Coconut Macaroons

No, these are not the French “macarons” that everyone is so nuts over. These are old fashioned coconut macaroons like I had when I was a kid. I remember the flavor and texture distinctly, which is why, when I went to a coffee shop with Millie, and we shared a “macaroon” that was drizzled with some lemony icing, and it had large gratings of coconut in it, and was all gooey and falling apart, I felt disappointed. Definitely not the macaroon of my childhood.

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Success!

So I had to get home and look at every recipe I could find. I made a couple of different recipes that seemed popular, but I should know by now, that if I get that strange feeling that something isn’t right with a recipe upon reading it, I need to pay attention to that feeling. The first recipe I made was American, and it was made with whipped egg whites, so the macaroons ended up being light and fluffy and airy; kind of like little poof balls of airy sweetness. Like a coconut meringue. And they had a bad color, kind of a tan beige blah. Not at all what I was looking for. And because I know you want to see a picture of this, here you go.

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No, no, NO!

I also made a French recipe (yes, it was in French!), that called for whole eggs. I wondered to myself how the egg yolk would behave, and found that the flavor was completely off. And they were a yellowish color that I did not like. The texture was better, but everything else was a big NO.

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Definitely not.

Finally, I somehow tripped over a recipe that was created by an American chef living in Paris… ahhhhh, what a dream. His name is David Lebovitz, and I am pretty excited that I found his macaroon recipe. It was thoroughly accidental, because before this whole macaroon obsession started, I made some mint straciatella ice cream, and used his recipe.

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Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered seeing on his ice cream page: recipes that use extra egg whites. And then I remembered that one of those recipes was for Coconut Chocolate Macaroons. I had completely ignored the recipe, because I imagined the macaroons being all chocolate-y, which was not was I was after, but when I looked again, it was macaroons that had been dipped in chocolate. And they were exactly what I was looking for! The outside a golden brown from caramelized sugar, with teeny tiny bits of shredded coconut poking out. Crispy chewy on the outside, and slightly gooey on the inside.

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This is it!

Coconut Macaroons

(Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Coconut Chocolate Macaroon Recipe)

  • 4 large egg whites (should measure 1/2 cup)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 hearty Tablespoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (see tips below)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (optional)
  1. In a 10 inch skillet, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, and honey.
  2. Over low heat on stovetop, stir the mixture until tepid, but not warm or hot. You just want to take the chill off.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the coconut, flour, and drizzle the vanilla on top.
  4. Add the coconut/flour mixture to the egg white/sugar mixture, and stir together over medium heat for about 5 minutes. You want the mixture to thicken just bit. It will be like thick oatmeal.
  5. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  6. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Form dough into 2 1/2 Tablespoon rounds (I use a cookie scoop for this) and place on cookie sheet evenly spaced. Bake on center rack in oven until macaroons are a deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely.
  8. To dip the macaroons in chocolate (optional), slowly melt the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave, or in a saucepan on your stovetop, and dip the bottom of each cookie into the melted chocolate. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate for 5 to 10 minutes, until the chocolate is set.

Pictures with tips:

You really want to use the right kind of coconut. Do NOT use flaked coconut. The flakes are too big and will ruin the consistency. I use Bob’s Red Mill Shredded Unsweetened Coconut, and the size and texture is perfect.

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I think it is worth it to measure the egg whites. You should have a hearty 1/2 cup of egg whites, and 4 large egg whites should do it, but just to be sure…

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Using the right sized pan is essential. The first time I made these, I used a pan that was too large, and I dried out the egg mixture. This is a 10″ pan, which works well.

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This is the egg whites with the sugar, honey and salt.

Here is the thickened egg/sugar/coconut mixture. This is about right. Don’t dry it out! The mixture will firm up once it has cooled down to room temperature.

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If you let the dough cool to room temp, the cookies keep their shape better.

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I use a cookie scoop (2 1/2 Tablespoon size) to scoop these cookies. It works like a charm. In fact, it works like a charm for all cookies, so if you don’t have one yet, put it on your want list.

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Leave about two inches space between cookies. They spread a little, and they will bake more evenly with plenty of space. And only bake one cookie sheet at a time.

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With or without chocolate, these macaroons are chewy, gooey, and just how I remembered them!

