT Dibbler fans out there? Anyway….

I have an addiction. Its name is Martha Stewart Weddings. I have most of what I need for the wedding, but I can’t stop buying MSW – I guess I think I’ll miss something if I don’t read every issue? Really, they’re all the same ads for dresses and Sandals resorts, but there are still some real gems in there too! (Full disclosure: Mum got me a subscription to the regular Martha Stewart mag for Christmas, it it is the gift that keeps on giving. Love. It.) The most recent issue had these babies:

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Lemon-Meringue Cookie Kebabs, photo from MSW.

I am now obsessed with these essence-of-pie-onna-stick pops. You see, the marshmallow is lemon-flavoured, then you’ve got the meringue, and the shortbread cookie represents the crust… LEMON MERINGUE PIE ONNA STICK. Does it get any better?

I keep thinking that it would be nice to have some snacks and a little refreshing beverage available pre-ceremony, for those who get there early. I’m picturing pretty drink dispensers filled with lemonade and water (PS: where does one buy those?), and now I’m drawing in a few little tasties on sticks! We’ll have a full pie buffet for actual dessert later in the evening, so we couldn’t use them there, but what if people are feeling a little munch-y pre-ceremony? It’s only polite to provide, after all.

After obsessing about the LMCKs for a day or two, I realised that we could have a few different desserts on sticks for snacking on:

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Photo from Sugar Pie Bakery

The popular pie-onna-stick (incidentally, this bakery is the brainchild of a friend of a friend of mine, so I’d be supporting good people by buying).

And that dessert-world darling, the macaron. Onna stick.

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(photo from Trissalicious)

I recently found a macaron bakery here in Calgary, she has a booth at a new farmer’s market (the same place you can buy the pie-onna-stick!). She doesn’t sell macarons on sticks, but I’m sure she could be persuaded. I have made macarons myself, but I wouldn’t want to put that sort of stress on myself before the wedding, considering how much wedding pie I’ll be baking that week.

I can see such a pretty display of all these in my head, and everything arranged on top of vintage furniture painted in bright colours, maybe the paint is a little worn, making it that much more rustic-chic…. But it probably won’t happen. Especially the macarons won’t happen because they are made with almond flour. We gave ourselves a strict “no nuts” rule for the wedding, to avoid killing important people like the best man and the groom’s mum.

I’m still toying with the idea of the lemon meringue pops, because I’ve seen meringue kisses for sale at Safeway (usually in tubs of white/yellow/pink, but I could deal with that), the cookies would be easy, and I have made marshmallows before. They’re not that hard (if you have a working candy thermometer…). Or maybe I should just find another excuse to make them, like a birthday party or something? Something non-wedding related might be better for my sanity, but now that I’ve had this vision of cute desserts on sticks at the wedding, it is hard to get rid of it.

Will people even want snackies before an evening wedding, when they’re going to have a dinner’s worth of appies anyway? Or am I turning into a hobbit-like creature, wanting to feed everyone dinner and second dinner?

Food-tastic!

So I haven’t talked about our caterer or our food plans yet! I hear you yelling ‘You’ve only got 5 months, Miss Cinnamon Bun, better get on that!’. Not to worry, we’re on it. We actually started meeting with and interviewing caterers in September.

Cinnamon Buns suggested the caterer that does all the opening nights at the theatre he works at, and I said ‘Yeah sure’ then went on to do all this research on all these caterers, and didn’t contact our work contact. When we started getting quotes back with heart attack-inducing figures ($6000+ for 65 people? And that doesn’t include booze?!) and fancy menu items like “Quail Egg with crisp lardons of prosciuto [sic], savory basil pesto & wild hibiscus crowns” I got scared off and ignored the whole thing for a while.

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(I don’t want to eat this! Or its eggs!)

Then we did it Cinnamon Buns’ way. We went in to work on a day off, and spoke to the person who contacts the caterer for work events. We went in to ask her what her experience is like with them: Cinnamon Buns and I eat their food at least 5 times a year, so we knew what that was like, but we wanted to know how the experience was from the organizing side. Our friend/coworker gave a glowing review, and then right there in front of our eyes, sent an email off to the owner of the catering company, telling him how two lovely employees are getting married and she recommended that we go with him, and they’re poor little artists…. OK, well I think she was joking about the ‘poor little artists’ bit (including it, I mean. It is true!) but that informal meeting was great to have. Our manager friend also said that she’s always glad to refer people, because it shows the caterer she trusts him, and he knows that if he keeps up with the great service, he’ll get more business through the relationship.

