Monday, November 30, 2009

Farewell to Fair November

When I was a little girl, one of my favorite books was Tasha Tudor's "A Time to Keep." Did you have a copy when you were a wee one? I hope so.

It still fills me with delight and wonder as I flip through the beautiful pages of an old fashioned family, cheerfully celebrating each month of the year. If you don't own it, put it on your Christmas list. It would make a remarkably charming gift, a monthly reminder to live life to the fullest.
I loved each colorful and lively month in the book...except I was disturbed by a poem snippet on the November page, written by Thomas Hood. Since my birthday is in November, I wanted it to be the superlative month, preferrably with a birthday cake lit with candles, floating down the river. (That was on the August page, and my brother Jack still brags that he has the best birthday because of that floating cake illustration.) Here's what the book said about November:
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!
This made young Prudy a bit forlorn and confused. Especially since I grew up in California, the land of eternal fruits, flowers, leaves, and birds. I thought (and still do) that November was the best month of the year. There was the holiday anticipation in the air, the miraculous Thanksgiving feast, and 5 out of the 10 kids in my family had November birthdays.
I felt that Thomas Hood had it all wrong. It wasn't until I was a college student that I read his pessimistic poem in its entirety:
No park--no ring--no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease.
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!

Now I knew that Thomas Hood got it all wrong! No company??? For Pete's sake, I just said good-bye today to the last of the 40 visitors that came for Thanksgiving.
I prefer this poem about my beloved month instead:

"November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.
With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.
The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring."
~ Clyde Watson
Farewell, fair and favorite month.
Enjoy the last sunset of my favorite month. See you tomorrow with Dark Brown Sugar Caramel Corn.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thankful it's Over....

Thanksgiving for 40 at my house???? Egads!

That sounds exhausting. Fun....but exhausting.
Today is officially a day of rest.
And for that I am truly grateful.
Enjoy your leftovers, your shopping, and your naps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Prudy's Online Thanksgiving Hotline

Gotta Question about Thanksgiving? I'm here. I'm not wearing a bonnet and I'm not scattering corn for tom turkey, but your old Pru is right here.

I'll be answering questions all day as they come in. I promise to check back every hour or so, so lay down your worries, your fears, your trepidations on old Prudy. I'll add new responses to the top of the list all day long.
Bewildered in Buckatunna said “Okay, Prudy, here's a question: I made some homemade pie crusts a few weeks ago (BEFORE you posted your tutorial)froze them, rolled them out a little while ago and now I want to bake them without filling them first. How long and at what temperature? I'm getting varying degrees from my internet search and the pie crust recipe does not have instructions to bake without filling. I looked in your tutorial, but I might have missed it. It's an all shortening crust.
For prebaking piecrusts the big variable is shrinkage. Prebaking crusts causes them to shrink, but if that isn’t an issue, then you can safely bake them at 350 for 10 minutes. (I recommend an egg yolk wash for custard pies-see wiley family question below.) If you are worried about shrinkage, you will need to fill the pie with weights, which will increase the baking time. PLEASE do not go and buy pie weights! I fit a piece of foil into the pie pan on top of the crust and fill it with dried beans or rice. (Save the beans or rice to use as permanent pie weights, since they are no longer fit to eat.) With the pie weights in the crust, you’ll want to increase your baking time to 16 minutes at 350. That should do the trick nicely!
#6 Heather asked "Any suggestions for make ahead mashed potatoes. I have a 3 hour gap between when I need to be done with the prep and when we eat. I'm hoping to not have to resort to dried potatoes."
The problem with early prep on the mashed potatoes is that they tend to collapse and lose their fluffiness. You can make them two hours early and put them in a crock pot, but after that their structure begins to break down. But you know what? They’re still absolutely delicious when flatter. When I have to make them ahead of time (up to 24 hours ahead), I try to capitalize on the denser texture and make them ultra-rich. I boil about 5 pounds of potatoes in salted water, then mash them with about 6 tablespoons butter, 1 cup half and half and a 8 ounces of cream cheese. Season to taste with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Pile them into a buttered 9 by 13 and dot the top with butter. Reheat them in the oven for about 25 minutes on 350. They’re incredibly fantastic!
#5 wileyfamilyof5 said...
Can I make pumpkin pie today or will it go soggy by tomorrow?? I use to make it like my grandmother by cooking the filling like a custard and put in baked shell when you serve it, but my husband wants a traditional pie.

