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My weekend loot !


The monsoons are not exactly a great time to venture out on foot in Mumbai. I maybe wrong in saying so but it might be because of my inexperience with ‘walking for errands’. In Nagpur, I had my precious two-wheeler to take me wherever I wanted to go, even if it was just a few meters away. But here, it is different. Public transport rules as the distances are longer. Better still if you travel by your own car and even better if you have a driver who willingly drives you where ever you want to go. I thank my lucky stars for that !

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before the monsoons finally reached Mumbai. Unlike  every weekend which is usually spent walking aimlessly in a mall, this weekend we decided to head to Bandra. It was a bright morning and the sky was scattered with wisps of grey clouds casually hanging out, probably plotting a heavy downpour for the later part of the day.  Since it was late for breakfast, we decided to skip it and instead of entering Suzette Creperie & cafe , we settled to fill our stomachs with Punjabi khaana at Papa Pancho ka dhaba. A menu check on a mobile app later revealed that we had missed out on some superb buckwheat crepes made the traditional Brittany way. There’s always a next time and next time I really hope is the coming weekend.

Getting a parking space in Bandra especially on a Sunday is not an easy task. We were quite fortunate to find one and everything we wanted to explore was just walking distance from there. Since grocery shopping is my first love (shopping for clothes comes a close second, normal right?), the first place I decided to check out was the Pali hill Farmer’s market. As I was getting ready to dive into the sea of veggies, the sun decided to take its day off and down came the rains. It wasn’t a heavy downpour but the pothole filled sludgy water made it difficult to walk and it was no fun playing ‘dodge water’ with the cars either. We passed from stall to stall eyeing the fresh greens and regretting buying our grocery at the mall the day before. We had to stop eventually when the roof of a stall attempted to soak us in its own reservoir of rain water.

My next destination was Sante’s , a delicatessen located just a few meters away from the market on the same road. This is where for the first time ever in Mumbai, I found Valrhona.  My happiness was short-lived when I checked the price label (!) But this place is surely a haven for cheese enthusiasts. I didn’t get too adventures and stuck to my regular cheese buys : 100 g blocks of Mozzarella and Parmigiano reggiano. As we were about to make an exit, I spotted a plastic jar filled with vanilla beans. Now is the time to make your own vanilla extract, I thought to myself and bought a few beans priced at 60 Rs per bean.  Some quick math (done by my husband, obviously) revealed that it was time to chuck the fake and pricey bottles of vanilla essence and replace them with natural vanillin. Sante’s also carries a big freezer full of frozen fruits : strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, red currants and many more. Since I had already bought cans of fruits soaked in syrup ( I know Fresh fruits > Frozen fruits >Canned fruits !) I wistfully let the freezer door shut. Barring a couple of rookie mistakes I was pretty satisfied with my loot !

My next stop was going to be Arife’s la moulde, a store selling baking supplies but being a Sunday it was closed.

Too bad I didn’t carry my camera on my way but here is a picture of my weekend purchase. I love the bright green cheese wrappers !


We did end the day watching a movie at a mall though 😀

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Green tea and great advice


This space has been quiet for the past couple of weeks. But I have tiptoed here during this time, cleaning up drafts, choosing pictures for posts, reading my previous posts while getting embarrassed at the typos and the grammar. Alas! Even after all this I haven’t managed to eek out a single post from my drafts folder. My experiments in the kitchen have continued though and so have my endless trips to the grocery store. After what seems like ages I made a pizza which I’m slightly uncomfortable naming (the name according to me is a misnomer which I would like to clarify in a future post).

I also made brownies for the first time ( I have made brownies before , to be more specific cheesecake brownies but I dare not show my pictures of a ‘cracked cheesecake top’  to the seasoned cheesecake brownie bakers.) What if Dorie Greenspan herself looks at them and mutters under her breath ” Tsk…tsk..Is this what she really got from my book ?” I never ever want her to say that. But these brownies that I baked last week are truly a piece of art and kudos to the food blogger, photographer and recipe developer who comes up with such amazing eggless dessert recipes every time. With her permission I would be posting the brownie recipe or else linking a post to her website. Either ways you will for sure have a go-to eggless brownie recipe in your recipe box.