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Posted in Cookies, Fun in the kitchen! | Leave a comment

Almond-Anise Biscotti

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During the holidays, after a long shopping excursion, Millie and I stopped at our local crêperie/bakery/coffee shop, Cafe Javasti. I can’t remember what Millie got, but I remember exactly what I had: the best decaf cafe latte, and the best almond biscotti ever! Normally I would always choose some sort of flaky pastry or cinnamon-y coffee cake over a biscotti, but for some reason, this time I went for the hard Italian cookie. Wow. Was I surprised! It was so light and crispy, kind of melt-in-your-mouth, not tooth-breakingly hard, and paired with some of the best coffee around, I was in heaven! So of course when I got home, I immediately started looking at recipes.

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After a bit of searching, I found this recipe, Anise-Almond Biscotti, by Janet Mercuri. All the reviews were fantastic, so I gave it a try. I only barely tweaked a few things: like adding a tad more salt, and adding more ground anise seed, which I ground myself using my mortar and pestle. The fragrance that is released when doing this is intoxicating.

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I also found a great trick for how to make the dough easier to handle. Normally you have to form logs out of sticky soft dough, and then transfer it to the baking sheets, which can be difficult, even with floured hands.

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Barely got the second “log” on the cookie sheet without having it fall apart.

After reading more recipes (you have to read a lot of recipes to get everyone’s wonderful tips), I found a great method: scoop large spoonfuls of dough in a row onto the cookie sheet, and then form into logs with floured hands. This works perfectly.

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Before forming the logs.

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After forming the logs with floured hands.

One of the great things about these cookies is that they just keep getting better and better. In fact, when I first made them, I tried one shortly after they had cooled, and I was underwhelmed. I didn’t know that biscotti become more flavorful and delicious after a few days, and I didn’t know that they would still be wonderful after a month! Which is fantastic, because I made them just before Christmas, when we were all feeling completely sugared out, so they sat in jars on the kitchen counter being ignored for quite a while before I felt like trying one again. Even Matthew likes them, and he doesn’t like biscotti.

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Almond-Anise Biscotti

(Adapted, just barely, from Janet Mercuri’s recipe)

  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon anise seed, ground
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg white
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Place 1 cup of whole raw almonds on baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Chop coarsely once cooled.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, melted butter (lukewarm, not hot!), eggs, vanilla, and ground anise seed with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir with wooden spoon, just until the flour is incorporated. Do not over mix.
  6. Stir in the chopped almonds.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and with a large serving spoon, place dollops of dough in two rows on your baking sheet. There should be about 4 inches of space between the rows.
  8. With floured hands, form dough into logs about 2 1/2 inches wide and almost as long as the cookie sheet. The logs might be about 1 inch tall.
  9. Whisk the egg white until foamy, then brush the tops and sides of the dough with it.
  10. Bake on center rack of oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, and allow the cookie logs to cool on the sheet for 25 minutes.
  12. Carefully place the cooled logs on a cutting board (discard parchment paper). Using a sharp serrated bread knife, slice on the diagonal into 1/2″ thick slices (mine are 5/8″) – use a sawing back and forth motion. Don’t fret if some of the biscotti crumble a bit.
  13. Place slices cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes. Flip the biscotti and bake for another 8 minutes. If you prefer your biscotti less toasted, try 10 minutes on the first side, and 6 minutes on the second side.
  14. Remove from cookie sheet and let cool completely on cooling rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Stored properly, these will stay fresh for a month. Makes about 36 biscotti.

Note: I wanted to mention why I might just be a little obsessed with these cookies, and why I have been making them for a month now, aside from the fact that I needed to find the perfect recipe… Having grown up in St. Louis, I have so many fond memories of “The Hill”, which is the Italian section of St. Louis: blocks and blocks of modest older brick homes, and at the center, the best Italian restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and cafés you could ever wish to find. When I was a kid, my mom used to take us to Viviano & Sons grocery store on the Hill. As soon as you walked into the place, you were hit with the pungent aroma of olives, olive oil, strong cheese, freshly baked bread, and yes, anise seed. So I might just bliss out when I am making these cookies. I hope you will too.

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Posted in Comfort Food, Cookies, Fun in the kitchen! | 4 Comments

Hearty Quiche

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I know that quiche is one of the easiest things to make, but I still have to write about this, because I do not like a wimpy quiche. What is a wimpy quiche? It’s a quiche that is not very tall, it’s a quiche with a flabby, thin crust, it’s a quiche that is too egg-y or watery, where the crust falls backwards onto the plate. I’m too upset about it to post a photo, but I think you get the picture.

[Imagine it here.]

I believe that quiche should be very tall and sturdy, chock full of wonderful ingredients. And the crust, well, the crust should be fantastic! Buttery, flaky, but sturdy enough to stand tall with the rest of the quiche.

