Today’s recipe, and indeed the one I published last week, don’t include precise quantities for all of the ingredients. As an engineer, and someone who loves precision in all things, I sometimes find this hard to handle. Phrases like “Add just enough flour to ensure that the dough is no longer sticky” can give me the heebie-jeebies. Quantities are but one use of numbers, and there are many more.
For me the best, and indeed worst thing about numbers, is their precision. Numbers are black and white…..
I was out cycling over the weekend on a circuit I know well. I wanted to complete the route in under 2 hours, something I had never been able to do before. I did it in 2 hours and 35 seconds. Some might think I had done enough to achieve my goal, but for a man of precision like me, even 1 second over is still 1 second too many.
Numbers of course exist so that we can count things……
The junior school I went to was big on mathematics. I put much of my own mathematical agility down to a game we often played. Each child was given a random card with an arithmetical calculation on one side and a number on the other. One of us would start by reading out the calculation on our card, the person who had the number that matched the answer would call it out then read their card’s calculation. So it went until every child had read out their card. The teacher timed us to see if we improved over time. Simple but effective.
My Grandfather taught me much too. He started at the bottom, right out of school, in what would one day be Barclays Bank. In an age without calculators he had to do his calculations the hard way, quickly too and without mistakes. He taught me a different way of thinking, best demonstrated by an example. He would say that (5 x 19) is not (5 x10) added to (5 x 9), but rather (5 x 20) minus (5 x 1). Mental agility at its best!
The best way to avoid being diddled is being able to do sums in your head, even if it is only an approximation of the answer!
Numbers too are unique identifiers, be it a house number or a telephone number……
Someone told me an endearing story just recently of when, in her youth, a boy gave her his telephone number. Do you remember your youth, a time when everything was possible and the world was shiny and new? A time when you might take the city’s telephone directory and go through it, page by page, looking for the telephone number you had been given, just to see where a person lived?
Numbers are also used for security measures, as a code to secure items via a combination lock for example……
I was away on business and the family were back home making their preparations to fly out and meet me. My young son was playing with the combination lock on an empty suitcase and managed to lock it shut.
The night before their flight, I received a call at the hotel where I was staying. My rather distressed and harassed wife was asking for advice on combination locks. The only suggestion I could give her was to go through the numbers, one by one, and eventually she would hit the right combination.
They did in fact make the flight, but I understand that they slept most of the way.
There is also a beauty in numbers……
Just take Pi π or Prime Numbers as an example. Both such simple concepts but so elegant, that they can be used as the basis for a great story. “Contact” by Carl Sagan is a good example. If you liked the film, which is good, the book is better and takes the story further. I recommend you give it a try!
Numbers, in the form of quantities, also ensure that your recipes turn into edible repasts…..
Desserts in particular quite often require very precise measurement, otherwise that cake might not rise or that pannacotta might not have the right degree of wobble.
There are times however when one simply has to play it by ear. Today is one of those days:
Empanadillas de Crema (Custard Filled Mini-Pastries)
For the custard:
1 Egg Yolk
15g Vanilla sugar
For the pastry:
60ml Olive oil
200g Flour (Approximately)
To make the custard:
Use the method as described in the recipe here.
You only need a quarter measure of the custard. The quantities above, in this article, have already been adjusted accordingly and reflect what you will need to fill the 12 empanadillas.
Reserve the unused egg white for later in this recipe.
Sprinkle some sugar on top of the made custard to stop a skin forming.
Leave to cool.
To make the pastry:
Mix the oil and water together then stir in most of the flour using a wooden spoon.
Add just enough flour to ensure that the dough is no longer sticky but still soft enough to roll out.
(This is a flexible dough that should be easy to work)
Lightly beat the reserved egg white.
Roll out the dough as thin as possible. You should be able to see the kitchen work-surface through the dough!
Cut out circles of 9cm to 10cm in diameter.
By hand, or using a specialised mould, put a teaspoon of custard into the middle of each circle.
Paint the edge with a little of the beaten egg white.
Fold over the pastry and seal well. Crimp the edges by folding over or simply pressing down with the tines of a fork.
Fry in hot oil, around 180ºC, until lightly browned and crisp.
Place onto kitchen roll to drain.
Serve dusted with icing sugar.
You will have seen that the custard recipe referenced above has two options, to make the custard from scratch or use custard powder. Either will work.
You will see some recipe out there where these pastries are baked in the oven. That is NOT the typical way they are cooked here in Spain. I would therefore recommend you try frying them. Apart from it being the typical way, the pastry comes out really crisp and flaky!
This week I have some other pastry filled delights for you:
tsp – Teaspoon – 5ml
tbsp – Tablespoon – 15ml
Imperial to Metric Measurement:
1 oz – 28g
1 lb – 16 oz – 454g
1 gill – ¼ pint – 142ml
1 inch – 25mm
Common Flour Types:
Gluten: 8% to 10%
Type: ES 70W
All-Purpose Flour / Plain Flour
Gluten: 8% to 11%
Type: DE 550 / FR 55 / IT 0 / ES 200W
Bread Flour / Strong Flour / Hard Flour
Gluten: 12% to 14% protein (gluten)
Type: DE 812 / FR 80 / IT 1 / ES 400W
2018 Lincoln W. Betteridge