I also churned butter. Ha ! I do it every fortnight! (Do I hear an applause?). While our mothers’ generation will laugh it off as a silly misconception of superiority, I take great pride in thinking so. Fewer and fewer people are following what I like to call ‘The milk tradition’ day by day. Due to a ready availability of yogurt, butter and other milk products in the market one may find it redundant to follow this tradition. From a half a litre pack of full cream milk everyday, to a generous reserve of white butter and a crucial little pot of clarified butter, I like it all homemade. And I would also like to tell you about it.  And to all of you who have gone steps ahead of me and make their own cheese at home, drop in a mail and say “Hi”. I’ll follow you like a puppy.

People often ask me what I do all day, since they assume that being jobless, childless (as of now) and cooking and cleaning just for two means lots and lots of free time. This question puts me in a spot because I know the answer would be gibberish to most of them. Sometimes it makes me want to run back to my ex-workplace. Perhaps, I will never ever be able to perfectly answer that question.But that’s okay. This space is where I can give you the perfect answer: I read. A lot. I read food blogs, travelogues, ingredient information, blogger and chef profiles, cookbooks. I devour it all. I hope one day I’m able to come up with an impressive list of the best blogs and books in the world of gastronomy. If you have one, do let me know.

Too much talk isn’t it?  Dont mind the delirium. I have been under the weather for the past couple of days and my head is spinning with too many ideas. And honestly for once I hope this pushes me out of my blogging lethargy. With a cup of green tea in my hand, holding my snotty breath, I’d like to advice myself…’Write what you want, more importantly what means most to you, do not lurk, do not hesitate, do not photoshop. Just go with it !’

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Measuring cups and spoons


I bought this set of plastic measuring cups a couple of weeks back. I already owned one but I needed another because when it comes to washing and rewashing bakeware, I am already running miles away. I literally have to drag myself to the sink to wash a cup or two when I have to measure out a solid ingredient after a liquid greasy ingredient like butter. And dont even get me started on how I feel about drying them after all the washing!

So when I spotted this set at Homestop, Inorbit Vashi, I instantly knew I had to buy it. This is a 19 piece set with 10 cup measures and 9 spoon measures. What I love about this set is that it has a variety of odd cup measures besides the standard sizes. The cup measures range from 1/8 cup to 2 cups with a number of really useful measures in between.  So this set is a blessing for those who regularly double or half a recipe and also for all the lazy cuckoos like me. I absolutely adore the smallest spoon measures:  dash (1/8 tsp) pinch (1/16 tsp) and smidgen (1/32 teaspoon) , though I haven’t actually used them yet 🙂 .  S-M-I-D-G-E-N..I think I just love saying smidgen :D. I used this set for a recipe I had previously tested and I did not find any discrepancy in the results and the cup measures seem to be accurate.

I detest using plastic when baking, so much so that I’m not even comfortable using microwave safe plastic containers. So this goes without saying that I wont be really happy using this set for hot liquids .The box carrying them nowhere mentions that they are microwave safe either. But the attractive colours and the variety of cup measures kind of makes it up for me.  Until I buy a glass liquid measuring cup, a bunch of stainless steel measuring cups and a kitchen scale, this impulsive purchase of mine is here to stay.

Make : Progressive international

For reviews about this product visit this page.

Disclaimer : This is NOT a paid review. All the content above is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

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Daring Bakers’ April Challenge : Armenian Nutmeg Cake


I love the Daring Bakers’ Challenges ! I get an adrenaline rush every time I take on one and it feels ecstatic when I’m able to accomplish it. I’m sure all of us Daring Bakers feel that way. Call me nuts but I keep on refreshing the challenge page on the 1st of every month to check the challenge of the month and ditto on the 27th to be awed by beautiful pictures of bakes posted by fellow daring bakers.

This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jason from dailycandor.com. Jason challenged us to bake two Armenian standards: Nazook and/or nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I chose to make the Armenian nutmeg cake for the challenge.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake:

Ingredients:

1 cup milk (I used whole)

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 cups packed brown sugar (I used 1 cup dark brown + 1 cup light brown muscovado sugar)

3/4 cup butter (I used salted)

1- 1/2 tsp ground fresh nutmeg

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped nuts ( I used almonds)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C.

Mix the baking soda into the milk.

Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl.

Add the brown sugar. Now mix the flour and brown sugar together. Toss in the cubed butter.

Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers if you want) till you get a more or less uniform brown coloured mixture.

Take half of this resulting crumbly mixture into a springform (9”/23cm) pan. Press to make a crust out of it using your fingers and knuckles. (I lined the springform pan with greased butter paper since it was leaky.)

Crack an egg into a mixer or bowl.

