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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.

3,656 replies on “The Bistro”

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…

Oh Julie you had me in hysterics with the other meaning of pastie. We thought he would get funny looks even without that. He had a whole speech going in case the wrong people stopped in front of his sign.
“If you don’t know what it means then you aren’t the person for me…move along now, nothing to see here….just a hungry man!”
Send me the pastry recipe please Julie. I have made pasties before but always keen for a new pastry idea. The best pastry I had was actually the stuff mum made from a packet when we were kids. It was excellent…or maybe just the memory is but I have never been able to replicate it. Mum wasn’t a great cook but her apple pie and onion pie were awesome.
Stayed up late watching our election results while writing. Ugh….status quo returned most likely. I won’t bore you with the details. Have woken late to a frosty Sunday morning but the sun is shining. Whatever else it is glorious.
Bath was one of my Favourite places in England Barbara. How nice we have both been there. Thanks for the kind words about the story. I see it like a movie. The challenge is to write down the relevant bits so we are both watching the same film. I am trying to get better at just sketching the scene outline so you can fill in as much detail as possible yourself.

Bath is one of my favorite places, too, of course, since there’s a huge Jane Austen presence there. I’ve been there once, but it was before Jane Austen was on my radar, so I NEED to go back, hahaha. I have, however, drunk the waters, and marveled at the museum of the actual baths… I thought it was a really pretty place.

Anna – the pastry recipe is coming. It’s extremely easy, but time consuming – you need to start 3 days ahead of time, but a lot of the time is spent waiting for it to have been in the freezer or fridge long enough. Actual “work” time is about 20 minutes… You COULD do it all in one day if you got up early in the morning, but I’m lazy, so I do one step a day. I need to dig it out and type it up – I found it in a magazine, and tried it because it’s big promise was that you could make an apple pie without a soggy bottom crust, and that even after a day in the fridge, the bottom crust wouldn’t be soggy. And it was true – it was the best pastry I’d ever had. I used it to make my cheese pie for the historic food course I’m taking, and it was so delicious and flaky, and it held up for four days in the fridge! (very rich pie that we could only have a little at a time).

I almost went for the Cornish pasties, but Vern doesn’t like them quite as much as a good pork pie – delicious! I have a wonderful pastry recipe, and a newfound interest in pies in general after the raised pie at our Jane Austen do – I think I’ll try my hand at a small one with meat. Vern has that wonderful quality of never remembering something that he’s done or had in the past, so he was pleasantly surprised to find that there was “all meat” in those pies. Our “pot pies” have varying amounts of veggies and broth and a tiny amount of meat in them, so he hadn’t known what to expect. Maybe I should try the pasties on him again, as he didn’t remember ever having a meat pie before…

How much info you gave us in a short space. That amazes me about writers. They are able to tell us so much about the characters without it appearing as LOOK HERE. needed info. Can’t wait to find out more about the victim.
My mouth watered when there was talk of Cornish pasties. I had read about them and heard them spoken of on British TV shows. I remember enjoying one in Bath, England. So good. We bought extras to eat later on the bus before reaching our hotel for the night. We put one in the fridge and went out to the evening activities. It was our midnight snack when the group returned. A quick zap in the microwave and it was ready.
There is a British shop in Aiken, SC less than 25 miles from here. I have brought some wonderful things there. I think I see a ride over to The British Shop in my future. Thanks for the Cornish pie reminder Julie.
Anna, Did I laugh at the thought of Pete at the airport with his sign. What a great sense of humor.

I told Pete about the pasties Peg and he got all excited. “Do you think someone would bring some down to me’ he said. I could meet them at Reagan airport with a sign saying pies and pasties here please! Maybe we will just come up there one day. You will have to tell us where to shop.
Snowbound has passed 10000 words…definitely heading for novella or novel status. Hopefully all your questions will be answered Julie….mine too!

That’s what I meant Peg. Looks like I need to head in your direction for my meat pie! We have a famous pastry shop in our town so we are spoilt for pies and pasties. My husband loves a Cornish pastie. We haven’t found them as commonplace in the States or Canada. They are available in Whistler….maybe because of all the Australians. Or maybe we look in the wrong places. Now I have a craving……

Yum yum yum. We love pies…they don’t seem to be such a big thing in North America. Enjoy dinner Julie.
Louise’s newsletter is out for those who haven’t received it by email!

Anna, by pies I think you mean meat pies, rather than dessert pies? Pot pies and especially Cornish pasties are popular here in southwest Wisconsin due to our lead mining history. Also shepherd’s pie….

Brrrrr – now I’m feeling cold on this hot day, hahaha. I could do with a bacon buttie myself! But I’m in for a treat tonight – I stopped at The British Pantry today on my way home (a store that sells British grocery items) to stock up on pickled onions, which are not available anywhere else around here. They have fresh pastries baked on the premises, and so we will be having pork pie, beef and onion pie and for dessert, apple tarts tonight. I love their meat pies!

Ooops – meant to say something more about the story, but hit the post button too soon! Love it so far – very intriguing – why is Reggie dressed down? Or is he? Maybe the address is an old one… So happy to see Fox and Collie again!

Can’t remember the Secret Seven, Famous Five, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden. Nancy Drew or any of that crowd aging out either…..and summer seemed to last forever. Strangely I can’t suspend reality that much in my books….time still flows albeit a bit slower. I think Louise is the same. I do remember her talking about it once.

I’m saving the story for later, because I’m off in a few minutes – but wanted to jump in here and say wouldn’t it be fun to have a series of books based on Beauvoir and Annie? Maybe if Armand ever really retires… I wonder if Louise plans on aging people much? I know that Poirot didn’t really age – he was already “retired” from the Belgian police when he started working for Agatha Christie – and he went on for many years at about the same age… I’ve got no problem with that, hahaha.

Thanks Cathryne. Writing for you guys gives me a goal. Really glad you like it. It will be fun to find out who did what. I shall edit and write. Maybe that’s what I am meant to do…like Dickens I shall write my stories as serials?
I like your thoughts on Beauvoir! So many exciting possibilities. It would be good to see Annie and how she develops.
I hope your responsibilities aren’t too onerous Cathryne. It was so nice to see you. I do miss you and I know the others do too. Feel free to send an email to me or to Julie. Our emails are on the previous page, or the one before that, if you feel comfortable to do so. I would hate for the Bistro to go dark half way through the story and not be able to tell you how it ended!

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