Edmonton Tourist: Local Shops

How is everyone doing? Trying hard to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible? Would you do me a favour? Please stop.

Christmas is less than a month away and I am slightly happy about no hustle and bustle, no shopping malls and no pressure to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Although I stopped with most of that nonsense a few years ago, there are still some holiday traditions I really enjoy but the pressure of all the other stuff was getting in the way. Normally, the hubs and I take one day and get all of the shopping done. We make a day of it. Go for breakfast, decide the order to hit the shops (we always have a list of what to purchase before we go), hit the shops, have a relaxing lunch with a festive libation, hit more shops if necessary and then go out for a delicious dinner. We have done this since the kids were small. My mom would take the kids for the day. It was lovely.

This year is quite different but it’s not. We didn’t have large family plans last year, so obviously we won’t this year. Christmas shopping is not quite the same because I have been intentional about who receives my money. I read a stat that made me think carefully about where I spend my money.

This made me think. Part of what I love about my city are the small shops that fill different communities with vibrancy. Who doesn’t love strolling along Whyte Avenue or 124 street? Who doesn’t love the tiny bistros and restaurants that support local growers? Is it easy to hop on the internet and shop Amazon. At least be more intentional and buy from Canadian box stores. But since you are shopping online anyways…. did you know most local shops take online orders and will deliver? With all of this in mind, I took to my Instagram stories yesterday and posed this: Tell me your favourite small and local business!

And you did.

The side benefit was I found new businesses! I ordered from a few and now my Christmas shopping is done. A lot of activity was happening yesterday, people were sharing, businesses were sharing, people were buying, businesses were selling, everyone was happy. It was a very fun day. Let me share with you a few that I think excel in their customer service and products.

  1. RSS Designs by Riyaz Sharan. I heard about this local artist from a friend and neighbour. I went to the artist’s page and was blown away by the images he has created of local landmarks. His Red Chairs at Elk Island hooked me in. I went to his online store and made two purchases for Christmas. I am so excited to gift these. He offered shipping but I opted for local pick up. I will get these tomorrow.

2. Glass Bookshop Owned and operated by two locals who focus on Canadian writing with special attention paid to LGBTQ2SIA and IBPOC writers, as well as the independent publishers who help to produce their work. They take orders for more mainstream and best of all? They delivered to my porch. Their communication is personal and helpful. My books were coming in at different times and they were prepared to deliver when each one arrived. I said save your time and the environment, and waiting until they all arrive. These are lovely humans, and I like to shout from the rooftops how great this book shop is. Now, they don’t just cater to Edmontonians, they will ship a book to you wherever you are. I found them most helpful with my Indigenous education. Bonus – they have a podcast because who doesn’t love nerding out to books?

The had me at the brown paper bag…

3. CraftyBones She is a fiber artist specializing in crochet and woven pieces. I purchased two items and requested a third custom piece. Shipping is available but because she is local, I have made arrangements for pick up once the pieces are complete. I am very excited to see these pieces too! I even ordered myself one. I had a comment from a follower who told me she bought something after I posted because it was exactly what she was looking for. I love it when that happens.

4. The Royal Bison Who doesn’t love a good artisan craft show? The Royal Bison moved theirs on line this year with the 12 days of Royal Bison. Each day a different medium is featured – but you can buy anything any day. Today the feature is Art + illustration, yesterday it was ceramics. It is a lovely curated selection of local Edmonton and Alberta artists.

5. Daisy Chain Book Company You might know I like books. This used to be a book truck showing up at farmer’s markets and festivals. She turned it into a shop during a pandemic. It is located on High Street in the space that used to be my favourite quilt shop. It is downstairs and charming. She sells new and used books – think Powells but smaller. I love everything about this place, the owner, the happy decor, the selection, kindness and the book community that is growing out of it. You can also order online and she will ship it to you. I have an out of print book on her list that she is keeping an eye out for. Fingers crossed it comes to her. I love this place.

6. I.M. Collective This is a group of indigenous artists who create and sell unique items. They have their online Christmas market happening right now on facebook. I found them at the City Market a few years ago. The work is beautiful. I especially like “Kookum approved” Who doesn’t want their granny approval?

7. Majesty and Friends Located in Highlands in the most adorable shop selling hilarious and quirky gift items. They also have an online shop – honestly – I have come to love shopping from the comfort of my chair. The daughter bought the infamous Fuck You Kenny mug from here. And I like to buy the cards but there is a infinite amount of fun things to purchase. Great stocking stuffers.

