Bake Club: Pie Crust

Canadian Thanksgiving has past. It was delicious. I didn’t have my parents over this year because of the pandemic. We wanted to still share food. We each make things that taste good and like to contribute to the larger meal. My mom made our family’s traditional style cabbage rolls, I love these. They are a hybrid of Ukrainian and German. Not sour, stuffed with rice and bacon, topped with a sweetish tomato sauce and cloves. I traded two pumpkin pies.

Making pies is typically my super power but somehow this year the crust turned out terrible. I know why but it was still terrible. At least the filling was excellent. I thought I would write out the recipe and share it with you. Only this one will talk about the mistakes and why it went so wrong so future us will do better.

This is the only pie crust I ever make. It is made with butter and when I follow the rules it is tender and flakey.

Double Butter Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes – I use salted butter
  • 1 cup  ice water, or more as needed

That is it. Simple but complicated. You can half it to make a single crust. This recipe can make a covered pie or two open pies. Things you need:

  • 2 9″ pie plates. Not deep dish – regular pie plates
  • Pie weights. You can buy special pie weights or use dried beans, lentils or rice.

I keep my butter in the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before. I cut it up into cubes when it is cold and store it in the fridge until I need it. Cold it important, especially if you have hot hands. Fill a two cup measure with ice. Add one cup of cold water to the ice and let it chill for a few minutes.

Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl.

Add the cubed butter. Working quickly you need to rub the butter into the flour. I toss the butter in the flour to coat it first then I rub it in with my thumb and first two fingers. You can use a pastry cutter if you like but like but I like to feel the mixture. If you like a flakey crust you want to have larger bits of butter. If you want only a tender crust, rub it until it looks like sand.

I turn the crumbles on to a board or counter. Make a well in the centre and add water a few tablespoons at a time while folding the dough together. You don’t want your dough to be sticky nor do you want it dry. As you kneed it together it will form a ball. Too dry and you get cracks, to wet and it sticks to your fingers. You can add water or flour as needed. (no pun intended). The perfect consistency is when you squeeze it and it holds together (even when the bowl still looks like crumbs).

Form the dough into a ball. Cut in half and fold it onto iself a few times. This is how you get the layers of a flakey crust like the ones you see on Crisco commercials. Then pat into a circle. This is important. It helps the gluten strands develop and it is easier to roll out a circle. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or an air tight container and chill at least 30 minutes.

I will often make the dough in the morning or the night before. I pull them out of the fridge, unwrap and place on a floured surface. I bang on it with my rolling pie. This loosens up the crust making it easier to roll out.

When I roll the dough, I start in the centre and roll forward once, lift the dough and make a quarter turn and repeat the process. This does a couple of things. It ensures I get a round crust, the crust does not stick to the surface and I can control the size and thickness better.

I keep checking the diameter with the pie plate. I want at least two inches larger than the plate. Then I fold it in half and centre it in the plate and unfold it. I gently hold the sides and I fit it into the plate being carful not to tear the sides. If you do – just pinch together.

Fold the edges under itself. This gives a thicker crust edge and allows for a pretty crimp. You can do whatever you like, I use my two fingers and thumb to create the zigzag pattern. My grandma used a fork for the crimp. Do what every you like best.

Now you fill it. If it will be a custard filling, like pumpkin, you will need to blind bake it.

Blind Bake:

Dock the pie with a fork (poke holes all over it) and bush on an egg wash. This prevents the crust from absorbing the custard filling.

Take a piece of parchment and cover the bottom of the pie. Ensure it is long enough to cover the sides. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. DO NOT MISS THIS STEP. I couldn’t find my pie weights so baked without. BIG MISTAKE. The crust folded on itself and shrank. I couldn’t bake it fully because it was melting into itself. It was a disaster.

Bake at 350F for 30 – 45 minutes. Shorter if you need to bake the filling in the pie, longer if you are putting a cooked filling in the finished pie shell.

The crust should be lightly brown and not translucent. (like mine was because I didn’t use pie weights.)

I have no idea what I was thinking but I will never make that mistake again. At least the crust tasted good – although it was a little under done. Don’t do that either.

