Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Easy As Pie: Pie Crust

I used to think my method was kind of cheating, taking the easy way out. Then I saw a pie maker on Bobby Flay's Throwdown do it and I knew I was in good company. It is not cheating, it is simply smart. This method allows you to have a positively flaky crust because you add no extra flour for rolling AND you don't overwork the pastry.

Here are a few ground rules for pie crust:
Butter = firm & crumbly
Shortening = flaky and light
Over mixing = tough crust

I know, I know: shortening? I use shortening for only two things in this world: pie crust and buttercream frosting that will be piped on a cake. Sorry, but even the Culinary Institute of America, which promised no-trans fats on campus, had to make an exception to that. There is simply no way to achieved the right texture with either of those without the dreaded shortening. Luckily Crisco has a no-trans fat formula so we can live with ourselves.

This will make one 9 inch bottom crust:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter-flavored Crisco
3-4 Tbsp cold water

This will make one 9 inch double crust:

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter-flavored Crisco
6-7 Tbsp cold water

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl and toss together. Drop in the Crisco.

With your hands, blend the ingredients together, working quickly until you have a mixture that looks like bread crumbs. Sprinkle on the water, just 1 Tbsp at a time. Continue mixing with your hands.

Add just enough water for the dough to come together as one mass.

Take two pieces of wax paper that are square. Put the dough in between.

Roll out and continually adjust the wax paper and dough. Use the pie plate as your guide and try to keep it as round as possible. You should have about two inches wider than the pie plate all the way around. Pull one piece on wax paper off, replace. Flip.

Pull the other side off.

Put down the pie pan and flip both over so the pie crust is in the pan.

Pull the top wax paper off and use you fingers to fit it the pan.

Trim off the excess crust around the tin.

Prick several (by several, I mean go nuts) fork holes into the sides and bottom. This will keep the crust from becoming soggy. You can also brush it with an egg wash at this point. Sometimes I do, sometimes I forget. But if you prick enough holes, you shouldn't HAVE to.

For a single crust, decorate the edges and trim. If it should be pre-baked, baked for 15-20 minutes, keeping an eye on it at 425 degrees.

For the double crust, fill it and them repeat he same procedure with the next crust and set on top. Pressing the top and bottom crust together and decorate and trim. Follow the individual recipe for temperature and baking times.


I have decided that truffles are my new thing. Since I have learned how, and practiced, and now I am blowing my mind with how good they are, I just cannot stop. Here is my offering. More will follow.

Cranberry Orange Filling

300g good white chocolate

¼ cup whipping cream

½ tsp orange oil
½ cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest or rind

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Warm the cream in a saucepan or microwave but be careful not to scald. Add the warm cream to the chocolate (still in the double boiler) and mix together until evenly combined. Remove from heat, add the remaining ingredients and beat the mixture until smooth and glossy.
Cover and refrigerate the mixture until it has set, 4 hours or overnight – remove mixture from fridge 10 minutes before rolling the truffles. With a small spoon or cookie scoop roll small balls of the mixture.
Makes 25-30

Lemon Blueberry Filling

300g good white chocolate

¼ cup whipping cream

½ tsp lemon oil
½ cup dried blueberries, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest or rind

Lime Coconut Filling

300g good white chocolate

¼ cup whipping cream

½ tsp lime oil
½ cup shaved coconut, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest or rind

Peanut Butter Filling

4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup creamy peanut butter

Mix together. Roll into balls and refrigerate. Makes approx. 40.

Chocolate Truffle Fillings

1 pound of chocolate
1 cup heavy cream

Heat the cream and pour directly over the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes and then stir slowly until completely incorporated. Add flavorings, if desired. Cover and chill until solid and then form into balls. Makes approx. 50 fillings.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tabitha's Frosting

2 boxes or one large bag powdered sugar - thank you for not making me measure powdered sugar!
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp cream of tartar - this helps the icing set up so you can stack them later
1/2 cup milk, you can add more depending on the consistency you want it

Beat the powdered sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until crumbly. Add the extract, cream of tartar and slowly add the milk. Beat until smooth and creamy, adding more milk, if necessary. Add coloring if desired. Okay so that is Tabitha's recipe. I was so intrigued with how good the almond taste, which is still my favorite flavoring, by the way that I started going a little nuts. This makes a lot of frosting, so I started experimenting with flavors and colors. I like to divide this batch into four smaller bowls and add different colorings and flavors in each bowl. Some of my favorites: lemon, raspberry, coconut, mint, plain ole vanilla, orange, cherry, maple, etc. I think you get the idea. Have fun and prosper.