I know I have only sctached the surface but I have other things I want to do today like bake mincemeat tarts and shortbread for Christmas gifts of my own. Just so you know, I am not sharing these because these shops are paying me. They don’t even know I am doing this. I am sharing because I don’t want to lose part of what makes Edmonton great. Support local.

Stay healthy friends!

#StacktoSackHunger : Shame around food insecurity

Back during the dark times in 1993, I went through a rough year struggling to put food on the table. I worked at a school where there was a lunch program and we could pay $5 a week for a hot lunch. It was a struggle for me to pay that, but that was usually the only hot meal I got that day. I would go home to my jar of mustard. The kitchen staff would sneak leftovers home with me or save the ugly bread and kitchen scraps for me to have at home. On Fridays I would drive to my mom’s house and have a really great meal. Often I would stay the night, eat breakfast and lunch before I would go to my grandma’s for a visit. If I was lucky – she would also feed me dinner.

I didn’t tell anyone I was this poor. It was embarrassing and shameful. I never even admitted it to my family, but obviously they knew.

Since then, I have been super sensitive and aware of what people eat. I have a food disorder around that now. I watch what people eat, I listen to their silent struggle and I feel the shame they are experiencing. It’s as if poverty is the owner’s fault. We all make choices that result in consequence. None of us have a crystal ball to see where that choice will take us. Some of us are lucky and some of us are not. I make it a priority to help where I can now because for the grace of God go I…

This year I have been extraordinarily fortunate. When the lock down came, I was sent home armed with technology that afforded me to continue my work and keep receiving a paycheck without any reductions. I watch friends and family lose their jobs, worry about keeping a roof over their heads and struggle to keep food in the mouths of their children leaving them – the parent last on the list.

There is a food challenge going around. #StacktoSackHunger. The premise is to take the food you stashed away in the spring when the supply chain was uncertain, stack it and share it on your social channels, then take that food and donate to your local food bank. The Alberta Motor Association has made it easier for us by setting up donation bins at every one of their locations across the province. They have even set up an online portal to donate monetary funds that go directly to the food bank of your choice. I have chosen to do both. #StacktoSackHunger and donate money because $1 = $5 worth of food to a food bank.

This is my stack and a rare selfie of the Edmonton Tourist

Plus I am donating money to FillOurFleet.ca because I am all about Albertans helping Albertans. When you are hungry, you cannot think about much else. Do your neighbour a solid and give this year. I hope you are happy and healthy this year. If you need help please reach out because people actually want to help – there is no shame in letting them.

Stay healthy friends.

Bake Club: Nanaimo Bars

Image may contain: dessert and food
Nanaimo Bar from the Nanaimo Trail BC.

My 50th birthday took me to Vancouver Island with Tofino as the ultimate destination. I had been reading about the Nanaimo Trail and thought Nanaimo might be a great place to stop for lunch. It was. We had great soup and a Nanaimo bar for dessert, because when in Nanaimo… well, you know how the story goes. EAT THE NANAIMO BAR. I really liked it. I never thought Costco made a good one, nor have I liked the ‘variations’ to the classic bar. I never had family who made it and it wasn’t a staple growing up. The hubs loves nanaimo bars. He raved about the one we had on the trail. This year I thought I would do him a solid and make some amongst the Christmas baking.

I did some research and found everyone had their own version. Some used pudding powder, some didn’t, other’s had mint (WTF?) other’s had oats. NONE OF THESE ARE CORRECT! I went to the City of Nanaimo’s page for the Canadian classic treat because I figured this would be the authentic version. I was correct. It had custard powder and almonds. I downloaded this recipe and was preparde for a LOT OF WORK, because that is what people told me….ohhhhhh they are sooooo much work.

Liars. All of you.

These bars were easy and probably the best tasting bars ever. I mean EVER. Look for the recipe here. You are welcome.

When you try this recipe follow all the ingredients as written out. Don’t substitute things and then tell me it was crap. It is not the recipe, it is the recipe follower. There, I said it.

I did make a mistake though – I forgot to add the coconut. You could tell. It was still really good but the bottom wasn’t as thick. I am making new ones and I will not forget the coconut this time.

