By Abby Wiseman
I’m Abby and I like to cook– hence the name of this section. I like to cook because I also like to eat and when I eat I like to eat good food. Some people aren’t so concerned about eating good–good tasting or good for you– food. To them food is only a vessel for fuel. I am not one of those people. Food has always been an experience and cooking an accomplishment. Spending time in the kitchen is also a great excuse to have people over, listen to Buena Vista Social Club, catch up on a podcast, eat icing, eat cheese, learn something new about mushrooms, drink wine, drink more wine and work out any conflicts in my life. I once baked three batches of biscuits to mull over a conflict I had with my sister. The first batch were like hockey pucks, but by the third batch they were fluffy and wonderful and so was my relationship with my sister. Biscuit therapy.
People get really freaked out about cooking, especially baking. It’s as though if they mess up on one cake they have failed. I doubt there is a baker or chef out there who hasn’t totally messed up a meal or recipe. We all burn toast. The trick is to not marry the cake. The cake is not finite measurement of your baking skills. The cake does not define you. It’s just a stepping stone–perhaps literally– to the kitchen deity you will be. If you mess up a cake, bake another, because it will probably be better. We all burn toast.
I’m not going to go easy on you with this recipe. No, no. I’m going to challenge you to make a pie that doesn’t need a pan. If you pull this off it will look like something from that rustic-chic bake shop that makes you want to eat 10 croissants– chocolate croissants. I’ve made this pie as it is below, but also with a blueberry filling and whatever tidbits I have in the fridge to throw together. Give it a go and let me know what you think!
Free form leek and cheese pie
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
10 tablespoon unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½ inch cubes
7 tablespoons ice water
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 ¼ pounds mushrooms (whatever ones you want- I used shiitake)
5 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound leeks, sliced ½ inch thick
1 teaspoon time (preferably fresh)
2 tablespoons crème fraiche (I’ve made it with and without this and it’s good both ways)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
¾ cheese (I’ve used gorgonzala and gruyère)
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste
- flours, sugar and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and until it’s crumbly (pea sized butter pieces). If you don’t have a food processor, use a fork or pastry cutter.
- Sprinkle water and vinegar over mixture. Use a spatula to fold mix together until a loose mass forms with a bit of dry flour remaining. If you’re a perfectionist, don’t worry, it’s supposed to be crumbly and you don’t want to overwork it. calm down. Wrap mixture with all it’s crumbly bits in plastic wrap, squish into a large patty shape and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
- Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and roll dough into about an 11 by 8- inch rectangle. Then take the bottom edge and fold it like you’re making an envelope. Do this with all sides and then roll the dough out again. Repeat two more times, then wrap the dough again and put in fridge for 45 minutes to 2 days.
- Cover mushrooms in a bowl and microwave until tender. No microwave? Cook down in a pot on medium heat until mushrooms lose their liquid. Once done, drain liquid. Heat tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add leeks, thyme, then cover and cook stirring every few minutes. In 5 to 7 minutes put leek mixture in same bowl as mushrooms and mix it all together. Add crème fraiche and mustard. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the oven rack on the low-middle rack. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Roll out dough on floured surface until it’s about ⅛ of an inch thick. Transfer dough (using a flipper if needed) to a back sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut dough into a large circle or 4 to 5 little circles if you’d like to make tarts. Brush with oil. Place filling in centre of dough and sprinkle with cheese.
- Grab one edge of dough and fold up outer two inches, then continue folding over the edge, pleating the dough at points by pinching dough together. Continue until dough is complete and brush with egg and sprinkle with salt if desired.
- Lower oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. The pie should be golden brown. Let pie cool and serve up for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Tip: If you can’t do dairy, then replace butter for margarine or shortening (I’ve used Earth Balance vegan shortening in the past). The trick is to make sure the margarine is very cold–like freezer cold– and don’t let stand as long before rolling (see step 5).