After our little pow-wow we went home and drafted our own email to the caterer, telling him how much we like his food, and that we’d love to meet with him and chat. He was totally responsive to this, and sent us a quote for what we’d outlined, then we agreed to meet to chat.

Can I just say a few things about the other caterers we contacted? Everyone talks about going and doing tastings and trying food and everything…. no one I talked to wanted to do that. They wanted me to read their quote, and then book them? What up with that? Some said that we could taste, but that would cost money so it would basically be buying a meal from them. We met with one lady in person. I was under the impression it was a tasting, but it ended up just being a meeting (that she was late for, btw). She also never ever sent us the quote she promised after our meeting, even after some nudging! They got struck off the list. So did the guy who somehow got the impression that I was planning this remotely from Australia. Weirdo. (To this day, I don’t get it. All our contact was by email, so he can’t even say ‘oh, I thought you sounded Australian.’ Do I type Australian?!)

So we met up with our work-connected caterer at a Starbucks one afternoon in October, and just chatted about what he could provide, things in the quote menu, what the reception would be like, where it was, and it was awesome. He’s totally ok with us bringing pie, and his staff cutting it. He said we could ask his staff to do whatever we wanted really, cut pie, serve ice cream – they’re there for us! The even better part is that his quote, including labour, tea & coffee, all bar supplies (except alcohol, but including mixers, lemon wedges, etc) is half the amount I’d been quoted by other caterers.

At the end of it, he said that if we wanted he would reserve the date for us. Of course we wanted! The even better thing was that he didn’t need a deposit right then. He said that the date was ours, and if someone else tried to book it he’d call us and we could get a deposit to him then! We never got that call but we got some wedding money from my parents at Christmas, so we put some money down so our date could be written in his calendar in pen. I wasn’t really worried about him forgetting and our date being booked by someone else, but I felt like blogging about our caterer and even our food ideas would be jinxing it, until we had the money down.

The deposit is paid, we have the receipt, so I can finally say that our caterers are: Sorrenti’s! If I’d listened to Cinnamon Buns in the first place, we never would have had to contact other caterers.

Have you ever done that? Gone full circle looking and looking and looking for something, before deciding on the thing that was right under your nose in the first place?

Variety is the Spice of Pie

I love looking at pictures of dessert buffets at weddings. I just love the idea of a table full of yummy sweety goodness. I am equally over-the-moon about our table that will be covered with pie, but I also wish there could be a bit more variety. Variety in the look of it, because I would be perfectly happy just pie-type desserts for the rest of my life!

But tables like these, that have big things, small things, things in bowls, things on sticks, things on plates… I love them too.

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(via Martha Stewart)

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(via Martha Stewart)

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(have I mentioned that I love Martha?)

So far, our dessert table is going to be delicious, but everything is going to be entirely pie-shaped. Not too much variety. It’s a bit late, now that I’ve collected all my perfectly mis-matched cake stands to go for a minimalist, spare pie set-up, and I don’t think that would jive with the rest of our wedding anyway. Then I found this:

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(via Sugar Pie Bakery)

Sugar Pie Bakery, a bakery here in Calgary that makes pie pops! I knew about pie pops before, I just never considered it because I’m making the rest of the pies, and pops just sounded too fiddly for the bride to be making before the wedding. I’m not 100% sold on this idea yet, but I think it could be cute! We could get a big old thick (out of date) dictionary, drill some holes in it, and display them that way.

The next inspiring still-pie-but-different thing I found was this:

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(via Inchmark)

Pumpkin pie in a tiny mason jar! The same mason jars our favours are in, actually. I’d been planning on making a pumpkin pie, the day before the wedding (can’t freeze it like you can freeze fruit pies!) but how cute would this be, pumpkin pie in little jars? The tutorial above doesn’t include a crust at all, I thought it might be cute to roll out some pastry and cut it out with heart-shaped cookie cutters or something, and put one the top of each, rather than try to bake it in the jar. For some desserts-in-jars you can buy, check out All Jarred Up on Etsy!

Would you find it funny to have some pies large ones you get pieces of, and some in individual jars?