Whipped Cream

Fresh homemade whipped cream. Nothing better. It completes the dessert. It can turn a simple bowl of berries into a decadent dessert. The addition of dry milk does not change the taste one bit, but it will work to stabilize it. You can now make your whipped cream in advance, without worrying about deflation.

This makes 2 cups:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp nonfat dry milk
1 tsp vanilla

Refrigerate a bowl (glass or non-copper metal) until it is chilled. Combine all ingredients and mix at a high speed until soft peaks are formed. If you over mix, it will turn to butter or separate, so keep an eye on it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Clam Chowder

McKayla's favorite soup is clam chowder. She loves it with good sourdough bread. If she sees it on a menu, she orders it. She is very loyal.

I love clam chowder as well, but I have had the best so nothing else can compare. Gladstones of Malibu is pure cream and clams. Maybe a little salt and pepper. Perhaps some butter. It is the richest, most celestial clam and cream concoction created. Notice when I start salivating that the alliteration begins?

I love the traditional chowder with all the veggies in it as well. Which is what this is. But don't begrudge me my little reminiscence. Enjoy it with some sourdough bread.

3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams

1 cup minced onion

1 cup diced celery

2 cups cubed potatoes

1 cup diced carrots

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 quart half-and-half cream

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

ground black pepper to taste

a drop or two of Tabasco, according to your taste.

Saute the onions, celery, potatoes and carrots with 1 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat until just soft. Add water to cover, and cook over medium heat until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan, melt the rest of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Whisk in cream and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clams* with their juice. Heat through, but do not boil. When clams are heated through, stir in lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper and Tabasco. Serve immediately.

*Stir in clams just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I am not a recipe person for chili. I usually just toss in a bunch of stuff, heat it through, correct the seasonings and yell: "Come 'n get it!" The night after tacos is a good time to make chili. Toss the leftover taco meat, tomatoes, onions, open a can or two of beans, add some seasonings ... et voila. Top it with sour cream, cheese, or guac. Everyone is very happy. For the meat, I can add leftover steak, pot roast, meatloaf, chicken. I like black, kidney, white, chili, or pinto beans. Saute whatever veggies I happen to have. It is never the same, but I kind of like that about my chili. Always a surprise, always good.

So why am I publishing a recipe for it? Because I signed up to bring chili for a church Halloween party and was given a recipe. A recipe? The fun of chili night at church is trying every one's different recipe. Sampling a little of each and then finding out who made what and then getting their recipe. It is not about eating dinner, it is the fun of discovery.

Well, it turns out I really liked this recipe. So here is it. If I ever need to make chili from scratch, or I someone asks me for a recipe, I now have something in writing. My favorite thing about it is that is is chunky and has plenty of vegetables. That is the way I like my chili.

Okay, okay, I confess. They gave me this recipe and I used my leftover taco meat and turkey meatloaf and I added a can of black beans and I ran out of dried parsley. I also sauteed the veggies first, which I will add to the recipe instructions. But seriously, every one's chili tasted good. No one ever pointed out that mine was that different.

So here is the recipe in it's purity. Let your conscience be your guide. (Translation - substitute and add like crazy and feel good about it.)

1 lbs ground beef
3/4 cup diced onion
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato sauce - 15 oz
1 can chili beans with liquid - 15 oz
1 can kidney beans with liquid - 15 oz
1 can diced tomatoes with liquid - 15 oz
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp Tabasco sauce

Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat and cook until even. Drain grease. With the greasy residue, heat and toss in the garlic and then add onions, peppers, and celery. Stir and cook until they are soft.

In a crockpot, add the meat, veggies, and EVERYTHING else. Stir it all up. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low. Stir it up a couple of times throughout the day.