The best way to prevent your pumpkin pie crust from going soggy from an early bake is to prebake your crust with an egg-yolk wash. Brush the insides of the raw dough in the pie pan with a beaten egg yolk. Bake for 10 minutes on 350. It’ll help create a barrier between the custard and the crust. That being said, custard pies tend to have denser, less flaky crust underneath the filling. And that’s OK. Bake your pies today, refrigerate them tonight ONLY if you like them chilled, either way-they’ll be delicious tomorrow.
#4 Jenny Penny asked:
This year, my husband is deep frying the turkey. So, my question is about gravy. Since we will have no pan drippings , can I still make gravy? In years past, we've used store bought gravy when we deep fried the turkey, but I don't like the store bought stuff. Any suggestions?


I can’t blame you for not liking the store bought stuff. It’s an impostor that only LOOKS like gravy. Gravy is a Thanksgiving staple, so you’ve got to get some on that table, even if you smoke, fry or grill your turkey. First of all, start of by making the gravy base HERE which is basically a cider and broth reduction thickened with cream and a flour/butter roux. Next, you’re going to create some flavorful drippings by dusting lightly in flour and browning in butter some inexpensive, bony poultry pieces. Chicken wings and drumsticks work great, and you can even toss in the turkey neck that they store in the turkey cavity (thank goodness for euphemisms!). When you’ve browned your meat, remove it from the pan, and freeze it for another day when you’re ready for it. Deglaze the cooking pan with about 1 cup chicken broth, scraping up all of the lovely browned bits. Add them to your gravy base and you’ll be a happy camper and a happy turkey smoker, too.
#3 Mom 24 wrote: In light of the economy, I went for one of those super-cheap supermarket birds. Now I'm suffering buyers remorse. It's been injected with a saline solution so I can't brine the bird. Do you think it will still be good? It's a 20 pound bird, so it's going to need to cook for quite a while. Any advice?

Mom 24, this is an excellent question. The cheapest turkeys come pre-brined and that scares many of us away from hunting the best deal. But never fear. You can brine anyway! It helps to remove the commercial brine flavor and injects the turkey with lots of juicy good flavor. The only difference is that I do use half the salt in my brining solution. Brine your 20 lb. turkey in 10 gallons of water with ½ cup table salt (or 1 cup kosher salt). You can add a bit of sugar, thyme, allspice, and lots of black pepper. I promise you’ll have a juicy fat bird with a fatter pocket book to boot.
#2 Michal (it’s a she-don’t you just love that name for a girl?) wrote:
thanksgiving questions? i'm wondering about a new sweet potato recipe. something that doesn't compete with dessert in sweetness. any ideas?

Michal, some people love a little sweet on their plate to balance out the savory flavors of turkey, stuffing and gravy. Then there are others that prefer their sugar to be called dessert and to be served after the meal. I can appreciate both camps, but on Thanksgiving, I like my sweet potatoes to be on the less sweet side also. Here’s my favorite recipe for a sweet potato dish, balanced with tart apples a spike of orange juice and a not-too-sweet brown sugar streusel.
Bake 2 large yams until tender in the microwave, about ten minutes. Peel and slice into rounds. Pierce 2 whole green apples with fork and microwave for two minutes on high, just to soften a little. Slice into unpeeled rounds. Layer slices of peeled sweet potato and unpeeled green apples in a butter 8 inch baking dish. Between each layer, dot with a little butter and sprinkle with chopped pecans and tablespoon of brown sugar for each layer. When you’ve finished, in a separate bowl combine 1/3 cup brown sugar, ½ cup orange juice, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Pour over the top and bake for 40 minutes at 325.
From Brent and Tracie:

#1. " It is just my hubby, me, our toddler and infant so we aren't making a large turkey. I purchased a frozen whole turkey breast and was thinking of cooking it in the crockpot. Do you have any general suggestions or specific seasoning suggestions? I haven't found a recipe yet."


