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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

Connie – how kind of you to put up a FB page for us to talk as well. When I do get back on FB, I’ll join. We should do our very best to keep in touch however we may, but I will say that my stitching group used to be a Yahoo group, so got emails. For whatever reason, everyone puts up very short posts on FB, whereas we used to have long conversations on the emails… Part of it may just be that people “moved on” to a point where we wanted to be in touch, but not to have drawn-out conversation. It’s much more now – here’s a picture of what I’ve done recently and everyone responds with one or two words… We have a “check-in Thursday” where everyone writes a little bit about what they’ve been up to all week, and that is always much more interesting…

For now, FB will have to wait for me, as I realize how drawn into the political debate I was getting, and it was feeling less and less like a debate and more and more like people taking turns hitting each other over the head…

Cathryne, I think you are probably right that each time something like this happens, a few more people decide they have to stand up and eventually, change will come, but some days it sure does seem slow in the coming… I can’t imagine the horror of having something like this happen. The really ironic thing is that the demonstrators and the police in Dallas seemed to have been interacting respectfully and peacefully until the gun shots – up until that moment it looked that this was a big step forward. Yes – protest, but peacefully, and the police seemed to be there to talk with people, not for “crowd control”. It’s very sad.

I’m so happy to see all the apple pies – Costco’s version is wonderful (but huge – I only bought one once because it took us so long to get through it, just being the two of us.) If I were to do it again, I think I’d cut it in half and freeze half of it. I don’t know how it would freeze, but it couldn’t be any worse than all soggy and starting to get moldy, hahaha. I dreamed last night of making a raised meat pie – I know just how to do it now, as it was a very practical dream, hahaha. I even said to my dreaming self – you don’t have any hamburger in the freezer, and then said right back to myself – but I have several pounds of sausage meat! And I do! hahaha

I’m sticking close to home the next little while – I managed to hurt my back (goodness only knows doing what – probably picking up a book!) Every once in a long while (the last time was 2009, according to my Dr.) my back just goes into spasm… very painful, and pretty much constant for about 5 days. So I ran in to see the doc yesterday and got a prescription for pain pills, which make me very whoozy and dizzy, so I get to sit around doing nothing now until I don’t need to take them anymore. Seems like there’s always SOMETHING with me, hahaha.

Take care, my friends…

I keep having trouble with the site jumping back to the comment section on page one when I try to comment. This has been gfoing on for 4 days or so. I just had a long post that was going to post on page 1.
Julie, hope your back improves. Sister and I have bad backs. They can be so annoying.

I just wanted to add that I started a Facbook page called, “Three Pines Bistro” for an additional resource to talk everything Armand Gamache! Navigating might be easier….. the conversations may flow easier. FYI.
We can message directly to each other, etc.

Connie, I don’t FB so I can’t drop in. Maybe you can drop in here and share thoughts when AGR is released. You obviously feel deeply for the characters too. We’ll get more on point when we start reading AGR. Please drop in to share whenever you want. We are all Three Piners together.

Cathryne, you made me laugh. Costco as Sarah’s Boulangerie! I needed to laugh. It is the perfect antidote to fear and confusion. And so is apple pie. The crust from Julie’s recipe was great and didn’t go soggy. I did not pre bake and reduced the steps a bit. It was fine..freeze, process, freeze and roll. I made the pie in an afternoon. Frankly, peeling the apples is my least favourite bit but Erin helped.
I am not a Facebooker Julie. It would be easy as a tool to keep in contact with people including you guys but it is abused too often. Here in The Bistro it does feel like we are sitting around having a conversation, not sticking posts on a wall. As such we are careful with our words knowing the people we are talking to are real and they are our friends and careless words are hurtful and do unnecessary harm. You don’t have to agree with your friends all the time but you do have to listen and respect them and be careful to respond with kindness regardless of differences in opinion. Best to step away as you have done.
I had such a great image of your Dad rummaging in the freezer, Barabara and the delightful satisfaction he had finding the pie fixings ready to go! You all create such wonderful pictures with your words.
I was delighted to find you all here when I woke this morning. I was worried about you all.