Double Crust:

Place the bottom crust in the centre of the pie plate. Unfold it.

Add filling.

Place to the top crust over the filling. Fold the top crust under the bottom crust. Then crimp. Crimping here keeps the pie filling from spilling out. it isn’t just decorative. Cut a pie vent in the centre of the pie to let steam escape. Otherwise it will explode in your oven and that is just sad for everyone, especially the person who cleans the oven.

Brush with egg wash for a golden crust, milk for a pale crust.

Bake at 450F for 15 – 30 minutes and then drop the heat to 350F for about 45 minutes. Bake until golden brown.

Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Bake Club: Vanilla Extract

Has anyone else notice how expensive vanilla extract is? The price keeps rising because of how labour intensive it is to grow them and how rare they are. 80% of the worlds supply comes from Madagascar. I spend – roughly on average – $204 for twelve cups of pure vanilla extract. I think I go through about one and a half cups a year. This year is a bit more because of the pandemic but maybe it is my regular life now, who knows? But even at $25 a year – that gets expensive. It also isn’t always the best quality. My mom brought me 2L of Mexican vanilla once. It was wonderful and lasted a couple of years. Last year I went to Trader Joe’s and brought home bourbon vanilla extract, 1/2 cup for $9 usd. It was good. I mean, reeeeeaaaaalllyyyy good. I wanted that flavour on a regular basis.

So I did the research.

I watched numerous videos and read articles about making your own. I learned that the more vanilla bean you use, the faster it is ready. One gal used 1 bean per four cups and it took a year before she could use it. Ina Gartner uses 10 beans per four cups and it was read in less than 4 weeks. Regardless of quantity, the process is incredibly simple.

Next I did the research looking for vanillla bean. Sobeys rarely has any and often it is one in a glass test tube for $8. Bulk Barn didn’t have any – but they cary paste. Cool to know, but not what I am looking for. I googled a local source and found Silk Road Spice Merchant on Whyte Avenue. The original shop is in Calgary. They recently reopened here in Edmonton. There was a bit of a wait to enter the shop. The limit the number of people allowed in at one time. They have sanitized baskets, hand sanitizer at the entrance and pleanty of staff on hand to help.

THIS WAS A COOL SHOP!

It felt like an old timey apothecary. There were jars of various spices lined on shelves. You could purchase in jars or they would weigh out amounts for you an put it in a bag. All of it was cool.

I went in looking for whole nutmeg for my pumpkin pies and 10 Tahitian vanilla beans (the lesser expensive to Madagascar bean). I came away with black volcanic salt from Hawaii, and very fragrant cardamom. The smells and pungency of these spices are incredible compared to Bulk Barn. Fresh is best apparently.

The vanilla bean was the freshest I have ever experienced. They were soft and fragrant.

I cut them in half. My kitchen and I smelled like vanilla for the rest of the day and I wasn’t mad about that.

I bought the cheapest bourbon available to me. $25 for 750 ml of Jim Bean Kentucky Bourbon, I bought two. I filled three 2-cup jars with the bourbon. and divided up the twenty pieces. When it got down to the last two, I chopped them in thirds and popped them into the jars.

I have left them on my counter so I remember to shake them up about three-four times a day for a week. Then once in the pantry, they will get a shake about once every four to five days. In 4-6 weeks it should be ready to use and will last indefinitely.

Once the jar has about a quarter left, I can refill it with bourbon for one more use. That doubles the value of those beans or I can squeeze the the beans and get a paste out and stick the empty pod in to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. Either way, excellent value because six cups of vanilla bourbon extract cost me $99. I saved $105. Maybe I will buy myself some new cake pans, a new rolling pin and a set of circle cutters. OR I could buy new electric beaters. OR maybe just put it away for something else.

When these beauties are ready they will be dark – just like the stuff you buy from the grocery store. I will let you know how it turns out.

Stay healthy everyone!

Bake Club: Scones

A couple of years ago I received a jar of flour, sugar, baking powder and freeze dried raspberries as a gift. I made them and thought freeze dried raspberries are the greatest thing ever. I still think highly of them, but the greatest thing ever is actually the magic of buttermilk. I tried to recreate this scone recipe several times and each time it was good. Once it even tasted just like that jar of scone mix. Recently, I decided to make them again, except I decided to use buttermilk, because I had it in the fridge and I like how fluffy it makes cake and biscuits. I accidentally made the best scones ever.

