Archive for November 24th, 2008

Impress your family with a homemade pie on Thanksgiving

Why make a pie when you can buy one to pop into the oven or one that’s already baked and ready to eat?
The taste, of course. A homemade pie simply tastes better. Don’t waste that wonderful pie filling on a frozen or refrigerated crust when you can make one from scratch. If you would like to try your hand at making a pie, click here to watch Fort Worth pastry chef Gwin Grogan Grimes demonstrate the basics of pie crust making.

Here are tips for making a great crust from the Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram.
A from-scratch crust is the most intimidating part of pie-making for most cooks, but these secrets will help cure your fear of pie-ing.

  • Work with cold ingredients. Cold fat (butter, shortening or lard) and ice water will help ensure success. The colder the ingredients, the less chance you have of overworking the dough and creating a tough, hard crust.
  • The bigger the pieces of fat in your dough, the flakier the crust will be. Your choice of fat will affect the flakiness and flavor of the crust. Butter has the best flavor; shortening or lard will create a flakier crust because they are 100 percent fat, while the best butter (like European-style Plugra) is only 82 percent fat.
  • Mix the dough and then gently form it into a disc, or discs, if making more than one crust. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or for as long as two days. For longer storage, place plastic-wrapped discs into a freezer bag and store in the freezer for as long as a month.
  • Roll out dough to the thickness specified in your recipe, working from the center of the dough out. Roll from the center to the top, then from the center to the right, then from the center to the bottom and finally from the center to the left. Think of the dough disc as a clock face and roll from the center to noon, then 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
  • It is easier to roll a circle out of dough with a tapered, or “French,” rolling pin. These are wooden pins without handles that taper to a point at both ends. Straight rolling pins, like those with handles, are better for rolling out squares and rectangles.
  • Use as little extra flour as possible when rolling out dough. For some, it helps to roll dough between pieces of plastic wrap, parchment paper or wax paper. Or use a silicone dough-rolling mat.
  • Carefully transfer dough to the pie pan. You can roll it up around the rolling pin and unroll over the pan, or loosely fold the dough in half, then in half again, and transfer the triangle to the pie pan, centering the point. Unfold gently over pan and ease the dough into the bottom of the pan. Do not stretch or pull the dough to make it fit or to fix a tear. You can always use a scrap of dough to cover a tear or make a patch. Remember, no one is going to see the inside bottom crust of your pie.
  • Refrigerate the pie pan with the dough for 30 minutes or as long as a day. Then fill pie and bake, or top with a second crust as your recipe indicates. If adding a top crust, refrigerate the pie again for at least 30 minutes before baking.
  • All the resting and chilling assures that your crust will be as tender and flaky as possible. Each time you handle the dough, you are working the gluten in the flour, and the more you work the gluten, the tougher the dough will be. By allowing the gluten to rest, you are preventing toughness and the chance that the dough will shrink as it bakes. By keeping the dough as cold as possible, you are ensuring that the crust will be flaky by keeping the fat from melting before it goes in the oven.

Basic piecrust
If you use lard, make sure to buy it from a store with good turnover, for the freshest product. Store it in the refrigerator; it will need to be very cold for the recipe, and it will stay fresher longer. Fat turns rancid very quickly, so always smell it before using it. Your nose will know if it’s gone bad.
Makes 1 double-crust 9-inch pie (recipe may be doubled or tripled)
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) lard or vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed to hold dough together.
1. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the lard or shortening and the butter and toss the fat in the flour mixture with your hands. Break up any very large pieces of fat, coating each in the flour mixture as you do so. The chunks should be no smaller than the size of a pecan in the shell.
2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula or your hands, use a folding motion to mix just until the dough sticks together. If the dough will not come together, add more ice water, 2 tablespoons at a time. Do not overmix the dough, or your piecrust will be tough and dry.
3. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disc. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour, or up to 2 days, before rolling.
— Adapted from “Cook’s Illustrated” magazine

Tips for saving money on your Thanksgiving dinner

Here are some tips for saving money on your Thanksgiving dinner from Shortcuts.com.

  • Make a list. One of the easiest ways to over-spend on the Thanksgiving meal is to over-shop. Make a list of what you need and stick to it.
  • Seek out coupons. You’ll find more coupons than normal in the Sunday paper and online at sites like Shortcuts.com that can be used on the holiday dinner. Alone these can cut costs significantly, but pair sales with coupons to save even more.
  • Buy a frozen turkey. You can save 30-40 percent by choosing a frozen turkey over a fresh turkey. Allow four to five days for the turkey to thaw completely in your refrigerator.
  • Make Your Own Pies. Pumpkin pie is cheaper to make than to buy. Plus, frozen pie crusts can be found on sale. Pumpkin pie is surprisingly easy to make and tastes better than store-bought too!
  • Look for “Loss leader” Items. Grocery stores are advertising more holiday-related “loss leaders,” or deeply discounted items, on the front pages of their ads. Most stores will offer saving on stuffing, dinner rolls, potatoes, and pie crusts.
  • Know price matching policies. Some stores will match the advertised prices at other grocery retailers. This will keep you from driving from store to store if you can get most everything at one store.