Toss the nutmeg in with the egg. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed. Once it’s mixed well and frothy ,pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform.

Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture. Mix that well with a spatula or whisk.

Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan.

Gently sprinkle the almond pieces over the batter.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the pan, and then release.

What I loved most about the challenge was the traditional way of making it. Most of the steps of mixing and assembling the cake can be done manually. The resulting cake was very flavorful and this was probably the first time I had used nutmeg as the sole flavoring agent and boy ! I hadn’t expected such incredible results. The crumb was perfectly moist. Barring an unsightly crack on the surface, the cake was a winner!

Thank you Jason for the wonderful challenge ! I’m now looking forward to making the Nazook. Thanks for introducing us to a part of your rich Armenian culinary tradition.

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Instant gratification (Part I)


I now know what instant gratification feels like. The object of my desire last night  was something which would please my sweet tooth. This, even after a hearty meal of egg fried rice. It was a great meal I must say because the recipe was one that I could call my own, not my mother’s or my mother in law’s,  but if you ask me I would call it Amruta original. It initially started out as rough scribbles on a piece of paper inspired from the internet, but carelessly enough I lost that teeny chit and  began relying on my senses entirely whenever I cooked it. The kind and quantities of vegetables and rice which go into this dish were all tweaked by moi, to the extent that it came to be known as Amruta’s signature dish among our close family. But somehow this dish got lost in time , though not long ago it was a weekly affair and for some reason (probably I finished up the bottle of soy and carelessly forgot to buy one during all our grocery trips that followed). Actually i’ll let you in a secret..promise not to tell my husband , will you? I got sick of eating egg fried rice as a one pot meal every friday for six months straight ! My husband loves egg fried rice for it takes him back to the night canteen of his IIM – B days where this was the only thing he liked. He would skip dinner and head to the canteen after 11 pm and find comfort in this steaming plate of rice. That he also ventured to another place called Athica’s for cheese maggie at 3 am is another story altogether.

So yesterday in a fix over what to cook for dinner my husband matter -of -factly pointed out that it had been a long time since we last had some good old egg fried rice. It was fate ( all veggies and eggs, except for the sauces were in the fridge) and it was also a friday and so we got down to making it.  I asked my husband to get me a bottle of dark soy and another of green chilli from the grocer to which he happily obliged.  Meanwhile me and my sister began slicing and dicing the vegetables : onions both red and green, capsicum, cabbage, carrots, this being my favorite part of the process. I kept an open pot of rice on the stove to simmer. I guess slow cooking of rice in this case is important as you can check in on the texture of the rice as it is cooking and stop cooking at just the right time. The right rice grain texture is vital because you don’t want the rice grains to break when you stir fry it. It should be just shy of completely cooked. Also it is important for the rice to cool down before it is added to the stir fried veggies. ( If you happen to have some leftover rice from a previous nights dinner, its ideal to use it for egg fried rice for lunch the next day. )

And so all of it came back to me; the process of cooking egg fried rice, like a favorite poem from school that you still remember. This time it also marked the conversion of a vegetarian sister to an eggetarian one. And she loved it albeit with a little more green chilli sauce, and claimed she couldn’t taste or smell the eggs in it. This is how our time between 8 pm to 10 pm was occupied; right from examining the cooked rice texture between my fingers to licking our plates clean off the last rice grain of rice, it was all good.

Oh, and I just remembered, wasn’t I talking about a dessert craving at the beginning of this post? But first let me share my recipe for egg fried rice with you. No strict weights and measurements and no bullet points here beware. Consider this as a rough guide if ever you want to rustle up some egg fried rice in your kitchen.

                                        ***  Egg Fried Rice  ***

                                                   (Serves 4)

In a wok, heat some oil (about 2-3 tbsp) enough to submerge one large finely chopped onion, finely diced cloves of garlic (2-3 nos.) and green chillies (2 nos.) When the onion just starts browning add in the finely diced carrot (1 medium). Increase the flame to high and begin stir frying. When the carrot cubes change  colour, add chopped capsicum (1 nos) and green onions with their greens (5-6 nos.) Add shredded cabbage (about 1/4 head of a medium one). Continue stir frying till the cabbage is not raw but has a crunch to it. Reduce the flame and add in whisked eggs (4 nos) Let the eggs envelop the veggies and begin scrambling them at a low flame. Scramble them till the egg proteins coagulate and break into small cooked masses. Add chilli sauce to taste (1 tbsp if you cant stomach spicy food). And yes, salt should be added, some of it while you cook the rice and some in the whisked eggs (to taste). Now wet your hand and lightly crumble the rice (to separate the rice grains) over the veggie-egg mixture. Now continue stir frying but with lighter less vigorous motions. Add in 1-2 tbsp of soy sauce and mix till the rice gets a light brown soy coat. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or some vinegar. It gives a nice tangy taste to it. Serve hot.