That sounds like a cozy Thanksgiving for four! It's a great idea to use a turkey breast for smaller crowds. Its actually kind of nice to not deal with bones, carving, carcasses, etc. I've got a great, easy recipe for you: Place 4 tablespoons butter in the bottom of your crockpot. Cover with your turkey breast (seasoned all over with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon dried sage). Pour over 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1 cup cranberry sauce. Let cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-5. It'll be tender and delicious with a fantastic sauce. Enjoy with your sweet little family!
Next question: Bring it on!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Pie in a Brown Bag

I'd like you to meet someone. It's your new favorite pie. If you've never heard of a Brown Bag Apple Pie, think of a simple vanilla spiked pat-in crust, a luscious cinnamon laced apple filling covered with a buttery streusel topping, all baked inside of a paper grocery bag so that it gently steams and the sugars carmelize. This is "THE" apple pie, the one you'll be making again and again. It's the pie everyone will be requesting for years to come. It's the pie that sent reader "Lucky" on a wild goose chase (or should I say pie chase?) through Ohio. Here's what she wrote in the comment section

"Brown bag apple pie! I can't wait! My husband once sent us on a chase all through Ohio Amish country looking for one because he had seen it on some news segment years ago...the only clue he had was that it should only take a tank of gas to get there from Cleveland and you buy the pie from a restaurant on a hill. We found it, but it would be much easier if I could make one at home!"
Oh, yes. You can make it at home and save yourself a tank of gas in the process.
But I also wanted to share this pie for my cousin Julie, who was hunting for a good recipe. I didn't know cousin Julie very well growing up, when we were only a few minutes apart geographically. I was an obnoxious, wild maniac kind of short haired, tough-skin kid, and Julie was wise and reserved, hiding under a brown bag of shyness. I saw glimmers growing up, but I really didn't know how hilarious, witty, open, deep-thinking, inspiring, and intelligent Julie was. Now I know, so she's stuck with me in her blogging backpocket for life. Prudy plus cousin Julie, BFFs. See for yourself, right here.
And now for Lucky, Julie, and the rest of you all, let's make that pie. This is the world's simplest crust; just grab a clean-handed nearby kid to press it into the pan for you. These are Sailor's hands. Sometimes I use her hands in pictures and readers think that they are my hands. Mine are old and haggard and they are coming up in later pictures. I don't want to take credit for young, nubile hands.
Next you peel and prep the apples, coating them with cinnamon and sugar. Pour it into your crust and pat it down. These are the old hands I was telling you about, the ones that need Palmolive Madge to come over and give her some pointers.
Sprinkle the topping over the apples. Place the pie in a brown bag. Ask your grocer for a plain brown bag, or use an old paper gift bag. Secure the bag with staples and place the bagged pie on a cookie sheet. Bake for two hours without peeking. Peel back the bag.
Watch out for steam and bubbling, caramelized juices.
Don't wait for Turkey day; devour it on the spot. You can always make another one.
Apple Pie in a Brown Bag
Estimated Cost: $5.00
Notes: Position your rack to the lowest spot in the oven.
Ingredients:
Crust:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

