Sunday, November 27, 2011

American Pie Crust - A quirky, but succesful, method from King Arthur Flour

American Pie.  The pie crust is the key, isn't it?  It is to pie lovers, like my husband.  My son, too.  A pie crust has to be tender and flaky.  Am I right?  The debate goes on as to which is better-- an all butter crust vs. using shortening.  In my beginning baking years, I used to buy Mrs. Smith's frozen pies.  I was too intimidated to try making pie crust, from scratch.  Then, I transitioned to buying ready made pie crusts.  Eventually, I started to make pie crusts with my food processor.  I'd whir the dough around for an eternity, not realizing that I was doing a fabulous job of building up the gluten.  My pie crusts were tough, but at that time I didn't really notice. That's because  I don't eat the crust.  I'm one of those pie eaters, who scoops out the contents of the pie and tosses away the rest.

I married a man who loves pie. He loves pie crust. A lot. Seriously. He could eat pie for breakfast, and be totally content.  His favorite summer pie is "Olallieberry Pie".  I shared this all butter pie crust (from Ina Garten) as a tutorial (and it's gotten a lot of views).

In the Fall, I believe that Pumpkin Pie is one of the most traditional desserts that graces a Thanksgiving table.  Pecan comes in as a close second. Some years, I like to try new pumpkin desserts-- like Pumpkin Ice Cream, or Pumpkin Pana Cota.  This year, I wanted to make traditional pumpkin pie.  I wanted to try the shortening and butter approach of making a pie crust.  One of my most trusted internet  recipes sources, King Arthur Flour, had several pie crust recipes.  I watched their video, and I was totally sold on making a pie crust without a food processor!     There are four kitchen tools/supplies that you need, for this technique--  a rolling pin, parchment paper, a pastry cutter (you could use two forks)  and and a spray bottle. For those of you who say you hate to bake-- and worse, that believe you can't make pie crusts...  watch and see.

I've own a pie crust shield for years, to prevent my pie crusts from turning too dark.  The problem is, it ruins my pie crusts because I tend to use a deep-dish pie plate.  I now prefer to roll foil to fit my pie plate.  Spray the pie plate, so that the pie slices are easier to remove. You're welcome.

Measure your 3 cups of unbleached flour (of course, I only use King Arthur Flour), salt  and 1/2 cup shortening (a printable recipe card is at the end of this post).  Cut the shortening in until it's the size of small peas.   I have to admit, it wasn't hard work at all.

I usually grate my cold cheese. But, like the recipe instructed me to, I cut the butter into thin slices and added it to the coarse flour and shortening.  Very gently, with my hands, I mixed the butter with the flour. Then broke the butter to about the size of my thumbnail.

 Ice water is important-- not cold tap water.  The recipe said between 6-9 Tablespoons of water.  I quit at 9 Tablespoons, while stirring it with a fork.  I wasn't quite sure when to quit-- as the recipe said to quite when the dough is "shaggy" and "almost moist".  So, remember that parchment paper and spray bottle I mentioned?  Here's the quirky part:

Spread the shaggy dough on top of parchment paper.  Take one side of the parchment paper and fold it over the dough and press down. 

See? The dough is a bit dry, still (I should have added one or two more Tablespoons of water.)

Now spray with water, until the dough is moistened.  The theory-- which makes complete sense to me, now-- is that we are not going to overwork the dough.  We also want to allow those pieces of butter to stay whole.  I press the dough, almost like a letter, to build layers.   Finally, it all came together.

 I cut the dough into unequal halves. Why? Because one pie plate is deeper and larger than the other!

I'm holding a cross section.  Those will become tender layers of flavor. I totally have faith in that.

Gently pat the dough into a circle, wrap in plastic, refrigerate,  and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes.  You can certainly make the pie crust dough several days in advance.

 Rolling pins... I have finally fallen in-love with my tapered rolling pin.  As long as I run a little flour over the rolling pin, I don't have a problem with the pie dough sticking.

I finally mastered the simple art of rolling pie dough.  Start from the center and roll out.  I no longer roll back and forth, and now my pie crusts don't stick and they aren't tough, from being overworked. One last tip-- turn the dough a quarter turn.  If the dough sticks, then add a little flour underneath.  All my broken pie crust problems have been solved!