                                                          * * *

I hope you too make this recipe your own and when you do, do share it with me so I don’t ever get sick of eating egg fried rice again.

To be continued…

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Daring Bakers March Challenge : Dutch Crunch Bread…its a jungle out there !


Even though I had completed the Daring Bakers March challenge on time, I’m  posting a day late. I hope I dont make this a habit and try and get on top of the monthly challenge from the beginning itself. This month’s Daring Bakers challenge is the quintessential Dutch Crunch Bread from the Bay Area. Interestingly it is marketed as Tiger bread (Tijgerbrood in Dutch), or Giraffe bread as the rice flour topping on the white sandwich bread when baked takes an animal skin like appearance. Dutch Crunch actually refers to this topping of rice flour which imparts a characteristic crunch to an otherwise simple white sandwich loaf.

My mom and sister were visiting and we had a fun time baking the bread togther.

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

Dutch Crunch Bread:

White sandwich bread

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk (I used full fat milk)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Dutch crunch Topping

1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup white rice flour

Method:

In a medium bowl combine yeast, water, milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and let sit for about 15 minutes. In a bigger bowl take 2 cups of flour and add salt to it. Now add the vegetable oil to the yeast mixture. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add in the yeast mixture. Mix by hand till you get a very sticky dough. Add remainging flour a tablespoon or two at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 2 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal portions. (For some reason I could make only 5 balls of the total dough.) Shape each into a ball and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let rise for 15 minutes while you prepare the topping.
Combine all topping ingredients in a medium bowl and mix very well. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Once the rolls have risen a bit and the topping is ready, spread a generous layer on the rolls, trying to use all the topping in a thick coat on the top and sides. Let rise for another 20 minutes.

Bake at 190° C for 25-30 minutes, until well browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack before eating. Store in an airtight container, if necessary.  

The second part of the challenge was to make a one of a kind sandwich with this bread. Since I was running short of time I made a sandwich with the simplest possible ingredients in my pantry. I cut one of the loaves in half and made a filling of cucumber and tomato slices, a cheddar cheese slice and some mustard and mayo to spruce up the taste. Nevertheless it tasted good and was very well enjoyed by my husband as a pre dinner snack.

Thank you Sara and Erica for introducing us to this great variety of bread!

Recipe source: The recipe for the Dutch Crunch topping is from The Bread Bible.
The recipe for the white sandwich roll is from Baking Bites.
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Banana Bread : Daring Bakers February challenge


There were 3 overripe frozen bananas screaming to be used up for the daring bakers challenge for the month and the deadline was nearing.  Finally the day of posting arrived and yes I was able to finish  the challenge at the last-minute.  Phew ! Quick breads was the Daring Bakers challenge for the month  and I chose to challenge myself with Banana Bread. It is really a quick bread and at the snail’s pace that’s my working style, even I was able to make it in a jiffy. I wanted to make a banana nut bread as I had pecans stashed away in my fridge for a long time. Its only when I opened the packet did I realize I had to immediately toss it into the garbage can. I had already jotted down a great recipe for banana bread from www.joyofbaking.com. This recipe is now definitely my go to recipe for a quick tea time snack.

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt ( I skipped this because I used salted butter)

1/2 cup butter melted and cooled

2 large eggs

3 overripe bananas, peeled and mashed about 1 cup

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180° C. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients : all-purpose flour, baking powder , baking soda , salt, sugar and cinnamon. In another bowl whisk the eggs. Add to this melted butter,  mashed bananas and vanilla extract and mix it well with a whisk. Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula. Take care not to over mix the batter. Now pour the batter into a buttered 9×5 inches loaf pan dusted with flour. Bake it in the preheated oven for 55 – 60 mins till golden brown or till a toothpick inserted in it comes out clean.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

A big thank you to Lisa for giving us the opportunity to make the most out of a quick recipe which delivers maximally on taste.

