Pie
Sunday, March 23, 2008, 06:43 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfast, holiday
Lately, I've been making a lot of pies. As usual, I have made up a recipe based loosely on 5 other recipes, only completely different, and its sitting in my head and I've realized I need to write it down because at some point it will be summer and I won't want to bake for a few months and I don't want to start from scratch making up a new recipe in the fall.

crust
ingredients
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
.... damn... or maybe switch those... I don't remember... I'd err on the side of what I've written, since it won't go wrong if there's not enough wheat flour but it can go wrong without enough white flour. All I know for sure is that you really can't do it all wheat. However, maybe I'll try 3/4 wheat 1/2 white next time, since I like to have as much whole grain as possible...
1 stick of unsalted butter
a spray-bottle with water

process
Leave the butter out until it's soft. Cut it into smallish pieces---maybe 1 TBS. Use a pastry blender (a device that looks like a slinky held sideways... functionally it's a huge, round fork) and moosh the butter into the flour until you have a bowl of little pieces of butter coated with flour. Spray the surface of the flour until it's lightly moist, wait a few minutes, then moosh it a bit. Repeat the process until it clings together and you find that most of it balls up and sticks to the pastry blender. Transfer all of the dough into plastic wrap, press it together into a ball, and stick it in the fridge.

Leave it in the fridge for half an hour.

Cut the dough in half and roll the two halves into circles. I find it's easiest to do this between two sheets of waxed paper. You have to pull up the paper each turn. I usually roll a few times on one side, remove the paper and put it back, flip and rotate and roll on the other side, then remove the paper and put it back, etc. Unless you are my grandmother, you will find it impossible to roll an actual circle. She had special superpowers. The rest of us have to cheat. You won't get a circle so much as you'll get something shaped like Australia (if you're lucky) or South America (if you're less lucky). To cheat, cut off peninsulas, rotate them so the smooth edge that you cut is on the outside, and slap them over inlets and fjords. Give the dough one more roll and you've got something that looks shockingly like a circle.

If you're my grandmother, you can use your superpowers to attach the pie crust to the rolling pin and roll it into the piecrust, where it will fall perfectly into the place. Me, I peel off one layer of waxed paper and flip it over into the pie pan. Then I carefully peel off the other layer, accidentally rip the crust, and pat it back together with my fingers and hope no one notices.

Make the filling, roll the second crust, and put it over the top. Cut the edges off the crust so that it just comes up to or a little past the edge of the pie plate. Then roll the bottom crust over the top crust and squeeze it together into a ridge around the pie. Then, take two fingers from one hand and make a v, and stick it on the edge of the ridge. Take one finger from the other hand and pull it through the v so you get a W shaped ridge. Move up so that one of your two fingers is in the indentation left by the previous one, and repeat the process around the pie until the edge is all ripply. wwwwwww

Take a sharp knife and stick lots of holes into the top of the pie. This lets steam escape. I like to make cool patterns like this:
>>>>><<<<

Cover the edges of the pie with a strip of aluminum foil so just the wwwwwww is covered. Stick it in an oven preheated to 325 degrees. Come back in half an hour and remove the aluminum foil. Come back in another 10 minutes and remove the pie. Turn off your oven to avoid burning your house down.

pie filling
Anything can go in a pie. I've been making fruit pies, mostly. I made an apple pie, an apple/pecan pie, several blueberry pies, and several cherry pies. All fruit pies are basically made the same. Add enough fruit to fill the pie. This varies by pie pan size. I don't know how big my pie pan is, since I've been reusing a cheap aluminum one that a pie was once purchased in. But I'd guess it's a 9" pie pan. It takes 3 cans of cherries or blueberries to fill it, and 8-10 apples (peeled & sliced), depending on how big they are. When filling a pie, apples should be heaped up, whereas berries should only come level to the surface of the bottom crust.

Regardless of what fruit you're using, the process is the same. Add 1/4 cup of flour and a bunch of spices to the fruit, stir it up so it's coated, and put it in the pie crust. With apple, I often add lemon juice as well, since I cut the apples into a bowl with lemon juice in it so they don't go brown while I'm cutting the rest of them. As for spices, use desserty spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, corriander, cardamom, allspice, ginger, etc. I don't always use every spice I can think of... just whatever mood takes me.