Julie, I’m very sorry that you experienced and observed such hurtful language and attack at your stitching FB site. When people respond in that way, they are not making an argument, they are trying to intimidate, terrify, and bulldoze right over others. It is a reminder of responses to freedom riders, school integration, voting rights in the sixties, and even longer ago, post Civil War. Still, we need to remind ourselves that we got through those times without race wars and we will move on again, however painfully. Horrible as the last week has been, more people will stand up and reach out in positive ways than negative. Even so, our hearts break.

Julie, Anna, and Barbara, you have inspired me apple pie-wise too. I’ve asked my husband to buy an apple pie from Costco next time he goes! My version of Sarah’s Boulangerie. Can’t wait.

Barbara, did your dad call you Bob? It sounded so sweet. Bob/Barbara makes sense.

Sending best thoughts and hugs to all.

I get heartsick over these incidents – all three of the latest have pretty much brought me to tears. Once again, politicians will say their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families, but not one step toward gun control… in fact, Texas has the most liberal gun laws, I think, of any state.

I have had to get off Facebook altogether for awhile – I belong to a FB group that discusses stitching, and most of the people in the group, I would consider good friends. Two ladies, a mother and daughter, are what I would have thought of as good friends. Yet, we’ve recently had a heated discussion over gun control and Donald Trump, and, well, you can imagine. I was shocked that such nice ladies could hold such views, and spew such vitriol! It’s made me feel like I need to just take a break from all the endless name-calling that is going on over the election. These last three incidents would have made everything much worse, of course… Last night my husband worried that we were heading for a race war, and I feel like we’re somehow in the middle of one already… it’s very sad.

Julie, It is such a devastating feeling to find that people are not as we thought them to be. You were right to step away. I don’t use Facebook but I know many people do. My sister shows me the cutest pictures of her late husband’s G-G-Grandchildren on Facebook.
I share your husband’s fears to a degree.

Barbara – what a nice memory. I love it when those kinds of memories pop into my head… I hope the pie is delicious! I remember when I first saw this recipe, I thought it was way too much, but I did it anyway, because Vern loves apple pie so much… and when I tried it, I couldn’t get over how good the crust was, so I decided it wasn’t so bad, hahaha. At least, even though it’s long and lots of steps, it wasn’t difficult. I did like that you could do it in the food processor because that step is the one that seems the hardest to me.

The news from Dallas is horrible. The Dallas police were not involved in the two shootings that are being protested. I’m glad you and your sister stay in such close contact. In many ways we are so fortunate to live in our times. Can’t do more now Sam is in one of his most annoying states today!

The shout everyone heard a few hours ago was I. Once again. I had written a very long post and suddenly it was gone. I was at my sister’s and usually don’t goof on her computer. Let’s try again.
I’m home now so I will post several times rather than risk losing so much. Don’t remember what I said so I’ll just jump in.
Julie and Anna, you have inspired me to bake a pie. I promise you that I will not be using the recipe you two did. Strangely though I almost always have flour and butter in the freezer. I had a laugh and a sigh when I read it. I could see Daddy with his head in the freezer saying, “Here they are Bob. We can start the crust right away.” That man did love to cook. I can’t believe it has been 16 years since his death. You can believe the recipe would have been followed to the letter.

Watching news from Dallas while texting with my sister. Awful situation. I wish you all peace and safety.

I have become very taken with Choir! Choir! Choir! If you haven’t heard of them it is a drop in community choir in Toronto and they regularly record YouTube videos. Take a look at a couple, some are much better than others but you have to love the looks on people’s faces as they sing together. Such joy.

The other really fabulous one is when they do Hallelujah with 1500 voices

Here is a great review of shortcrust pastry making. No soggy bottoms but I did par cook apples and strain to reduce liquid. Yum.
Good luck with boxes!

Interesting things I discovered while making pastry:
1. I am lazy. There seemed to be a lot to do with freezing and blind baking. I looked at a great website so I could understand why each step was included and whether I could introduce any shortcuts. The first part was fine, except I had to check how much two sticks of butter amounted to in grams and was very glad I did. Then I got to the food processor.
2. I am forgetful. Especially when my attention is being diverted. I decided to clean to processor bowl before use…it was fine just a bit dusty. Then I added the flour and butter. Oops, forgot to put the blade back in. Erin tutted and scooped the flour out as she was worried I would make a mess if I tipped it out. Blade back in and disaster averted.
3. I remember. I remember my mum making pastry very similar to this. The flour salt and sugar must have been in the packet and she mixed in butter with a knife then crumbled with her fingers. It all came back as I was bringing the pastry together and popping it in the fridge.
4. I am lazy part 2. I hate blind baking so I skipped it. I don’t remember mum blind baking so I will tolerate a slightly soggy bottom if need be.