Can you see that nice chunk of butter in the right corner?  It's simple science-- the butter causes the crust to steam = tender and delicious crust.   I find that wrapping my pin around the dough, and then unwrapping it onto my pie plate works perfectly-- every time.

My crust was a little unevenly shaped. I simply took some excess trimmings, and added it underneath the area that needed more.  Crimping will hide that patch job.

It's fun to play with my food.

Here's a more traditional crimp.

Here's how I did it, from an earlier post for a two-crust pie.

For my second pie, I snipped the dough with kitchen shears...

That's kind of fun-- a checkerboard crust.

FINAL NOTES: The prepared pie crusts should be chilled for at least 30 minutes before using. Yes, you can freeze these as well, and use them another time-- like the day after. 

I simply don't see a need to buy pre-made pie crusts.  Have you read the ingredients lately?  I actually find pie crusts on the therapeutic side to make.  There's something really satisfying when I roll out a pie crust and crimp it.  It feels like a true accomplishment.  Of course, the question is-- is this a good recipe?

VERDICT:  This dough is very easy to work with, and rolls out beautifully.  I found the pie crust to be truly tender.  My husband really liked the pie crust a lot.  He says it's just like his mom's old-fashioned pie crust. I still am a big fan of all-butter crusts, and I'm a tart kinda gal.  I gave my husband the crust, and gutted the pumpkin pie.  Considering I had some rather generous helpings of my revised sweet potato casserole (coming up soon), that was probably a better idea.

Here's a sneak preview to the pumpkin pie recipe, that was new to me.  It was excellent.  Yes, I will be sharing that one, too.

I was hoping to embed the King Arthur Video on this post, but I'm a little leery about playing around with HTML codes within my template.  So, instead, here's the link to see this really cool pie crust technique.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post, and at the end of the video.

I keep saying-- King Arthur Flour doesn't pay me to promote their products, website or recipes.  I do it, because I'm a very happy customer, and I have great results with their recipes.  Plus, they're nice people to deal with on the phone.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

From one Holiday to the next-- Christmas Stollen, Made Easy (Redux)

Black Friday was spent at home, with the aroma of turkey stock simmering on the stove.  We ate pumpkin pie for breakfast, with fresh coffee.  For lunch, we polished off the last of the smoked salmon, red onion, capers and horseradish sauce that my brother made (I need to make that sauce again-- it was divine).

The bonus of making turkey stock from roasted turkey is that it  makes a richer tasting stock-- in my opinion. Plus, I feel as though none of the "bird" was wasted.  I didn't photograph the process, but if you'd like to see how I make soup using my pasta pot, please click here. I made four quarts of Turkey Rice Soup and reserved two quarts of turkey stock for future meals. Our turkey carcass yielded a lot of leftover meat, so the soup is hearty.   It's already frozen for those work nights when I'm just too tired to cook. Amen.

Thanksgiving Dinner, no matter how many people you cook for, is a lot of hard work.  My husband was a blessing, as he washed and dried pots and pans (while muttering to himself, "didn't I just wash these?) While I'm on the subject of hard work--  the Make Ahead Gravy and Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes sure made life a whole lot easier!

Here's what happened to my gravy, once I added the turkey drippings on Thanksgiving Day...

I ended up with  two quarts of gravy, which is a good thing.  Personally, I don't eat gravy very often.  On Thanksgiving, I can't imagine not being able to pour it all over my potatoes and turkey.

As for the turkey-- I actually had my butcher "deconstruct it" and I seared it on the stove top-- then finished roasting it in the oven.  It took less than two hours for my bird to to beautifully browned, moist and flavorful (future post coming up soon).

I made a sweet potato casserole, but adapted it in a new way.  I think that was the star of the show. I'll be sharing that one, too.

I'm been reading editorials on how frustrated many people feel about the commercialism of Christmas.  I share that, too.  Christmas is a very special time of year for me, but mine is based on my faith in Christ.  I don't begrudge those who wish to celebrate it as they wish, but I choose not to focus on buying gifts and spending more money than our budget allows.  Instead, I focus on making gifts that are appreciated by my loved ones, because I enjoy making them with love.   I enjoy seeing my fireplace decorated with garland, and our Christmas tree with the ornaments I've collected over the decades.  As I place each unique ornament on our tree, I can still identify who gave it to me, or where I was when I bought it.