Filling
5 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced ( I like Granny Smith for this pie.)
2tablespoons all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Topping:
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into bits
Preheat oven to 350. Blend all crust ingredients in a large bowl. Pat into nine inch dish. Wipe out bowl with paper towel. Blend filling ingredients in same bowl. Pour into pie crust and pat apples down. Wipe out same bowl with paper towels. Combine flour and sugar for topping in same bowl. Cut in butter with pie cutter or knives. Sprinkle over apples in pie. Place pie in brown bag. Staple bag shut or secure with paper clips and place on cookie sheet . Bake on lowest rack in preheated oven at 350 for two hours. NO PEEKING. Also, PLEASE make sure that your bag is not touching the sides or top of the oven. There may be a slight paper burning smell, and that's just fine. Remove from oven and let stand for ten minutes. Carefully remove from bag, watching out for steam. Serve nice and warm, if possible, or make it a day early and reheat it by the slice in the microwave.
PS Last night it was daring and dashing West, so I didn't have to make any cumbersome appearances behind him on stage. I wore a long, dark winter coat, just in case. If you don't understand a word I just said, scroll down and read yesterday's post.
PSS There are only THREE days left to vote at French's. Click here. And bless your little ol' voting hearts.
Next Up:
Got any Thanksgiving backing questions????
The Thanksgiving Hotline....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

When the West isn't Wild....

Tonight my charges are performing with their violin group at The Jubilee of Trees. It's their first Christmas performance of the season. Sailor will take it in stride. She'll march up on stage and play her little heart out. I can sit in the audience and feel perfectly at ease. But then there is West. And with West you never know for sure what you will get. Sometimes he is confident, dashing and bold. And other times he is shy, timorous, and wary. And when that happens, he likes me to be on stage with him. Right behind him, so close that we are touching.

I understand this sentiment. Once my mother had to stand behind me with her hand on my shoulder while I accompanied a play on the piano. But the piano is big and bulky, and my mother who is roughly the size of large cat could easily hide behind. And I am left on stage, with only a child's size violin as my fig-leaf cover. This makes your old Prudy feel a bit awkward, kind of like the big and bulky piano she wishes she could hide behind. So, I am hoping and praying that tonight West will be feeling daring and fearless. But if he doesn't, I'll be right behind him. I'm his mother. Be back later tonight with that Apple Pie in a Brown Bag (for cousin Julie and my reader Lucky) and a report on West's performance anxiety or un-anxiety.
And have you voted at French's? Time is almost up! Just a few more days for me to be a nagging nuisance. I'll miss it when it's done.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sage Roasted Turkey and Apple Cider Gravy