What to do with pie crust scraps

Pocket Pie
Last time I made a pie, I rolled the scraps out into a circle, topped it with chocolate chips, nuts, spices, and some mild cheese. I folded it over and crimped it up like a calzone and baked it with the pie. It didn't need to bake as long as the pie.

Almost but not completely unlike rugulach
Roll the scraps out as thin as possible. Top with cinnamon sugar. Roll back up. Put in the oven with the pie. It should be done in 5 minutes or so.

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Bread
Sunday, March 23, 2008, 06:14 PM - comfort food
I recently was sick and didn't make bread for a few weeks. When I decided to make it again, I had a momentary feeling of panic that I hadn't the faintest idea how to make bread. This was unsettling, since I knew I hadn't actually written down how to make bread because I do it all the time. So here's bread, just so I won't panic in the future.

Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups water
1 dash salt.... who knows... half a teaspoon? a teaspoon? eh?
1/4 tsp yeast

Directions
Put everything in a bowl. Mix it together. Put a dishcloth over the top and leave it out on the counter and forget about it all day.

Before you go to bed, fold it over on itself and beat it down. People say not to beat bread, because you want to redistribute the air, not eliminate it. That might be true of some breads, but not this one. Unless you want gihugeous bubbles in the resulting loaf, do make sure to beat out any big bubbles you might feel in the folding process. When you're done, put it in the fridge.

In the morning, pull it out and stick it on the counter again. Ignore it and go about your business. At some point between late morning and early evening, repeat the folding/beating process. This time, when you're done, shape it into a loaf and stick it on a baking sheet.

Leave it for an hour or so. Come back and slash the top (if you remember), and stick it in an oven at 400 degrees F. Preheating is unnecessary.



Yam Plantain Fiasco
Saturday, September 29, 2007, 05:06 PM - comfort food
Today, I made Yam Plantain Fiasco and salad for dinner. It's shockingly yummy.

ingredients
olive oil (several glugs)
salt (several vigorous shakes; maybe 1 tsp)
pepper (a bunch of grinds; maybe 1 tsp)
nutmeg (1 shake)
paprika (a bunch of shakes; maybe 2-3 tsps)
coriander (1 shake)
coffee beans (10ish)
thai chilis (5)
chocolate chips (10ish)
rum (1 shot)
coffee (1/4-1/2 cup)
1 onion
1 yam
1 plantain
1 can black beans

process
cut the onions into slivers

cut the yams and plantains into cubic centimeters

Put the olive oil, all the spices (except the chocolate chips), and the onion slivers into a frying pan on high heat until the onions are carmelized. Then add the yam bits for a few minutes. Then add the plantain and the black beans. Let them go for a minute or two, then add a shot of rum. Flame it if you're on a gas oven. Pour in some coffee---maybe a third of a cup. Stir it up, heat it to boiling, then put on a lid and turn it to low heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Eat.



Gluten Free Brownies
Friday, August 10, 2007, 01:12 PM - comfort food, dessert
After two batches of ruthless experimentation on guests, I have perfected a recipe for gluten free brownies. It has been modified from the original Betty Crocker to fit on the screen. Erm, that is, to fit the celiac lifestyle.

Wet Ingredients
4 squares of melted baking chocolate OR 3/4 cup cocoa powder and 3 TBS oil. Baking chocolate is usually fine, but some extra sensitive need the specially guaranteed gluten free cocoa powder. To melt baking chocolate, stick it in a microwave safe container and zap it for 15 seconds. then combine the other ingredients, then zap it for another 15 seconds, then maybe stir it a bit, then let it sit a while, then zap it another 15 seconds and stir it a bit. Eventually it will be nice and runny. It's easier than doing it on the stove, but the short amounts of time and long amounts of sitting in between are to make sure it doesn't burn, as chocolate in a microwave is in danger of doing.
4 egg yolks. You'll need the whites too, but they count as other ingredients.
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

Dry Ingredients

1/4 tsp Xantham Gum
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup corn flour

Other Ingredients

4 egg whites
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Process

Mix your wet ingredients. Add your dry ingredients. Set aside your other ingredients. Throw everything back in the refrigerator and let it sit for a few hours. Well, you don't have to actually refridgerate the baking powder, nuts, and chocolate chips...mostly I'm talking about eggs here.

