Posts Tagged ‘forgotten skills’

Pie Crust

November 14, 2016

 

ingredients

ingredients

Thanksgiving comes with a cloud of pie crust angst. Everyone seems to struggle with this age-old basic pastry. Fillings are easy, but the crust sets off alarms. Having rolled hundreds if not thousands of pie shells over the decades, I really can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

We’ve forgotten that time was when everyone made pie. It was one of America’s most basic meals: a chicken pie for supper, cherry pie in summer and George Washington was known to have apple pie and cheddar cheese almost every day for breakfast. Grandmothers took a few fistfuls of flour, a pinch of salt, a dollop of fresh lard, and without batting an eye brought a dough together with a sprinkle of water. “Easy as pie. . .” And it’s still easy; it just takes some practice. There’s not a magic formula. No need to add vodka, vinegar, eggs, extra quantities of butter. It’s basically flour, fat and water. Stay cool, and keep your ingredients cool.

finished dough

finished dough

A couple of weeks now set the stage for you to give pie crust a chance. Let’s stay away from pre made shells that use lower quality ingredients than you will at home. Commercial pie shells often include preservatives that interfere with the taste. Remember, “easy as pie,” you can make it better yourself.

A few pointers to keep in mind: if possible use a scale to weigh the flour and the fat. A small digital scale is inexpensive and will change your cooking life. It’s faster, more accurate and you’ll soon use it for all baking and cooking. Secondly keep your butter, shortening or lard COLD. Don’t hesitate to use enough cold liquid to bring your dry ingredients together. And finally let your dough rest. Let it rest when adding the water in hand made dough, and let the finished pastry rest several hours before using. Resting allows the flour to absorb moisture and to relax the gluten. Cool, relaxed pie pastry should roll out as easily as a smooth piece of fabric.

If you need practice, divide the recipe below in half and work with smaller amounts. To use the same pastry for savory pies or quiches, omit the sugar.

rolled pastry

rolled pastry

Keep calm, make pie, bring back a forgotten skill this Thanksgiving.

Basic Pastry For Fruit Pies

1 lb. all-purpose flour (3 ½ cups)

½ oz. powdered sugar (2 tablespoons)

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

8 oz. cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 oz. cold lard*, white shortening or butter (2 tablespoons)

5 fl. oz. ice water (10 full tablespoons)

*Buy kettle-rendered white lard from a meat market; avoid shelf-stable lard modified with preservatives. Good lard makes tender, flaky crust and is worth seeking out.

To make pastry in a processor, place flour, sugar and salt in work bowl. Process just to combine. Slice over the cold butter and lard; process on and off three or four times until the butter is flaked into small pea-sized pieces. With the processor running, steadily pour the ice water in through the feed tube and continue to process until pastry rolls into a ball. Remove from work bowl, rock into a thick log. Wrap and chill at least an hour or two.

To make pastry by hand, whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a large shallow bowl. Slice in the cold butter and lard and rub the fat into the flour using floured fingertips or a pastry blender. When the butter is in floury flakes, drizzle over the ice water a little at a time, forking it evenly into the crumbly mix. Bring the dough together into a ball with both hands and shape into a log. Wrap and chill.

Makes enough for two 9–10-inch two-crust pies. (Make ½ recipe for one pie.)

For fruit fillings see:

https://mjcuisine.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/apple-pie/

https://mjcuisine.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/summer-berry-pie/

 

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon

How to Make Yogurt

September 6, 2014
Homemade Yogurt Tomato and Yogurt Salad

Homemade Yogurt
Tomato and Yogurt Salad

When the last dog days of summer blaze, yogurt saves the supper. For me yogurt is essential year round. I’ve been making my own yogurt for over fifty years following guidelines from a Gujarati woman who once taught me the skill in a torrid dry season in Tanzania. Back then I was able to come by an occasional pint of fresh milk delivered to my kitchen door in a clean twenty-ounce brown beer bottle stoppered at the top with a wad of newspaper. Fresh milk was precious, needed sterilization and a way to keep it. Making yogurt was the answer.

In America yogurt wasn’t common during the ’40s and ’50s. When I tasted its tangy freshness for the first time alongsidespicy Indian food, it was something totally new. In fact, having first learned to enjoy yogurt with savories, I’ve never been able to go for it with sugared fruit so popular nowadays.

My Indian friend’s method for making yogurt was simple—no special equipment needed. If you have a heavy saucepan, a couple of glass jars and an insulated picnic box or a Styrofoam container and a heavy towel, you can make yogurt. People have been using this method for thousands of years. It’s nothing to be afraid of and can give you a way to preserve milk, make milk more digestible, and save lots of money. Yogurt may be used as a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream; homemade yogurt is so thick and creamy there’s no need to go for the Greek.

To begin you need a starter (bacteria that will grow in warm milk transforming lactase sugar in milk to lactic acid that thickens and lengthens the life of the milk). To find a starter, buy a small container of the best organic whole-milk plain yogurt you can find. Make sure there are no additives; the starter should contain only milk and yogurt culture—no sugars, flavorings or stabilizers. You will need to buy the culture only once. From then on, one batch of homemade yogurt will give you starter for the next batch.

Usually I make two quarts of yogurt at a time, but you can make any amount, even as little as one cup. I firmly believe in making whole-milk yogurt because it tastes better, and, used in small quantities, it’s worth the calories. Any type of cow, goat or sheep’s milk can be used.

First rinse a large, heavy saucepan with cold water and shake out water (this will help to prevent milk from sticking). Pour in selected amount of milk and place saucepan over moderate heat. Bring milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. (Lay wooden spoon used for stirring across top of saucepan—this will help prevent a boil-over.) Let the milk come to a boil that foams and rises in the saucepan; take care to remove from heat before any milk spills over. Set saucepan away from heat and let milk cool. Stir from time to time to prevent a skin from forming over milk (don’t worry, though, if a skin forms; the yogurt culture will break down the skin in the finished product).

Ready the jars and lids. Make sure jars and lids are impeccably clean. Run them through a dishwasher or wash with dish soap and rinse with very hot water. I prefer to use pint jars, but any size will do, from jam jars to quart jars.

As milk is cooling, place a rounded soup-spoonful of yogurt (or yogurt from your last making) in the bottom of each clean jar. Allow boiled milk to cool until you can hold a scrupulously clean pinkie finger in the milk and count to ten, or ten seconds. At this point the milk is lukewarm and will not kill the bacteria, which is a living organism. Pour the lukewarm boiled milk into the culture-inoculated jars; stir; screw on the lids and place the warm jars in an insulated picnic box, Styrofoam box or small cardboard box lined with a soft towel. Fold the towel over the jars; clip on the lid and allow the box to rest undisturbed at room temperature for a few hours.

In summer yogurt may be ready in four hours; in winter it may take eight to ten hours to set. Yogurt is ready when liquid milk has turned into solid custard in jars. There will be a little liquid whey floating on the top, and vertical ridges may show along the sides of the jars. Remove jars from box and refrigerate. If unopened, yogurt will keep for weeks. I once accidentally found a forgotten jar of yogurt that had been in the back of my fridge for three months; it was perfectly good.

When you spoon yogurt from the jar, a pool of whey will ooze into that space. The liquid whey is also good; it can be poured into a sauce, a soup, added to a salad dressing or a smoothie. People are paying big bucks these days to buy powdered health-giving whey, but yours is a free byproduct from your homemade yogurt. This ancient craft of preserving milk is a miracle! Make it your own today!

Mary Jo's Cookbook available on Amazon

Mary Jo’s Cookbook available on Amazon