When the Quiet Man called his South Dakota grandma to tell her he was going to be married, she had one question about his potential bride. I was listening in, and I was a little nervous. What would it be? Did she want to know if I loved the Quiet man with an eternal, burning passion? If I was a wiry, hard worker? If I had a criminal record for prior felonies? If I wanted children, preferably a dozen hearty boys? Nope. What she wanted to know was this: "Well, does she know how to make gravy?"
"Does she know how to make gravy?" The Quiet Man paused for a moment (he usually does, no matter what the question), and replied, "I think she does, Grandma, but she prefers to make tacos." That satisfied Grandma, who was very worried about the young whippersnapper girls these days who don't know how to cook a good meal for their hard working husbands. She had one quirky question for the Quiet Man, too-but that is a subject for an entirely different post.
Today we are here to talk about gravy, and although it is true that for 11/12 of the year I would rather make tacos, there is nothing that I'd rather make right now than gravy. Lots of it. (Especially if my brother-in-law Mikey is coming, and if I make gravy, then he's definitely coming.)
I have such a fantastic, easy, make ahead recipe from Bon Appetit that I must share. It's luscious, brown and savory with a hint of sage and a touch of apple cider sweetness. And once you see how simple it is to make, you'll be able to stand up to the scrumptious scrutiny of your future grandmother-in-law.
We're going to talk turkey for a minute too, because you really can't make gravy without the turkey's flavorful pan drippings. But this turkey is unbelievably delicious in it's own right.I love this recipe, but it requires a little foresight. Basically, I soak my turkey in a 2 day brine, which makes it juicy and flavorful. But you've got to plan ahead. For a 16 pound frozen turkey, you've got to start thawing the FRIDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING. The turkey will brine between Monday morning and Wednesday night. But look what you get for your advanced planning?
I'll leave complete instructions below, but let's get to that sumptuous gravy.
For the gravy, two days ahead of Thanksgiving, I make a gravy "base." You simply boil together purchased chicken broth and apple cider for about 20 minutes to intensify the flavor. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, you make a thickening roux by whisking flour into equal parts melted butter. The broth mixture and roux are combined with a little cream and some herb butter (which will also be rubbed onto the turkey), and reduced again at a low simmer. That's it! The only thing left to do is add the drippings from your roasting pan on Thanksgiving. Be vigilant about removing most of the fat from your drippings to make the best possible gravy. But you're done! That's it. There will be no lumps, no last minute panic attacks, no pasty packets of gravy mix. Base + turkey drippings= fantastic gravy...and a happier marriage? Maybe grandma had it right. See for yourself if you don't feel passionately committed to married life after you make gravy for yourself.
Money Saving Tips: Did you get your free turkey from a grocery store? If not, Wal-mart has them ridiculously cheap-less than $10. You should be able to find broth and cider on sale this week very easily. If you can't find fresh sage, use about 1/4 the amount in dried. Use any apples you have on hand for the roasting.
Sage Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Estimated Cost: $15.00 for 8 servings and oodles of leftovers
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
Notes: Thaw turkey in fridge from Fri-Mon before Thanksgiving, brine from Mon-Wed night.
Brining
8 quarts cold water
1 cup salt
8 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon allspice
1 16- to 17-pound turkey; giblets removed,
Herb butter and gravy
3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 cups apple cider
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
Roasting
2 large Granny Smith apples, quartered, cored
2 large onions, quartered
1 cup apple cider
To brine the turkey:
Line extra-large pot or bowl with two 13-gallon (or larger) plastic bags, 1 inside the other. Combine 1 quart water, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat. Add 1 quart cold water and cool to lukewarm. Pour into plastic bags; mix in remaining 6 quarts water. Submerge turkey in brine to cover completely, gathering bags tightly to eliminate any air; tie bags closed. Refrigerate turkey in brine in pot at least 18 hours and up to 20 hours.
Line large roasting pan with 4 layers of paper towels. Remove turkey from brine and drain well; discard brine. Place turkey in prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
For herb butter and gravy:
Mix parsley, sage, and nutmeg in small bowl. Transfer half of chopped herb mixture to small bowl; mix in 1/2 cup butter.
Combine broth and apple cider in heavy large saucepan. Boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 20 minutes. Pour broth reduction into bowl. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in same saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Whisk in broth reduction, then cream, and remaining chopped herb mixture. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until gravy base is thickened and reduced to 2 3/4 cups, whisking often, about 20 minutes. Cool gravy base slightly. (Gravy base and herb butter can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)To roast the turkey:
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Remove turkey from roasting pan; drain any accumulated juices from main cavity. Discard paper towels from roasting pan. Melt herb butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Brush bottom of roasting pan with some of herb butter. Return turkey to prepared pan. Tuck wing tips under; tie legs together loosely to hold shape. Place some apple quarters and onion quarters in main cavity. Brush remaining herb butter over turkey; sprinkle with pepper. Scatter remaining apples and onions around turkey in pan.
Roast turkey 1 hour. Baste with 1/2 cup apple cider. Roast turkey 30 minutes. Baste with remaining 1/2 cup cider. Roast turkey until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting turkey every 30 minutes with pan juices and covering breast loosely with foil if browning too quickly, about 2 hours longer (3 1/2 hours total). Transfer turkey to platter; let stand at least 30 minutes before carving (internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees).
Discard apples and onions from pan. Pour pan juices into large glass measuring cup; spoon off fat from surface. Pour degreased juices into gravy base and bring to boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Boil until gravy thickens enough to coat spoon and is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Season gravy to taste with pepper.
Serve turkey with gravy.
These potatoes were born for gravy. They're just waiting....

