My husband and I recently welcomed our baby daughter into the world, a beautiful bundle of joy who loves to sleep but who is still mastering the art of how to do it well. Some days are better than others, and some nights are better than others. Despite the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn, and not to mention the pre-existing sleep deprivation that comes with a sleep-walking toddler, my heart feels full and I am slowly adjusting to the chaos that is a family of four.
There is something about little babies and cute nicknames. Perhaps it is because it feels odd to ascribe an adult name to a new being who has not yet had time to grow into his or her moniker. Or perhaps it is because some babies are better suited to being called sugar plum than, say, Arnold. My mother-in-law calls our son “petit crab” (little crab), to which he reciprocates by calling her simply “crab”. It may not impart the same level of affection but it nonetheless demonstrates that our son has a good grasp of adjectives. A good friend of mine used to call her lovely and rounded son “sausages” until he started to only respond to “sausages” and never his real name, which can be rather embarrassing when you live in a country where sausages are the main form of protein.
As for me, I tend to use nicknames absentmindedly. If our baby girl is refusing to sleep unless we are holding her and gently lulling her to sleep while standing (not sitting), I find myself calling her “madame”. I’m not sure why, but it seems to suit a baby who is bossing me around. At other times, especially right after a feed when she is giving sweet, contented smiles in her milk-induced coma, I like to call her “honey pie”.
I’m sure I use this term of endearment with my son as well, but it’s a nickname which I have used for years without much thought until recently when Nigella Lawson posted a photo of a honey pie on her Instagram account. An actual honey pie. It never occurred to me that such a thing really existed. And the honey pie that Nigella was referring to was, in fact, a salty honey pie. Could anything sound more heavenly?
Soon after Nigella’s post, the salty honey pie was trending on Instagram and, before I knew it, I had purchased The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book from which the recipe for this addictive pie originates.
A honey pie is essentially a tart filled with a custard sweetened with honey, and baked until it is set with the merest hint of a wobble. What makes this honey pie simply divine is the generous sprinkling of sea salt upon serving, perfectly offsetting the honeyed sweetness of the custard. Move over salted caramel … salted honey is the flavour du jour.
My only disappointment with this recipe is that my attempts so far have yielded less than professional-looking results. On my first try, my pastry didn’t keep its shape upon baking and even shrunk a little in the pan. Admittedly, I didn’t quite understand the recipe for making the pastry, which instructs you to add half a cup of ice to the pastry. Ice? Is that meant to be crushed ice or cubes of ice? Is the ice meant to be mixed into the pastry mixture, or is it to simply help keep the water cold? I was a bit confused about the role of the ice, so I left it out completely, which might explain why my pastry looked a bit shabby after baking. On my second attempt, I froze the pastry-lined pie dish to compensate for the absence of ice, but this produced an even more rustic-looking pie that my husband tucked into it without even asking if I would be bothering to photograph it. By my third attempt where I decided to blind-bake the pastry first, our arteries were starting to work overtime and I still could not produce a photogenic pie. My guess is that this is one of those recipes which works great in a commercial kitchen and when made by a professional pastry cook, or, in my case, it could be due to baby brain.
I daresay one might get better results by using a metal pie dish to achieve a crisper pie crust, so that will be my next avenue of experimenting. However, I’m still not sure what to do about the ice … I should also mention that, on each of my attempts, I only needed to use half of the liquid to form my pastry dough.
The recipe for the custard filling is also a bit odd in that it calls for granulated sugar (not caster or superfine sugar) and cornmeal, but then goes on to instruct the cook to strain the custard through a fine sieve before filling the pastry shell. Needless to say, most of the cornmeal is unable to pass through the sieve because it is not an ingredient which dissolves in the uncooked custard, and the same can be said for the granulated sugar.
Has anyone else tried this recipe? Any tips or tricks?
Despite the hiccups in getting this pie to look like the photo in the cookbook, it tastes absolutely delicious. Knowing now how a honey pie actually tastes, I think it is the perfect term of endearment; in my case, it’s perfect even for someone a bit rough around the edges.
You can find the recipe here.