Ok this doesn’t exactly follow the whole recipe but given I had a desire to replicate mum’s apple pie I feel positive about the changes. I will let you know how it goes. You can tell I am excited! By the way did you notice I followed Gamache’s rule…I said to Erin “I need Help>” She is the baker in the family.
Thanks Julie.

Hahaha – Anna, this is the perfect recipe for lazy, I think, as long as you kind of “always have a package of flour and butter in the freezer” Then you can cut it down to two days on my lazy schedule. I’m just the same way. When I made my cheese tart and used that recipe, I missed seeing entirely the part about blind baking and my bottom never got soggy! (of course, it wasn’t something wet inside, like apples in sauce, the cheese was solid in the fridge) And yes, I meant to say that my bottom never got soggy, hahaha – I’m always good for a laugh, at least! The picture you sent looks amazing – perfect, I’d say. I’m glad Erin was there to save you from yourself, hahaha.

I already had typed it out long ago and had it on my computer – once I know a recipe is a keeper, I get it on my computer, and I must have decided not to just scan it for some reason. But I didn’t type it all out yesterday, so no worries.

Please take care to follow the physio advice – we will survive if we are left on the doorstep for a few days or more, even. If you do decide to do the voice recognition thing, let us know how it goes. I have it on my phone and on my tablet, and I’m actually quite amazed at how good it is. I just feel ridiculous talking to it, so I never use it.

Happy Fourth, everyone! I am busy these days packaging up large boxes of small boxes, and ruing the day that I said I’d do this! I said I’d teach a class in Utah this summer on how to faux grain-paint a box (which is a product we used to make in our company – they sold really well, and were fun to do). We had lots and lots of boxes left after we’d decided to close the company so I said people could buy them if they wanted. Well, it costs a fortune to ship a large box that weighs hardly anything by US mail! It’s ridiculous – and so now I’m working away trying to get paper mache boxes into small enough packages that will still protect the actual boxes from being crushed, while not costing too much to mail. Whose stupid idea was this? And because it was mine, I don’t really have Becky’s help – though Vern is doing his best to help. Tomorrow I’ll have to spend about an hour in the post office, shipping all of these off. But soon, the deadline will come along, and people can stop ordering boxes and I’ll be better, hahaha.

Do you want the good news or the not so good news? Let’s start with good. I have bought the ingredients for the pie. I shall make a start this afternoon but I need a new pie dish. The less good news is that the physio has banned me from extended typing until the end of the week!
My choices are stick with paper editing of The Cove 2, activate voice recognition on the computer to continue F and C or have a break. I am on a roll so it will have to be a combination of both.

Thanks for the recipe Julie….I want to rush out and make it right now! I laughed when I read…put it in the freezer for 1 day to 3 mths! Ha Ha. But I understand it will last that long. Thanks for the processing tips. My processor doesn’t like large chunks of anything.
Just spent an hour at the physio with Erin, rushed home and made lemon broccoli pasta for lunch as brother is here and now rushing back to physio for me. I am so hungry after cooking and reading recipe that I just want to eat before I leave! It must have taken ages to type out and I very much appreciate it. Perfect for July 4! Happy Fourth of July for tomorrow everyone . Apple pie is a perfect accompaniment.

Ooooh, Anna, you always manage to leave us waiting at the door, out in the cold, hee hee! Can’t wait to see who answers the door.

Here is the pastry recipe. It’s actually the full apple pie recipe – and it was very good. I know it looks long and forbidding, but just take it one step at a time. It was super-easy and worked beautifully. You’ll notice a lot of it seems to hang on getting everything cold enough, and I think that’s the key, so don’t skimp on the chilling times.

I wouldn’t change anything from the filling – a couple of notes about the pie crust. My food processor took much longer to cut up the frozen butter – I either needed to cut the butter into smaller pieces to begin with (I started with 4 pieces for each stick of butter), or add the butter and just a small amount of the flour mixture – say 1 cup. What happened is the butter seemed to whirl around at the top, and the blade was just trying to cut up the flour, which didn’t need it. I ended up taking most of the flour out and doing it again, then putting the flour back and whirling it a couple more times. So if you began with a smaller amount of flour, then added it after you’d got big gravel-sized pieces of butter, you’d be about right. (When I say “flour” here, I mean the mixture of all the dry ingredients that have been resting in the freezer with the butter).