I almost forgot to remind you to vote for my recipe at French's. There are only six days left to vote every day to send old Pru to NYC. Can we get to 500 votes this weekend? Help me find out. And thank you. Good-bye.
Next Up:
Brown Bag Apple Pie for my Cousin Julie

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pondering the Pop-Up

The funny thing about Pop up ads... is that some see them, and some don't. I'd never spotted one here on PP, so I kind of thought it might be something like the tooth fairy, or maybe the Great Pumpkin, or those snipes we always "hunt" at girl's camp, or at the very least one of those pictures that you had to squint and tilt your head to catch the message. But one of my kind readers and (dear friend from my New York days), captured the image and sent it to me. Ah-hah! Gotcha!

I went back and reset my ads to specifically not include floating ad images. It might take a couple of days, but then we should be Pop-Up free. I think I'll celebrate with a POP-Tart. Or POP corn. Or Soda POP. Or a lolly-POP.
Be back later to gab about GRAVY...num, num, num...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All in One Holiday Cake with Maple Icing

Welcome to Tuesdays with Dorie, the day in which our weekly online baking club creates a Dorie Greenspan sweet. I'd been waiting for this recipe because it appeals to my gobbling greediness. If you're a glutton for the flavors of pumpkin, apple, pecans, and cranberries mingled with the warm autumn spices of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, then this is the recipe for you. When the Thanksgiving smells of this cake come wafting through the house, you'll feel like singing "Over the River and Through the Woods." And you might even start tap dancing too. Just warning you.You won't be able to stop yourself and it'll put you right in the holiday spirits. And that's even before you take your first heavenly bite. If you can wait, it's even better the next day.
I made it almost exactly as written, but reduced to a half batch in a five inch cake pan, and smothered it with a maple icing. (Click here for the recipe.) I also did leave out the cranberries, simply because I didn't have any on hand. Did I ever tell you that I'm categorically opposed to running to the market for that one missing item? I just won't do it! It has forced me to become a master substituter and omitter....and borrower too. Thankfully I have generous neighbors who are only too happy to lend a missing ingredient in exchange for a slice or two of the finished product.
Have a wonderful day, dear readers. Did you know that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week? So while you're busy being productive, would you kindly remember to head over the river and through the woods to the French's website and vote again for my recipe? Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Next Up: Let's talk Gravy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Perfect Pie Crust 101