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Tomato Mozzarella and basil tart


Are you already imagining how good this tastes? Can you smell the soothing waft of fresh basil as you read the title? Can you picture how beautifully tempting this tart looks? If your answer is an affirmative to all of these questions then I want to be best friends with you ! My brain began exploding with taste and smell centre fireworks when I came across this recipe. This combination of cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella can never ever ever go wrong. The tart tomatoes are well balanced by the mild mozzarella and the gentle basil flavors. The tart crust is equally flavorful with the addition of minced basil and garlic. A must try recipe with very few and simple ingredients to begin with but an assured tasty output.

Tomato Mozzarella Basil tart

Recipe source : Annies Eats

Ingredients:

For the dough:

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. kosher salt ( I used plain salt)
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8-10 pieces
4-5 tbsp. ice-cold water

For the filling:

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced ( I had about 100 g on hand)
Ripe cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 tbsp. minced fresh basil

Method:

To make the dough,  mince the basil and the garlic together. If you are making the pie crust by hand take the flour in a bowl. To it add salt, the minced basil and garlic and unsalted butter. Work quickly to rub the butter into the flour till it resembles pea sized crumbles. Now add 4 tablespoons of chilled water and form a tough but pliable dough. Add the remaining tablespoon only if you find the dough to be very tough. Flatten the dough to a 4 inch disc and wrap in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 210 °C. Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll to form a 12 inch circle. Transfer the rolled dough with the help of a rolling-pin over a lightly buttered 9 inch tart pan. Trim the excess dough and use this to reinforce the edges. Keep the dough lined tart pan in the fridge for at least half an hour. Next cover the pan with aluminium foil and place coins over the surface. (Coins serve as excellent pie weights !) Blind bake in the preheated oven for 10 -12 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Now, layer the empty pie shell with slices of mozzarella.  Arrange the tomato slices in an even layer of the mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Finish with freshly grated mozzarella and some fresh basil on top. Bake a pre-heated oven at 190° C for about 30 minutes till the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling and browned at places. Rotate the tart halfway through baking. Cool for 5 minutes , slice and serve warm.

Note:

While making the pie dough, especially when you knead it by hand, don’t be bothered  if you find unmixed butter bits in your dough. It’s this butter which makes the crust crisp and flaky.

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Now is just not the time


Dropped in to say Hi I am here or maybe just a way to reassure myself that all is well.  Though I have a number of posts in my drafts section waiting for their turn to get published, it doesnt feel right to do things half heartedly. I am eager to thumb through  Molly Wizenberg’s ‘ A homemade life’ again and more than that to tell you how effortlessly she has intertwined her life story around food. I still remember the magnificent golden French toast inspired from the recipe in her book. I also want to tell you about the Italian breadsticks that double up as a rustic centre piece on a breakfast table spread. My secret love for Nutella lost its chance as Nutella day came and went. I cant wait to share all this with you. But life asks me to wait and it feels like I am being asked to hold my breath for too long. Now is just not the time it tells me.

 

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The pie story …


This is going to be a sob story of sorts; one of those stories you know , when you decide to make a pie for the first time, when at first it’s all cheer and laughter as you pull out a perfectly fluted golden brown pie crust from the oven. Armed with a spatula in one hand and a whisk in the other, you struggle to make the filling and the meringue simultaneously, getting unnerved time and again. But you finally manage to assemble the pie and top it with a spoon sculpted meringue. You then ooh and aah through the oven door as the angelic white meringue steadily changes into an enticing golden brown. You breathe a sigh of relief as your pie story nears a happy ending. No need to cross your fingers , it is all perfect..or so you think! The story I wish ended this way. I wish all pie stories were fairy tales,

To cut the long story short..well..I made a lemon meringue pie yesterday. Oh It was beautiful I tell you..so beautiful I could just look at it all day long. But as they say real beauty is skin deep and so real pie should taste as good as it looks.  But it wasnt to be. The taste testing had me rushing to the bathroom to get the contents of my mouth into the basin and then frantically rinsing it with Listerine. It tasted that bad! What a bummer 😦

I wont be sharing the recipe or the source because I wouldn’t ever want to associate something so reliable with my kind of experience. I had a hunch which was proven right by a quick google search; something to do with cheap stainless steel I bought from a certain best deal supermarket. Rule of thumb: When dealing with acidic ingredients in your recipe, make sure you use completely unreactive cookware. You may end up making a yucky metallic tasting lemon filling if you don’t.

The silver lining to this dark cloud were the pie crust and the meringue.  I hope to make happy pie stories in the future, lemon included. Till then I’ll try to coax my taste buds out of their trauma with some yummy red velvet cupcakes.