Despite my son being a working and low maintenance young man (and a son I adore), it seems I don't have enough hours in the week to create the beautiful Christmas cookies, crafts and gifts that I see on my addiction to Pinterest.  How I wish I had the time and talent to make the beautiful ideas I've saved!  This year, I'm hoping to accomplish my goal of making edible gifts to give to my coworkers and friends.  This Christmas Stollen is one of them.  This version comes from King Arthur Flour, and I will be baking these as gifts.  Unlike a traditional Stollen recipe, this one doesn't involve yeast.  I love to work with yeast, but I have to say that it's wasn't missed when I made these last Christmas.  I think of these as German Biscotti.

This weekend, I will be working on editing photos from at least a half dozen recipes that I've made over the last couple of weeks.  I wish I had the time to share them on a daily basis, but I'm still a decade away from retirement!  My three year blog anniversary is coming up--  and I still love my creative outlet and hobby as much as I enjoy visiting other food blogs.  Y'all are so inspirational to me!

To read this post, and see a step-by-step tutorial, please click here.  A printable recipe card, for the Stollen is at the bottom of this post.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

How to make Perfect "Make Ahead Turkey Gravy"

Here I am. T-minus 3 days until the family comes over for dinner. All three of them.  Sometimes I wish an Italian family would invite me over for dinner.  I'd happily bring a side dish and dessert.  I'd love the noise and to experience having 20 plus people for a holiday dinner.  So, where was I? As for me, I only need five place settings.  Of course, that means lots of leftovers. That equates to no cooking for me, for a day...or two.   For years, as soon as the turkey came out of the oven, I'd jump into making the gravy. It's a crazy time to do this, because all the other dishes are coming out of the oven, from the stove, and my guests are hungry.  Finally, I read an article in a magazine about Make Ahead Gravy.  Brilliant! I've been doing this for four years, and it's such a blessing. Trust me.

One of my dear coworkers lamented that she can't make gravy to save her life.  I wonder why? Gravy is one of the easiest things to make.  You just have to follow a few basic rules.  For one, it's that "brown stuff" that sticks to the bottom of the roasting pan that has gives gravy such great flavor. In culinary terms, it's called fond.  To me, it's gold.  Next, you want a rich and flavorful stock, and fond is what makes it happen. Water doesn't cut it.  Last, but just as important, you need to know how to thicken the gravy.  This is where the lumpy gravy fear factor comes in.   Oh, I've made plenty of lumpy gravy over the thirty plus Thanksgiving Dinner's I've made.   'Nuff said.   Let's make turkey gravy:

First, we're going to make the turkey stock.  I bought six turkey wings for less than $8.00.  Place them in a roasting pan (or a Dutch Oven).  Add a couple of onions, cut into chunks, four cloves of smashed garlic and a few sticks of celery.  (You don't have to bother peeling the onions or garlic. ) 

Roast the turkey wings in a 375F oven for about 2 hours. 

It smells like Thanksgiving, already.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Make Ahead Perfect Creamy Mashed Potatoes

I have two older brothers.  Both of them are bachelors.  If they were married, I'd be in bettter luck. I think. At least, I could potentially recruit the women to help make Thanksgiving Dinner. So, for now, I am the only girl cook in the family. In high school, this was a good thing.  My brothers had good looking friends.  But that's another story, or two.  For another day.

Over the last few decades, it seems that I've been the designated Thanksgiving Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.  My small family loves their Thanksgiving dinners.  My mother (may she rest in peace),  so looked forward to turkey and all the trimmings.  You see, her Motherland of Bavaria doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving. Of course not!  This is an American tradition.  Both of my parents are now celebrating their celestial Thanksgivings amongst the heavens.  That brings us back to earth.  Unless I opt to go out to eat (which means no leftovers), I cook. I bake. I clean pots and pans.  I serve.

