Friday, August 31, 2012

Canadian National Exhibition and Anna Olson

When I heard that Anna Olson would be doing a baking demo at the CNE this year, I requested politely to the boyfriend that we attend.

Or was more like... "oooo can we can we can we please please please please with a big fat ol' cherry on top pleeaassseee, think of all the pieeessss I'll bake you, can we can we please please PUH-LEEEZZZEE???"

And so we set off to the CNE in the late afternoon last Friday, sneaking in through the back entrance, past the games, the many sweet and salty and crunchy and downright wicked food offerings, the ginormous Ferris wheel, the Canadian Armed Forces tanks and jets, and into the Direct Energy building.

In the DE building, there were sand castles on display (with participants from all over the world). This was my favourite sand castle:

Notice the nice sand meal presented to us at the foot.

We selected some seats and watched as Anna and her helper prepped her work station.

Her demonstration was making her "Blue Ribbon Apple Pie" and "Snickerdoodle" cookies.

Anna was energetic, animated, and engaging with her audience, entertaining us with great stories of the trade and giving us some neat tips on how to make fruit pies successfully.

These are the tips that I remember from that night:

- To make pie dough, the butter does not need to be cold for a flaky crust. Adding a bit of mild flavoured oil while making the dough will allow the butter pieces and flour to be kept separated because they are coated in oil. This will give the flaky consistency of a good pie crust.

- If using all purpose flour, adding some sugar in the dough will interrupt gluten development during kneading. Gluten content is lower in pastry flour so sugar is unnecessary.

- Adding a big of vinegar into the dough will break up the gluten proteins to help make a flakier crust.

- Sprinkle the bottom of the pie crust with some rolled oats and cinnamon so that the fruit juices are absorbed there (and not absorbed by the pie crust) as the pie bakes. I thought this idea was brilliant!

- While making the apple filling, use a variety of apples together:
          - Granny smith, for the tartness and the crunch
          - Crispin, for the sweetness and juiciness
          - Cortland, for the sweetness and good apple flavour
          - Royal Gala, for the crunch and apple flavour as well
          - many others that I can't recall!

- To prevent the filling from getting too soggy, heat half of the sliced apples in a skillet until they start to release their juices and reduce it down a bit. Then mix them with the other half of uncooked apples before adding them into the pie crust.

Anna made a double crust apple pie and showed us her fluting technique to close up both top and bottom doughs.

After this, I wanted to make pie dough just so I could do that fancy fluting thing to it.

We managed to work up some hunger pangs so we headed out and greeted the food truckies with all our money. Well, no, even if we wanted to give our wallets to them, we still had to wait in long lines to get our goodies. We spent our time at Buster's Sea cove truck and got some fish tacos.

I apologize for the poor quality photo of the tacos, but the hunger pangs were clawing at me, the smells engulfing all my senses, it took all my being just to hold the camera up to my face and point and shoot, ddjjaaaaaaarr..... *munch munch munch*

They were GOOD.

The fish was soft, moist, fresh, each flake came off beautifully during the bite. The exterior coating was a bit thick, but gave a nice contrasting crunch texture.

I think the spicy cabbage slaw on top was probably my favourite. I don't even remember whether we squeezed lemon on it or not, but the slaw added a great tang and spicy flavour that worked really well with the deep fried fish.

After our bellies were filled, our eyes started drooping, so it was about time to call it a day. We exited from the front entrance and made our way back home. All in all, it was a great day. :)

The CNE runs until Sept 3:

(This was actually my first food truck event and now I'm starting to understand the craze - it's fast food, but sometimes it's also QUALITY food. What were some amazing food truck events that you experienced?)


  1. Oh wow that sounds like such a fun experience :D
    Baking demos rock my socks! I adore the sandcastle too but sorry, apple pie beats all!
    Thanks for sharing Anna's tips as well :)

    Choc Chip Uru

  2. What great tips! Thanks so much for sharing them with us and it must have been so much fun being there :D

  3. It was really nice seeing one of my favourite tv bakers in person because she gave us many behind-the-scenes stories like how they baked one recipe many many many times so they could film all angles of it, and of course, she and her crew had to eat them all to make sure each one was identical to the previous so in order to not get overloaded with so much sugar, she just popped an olive into her mouth every time.

    Haha. Anna Olson is awesome!