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Quiche is best served with mixed greens.

When I was in college I waited tables at Bernard’s, a lovely French bistro in St. Louis. They had the best quiche. Tall, firm, cheesy, but not too much so, and filled with the best ingredients. I am forever ruined because of it. I am disappointed when I order quiche at restaurants, and get a wimpy quiche. Or even worse, a microwaved wimpy quiche. How dare they. You would think it wouldn’t happen, but oddly, it is all too common.

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Bernard’s is on the right.

So here I am to tell you about my favorite quiche recipe. It’s of course very simple, and the recipe comes from Ree Drummond, the fabulous Pioneer Woman. She uses a deep dish pie pan… I mean a really deep dish pie pan.

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Most of the time, I use my trusty Emile Henry deep dish pie pan, and it works out just fine, but sometimes I go crazy and use the one that you see above. Also, Ree’s quiche recipe uses 8 eggs. Yep, 8. I recently called a local bakery and grilled the baker on her crust recipe; then we got to talking about quiche. Then she says, as if letting me in on a secret, “Oh, and add more eggs”. YES!!! She and I both agreed that nothing is worse than a wimpy quiche! So don’t be afraid of all the eggs in this recipe. You will love it, and you will impress your friends and family.

Ham and Broccoli Quiche

(Adapted from Ree Drummond’s recipe)

  • 1 frozen deep dish unbaked pie crust (see note below)
  • 8 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • Dash nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup steamed baby brocolli
  • 1 cup chopped black forest ham
  • 2 cups shredded gruyère cheese
  1. Place a rimmed cookie sheet on the bottom rack of your oven, and preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Whisk eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Add and mix in the cheese, ham, and broccoli (or any ingredients you like, as long as they are not watery).
  4. Pour mixture into your frozen pie shell.
  5. Place quiche on the cookie sheet, and place a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the top of the quiche.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or so. The center of the quiche should be set. It should not look liquidy. When in doubt, bake it a bit longer. Mine usually takes a total of 70 minutes, but every oven is different. After an hour start checking every 5 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least an hour before serving. This quiche actually tastes better the next day, in my opinion. The custard sets nicely and the flavors mingle, and the crust gets extra crispy. To serve the next day, slice the quiche and heat individual pieces in a preheated 300° oven on a metal cookie sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Make sure there is room between the slices.

Note:  I like to prepare pie crusts and roll them out ahead of time, and wrap them well, pan and all, and keep them in the freezer so they will be ready at a moment’s notice when I feel like making quiche or pie. They are unbaked and frozen, in the pan, just like the ones you would get at the grocery store. But it’s really worth it to have homemade crust! Both my Emile Henry ceramic pie dishes and the metal ones can go right into a hot oven from frozen. Do it.

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You can see how the crust is golden all the way along the bottom: not soggy!

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Bon apétit!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 3 Comments

Cumin Rice and Potatoes

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I absolutely love this rice. My friend Susan gave me the recipe oh so many years ago. Susan and I met when our oldest kids were just little, and they were taking swim lessons. We would sit at the side of the pool and chat about life, about raising kids, about just about anything; Susan is very fun to talk to. And of course, we talked about our favorite recipes.

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I remember her telling me that this rice is so good that she eats it right out of the pan. And that is just what I do. After dinner, of course.

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This rice is very easy to make, and the only oddball ingredients that you might not have easily on hand are cumin seed and turmeric. I get them in bulk at the grocery store, so just the amount that I need, although I do keep some in the pantry now, knowing that I will make this rice on a regular basis.

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I love to make this rice for bringing meals to friends… the rice really is the star performer. Just throw in some sautéed veggies and slow cooked meat, and you have a wonderful meal that is easy to make, package, and transport.

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One of the best things about this rice is that it makes spectacular leftovers. It is wonderful heated up in a frying pan the next day with veggies and whatever else you have on hand, or just as is; the rice gets a little crispy, and if you know me well, you will know how much I love crispy rice.

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Cumin Rice and Potatoes

(from The Feast of Santa Fe, by Huntley Dent)

  • 2 medium boiling potatoes (I use Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 rounded cup long-grained white rice (I use basmati rice)
  • 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups water
  1. In a dutch oven or heavy bottom saucepan, heat the oil on medium heat.
  2. Add the cumin seed and turmeric and stir for a minute  – do not let the seeds turn dark.
  3. Stir in the potato pieces and coat well with the oil.
  4. Add the salt, cracked pepper, and rice, stirring over med-high heat to slightly brown the rice.
  5. Pour in 2 cups water
  6. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until water is absorbed. Remove cover, fluff with a fork, cover again and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fun in the kitchen!, Side Dishes | Leave a comment

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

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Every year we host Thanksgiving at our house. Our daughters absolutely love this tradition, and we spend two days getting ready. We don’t have a formal dining room, so we transform our living room….