I made the crust first. I chopped blanched almonds for days. I want a small food processor. The upside is my knife skills are getting pretty darn great. I used parchment with an overhang to pull the squares out in a quick and painless fashion. I recommend that step. Add consider chilling the crust while you make the filling. I think it makes for better definition of the layers.

The filling is basically vanilla custard frosting. It is delicious! I am a Doctor Who fan so I had Birds custard powder for fish fingers and custard party. Sometimes we have custard for desert. It is not the same a Jello vanilla pudding and do not bother telling me it is. Because it’s not. So don’t use that.

Bird's Custard Powder - Original - 340g | London Drugs

You only need two tablespoons of the powder – this is the secret ingredient. Do not skip it and use your stand mixer or hand beaters to get the filling fluffy. I poured this on top of the chilled bottom crust and popped it back into the fridge while I melted the chocolate.

This is where you can elevate the squares. It calls for baking squares of chocolate. Um, no. Have you tasted that stuff? that isn’t chocolate, it is wax flavored baking topping. Ew.

Schitt's Creek: 10 Memes Too Hilarious For Words | ScreenRant

Chop your best chocolate and add 2 tablespoons of butter and melt them together over a double boiler – it won’t burn this way. The microwave will burn your chocolate. If you use terrible chocolate, use the microwave. It doesn’t matter any more…

I tempered the chocolate to get a nice snap – but you don’t have to. It works just fine without. Plus temper gives it a nice gloss.

I cut them into 16 squares because the hubs would have two otherwise. But you could easily get 32 rectangles of the perfect size.

These took maybe 30 minutes to make from start to finish. I am making one more batch this weekend for the freezer and don’t tell the hubs because I need these to last for gifts.

If you try this Canadian classic tell me how it went!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: Gram’s Butter Tarts

There is nothing more polarizing to Canadians – hockey withstanding – than butter tarts. The debate is endless. Do you prefer runny or firm? Nuts or raisins? Frozen or room temperature? I could go on. I think the defining recipe is dependent on the one you grew up with. I made the mistake of not asking for my grandma’s recipes while she was alive. Thankfully my Aunty had the good sense to not only ask, but write them down. She has been my baking angel this fall with family favourite baking dishes. Her recipes come with “Mom Tip” sections and “Memory” sections. I need to do this. I talked before about hand writing recipes and writing the origin, but the mom tip and memory sections add another layer to the specialness of the recipe.

My dad will reminisce about his mom’s butter tarts and the importance of drippy raisin filled tarts. Every recipe I have tried all tasted fine, but they never were the same from childhood. I heard my Aunty and her family reserve November 11th as official Butter Tart Day. They all get together and make eight dozen tarts. Then divvy them up. I love this idea. So I wrote to her and asked for the recipe. I think the reason I have never found a recipe similar is because there are secret ingredients and methods no professional chef has ever written down. This recipe has honey instead of cornsyrup. It cooks the filling before baking AND it has a pastry recipe I have never experienced before. My grandma always made great pie crust but this recipe goes against everything all pie experts ever taught me. It was the most flavourful and flakiest crust ever.

This recipe needed common knowledge by baking it with someone in the know. The pie dough said it made 8 dozen, I got four dozen. Clearly I didn’t roll the dough thin enough, and honestly, I don’t think I will next time either. I loved the thick flaky crust. I also recommend a circle cutter. I don’t own one. I used a flower cutter and it makes pretty fluted edges but the tart overflows into the divots and the results aren’t pretty. I am sharing this because my grandmas made the best butter tarts ever. Every November 11 my grandma and her mom would bake these with my two aunties. I suspect this recipe was originally my great gram’s, but who knows? I think it is important to share vintage recipes and origin stories.

Pastry

Do NOT substitute any ingredients and be sure to measure carefully!! (These are the instructions – first of all I never heard of baking powder in pie dough and I never have used lard, nor have I added brown sugar. I assure you, this makes the easiest, most flaky and delicious piecrust ever. Suck it Erin McDowell, my gran knew what she was doing!)

5 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp brown sugar

1 lb. (2 1/3 cups) lard (Mom uses Tenderflake)

2 tbsp white vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 egg

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.  Blend the flour mixture and the lard with a pastry blade until it is equally fine and feels silky.  Make a well in the centre.  In a separate bowl or large measuring cup add the vinegar to the water and beat in the egg with the hand mixer.  Pour this mixture into the well in the dry ingredients.  Mix well and form into a large ball.  This will keep for a week or two in the fridge.

