Even I am startled by the fact that I have never baked a single thing in my life. (I assume cookies from a plastic-wrap package does not count.) Mind you, I love pies, cakes, and anything (everything!) with vanilla buttercream frosting. So why have I never strayed from savory to sweet? Namely, fear.
I attribute this to bad marketing. Somewhere I once read that the difference between baking and cooking is precision. My kitchen style is barely controlled chaos. I disdain recipes. Measurement is not my friend. I find that most mistakes are good ones and some of my best dishes are born of whisky-fueled madness. I have been known to not even start cooking for a dinner party of eight until all the guests have arrived, been martini-ed and fromaged. I am at one with The Joy of the Communal Kitchen.
What inspired this late life culinary attempt? Simple. A walk through the early September farmers market and the sight of all that fruit. My wife, a professor who rarely cooks at all, has mastered the blueberry pie. But she is also a creature of habit and no matter how hard I plead, she fastidiously adheres to her favored recipe and one ingredient. Albeit successful, her scientific self would not budge. If I wanted more fruit, I’d have to do it myself.
Flying into ORD on my usual Friday night ride, I was immersed in the latest issue of Bon Appetit when I stumbled upon a fabulous picture of a fruit galette. I skipped to the recipe expecting to be assaulted with the need for implements I could only dream of: a measuring cup, a scoop, a calibrated set of shiny spoons. There were other daunting setbacks. Vanilla extract? Corn starch? And what exactly is lime zest? But oh those mounds of fresh peaches on obscene display. Temptation thine name is pastry.
With a favorable weekend grill forecast and only my stepdaughter and wife to fail for, I took the plunge. We loaded up on fruit. I settled on a simple dinner menu of grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and sweet Michigan corn – to minimize the cooking stress. I rolled up my sleeves and dug in.
Lessons were learned. I only had a half tsp measure and I may or may not have doubled the corn starch. I got bored of measuring things and added sugar to the fruit melange by sight. Lime zesting is really fun and two little scoops seemed such a waste. And true confession? I totally skipped making the dough and I challenge anyone to challenge my heavy-cream painted and sugared Pillsbury crust!
We deemed our Labor Day fruit galette a success. One small missed detail, I forgot to buy parchment paper and the end product stuck to the tin foil we used as a substitute. Bakers of tomorrow take heed. Tin foil does not work. So we Cool Whipped, got three spoons and dug in.