I know I've pushed myself too far when I find myself shouting at Thomas for no particular reason and then break down in tears, also, for no particular reason. I should probably have noticed by the laundry piling up, the angry mumbling at cars that are blocking the bike lane and my inability to write anything decent, but then again, I never do.
I have a tendency to demand too much of myself. It starts with a simple idea, a new-found love, an ambition. Basically, a place of interest and inspiration. Then I start to set goals. I go all in. Only, without even noticing it, goals become targets and targets become obsessions. The beautiful and inspiring things that I wanted to do, become things that I have to do ... dreaded check-boxes on my to-do list. And all the while I tell myself, as well as those who voice their concerns, that this is only a means to an end, that it needs to be done if I want to accomplish my goals.
I lived on that edge - over that edge - for more than a year. I forced myself to work on something that filled me with dread and insecurity for 8 hours a day, telling myself that I needed to get over it and just push through. I spent most of those 8 hours either procrastinating or beating myself up about it, until I hated everything I was doing. I was mumbling at cars, shouting at Thomas and breaking down in tears on a daily basis back then, yet I still chose to ignore the signs. I kept pushing myself until there was nothing left to push. By the time I realized I needed to slow down and take care of myself first, the things that used to interest me had become sources of anger and resentment. There was a futile attempt to salvage the situation by reducing my work hours and focusing on simple, creative projects instead, but in the end, all that was left to do, was to walk away.
I don't recognize all the signs yet, but when I find myself sobbing and twitching and mumbling and jumping out of my skin, I know I need to look back at that year and remind myself of the cost of ignoring my limits. It's the one way I can convince myself that it's okay to take a step back. That it's necessary. That it's time. Time to accept the unforeseen, the delays, the inactivity. Time to take off my shoes and walk barefoot through the house and the grass. Time to ride my bike through a forest and watch the flicker of the sun pushing through the leaves, feeling the air change from warm to cool to warm again as I move from light to shade to light. Time to listen to a cd from start to finish, without doing anything else. Time to have long and silly talks with my boyfriend. Time to sit still. Lie down.
• A homemade all-butter pie crust does wonders for any pie and will inspire awe among your friends, but like us, it needs time to rest. There are a lot of waiting times in this recipe and all of them are important ... to distribute moisture, to avoid shrinkage, to develop flavors. Respect them.
• You want your ingredients for the pie crust to be as cold as possible. I freeze the cubed butter a few hours before I make the dough or even the night before and I use a food processor to cut the butter into the flour. While many sources advise against using a food processor because you run the risk of over-processing the dough, for me, it's the best way to quickly cut in butter without warming it up. To avoid over-processing, I give the mixture only a few short pulses to cut up the butter and then finish it off by hand. No matter how you cut in the butter, though, it needs to stay ice cold. If you notice the butter becoming soft and malleable, return the mixture to the refrigerator for a while. This also applies when you are rolling the dough. It's a simple rule of thumb: if you find the butter melting, return the dough to the refrigerator.
• For years, I thought a crispy bottom on a fruit pie was a myth. No matter what I tried, I always ended up with a bit of a soggy bottom. Until I bought myself a metal pie tin. Now, each pie has a golden brown and flaky bottom and it gets me excited every time I see it. A metal pie tin makes all the difference. Also useful: sprinkling the bottom of your pie crust with a mixture of flour and sugar and putting the pie tin directly onto a preheated baking sheet.
• The method for making the filling is inspired by Joy the Baker. Letting the rhubarb macerate for a while infuses it with the sweetness of the sugar and the spiciness of the ginger. By then cooking down the liquid into a strong syrup, you lose some of the excess moisture without pouring all that flavor down the drain.
• While there is a fair amount of ginger in this recipe, it isn't really present in the pie as a strong, separate flavor. Instead, it enhances the sour tones of the rhubarb and ties everything together.
Rhubarb Ginger Pie
spelt pie crust from Sweeter Off the Vine, by Yossy Arefi
makes a 24 cm/9 inch double crusted pie
for the spelt pie crust
175 gr spelt flour
165 gr all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
255 gr unsalted butter, cubed and frozen
120 ml ice water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
for the filling
800 - 1000 gr rhubarb, cut into 2 cm pieces
100 gr light brown sugar
100 gr granulated sugar
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
juice of 1/2 lemon
15 gr unsalted butter
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked demerara or raw cane sugar
for the spelt pie crust
1. In a large bowl, whisk together spelt flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Add cubed, frozen butter and toss so as to coat each butter cube in flour. With your fingers, a pastry cutter or in a food processor, cut butter into the flour. You want to create flat, thin sheets of butter ranging from the size of oat flakes to the size of peas.
2. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine ice water and vinegar. Sprinkle about 6 tbsp of the liquid onto the butter-flour mixture and gently toss with your fingers or a fork to distribute the water. Keep adding the ice water 1 tbsp at a time until the dough comes together. You have added enough water when you can pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it together without it falling apart. (I ended up using practically all of the water.)
3. Dump dough out onto a clean work surface and divide into 2 equal parts. Press each half into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
4. When ready to assemble the pie, lightly grease your pie tin and remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a circle of about 30 cm in diameter and 3 mm in thickness. After every few strokes, lift up the dough and rotate it 45˚. This will ensure you roll it in every direction and that it doesn't stick to your work surface. Dust with a little extra flour when necessary.
5. Drape dough over your rolling pin and gently lift it from the work surface. Center the dough into the pie tin and use the back of your finger to press it into the border of the tin. Return prepared pie crust to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
6. Repeat step 4 with the second disk of dough. After you've rolled the dough, cut it into strips for the lattice. You can go as fine or wide as you like, but remember that a wider lattice is less fussy to arrange. Arrange strips of dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and return to the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
for the filling
1. While the prepared pie crust chills, combine rhubarb, both sugars, ginger and lemon juice in a large bowl. Toss and transfer to a fine mesh sieve set over the large bowl. Allow to macerate at room temperature for about 30 minutes. The mixture should release about 1/4 cup of liquid.
2. Transfer liquid to a small saucepan and add the 15 gr of unsalted butter. On medium-low heat, cook down the liquid until it is reduced to about half. It should be a thick, slightly caramelized syrup. In the meantime, toss rhubarb with cornstarch.
3. When the liquid is cooked down, pour it over the rhubarb and toss. The syrup may harden upon contact with the rhubarb, but it will melt and spread out again in the oven.
to assemble the pie
1. Remove lined pie tin from the refrigerator and sprinkle the bottom with 1 tbsp of flour and 1 tbsp of sugar. This will bind the juices and protect the bottom from any excess liquid. Dump rhubarb into the pie and arrange lattice on top. Trim the crust, press both crusts together and fold over the edges, crimping as you please.
2. Allow the pie to rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 210°C and put a rimmed baking sheet - one that can hold your pie tin - on the lower rack.
3. When the oven is preheated, remove the pie from the refrigerator and brush the top with egg wash, making sure not to drag any of the filling onto it. Finish with a sprinkle of demerara or raw cane sugar.
4. Put the pie onto the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is set and starting to color. Lower the temperature to 190°C and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the juices are bubbling throughout.
5. Transfer pie to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.