My kitchen is so small that there is barely enough room for just myself.   That's why I've finally devised a plan.  The plan is to make a few dishes, starting the weekend before Thanksgiving.   Until one of my brothers brings a girlfriend (perhaps future wife?) to my kitchen, who can cook,(and I can Shanghai)  I'm pretty much running the show. Let's face it-- Thanksgiving Dinner is a lot of work!

Turkey cannot be fully enjoyed without mashed potatoes.  Rice or pasta just doesn't cut it. My favorite potatoes are Yukon Golds.  I'm going to show you how I make mashed potatoes that are creamy and packed with flavor.  You can make these a few days ahead of time-- you could even freeze them.  Today, I cooked about 5 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes.  You can use Russets, or Red Bliss, of course.  I love the buttery notes of Yukons, and the light yellow color.  I also like that I don't have to peel them.  Less work is good.  I cook them in salted water until fork tender. If you scrutinize photos, I'm using a knife. Either way, I just make sure that they're tender, but not cooked to mush. Drain them.

This is my kitchen helper.  I love my OXO food mill.   I love this kitchen tool more than my potato ricer.  A potato masher? Fuhgetaboutit.   For one, there are rubber "legs" that come out and helps to position the food mill over a pot.   I simply insert the grater with the larger holes, and snap the handy dandy handle on. I'm ready to go.  I simply cut the potatoes in smaller quarters, grab the handle and turn...

Turn right a few spins, turn left. Turn right, turn left.  This is much easier than squeezing a potato ricer, and I can fit a lot more potatoes at once.  Mashing is more work than I want to do. So, my first batch of potatoes are beautifully "riced".

Now, here are the ingredients I use to make these delicious mashed potatoes.  Cream cheese. Uh-huh. I don't measure, but 1/2  brick looks good.  Then I add 1/2 stick of unsalted butter.  I add more hot potatoes and continue to mill them.  The heat of the potatoes will start to melt the cream cheese and butter.  Look at the underside of the food mill, and there's all kinds of lovely potato goodness. Scrape that into the pot.

So, now it's time to add the liquids.  Again, I don't measure.  Here's whole milk. I add in 1/4 cup increments.  It's better to go slow and easy, so you don't end up with potato soup.

 The pot is filling up, and I'm not even breaking a sweat.

The milled/riced potatoes are easily stirred.  Start blending, gently.

Last night, I made roasted garlic and used half of it. I decided to squeeze the sweet tasting garlic and mash it up. This is totally optional. But good.

I don't always do this, but today-- for Thanksgiving-- I added 2 beaten eggs.  The eggs give a lovely richness to the potatoes.   Now give the potatoes a stir.  Amazing!  You really don't need to use a hand mixer.  I never do.  I find that when potatoes are run through a food mill, all the hard work is done.  Give the potatoes a taste.  There's one more ingredient I love to add.  For Thanksgiving.

Heavy cream. Yes! Just go for it.  I added about 1/4 cup.   Basically, I'm done when the potatoes have a lovely silky texture. That's why I don't measure.  Just go slow and easy, and you'll do fine.  Now, you can go in with a hand mixer, but I like a little bit of texture. Your choice. (Whatever you do, don't use a food processor-- or you'll end up with potato glue!)   I've got enough dishes to clean up, anyway.

I sprayed olive oil on an oven-proof dish.  You can butter it, but I'm watching my calories. (Not.)
Cover ...
...and put into the refrigerator.

Now, pat yourself on the back that these pots and pans are washed and put away, before Thanksgiving Day. You won't be scrambling to make these while your guests are drinking, and eating appetizers, while you are slaving away in the kitchen.  I speak for myself.

So, how to you serve these?  Pop them into a 350 degree oven, for about 20-30 minutes.  I put a few pieces of butter on top, and stir them right before serving.  Or, you can heat these in a slow cooker, on low-- which frees up the oven.  Either way, these are guaranteed to be excellent.  If you're the designated side dish bringer-- make these.  They'll disappear.

 My sinful indulgence.  So delicious!

My next post-- Make Ahead Turkey Gravy.  

...another life time saver.