Roll on a lightly floured counter from centre out.  Do not roll back and forth or turn over the dough – this will make your pastry tough.

Will make 6 double pie crusts. Double recipe makes 8 – 81/2 doz. tarts. (Edmonton Tourist Tips: ummm I only made 4 dozen. I ran to the store to buy another pound of lard. I have a quart of filling left so I wanted to use it up. Roll thin to get 8 dozen – or don’t. I am not mad at the thick pie crust. Cut with a sharp circle cutter (Aunty uses 3 7/8 or 98 mm diameter cutter). Flute the shells into the tart pans. Also – this is good snacking dough for those who are inclined to snack on raw dough. I chilled the dough for 30 minutes – I recommend this to give structure and hydrate the flour. This is the easiest and most forgiving dough I have ever made!)

Butter Tart Filling

1 cup raisins (I use Sultanas)

1 kg and 1 cup brown sugar ( I nearly died when I saw this amount but it makes 96 tarts – that made sense while I filling endless tart shells.)

6 tbsp honey (liquid)

2 cups butter (maybe a bit more)

6 eggs (room temperature)

3 tsp vanilla

Put cleaned (check for and remove any stems) raisins into mixing bowl and cover with HOT water. Let soak for a half an hour. In a heavy saucepan , over LOW melt butter and add honey and vanilla. Beat the eggs with hand mixer and add slowly while stirring constantly (you don’t want the egg to cook into little pieces!) – I use my hand blender in the mixture while adding the eggs. Stir regularly until mixture becomes like syrup. Add raisins. (Edmonton Tourist Tip: Don’t add raisins to the liquid – add to unfilled tart shells. They become evenly distributed that way – Or nuts. I made three different tarts, raisin, pecan and plain. I like them all but my kids and definite preferences. The beaters were the secret tip – use them if you have them!)

The mixture should have a butterscotch syrup consistency. Keep warm at on medium low stirring regularly. Half fill with raisin mixture (it will boil up and over the edges if you fill them too full – then they will stick to the pans and you won’t be able to get them out). Edmonton Tourist Tip: Fact! I have non-stick tins that are the best I have ever had. Mine all boiled over so I was fussing with my offset spatula to scrape the syrup away to free the tarts. It also makes them ugleeeeeeey)

These are my Aunty’s – her’s are prettier.

Edmonton Tourist Tip: Do not have holes in your tarts and be carful when cooling. If these suckers spring a leak you will have syrup all over the place. When that happened, sprinkle with pastry crumbs or flour to absorb the stickiness and the use your bench scrapper to remove from the counter.

Verdict? Dad said they were the best. I could give him a shoe to eat and he would tell me it was the best. My dad is the best. But…. It did conjure up childhood memories for him and honestly that was the purpose. That is the number one reason to make these…. and also because they are the best.

Thanks Aunty! I love you to pieces!

Stay healthy friends!

Bake Club: The Plan

This is not a black a white photo. 25 cm expected by the end of the day!

It has been quite the week! Watching the election from across the border has been exciting. There will be HUGE ramifications for my province and I laugh as I imagine our premier squirm a bit. His plans will be crushed. All of this makes me so happy today – you could even call it JOY. I have SO many good things happening right now.

My furnace died last week and we were without heat for a week. But the new furnace is so quiet and efficient, it makes me happy.

Work has been stressful. As an event strategist during a pandemic, you can imagine the challenge BUT – Our philanthropic campaign may be the best one yet because we had to imagine new ways of doing something. Coming together as a team has ensured our best creative ideas will be front and centre. I can’t express how excited I am to be apart of it. Do I feel like I am on fire and my desk is on fire and I am floating down the river in a dumpster while its on fire? Heck ya! But Come December 18, I think it will be feel good to relax and see the campaign success behind me.

My oven died in September. The thermostat didn’t shut off and nearly burned the house down. The new oven has a PROVING SETTING! It has easy clean and the inside is BLUE. It is super pretty AND it has convection bake – I tried it and it baked the best peanut butter sandies.