When you go to roll out the pastry, it’s so cold that it took awhile of working it to be able to roll it thin enough – it didn’t hurt the pastry at all – and you might want to just let it sit when you first take it out of the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Crisp-crust cinnamon apple pie
Makes 10-inch pie

Pie Crust
2 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (measure by dipping cup into the flour sack and then sweeping off any excess with a flat knife blade)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, each cut into 4 or 5 pieces, no smaller
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water or iced apple juice

7 large Granny Smith apples (or other tart, firm apple), peeled, cored and sliced about 1/2-inch thick (don’t use Golden Delicious)
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 to 2/3 tightly packed cup dark brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 generous teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons flour

For Assembling Pie:
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk

For the Crust Glaze:
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons sugar

1. A day or more ahead, start the pie crust. Take a large plastic bag and measure in all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) and toss them together. Add the butter to the bag and seal it. Put it in the freezer for about 1 hour to 3 months.

2. Turn the contents into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or into a big chilled bowl. Process 2 seconds to break up the butter into slightly smaller chunks. Sprinkle the vinegar or lemon juice and 5 tablespoons ice water over the flour and pulse 4 times. Test the dough to see if it holds together between two fingers. If it’s crumbly, sprinkle another 2 tablespoons ice water and pulse 3 times. Test again. It should look lumpy and not thoroughly mixed, but if it holds together when you pinch some between your fingers, it is ready. If working by hand, rub the butter and flour between your fingertips (not your palms, they are too warm and will melt the butter) until the mixture is in big 2-inch flakes. Sprinkle the liquids over the mix and lightly toss with a fork to moisten. Try to hold together. If crumbly, sprinkle in a little more liquid and toss. Don’t beat or stir.
With either method, when the dough still looks rough and lumpy, gather it into a ball. Then divide the dough into 2 balls (one slightly larger than the other), wrap up and refrigerate 30 minutes to 24 hours.

3. Grease a 10-inch metal pie plate (do not use glass). Generously flour a countertop. Roll out the bigger piece of dough into a big circle that’s about 1/8-inch thick. Lightly flour the top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the pin. Fit it into the pie pan, leaving about a 2-inch overhang. (Save scraps for decorating the pie.) Chill 30 minutes.

4. In a large bowl, toss together the apples and lemon juice. Add the other ingredients for the filling (except the 2 tablespoons flour), tasting for sweetness and adjusting as needed. Turn into a sieve and set over the bowl. Leave for 30 minutes.

5. Remove the middle rack of the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees.

6. Spread a piece of foil over a cookie sheet. Roll out remaining dough to a circle that’s about 16 inches in diameter. Set on the foil and chill 30 minutes.

7. Turn the drained juices from the filling into a saucepan and boil them into a thick syrup. Scrape back into the apples, tossing them with the 2 tablespoons flour.

8. Take the pastry-lined pie plate, and trim away any overhanging crust, but make sure there is crust on the rim. Line it with foil. Then fill with dried beans or rice to weigh down the crust and keep it from shrinking. Bake 10 minutes, or until the crust is firm and looking a little dry. Lift the pie pan to a counter, and gently remove foil, taking care not to tear the crust. (Do not eat the beans or rice that have been used to line the pan.) Pierce the crust with a fork, brush with the egg white and bake another 5 minutes, or until pale gold and dry looking. Cool.

9. Fill the bottom of the pie shell with apples, mounding them high and pressing out air pockets. Brush the yolk over the rim of baked pastry. Now cover the pie with the big round of pastry. Seal edges together by rolling the top pastry in on itself and pressing it down to the yoked rim crust. There should be a ridge of crust on the rim.

10. Brush beaten egg over the top of the pie. Cut out a few steam holes. Cut out stars or leaves from the dough scrapings and arrange them on the crust but not on the steam holes. Brush with more egg and sprinkle with sugar.

11. Bake pie on a cookie sheet for about 1 hour, or until apples are bubbly and tender when you pierce them through one of the steam holes.