When you bake with buttermilk, you need to add baking powder so it has something to react to. I found if I use 1 cup of flour, then I need 1 tsp of baking powder. If I use 1 1/2 cups of flour I need 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder – see where I am going here? Baking soda reacts immediately with the buttermilk causing the dough to rise and baking powder gives the dough lift and keeps it elevated or a slow continued rise with the heat. These two ingredients are key to a fluffy scone.

I bet you are wondering the difference between a scone and a biscuit? A scone has egg in it. It also tends to be drier and needs support from fruit, jam and nuts, or other flavourings like herbs and onions. Scones tend to be a bit denser, something I like with tea for breakfast or as an afternoon snack to help me last until dinner.

Messing around with proportions I think I came up with a version I really like. It was soft and luscious and perfect for breakfast. This recipe is not sweet. If you like a sweeter bread, add an additional 1/2 cup of sugar. If you need more sweetness, think about jam or honey as a condiment, or make a compound butter. Honey butter is nice.

I sifted together 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 2 tbsp of granulated sugar, 2 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of baking soda. You could use bread flour but I never have it in the house. Give it a good whisk before adding 1/2 cup of cubed butter. It should be cold but honestly, I never have cold butter. Butter as it melts in the oven creates pockets of steam that add to the flakiness. If you are quick and gentle, room temp is fine.

I tossed the butter pieces into the flour to coat them well. Then I use my thumb and two fingers in a circular rubbing motion to work the butter into the flour until the butter is pea sized. Using a pastry cutter does the same thing. I read once using two knives works too…. two knives? Just get your hands dirty. That is what they are for. Then you get a feel for you baking and you know when to stop.

After the butter is worked in you can stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes if you wish. I don’t because I think it’s fine. I am not trying to win the GBBO. At this point I add an egg to 1 cup of butter milk and whisk them together. Making a well in the center of the flour, I pour the buttermilk egg mixture in. With a fork, I pull the flour into the center getting everything moist and incorporated.

I added fresh raspberries that had seen better days and a cup of freezed dried raspberries, the last of my visit from Trader Joe’s. You can add anything you like here, nuts and apples, blue berries or rum soaked raisins. The choice is yours and do what you like, but don’t go over 1 1/2 cups of extras because the dough won’t be able to hold it together – chocolate and banana would be nice too!

Gently fold everything together. Now the tricky part. This is a wet dough. Prep a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat lined tray. Four your hands! I did this on a cutting board and regretted it. Do it on the baking sheet. Pat the dough into a large circle about an inch thick. Cut and separate the wedges.

Brush with butter milk and sprinkle sugar over top. I used granulated sugar but any will do. If you dust with icing sugar, wait until they come out of the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400F. I prefer them the next day but some of my family like them warm out of the oven. I freeze these and pull them out as I need them. If you try them, let me know what you think!

They aren’t pretty but they are delicious.

Bake Club: These are not kiddie cookies

I am starting to develop my own baking recipes and adding them to my vintage cookbook if they pass the family. If they like it and want it again, it passes, if they don’t – total fail and it is left out. I cleaned up the pantry and needed to do something with some raw pecans and hard raisins.

I liberated a bottle of spiced rum from my son and poured about 1/8 cup over the rest of the raisins, 1/2 cup. I let the raisins soak for about an hour. It smelled so good.

I melted 1/4 cup of salted butter in a sauce pan and added the rest of my raw pecans. I let the butter foam and I watch it closely because I didn’t want it to burn. It took about 2 minutes on medium heat. Make sure you remove it once you can smell roasty toasty nuts. I poured everything through a sieve and reserved the butter.

Preheat your oven to 350F I whisked together 1 cup of flour, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp nutmeg. I then added 2 cups of quick oats. Whisked it together and set it aside.