I AM ON VACATION FOR ONE WEEK! We are expecting 25 cm of snow today. It is really pretty outside and the first snowfall always puts me in a Christmassy mood. I am making a list of Christmas baking I want to do. I don’t know if I will get to it all because I AM ON VACATION but I think I will get to a lot it. Having a list makes shopping easy for future visits. Here is the plan:

  • Grandma’s Butter tarts (I wrote to my aunty and she sent me the recipe. These beauties were always made on November 11 – so the family tradition will continue!) This recipe makes EIGHT DOZEN. Obviously this is for sharing…
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Grandma’s Date Squares/Chews with hot pink frosting
  • Mincemeat Tarts (for those who don’t know – they aren’t made with meat – its fruit and a UK thing)
  • Sugar cookies decorated because that is how my aunty did it.
  • Lassy coos (or rather Ginger Sparklers but Lassy Coos is the family name for them)
  • Honey popcorn – this is my recipe I figured out after testing various combinations because Disneyland sold honey popcorn at Pooh Corner and It was the best thing EVER.
  • Gingerbread people – I make these with ribbon strung through and names written on the bellies. There are a couple of new babies in my life so I will make these for them and their sibs.
  • Brownie Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Nanaimo bars. I have never made these before but what the heck? I learned to make a ton of things this year. what is one more?
  • Magic bars – my mom made these at Christmas and I always loved them. I have never made these either, never to late to try new things.
  • S’mores – this will be a blog post on its own because I have an idea….

Okay, that is a long list. But I am not spending time with friends and family this year for Christmas. I will fill some tins and do a drive by porch visit.

I have a whole week ahead of me to do ONLY FUN THINGS. I can’t wait. I will let you know how the baking goes and tell me what your Christmas plans are going to be.

Meanwhile, things are looking up. Stay healthy everyone!

Silence

Have you ever sat in a room or outside and heard absolutely nothing? I have a couple of times. Once was at my acreage after a heavy snowfall. It was below -30 so the snow takes on a dense quality. I was waiting for my ride so I sat on the half log wall and waited. I was dressed in a one piece snow suit and felt relatively toasty warm. It was getting dark so the birds had stopped any chattering. There is a smell and sound to dense snow. It seems to absorb sound. It was perfect silence.

The other time I was walking through a forest in northern Scotland. Pine or spruce, I can’t remember. The needles had fallen off every tree. I had never seen a completely dead forest before. No birds, no animals no other trees or plants. Just a deep floor of needles and bare trees that seemed to go on for miles. It had the same sound as the cold winter evening I experienced. Dense and complete silence. Only this felt spooky. I could feel the death. In Winter I feel the hibernation. Here I felt death.

After spending months with my family, my son said, “No offence, but I am introverting hard and would like you all to go away for a holiday.” Me too, but the places I would prefer to go have just had large outbreaks. The second wave has come and I don’t trust others enough not to share the virus. So I stay home.

I needed to go into work for a meeting on Friday. I have been back to work five times since March 17. The place is like a ghost town. My employer has graciously allowed me to stay home because I am high risk. But this past week everyone was sent home again as a preemptive attempt to protect employees and their families. It has been decades since I worked for an employer who cared this much. It is comforting and feels a bit like loyalty. Something I haven’t felt in decades. At any rate, this place was silent. Almost as silent as the spooky forest. It felt eerie without anyone there. Then I had my meeting and I was loud as usual and disturbed the only four people on the floor. It was too quiet anyways. I drove home in the silence of my car. I didn’t listen to anything. I needed silence.

I miss silence.

I am surrounded by my family – which is great – but also not great. I miss having the house to myself.

In June I was supposed to go to a meditation retreat. I really feel like I missed out on some me time by not going. My next vacation is in November. Obviously I am not going anywhere. (Sorry son of mine). I think I will plan a mediation retreat in the sanctuary of my bedroom. Spend a day or two in silence. Honestly that sounds as good as winning the lottery. Spending the balance of the week reading and writing, sounds like an actual mental retreat. After 8 months of high stress I think I need it. I bet you do too. Bubble baths, good books, meditation, and maybe a day to bundle up and sit outside in the dense snow.

It sounds like self-care. Something I bet we all need even though self-care for you might look different, you still deserve it. Be good to yourselves and stay healthy. I am rooting for you. Try silence and see what you think.

Edmonton Tourist: Government House

Sitting high above the North Saskatchewan river is Government House. This park is also home to the form Royal Alberta Museum or RAM. I may be wrong, but I think the old RAM still houses museum archives. I hope one day it becomes an indigenous peoples museum. The architecture of the building is stunning. It would be a shame to let it fall into ruin.

