Spent a couple of hours trying to master a recipe involving pie crust yesterday and it wasn’t pretty. Still, we — two girlfriends and I — learned a lot.
We were trying to make a mango manju I plan to demonstrate at the upcoming Mangoes at the Moana event (manju is a Japanese-style pastry stuffed with fruit or bean paste).
We were testing two different pie crust-type recipes and three different fillings, plus trying to get the mango-to-crust ratio right. It didn’t help that it was very humid, which makes pie crust go soggy oh, about 15 minutes after it cools off. We learned some valuable lessons and I intend to keep testing until I get a reliable and delicious result. My goal: Mango in every bite!
One theme that kept playing in my mind as we fussed with the construction, shape and size of the manju was that so many recipes are just . . . fiction. I had consulted quite a number of local cookbooks in devising the recipes we were using and none of them really worked for us. I don’t think this is deliberate. In my experience, it usually means the person who shared the recipe has made the dish a thousand times, knows it intimately and, so to speak, doesn’t know what they know. “Oh, that’s easy,” they say. “You just mix this and add that and bake it it and . . .” And you go home and end up with a mess.
For example, none of the recipes I consulted gave specific instructions as to how to shape the manju. And we found the baking instructions way off, at least for my oven.
Which is why Julia Child’s recipes go on for 3 pages. She leaves nothing out, no minute instruction that might make a difference. It’s the kind of recipe tester and writer I try to be, even though it drives editors crazy.
Anyway, it was a fun morning and I look forward to more fun learning how to get manju right. I’ll share the recipe after the Moana event — or come see me there on Aug. 7.
Here. here! Extend this idea to all bake-from-scratch recipes. So much of baking is in the techniques, which are rarely written down. Getting the “feel” of the dough or knowing what factors are equipment driven or ingredient driven are impossible to learn except by trial and error. I am from the East Coast, and longed for a chewy on the inside, crisp on the outside pizza crust just like we get on the Jersey Shore. Took me two years to figure it out, because pizza bakers just don’t give out that kind of information! Same with crust, home-made cakes–technique is key. Thanks for including all the details, Wanda!