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Into a dining room….

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Thanksgiving has just got to be my favorite holiday. For us, it means focusing on what we are grateful for, and sharing food with friends and family.

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Every year we ask ourselves, “Why don’t we do this more often?”, because it’s just such a wonderful feeling to be with our loved ones, and share in such a rich tradition. All the dishes bring back warm and wonderful memories to those of us that are older, and we are creating new memories for those of us that are younger. Our home is bustling with conversation, kids running around, and laughter.

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And after Thanksgiving, the house is quiet and serene. I love that too.

And there are lots of leftovers. Every year after Thanksgiving, I make Turkey Wild Rice Soup. I love wild rice. I love it in soups and salads, and I love it in this soup, which is very easy to make. This year I made turkey broth – just put all the turkey bones in a large stock pot with with water, onion, carrots, and celery. I let the stock slowly simmer overnight on the stove, so the stock is reduced and delicious the next day. BUT, you don’t need turkey stock to make this soup. Chicken broth works just as well. I can’t remember where I found this recipe, since I’ve been making it for so long. It’s pretty standard though. Make sure to plan a bit ahead for this… you will need to cook the wild rice first, which takes about an hour. You can chop the vegetables and shred the turkey into bite-size pieces while the rice is cooking.

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups (or more) chicken or turkey broth
  • 2 cups cooked wild rice
  • 2 cups cubed or shredded cooked turkey
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  1. In a dutch oven or heavy bottom soup pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook and stir until tender.
  2. Stir in flour – cook until bubbly. Gradually whisk in the broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the remaining ingredients and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as necessary, and add salt and pepper to taste. I like to serve this soup with a pepper grinder handy, because it is so good with lots of freshly cracked pepper.
  3. If you make this, and then have some the next day, you will need to have more broth on hand to add to the soup, as it thickens quite a bit overnight. Makes 6 to 8 servings… but at our house, it really only serves 4, because seconds….

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Posted in Comfort Food, Soups | 3 Comments

Flaky All-Butter Pie Crust

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Every year as Thanksgiving approaches, I panic. It’s time to start re-teaching myself how to make pie crust. It’s time to look at every blog post and every cookbook I can get my hands on, to see what the magic trick is to making the perfect pie crust. Flaky, but still tender. Easy to roll out. Easy to make, in every aspect… putting the dough together, making the little discs, and then finally, rolling it out.

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My helper.

What I finally came to is that I just have to make pie. Lots of pie. Or anything that requires a flaky crust.

Deep dish broccoli gruyère quiche.

After doing a ridiculous amount of research (and it’s not even my job to do all that research), I have discovered that the trick is this: make pie. Don’t be afraid. Just make pie. If the crust tears when rolling it out, patch it. If it looks ugly, don’t fret. If it ends up tough, better luck next time.

When the crust doesn’t cooperate, make a galette with it!

When I became obsessed with making the perfect flaky buttermilk biscuits, I made biscuits every week. I swapped biscuits with my neighbors, who were doing the same thing. I just kept trying. And I finally found the perfect recipe and technique that worked well for me. And I still make biscuits every Saturday for our family’s “Saturday Tradition”, which is a brunch with scrambled eggs and biscuits, and different kinds of jams. The eggs are really just an excuse to eat the biscuits and jam. And there are times when I make the biscuits that they don’t turn out quite as flaky, who knows why, but I don’t fret. Biscuits are just part of my repertoire now, and I am confident. Now I just need to do that with pie.

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My helper made the decorative shapes.

So here’s what I noticed: the basic recipe is the same. The ingredients, the amounts…. basically the same. There are a few variations, but nothing to get excited about. Just all-purpose flour (or pastry flour), salt, sugar (maybe), unsalted butter, and ice water. And maybe something like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (my choice) or white vinegar or white wine vinegar. Any one of those will do just fine.

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And the technique [sigh]. Just choose one that you like best. Seriously. Do you want to mix in the butter by hand using a pastry cutter or two knives? Do you want to use a food processor? Do you want to smoosh the butter in with your finger tips? You can even use your Kitchenaid stand mixer (my choice lately, since I sometimes over mix or under mix when using a pastry cutter). But it really doesn’t matter. Just pick one and go with it.