I came here a few weeks ago when the sky’s were filled with smoke from the American fires. Edmonton had very few smoke filled days this summer. Likely because everyone stayed home (for the most part) this year. The government house grounds are home to a significant collection of public art. The Captain and I strolled around the grounds to take it all in. It had been a while since we visited here. Often its in the winter to look at the Christmas lights.

There was a wedding in front of Government House, probably no more than 10 people and two dogs. All wearing masks. It was a lovely setting. I know it isn’t a ‘trend’ to have smaller weddings right now, but I like it. The big splash of a wedding doesn’t appeal to me. I like a nice simple affair with a handful of meaningful friends and family. I parked far away from the wedding party so they could have their privacy and I could have minimal people contact.

At the bottom of the parking lot is a path that leads to the valley and Government House Park. There is a great tobogan run and a fantastic running path that takes you west along the river bend and then south. The leaves were perfection. This was the peak day for fall.

We then headed towards the totem that sits on the south east corner.

I don’t know what it is, but I love totem poles. I like to really take my time with each face and study the carver’s ability.

This one is soulful and feels sad.

Cap soon became restless so we headed towards RAM to look at the public art. One section of the building has stone carvings that represent petroglyphs. In all my years coming here, I had never noticed these before.

We wandered around the building to look at the other pieces of art, but honestly none were as beautiful as the building itself.

This is my favourite piece on property.

We wandered around the back of the building and Cap heard the howl of a coyote so we stopped to listen. I thought he would join in but he was not okay with the coyote and thought we should leave.

Soon we were back at Government House. It is haunted so I always look for paranormal activity in the windows. I saw a clerk once in the window as a kid. The building was closed and it was night. The hair on my arms stood on end. It was spooky. I don’t like going in that building but I take visitors on tours there. Apparently there is a ghost story about a clerk who locks men in one of the rooms. The men who work in the building avoid going into that room. The ghost doesn’t bother the women at all.

The medallion in the centre is a wild rose. I would love to take an imprint of that and turn it into a tatecanvas bag or something.

We stopped this building. I am not sure what it is but it is beautiful to look at.

If you enjoy public art, I recommend a visit to Government House grounds. Wander around and take in the views. Whatever you decided to do for fun, keep your distance, wear a mask and stay healthy friends.

Bake Club: Pie Crust

Canadian Thanksgiving has past. It was delicious. I didn’t have my parents over this year because of the pandemic. We wanted to still share food. We each make things that taste good and like to contribute to the larger meal. My mom made our family’s traditional style cabbage rolls, I love these. They are a hybrid of Ukrainian and German. Not sour, stuffed with rice and bacon, topped with a sweetish tomato sauce and cloves. I traded two pumpkin pies.

Making pies is typically my super power but somehow this year the crust turned out terrible. I know why but it was still terrible. At least the filling was excellent. I thought I would write out the recipe and share it with you. Only this one will talk about the mistakes and why it went so wrong so future us will do better.

This is the only pie crust I ever make. It is made with butter and when I follow the rules it is tender and flakey.

Double Butter Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes – I use salted butter
  • 1 cup  ice water, or more as needed

That is it. Simple but complicated. You can half it to make a single crust. This recipe can make a covered pie or two open pies. Things you need:

  • 2 9″ pie plates. Not deep dish – regular pie plates
  • Pie weights. You can buy special pie weights or use dried beans, lentils or rice.

I keep my butter in the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before. I cut it up into cubes when it is cold and store it in the fridge until I need it. Cold it important, especially if you have hot hands. Fill a two cup measure with ice. Add one cup of cold water to the ice and let it chill for a few minutes.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter. Working quickly you need to rub the butter into the flour. I toss the butter in the flour to coat it first then I rub it in with my thumb and first two fingers. You can use a pastry cutter if you like but like but I like to feel the mixture. If you like a flakey crust you want to have larger bits of butter. If you want only a tender crust, rub it until it looks like sand.

I turn the crumbles on to a board or counter. Make a well in the centre and add water a few tablespoons at a time while folding the dough together. You don’t want your dough to be sticky nor do you want it dry. As you kneed it together it will form a ball. Too dry and you get cracks, to wet and it sticks to your fingers. You can add water or flour as needed. (no pun intended). The perfect consistency is when you squeeze it and it holds together (even when the bowl still looks like crumbs).