NOTE: OXO did not pay me to promote their food mill.  I wish they did. I wish they were sponsoring a giveaway so y'all could win one.  But, they aren't.  You can still use a good old-fashioned potato masher.  The potatoes will still taste fantastic.  
A printable recipe card is at the very end of this post.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Candied Sweet Potatoes, Kicked Up

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?  As far as turkey goes, I'll have the white meat, please.  Mashed potatoes? Sure. Gravy? Why not...just a little.  Stuffing?  No.  I'll skip stuffing any day. I know, I'm weird.  (I've been told that I made great stuffing-- but I eat just one bite of it).  What I really hold out for are sweet potatoes.   As a kid, I could hardly wait for sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows, and that golden crust crunch.  The best.  It wasn't until I was all grown up, that I first made this very recipe,  while watching Emeril Lagasse's Food Network show back in 2002.   This recipe is for grownups.  It has fresh orange juice, vanilla bean and-- bourbon.  The funny thing is, I'm not a bourbon drinker.  Never have been.  But, this recipe has become a regular on my Thanksgiving table, now that my son and his cousin are all grown up.   I begin with 8 sweet potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces.  Of course, we need brown sugar.

Next, water, fresh squeezed orange juice (not concentrate) and orange zest.

To me, sweet potatoes and cinnamon are meant for one another.  I received a jar of Red Ape Cinnamon a year ago, and I really like it a lot.  Is cinnamon just cinnamon? Well, yes, and no.

So, this is the cinnamon that I buy now-- because I admire and respect that their product is  all about being sustainable and organic products. I like value and support that.

Two teaspoons of cinnamon, some salt and vanilla bean.  Well, folks, I also received a jar of Singing Dog Vanilla Bean Paste from the same lovely folks who sent me Red Ape Cinnamon.  That was a year ago, and I have continued to buy this product as well.  If you've never used vanilla bean paste, it will become your new best friend.

Vanilla bean paste is thick and tastes just as though you scraped an expensive vanilla bean.  Your end product will have those lovely dark flecks of vanilla bean. Trust me. I love Red Dog Vanilla brand, not because I got to try it for free-- I like it because it's also organic, sustainable and it's a quality product.

So, now the potatoes are cooking away with all those lovely note of orange, cinnamon and vanilla. 

One they are fork tender, remove the potatoes and place them into an oven-proof dish.  We're not through, though.  The bourbon!  As I said, I don't drink bourbon.  So, I buy those small bottles at my local liquor store. (Clever, eh?)

I only need 1/2 cup, which I now add to the sauce. We want to boil the sauce, until it reduces to a syrup.  Be prepared, this can take as much as 30 minutes (as opposed to the original recipe).

I like to mark a wooden spoon with a rubber band, so I know where the liquid is at.  Then, I can tell how much the syrup has reduced.

The sauce coats the back of a spoon. See? There are the vanilla bean flecks.  I told you!
Pour the syrup over the potatoes and then place into a preheated oven at 375F.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until browned.  (I would think you could do all these steps a day or two ahead and then bake on Thanksgiving Day.) Remove from the oven and add a butter (I use about 1/2 stick, though the recipe says to use a full stick) until incorporated.

VERDICT:  I love these sweet potatoes.  Honestly, you don't taste booze.  There's almost a caramel flavor, with a hint of bourbon...just a kiss.  The balance of orange and sweet vanilla, with the cinnamon is truly a flavor party in your mouth.  Anyone who eats these, always raves about them.  I don't miss my marshmallows one bit.

The very nice folks at Singing Dog Vanilla have offered to give away:

A 4 ounce jar of their Vanilla Bean Paste and...

A 2 ounce bottle of their Pure Vanilla Extract.

All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog page (not my Fan Page), and share what recipe you most love to use vanilla bean or vanilla extract?  For a second entry, please like their Fan Page, and leave them a comment that you are entering my giveaway-- and leave an extra comment telling that you did so.    I will randomly choose a winner on Sunday, November 20th.  Sorry, but I can only ship within the Continental United States.  Please be sure that you have an email address so I can contact you-- anonymous comments cannot be accepted.  Giveaway Entries have closed. Thank you for entering.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.

Good luck, and the printable recipe is at the end of this post.

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