My choice this season…

So here’s what I think I’m choosing for my go-to all-butter pie crust: in your mixing bowl, put 1 cup pastry flour and 1.5 cups all-purpose flour**, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar (optional). Mix it with your tool of choice – pastry cutter, or paddle attachment if you are using your stand mixer, and put the tool into the bowl with the flour mixture. Put 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar into a teeny bowl. Measure 1/2 cup of water in a measuring cup. Cut up 16 Tablespoons (two sticks) unsalted butter into 1/2 inch cubes. I make fast work of this by using my bench scraper, and cutting three lengthwise cuts, turning and cutting three lengthwise cuts again, and then cutting crosswise. Each butter pat will consist of nine cubes.

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First set of cuts.

Second set of cuts.

Cubed butter ready to go in a flash.

Now put the bowl with the flour mixture and paddle attachment into the freezer. Put the 2 sticks of cubed butter and the 1/2 cup of water in the freezer as well. Leave them in the freezer for 20 minutes, no longer. You don’t want the water to freeze. During that twenty minutes go have a cup of tea and check your email, or obsessively look at pie crust recipes online. You may say that you don’t have room in your freezer to do this. First, are you really going to eat everything that is in your freezer? I didn’t think so. Clean it out. Secondly, if you still don’t have room, maybe skip the mixing bowl, but still put the flour mixture in the freezer, maybe in a smaller container that will fit. And put any tools that you are planning on using in the freezer (paddle attachment, pastry cutter, etc). And definitely the water and the butter. MAKE ROOM IN THERE.

[And no, I’m not going to post a picture of my freezer here.]

After twenty minutes, take everything out of the freezer. With your stand mixer on low speed, mix the flour for a second or two, then break apart the butter cubes and add them to the flour mixture a few at a time. Don’t worry about breaking each cube; they will break apart in the mixer. I break the pats into sets of three and throw them in. Keep mixing until all the butter is added, and the larger pieces of butter look like broken up pieces of walnuts, or large peas. With the mixer still going, drizzle in the vinegar, then drizzle in the ice water. I end up using all of it most of the time, but not always, so watch that dough like a hawk. Stop adding water (and turn off the mixer!) as soon as the dough starts to come together. The dough will look a bit shaggy. And maybe your mixer will start to groan. Grab some of the dough with your hand and squeeze it together. If it stays together when you poke at it, the dough is done. If it is still crumbly after you have squeezed it together, you need to add just a teeny bit more water.

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Now, here’s a technique that I like. Take two lengths of plastic wrap and set them out onto your work surface (I actually like to get this ready before taking the ingredients out of the freezer. I want everything to be ready.)

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Now dump half the dough onto each sheet of plastic wrap.

Working quickly-ish, pull up the corners of one of the plastic wrap sheets and bring them together to make a little bag of dough.

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Now, with cupped hands, squeeze the dough in its plastic wrap firmly into a mound. Squeeze several times quickly and firmly to make sure the dough is cohesive. The dough should come together nicely.

Form the dough into a 5″ wide disc while dough is still in the wrap, and then make sure to wrap the dough well. No need to get more wrap. The sheet you have should be enough. Put that disc in the fridge. Now repeat with the other pile of dough. Voilà! You now have two lovely discs of pie crust dough. You should be able to see bits of butter. Let them rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but better a couple of hours or overnight.

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About rolling out the dough – your rolling pin should be heavy! The light weight ones just won’t do the trick. Take your disc of dough out of the fridge about 15 minutes before you want to roll it out. You want it to be pliable. If your kitchen is very warm, maybe 5 or 10 minutes will do. But don’t make the mistake that I often make, which is trying to roll out dough that is too cold. It will crack! Throw your pie pan into the freezer. And get a bag of frozen vegetables (I have one that is reserved specifically for this use) and place it on your work surface. This will chill the work surface while your dough is becoming pliable.

You can swoosh it around to get a wider area chilled.

When dough is pliable, after about 10 to 15 minutes, put the frozen veggies back in the freezer and make sure your work surface is dry. It should be nice and cold! Use enough flour on your rolling out surface so that your dough doesn’t stick. Flour your rolling pin.

Not a lot of flour!

Flour your disc of dough also.

You are now ready to roll. He he….