Form the dough into a ball. Cut in half and fold it onto iself a few times. This is how you get the layers of a flakey crust like the ones you see on Crisco commercials. Then pat into a circle. This is important. It helps the gluten strands develop and it is easier to roll out a circle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or an air tight container and chill at least 30 minutes.

I will often make the dough in the morning or the night before. I pull them out of the fridge, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I bang on it with my rolling pie. This loosens up the crust making it easier to roll out.

When I roll the dough, I start in the centre and roll forward once, lift the dough and make a quarter turn and repeat the process. This does a couple of things. It ensures I get a round crust, the crust does not stick to the surface and I can control the size and thickness better.

I keep checking the diameter with the pie plate. I want at least two inches larger than the plate. Then I fold it in half and centre it in the plate and unfold it. I gently hold the sides and I fit it into the plate being carful not to tear the sides. If you do – just pinch together.

Fold the edges under itself. This gives a thicker crust edge and allows for a pretty crimp. You can do whatever you like, I use my two fingers and thumb to create the zigzag pattern. My grandma used a fork for the crimp. Do what every you like best.

Now you fill it. If it will be a custard filling, like pumpkin, you will need to blind bake it.

Blind Bake:

Dock the pie with a fork (poke holes all over it) and bush on an egg wash. This prevents the crust from absorbing the custard filling.

Take a piece of parchment and cover the bottom of the pie. Ensure it is long enough to cover the sides. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. DO NOT MISS THIS STEP. I couldn’t find my pie weights so baked without. BIG MISTAKE. The crust folded on itself and shrank. I couldn’t bake it fully because it was melting into itself. It was a disaster.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 45 minutes. Shorter if you need to bake the filling in the pie, longer if you are putting a cooked filling in the finished pie shell.

The crust should be lightly brown and not translucent. (like mine was because I didn’t use pie weights.)

I have no idea what I was thinking but I will never make that mistake again. At least the crust tasted good – although it was a little under done. Don’t do that either.

Double Crust:

Place the bottom crust in the centre of the pie plate. Unfold it.

Add filling.

Place to the top crust over the filling. Fold the top crust under the bottom crust. Then crimp. Crimping here keeps the pie filling from spilling out. it isn’t just decorative. Cut a pie vent in the centre of the pie to let steam escape. Otherwise it will explode in your oven and that is just sad for everyone, especially the person who cleans the oven.

Brush with egg wash for a golden crust, milk for a pale crust.

Bake at 450F for 15 – 30 minutes and then drop the heat to 350F for about 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Edmonton Tourist: Emily Murphy Park

I tried to wander around Emily Murphy Park Saturday morning but I couldn’t find a parking spot. This is arguably one of my favourite river valley parks because it is secluded and there is a kick-ass fire pit hidden within the park. I am not divulging the location, even today when the park was slammed with people my beloved firepit stood alone – hidden waiting for me to return (or my pal because I told her about it).

from 2011

While going through my archives, I realized I never visited this park as part of the Edmonton River Valley Park series. Cap and I made our way down to see a huge party at the shelter. No masks, no social distancing….so I guess in two weeks we will know the outcome. I took a photo of Emily Murphy herself (in bronze) and thought briefly about first wave feminism. Don’t @ me about how terrible it was these famous five women didn’t consider bipoc in their quest to be know as people. That is why it is first wave. The ones who came first to open the door and suggest the world could be different. Super flawed but most people don’t consider others, they only think of themselves. It’s up to you to change that. Don’t like it? Do something.

I circled the park. To the south the road is closed because of the Groat Road construction. That is a shame because that way leads to the trails along Mayfair Gold Course and into Hawrelak Park. The photos below are from 2011. The park hasn’t changed.

To the east the trail was clear. That path takes you into Kinsmen Park, The Walterdale Museum, the Highlevel Bridge and the Walterdale Bridge.

Sitting on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River, Emily Murphy Park feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The University of Alberta is up the hill. Downtown is across the river. But it feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. That is what I like best about Edmonton’s River Valley Park system. It feels like wilderness in the middle of the city. Where else can you live and be surrounded by wildlife one minute and head for the coffee bar the next?

This shows the park in all her glory when the park was empty on a Friday night in 2011.

When we left the park, we headed for Government House. I wanted a view of the valley and about 500 less people. I will save that story for next time.