Pull out your mixer either a stand or hand beaters because you need to whipped the butter and sugars until it looks like frosting. Cream together the reserved 1/4 of browned butter – it has a pecan flavour and smells fantastic. (scrape in those brown solid bits because it adds the best flavour) Add 1/2 cup of salted butter – room temperature, 3/4 cup of packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 egg , 2 tsp vanilla, 2 Tbsp of maple syrup (the real stuff. If you don’t have it, leave out the fake and carry on) Mix this until it is light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the flour and mix until almost combined. Add the plumped raisins (I didn’t drain the rum, I added it to the cookie batter – because RUM IS DELICIOUS!) and the buttered pecans. Combine and let it sit for 5 minutes to let the flour hydrate. This makes a huge difference. Take the time.

On a parchment lined or silpat lined baking sheet, drop 1/4 cup or a ice cream scoop of batter on the sheet. My tray holds 6 scoops nicely. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.

They taste best warm out of the oven, or room temperature or frozen. These are good and yes there is a rum flavour to them. The alcohol bakes off so you don’t need to worry if that is something that concerns you. There is alcohol in vanilla too – that bakes off and you don’t seem to mind that so please refrain from harassing me about alcohol. I like it, now you know.

If you do give the a try, let me know what you think!

Rum Raisin Oatmeal Cookies with Butter Pecans

  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup of All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 browned butter
  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of raw pecans

Bake Club: Cornflake Chocolate Chip Cookie

I joined Christina Tosi’s Bake Club. I decided to try her famous Cornflake Chocolate Marshmallow cookies right out of the gate. I read her recipe and watched her do this on a lot of different videos. I used this recipe. In theory and in taste it is the perfect cookie. I made it. I read the reviews and learned there is something not right about the recipe because it couldn’t possibly be my skills. It was everyone else that was a terrible baker…not me. I will get to that, but first, let’s go through the process (no matter how disastrous the end result was for me).

Step one: Make the Cornflake Crunch (Warning: this stuff should be called crack. It is addicting.)

I made this the day before because it needs to be at room temperature before you use it. I crushed cornflakes and added powdered milk, sugar, salt and melted butter. I tossed them together and spread it out on a silpat lined baking sheet and baked it for 20 minutes.

It tasted familiar but also like nothing I have eaten before. After it cooled I stored it in an air-tight container.

Dang it was good. I would be happy snacking on this. Forget carrot sticks….

The next morning, I began the mixing of the cookie batter because it needed to chill for a while. The reviews said to freeze it, but I trusted Christina and only chilled them in the fridge.

THIS WAS MISTAKE NUMBER ONE.

The first part of the instructions call for beating the life out of the butter, sugar and eggs for 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES! So I did.

This stuff was so light and fluffy you could make clouds with it.

Then I needed to add the flour and mix until almost combined – that took less than one minute. Next add the Cornflake Crunch, marshmallows and mini chocolate chips.

Simple enough. I took my large cookie scoop as instructed and scooped out tightly packed balls of dough and lined them up on a sheet pan to chill a minimum of 30 minutes. I chilled them for four hours because I had errands to run.

The batter made enough for 24 balls. EXACTLY 24 balls. I had weighed the ingredients for precision and was very impressed. The dough tasted promising, like the cookie would be delicious!

The recipe directed me to bake for 18 minutes in a 375F oven.

THIS WAS MISTAKE NUMBER TWO

This yielded flat lacy dark brown cookies. nothing like the cookies in the picture. Luckily it was only six. I shortened the time to 13 minutes and it was a bit better. Then finally to 10 minutes and they were lighter in colour but still really spread out. Super crispy on the outside. Just like the reviews said it would be.

I think the oven was too hot. They taste good, but super greasy and not cookie like at all. I was so disappointed. I had high hopes and wanted this to be a successful return to baking. Now I have a box of toffee with cookie crumbs instead of cookies.

They look nothing like Tosi’s, so my inclination is to say lower the temperature of the oven to 300F or even 350F and bake for 10 minutes then check them. I am not sure if I will try again unless I find the recipe from her cookbook.

I will give bake club another try. I think I will make birthday cake next. It is grandpa’s birthday tomorrow, he would have been 97 and he hated cake. So if it turns out terrible, he won’t mind.