12. Cool the pie on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

From Lynne Rossetto Kasper

Well provisioned and finally beginning to thaw, Fox drove slowly and carefully out of town. The straight roads were slippery enough but every roundabout spelled possible disaster as he grimly negotiated the turns. Abbottsby was not prepared for snow and lacked the facilities to clear or grit the roads. The council was bringing in equipment but for now driving was a hazardous activity. Fortunately it was still early and there were very few vehicles around.
“Want me to drive?” Collie asked swallowing the last of her bacon sandwich and wiping her fingers carefully with a wet wipe, essential kit for any mother, taken from a travel pack in her pocket. “I am probably a wee bit more practised in these conditions.”
Toni and her family were ardent skiers. She and her husband David would load the boys in the car, take the Eurostar to France and spend time at the chalet belonging to her David’s family at every opportunity. It was the reason she was well supplied with clothes befitting the current weather conditions, unlike her still suffering senior colleague.
Mentally calculating how much further they had to go and the likely conditions, Fox braked gently and rolled to the kerb.
Collie chuckled. “I love a man with nothing to prove.”
“Nope and I can use both of my hands to eat breakfast. My stomach trumps my ego every time.”
Old Crowley Road was dark and narrow. Collie stopped at the entrance to the tree lined laneway and looked at Fox.
“Shall we risk it? The car has handled herself pretty well so far and the trees have protected the road from some of the snow.”
“If we end up stuck you will have to get out and push, being the only one appropriately dressed for the conditions.”
Toni grinned. “Trust me.”
He did… trust her. Collie was a good partner. She was adventurous but not reckless which complimented Robbie’s more staid and plodding nature. She prodded and he held the reigns and somehow they managed to make it work.
Crawling along the lane they noted fences, stone walls and wrought iron gates that marked the edges of the properties beyond, the buildings themselves set back and hidden by hedges and trees. This was Abbotsby old money, a long way from the new housing estates on the outskirts of town and a whole other universe to the claustrophobic environs of the MIddens. The address on Reggie’s licence had been confirmed as his current place of residence. It was the only property where the gates stood open.
The well maintained drive widened into a pristine expanse of snow encircling a fountain standing grandly before a two story Georgian mansion. There were no lights or other signs of life. Collie made the decision to park where the snow seemed thinnest, away from the drifts at the edges of the roadway.
“I wasn’t able to check for next of kin. Do you think there is anyone home?” she asked.
“Hard to tell.” They both pondered the darkened windows with sinking hearts. Waking people to perform a death notification was not a desired task.
“Do you know what kind of car Mr Dunn drives?” asked Fox, pondering the means by which the victim had made the lengthy journey to town.
Collie knew what her boss was thinking. “I couldn’t find one on the system registered in his name. I can have uniform check the local cab companies. There isn’t any public transport out here or in the Middens. Maybe he got a ride with someone?”
As soon as the engine stopped Fox had felt the temperature in the Land Rover start to plummet. There was no point delaying any longer. He sighed glumly and climbed down into the snow which promptly spilled over the top of his ankle high walking boots. Shivering as the ice melted against his socks and resigned to being ever colder and wetter he led the trudge to the mansion’s front door. A pair of sensor lights sprang into action at their approach. The DI was blinking from the sudden illumination as he stepped up to the porch and pressed the doorbell. Chimes echoed within. The car clock had read five twenty when they pulled up but it still felt like the middle of the night. If anyone was home, Robbie did not expect them to be awake. He waited a minute and pressed the bell again hoping to rouse someone within.

Barbara you have inspired me. I suddenly realised when you said you were amazed about how writers give so much information about characters without being obvious about it, that this is what I aspire to do and maybe I am getting there. I have been holding back on my editing of book two. It seems such a big task and I am not sure if it is right….well of course it is not right yet. It is a big effort and needs pulling together and reworking to link it to book three but I can do it. I bought a ream of paper and I am printing it all out and putting it in a file as we speak. I shall get the job done. And write Snowbound as some fun while I do it!
Thank you Barbara and than you all for keeping me going.

Hmmmm – every time I try to reply to a post, rather than just put something new at the bottom of the page, it takes me to page 1! This site has ghosts, I think, hahaha. So glad to have another episode of Snowbound to read! I’m saving it for this afternoon, when I’ll need a break. Loving it so far…

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