Take everything out of the refrigerator and let it sit for a while. The mixture will be pretty viscous and could do with warming up, and egg whites need to get up to room temperature. Once room temperature has been achieved, or you get really bored and don't want to wait around any longer, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a 9x13 pan (I do this by spraying it vigorously with oil, but everyone has their own pet method, most of which involve more effort. More effort is a perfectly valid lifestlye choice, but it's not for me.) Beat the egg whites until they're fluffy and form peaks and all that. Fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the dough. Then fold the rest of them and all the other ingredients into the dough. Pour it into the 9x13 pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It's done when you can stick a toothpick into the middle and pull it out and have it be mostly clean.



Rice Pudding
Wednesday, June 27, 2007, 05:59 PM - comfort food, dessert, breakfast
Rice Pudding
Today I made rice pudding for dinner. I know nothing about rice pudding. I have never had rice pudding. But we had leftover rice from Chinese food the other night, and I had a sudden hankering for rice pudding. So I perused multiple recipes online, and discovered that most people think you're actually going to make rice from scratch in milk instead of using leftover rice. This seems dumb. In my ignorance, I thought the whole point of rice or bread pudding was to use up leftover rice or bread before it went south. And to presumably use them in a different format, because if people wanted them in their previous format, they would have just gone ahead and eaten them and not left them hanging out in their fridge as leftovers.

I also discovered that most people think you're going to make rice pudding in your oven. Since it's unbearably hot, this also seems foolish. Sure, it'd be great in the winter, but it's not a June activity (unless you're down under). Fortunately I found one great recipe for quick and light rice pudding that said you could make it with leftovers and you could make it on the stovetop, which will heat your kitchen a bit, but not to the degree of running your entire oven for over an hour. However, this recipe didn't fit my preconceived notions of pudding, which involve more creamy, eggy goodness. So after eyeing a bunch of other recipes, I thought I'd just make something up and use the stovetop cooking method and hope it turned out ok. Here goes:

ingredients
1 small takeout Chinese food container almost full (but not packed) of rice --- this is probably somewhere between 1 and 2 cups, but I didn't measure because the measure was in the dishwasher. I don't think the quantity matters if it's in the ballpark.
1 can of evaporated milk
1/4ish tsp of salt
3 rounded TBS of brown sugar (not packed or messed with in any way that might involve effort, just scooped out of the container and dumped in)
1 glug vanilla extract
nutmeg and cinnamon to taste (I use more cinnamon than nutmeg, since nutmeg is very potent)
1 egg

process
Dump the rice in a saucepan. Add everything else. Stir it up really well so the egg is beaten and everything is pretty homogenous. Turn on the saucepan to high. Stir frequently until it boils, then turn it all the way down, put a lid on it, and go off and play video games and make a few phone calls. Come back periodically and give it a stir. This process should take half an hour to 45 minutes... shorter if you don't care about letting it oook---you do need video games you'll be able to pause once every 15 minutes or so. When it looks good and rice puddingey, either eat it or stick it in the refrigerator to have it cold for breakfast. It makes enough that 2 people could have a big serving now, and a little serving cold for breakfast. Or 4 people could have moderately sized servings whenever.

serving suggestions
Serve with fake breakfast sausage and salad... because salad is easy to throw together really fast and you've got to have a vegetable. If you're clever with your dressing, a salad can go with this. I convinced someone else to make the salad and they dressed it with oil, malt vinegar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and coriander, which tied nicely with both the spice of the sausage and the spices in the rice pudding.

It might also be nice with one of those froofy apple sausages.

If I were the planning ahead sort, I might pick a different vegetable, but I don't know what that would be.


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