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Straddling the Atlantic: baking a Canadian pie in Europe

The humourous stereotypes are not lost on me, in fact I relish in them. Since I’ve moved to ‘Europe’ I’ve started hanging my laundry outside to dry, zipping around the city on my bike, baking my own bread, and, some report, have picked up an accent… in English. Interesting.

I suppose these are all normal reactions to living in a new environment, we adapt, we hike up our leiderhosen and dive right into the cheese fondue.

Though not for everything. I’m still stuck on the ridiculous Canadian ‘metric’ system. Not quite American, not quite like Euroland, I still appreciate my pounds, cups, and feet. So needless to say, baking here is always a bit of magic.

There are no expectations since anything that results in a manageable (rather close to mangeable, n’est pas?) consistency becomes a bread, cookie or cake. So far many positive reviews from very dedicated taste-testers.

Last week I crossed a new hurdle. Yes indeed, I am baking pies in Switzerland (well 2 so far, but that counts for plural). Not only that, I am shocking their tongues with the pie that never made it back across the Atlantic: Pumpkin Pie!

But before I show off the buttery crumby details, let’s talk about my ‘enabling environment’. I personally own no baking equipment, except for maybe a mixing spoon (thanks Mom), so whatever I use is graciously available from the apartment that I am living in. The last place was heaven (I was living with a crazy foodie…), mixers, whizzers, smashers and scales, even a creme brulee torch. I’m a little less equipped at the new place having to be a little creative to follow the North American recipes online. Some examples of my ‘genius’:

– Measuring out ‘cups’: I use our drinking glasses, looks like about 250 g for water et al. Oh wait, engineering school taught me that not everything weighing 250 g will fill the same volume. Hmm, let’s pretend it does.

– Teaspoons, tablespoons, pinches and sticks: Well this used to be good guessing game as no one seems to own measuring spoons nor does butter come in sticks. But Ellen caught this problem early on and gifted me a dashingly red set of measuring spoons which are now in high rotation (you rock, E!). Sticks have to be improvised, and I get by with some good carving out of the butter block, but I sure like saying that I wish I had a few sticks to add to this recipe, hehe.

– Gas stove in C: Yikes, was I also supposed to know all the Fahrenheit (which is a German word, now who has it backwards?) temperatures in Celsius? Well even after conversion, I can’t exactly do much for precision on my gas stove.

325F = 162.8C

– Missing ingredients: Some things you just can’t find, unless you go to one of those foreign grocery stores, importing wild things from abroad like mint extract and sushi rice. So when I get a craving for pumpkin pie, especially around this time of year, I just gotta make it happen. No canned pumpkin, no allspice? Bring it on!

For a fun bonus, I had my mind set on using the chestnut flour I brought back from Corsica to make the pie crust. Ahem, my first pie crust. That made it just a little more special, but once you smell that heavenly nutty delicate chestnut flour, you’d be right there with me. Promise.

So let me present my proud creation: chestnut crusted pumpkin pie

Fresh pumpkin ready to roast
Post-roast to filling
Chestnut crust prep and fill

And the finished product…

Light and fluffy, spicy and sweet

It was dreamy. Like pumpkin fluff with a tickle of chestnut. It was quickly finished.

And for the second, slightly more creative: chestnut crusted apple pear pie

Frozen butter shredded and vanilla pod for crust
Boskoop apples and Conference pears for a soft jammy filling, plus lemon and ginger
Out of the oven, deep dish goodness

And some fun with the top crust. Roasted almonds and lots of love

This one was for a boy I’m particularly proud of, recently finished a Master’s degree and rather brilliant if I do say so myself.
Pie was heartily devoured in the midst of the beautiful autumn. Happy November!