Along with being eaten by sharks and giving a speech in public, many people are afraid to make a pie crust. A pie crust has no teeth whatsoever and can be done in absolute privacy, so let's abolish that fear so that a new dread can move into its spot. With a little practice, making a beautiful, flaky piecrust is actually elementary, my dear Watson
So let's make a pie crust, shall we?
A few tools will make your job a little easier. Waxed paper and a rolling pin, I wouldn't make a pie without them. If you have a pie cutter, your job will be quicker, but you can use two butter knives instead. I really can't say why I took a picture of a fork and ice water. They're not exactly special equipment, and if you don't have access to a fork and some cold water, then making the perfect pie crust isn't your most pressing issue.
In a large bowl, using a fork, combine 2 and 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt and a teaspon sugar.
Let's talk a little about fat and flavor. Fact: Shortening produces a flakier crust than butter. Fact: Most people prefer the flavor of butter to shortening. Opinion: You need both butter and shortening to make a piecrust that has both the perfect structure and flavor. It's more expensive, but I like to buy the shortening in cubes (pictured above) in the baking section of the market. I only use shortening for pie crusts, and if I buy even the smallest can, I end up having to throw it out. The cubes are individually sealed and premeasured, so they're ideal for butter-bakers, like me.
I use half shortening/half butter, both of which should be firm and chilled. Dice them both into small pieces.
Use your pie cutter to "cut" the fat into the dry ingredients. You can use two knives in a slicing motion, if you're piecutter-less. It takes just a couple of minutes of constant cutting before the mixture resembles coarsemeal, with a few larger-pea size pieces. Stop there! You want bits of uneven fat throughout the mixture that will melt into your dry ingredients and create layers of flakes.
Take your ice water now and drizzle 6 tablespoons over your dusty dough. Use a fork to mix in the water and try to gather it into a ball. I neglected to take a picture of the drizzling process, because my sister came over with this dear little baby. She's my dear little friend. She's wearing dear little pink pajamas and looking at me with a dear little Gerber expression. I can't stop saying dear little whenever she is around, so shall we get back to my dear little pie?
Now, 6 tablespoons is NEVER enough water for my pie crust, so I always end up drizzling at least 1-2 tablespoons more. Go slowly, and get just enough in there to make the pie crust come into a ball. If you err, err on the side of too much water. It's just too hard to roll out a bone-dry pie crust. Here's my ball of dough just after I stopped sprinkling water and staring at the dear little baby visitor. Get out a generous sheet of waxed paper and a pen. We're going to trace a 12 inch circle onto our waxed paper as a size guide for rolling out the crust. (Just flip the waxed paper over after you make your circle, so that no ink comes in contact with your crust.) Put your crust in the middle of the circle and pat it out a little to make your rolling job a little easier. (If your pie crust is at all moist, lightly flour your waxed paper.) Pat your dough out from the center. There's very little rolling to do, if you pat your pie crust down first. But let's roll now. Start from the center and push lightly on the rolling pin. Move your pin 1/8th of a turn, and continue around the pie, pushing the crust to just outside your circle guide. If you like, you can trim your pie to a perfect circle with a pair of kitchen shears. I never do, but I always think it would be nice. Now, lightly flour the top of your pie crust and fold it in half with the waxed paper. Peel back 1/2 of the waxed paper and place the piecrust down into your piepan, centering the fold line with the middle of the pan. Peel of the rest of the waxed paper and unfold. IMPORTANT: Don't try to make the pie crust look pretty yet, I repeat do not try to make the pie crust look pretty yet. This is where most people make their mistake, and I'm speaking from experience because I did it for years. It's shaggy and uneven, I know, but we're going to fix it. Right now we're just going to build up a ridge. Fold up the extra pie crust over itself to create an even ridge around the top of the pie dish. If you have too much crust in one area, pull it off and add it where you need it. This still needs a little bit of work. When you have it as even as you like, then you can make it look nice. Force your knuckle into sections of dough, pinching it into place with your fingers on the other side. Go all the way around the pie. Now, take a look at the OUTSIDE of your pie dish. Oh, dear. If there's anything hanging over the edge too far, fix it now so it doesn't break off during the baking process. Much better.
And there you are, a beautiful blank canvas. It's ready to fill if you're making pumpkin, apple or berry pie, or ready to pre bake, if you are making quiche, cream pies, or pecan. It's just waiting for you, so get cracking.
Perfect Pie Crust
Estimated Cost: $1.25
Notes: Making your own piecrust is inexpensive and delicious!
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 tablespoons cold shortening
5 tablespoons cold butter
6 tablespoons and more ice water
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Cut in fats. Drizzle with ice water and shape into ball. Roll out and place in 8 or 9 inch pie dish.
Post Edit: Another wise Prudence from the comment section asked me some very good questions that I should have included, so here goes. I'm glad my readers are so on the ball, since I can be a bit of a ninny. You CAN freeze this pie dough very easily. I prefer to freeze it BEFORE rolling it out and let it thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours. It will freeze magnificentally, which is why you should always make a double batch at least.
Have you voted at French's today? Click right here! It's easier and faster than baking a pie! So head on over. And a million thank yous. My new goal is 300 votes, since I just passed 200, thanks to all of you.