Start from the center and roll out, avoiding rolling past the edge of the dough. Give the disc a quarter turn every couple of rolls, and roll again. Keep doing this. Use your bench scraper to gently move it underneath the dough if it is sticking. Toss a teeny bit of flour underneath to keep it from sticking. Your dough is much less likely to stick if you have chilled your work surface well. This dough rolls out like a dream.

Once the dough is about 1/8″ in thickness, take a pizza cutter or knife and trim off the edges to make a nice round circle (this is optional). The circle should measure whatever your pie pan is from edge to edge, plus 3″. I always measure to make sure I’ve got the dough rolled out wide enough to do the job. 13″ is usually a good size, but measure please. Pull the cold pie pan out of the freezer. Fold your dough in half, then in half again, and place the dough in the pie pan with the middle fold-y corner thingy in the middle of the pie plate.

If the dough has a lot of extra flour on it, brush the extra flour off. Unfold and move the dough into the pan without stretching it. Leave about a 1/2″ overhang of dough past the rim, and trim off the rest. Fold the edges under.

Edges folded under.

Now crimp the edges with a fork or make a cute little design with your knuckles (if this is for a one-crust pie, such as pumpkin or pecan pie). Don’t use your finger tips, because you might tear the dough. Use your knuckles.

I have always had vein-y hands! X-Files comes to mind….

Cute!

Chill the crust in the fridge for at least a half hour before using. Or, if you are planning ahead, wrap the whole thing, pie plate and all, in plastic wrap (sorry about all the wrap), then aluminum foil, and put it in your freezer. You can use it whenever your are ready. This makes your pie making a breeze. This is, of course, for pies such as pumpkin or pecan. If you are making pie crust for a double crust pie, like apple pie, you can freeze the discs of dough, to be rolled out at a later date, if you like the idea of making ahead. I surely do. Just pull out the discs of dough the night before and let defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Now, I have to tell you something about this pie crust odyssey I have been on. You know how they say to keep everything cold? Well, it really helps!!! It makes a huge difference. And all the resting periods in between? That makes a difference too. I’m one of those people that has to try it my own way first. Resting periods? Nah, I don’t have time for that. Keep everything cold? That’s going overboard. The chilling of the surface with frozen veggies? That’s ridiculous! But truly, truly, I say unto thee, Do these things, and thou shalt have a flaky, all-butter pie crust that is easy to roll out. That is all.

** I use 1 cup pastry flour, when I have it on hand, and 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, to make the crust more tender. I believe that pastry flour is key to the tenderness, so it’s really worth the extra trouble to have it in your flour arsenal.

***This recipe makes two standard 9 inch pie crusts. This recipe does not make enough for two 9 inch deep dish pie crusts.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen! | 1 Comment

Avgolemono Chicken Soup with Rice

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I can’t believe how good this soup is, and how ridiculously easy it is to make. If you love to have this soup when you go to your favorite Greek restaurant (or even if you have never tried it), you really must try to make it at home. It is so comforting and soothing; the perfect soup to have on a cold, rainy day, or when you are not feeling well, or just any time at all! It is your basic chicken soup with rice, but with lemon too! So so good. Even my kids like it.

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If you have an immersion blender (hand blender), this soup is even easier to make. If you don’t have an immersion blender, shut off your computer now and go get one.

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You can make your own chicken stock, or you can use chicken stock that is already prepared. Or you can do a combination, which is what I do.

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There are very few ingredients in this soup… chicken stock, chicken, rice, fresh lemon juice, and two egg yolks.

Avgolemono Chicken Soup with Rice

(Adapted from Grace Parisi’s recipe)

  • 4 cups chicken stock plus one cup water
  • a few cut up celery stalks (optional)
  • a few cut up carrots (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (uncooked)
  1. In a large pot, add chicken thighs to the chicken stock and water, along with the celery and carrots, if you are using them. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
  2. Let stock and chicken simmer uncovered for about an hour. Then remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool. Remove the celery and carrots and save them for another use. Let the stock continue to simmer.
  3. In a large measuring cup (tall is preferable, 2 cup capacity), use your hand blender to blend together two egg yolks, lemon juice (start out by using less than 1/4 cup if you are worried the soup will be too lemony, but we love it that way), and 1/2 cup of the rice. You can also do this in a blender. While the blender is still going, slowly drizzle in about 1/2 cup of the hot broth and blend well. Stir this mixture into the simmering stock, along with the remaining rice, and let simmer for a few minutes more.
  4. While soup is simmering, cut or shred the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and add to the hot soup just before serving. Add salt if desired, and serve with freshly cracked pepper.

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Posted in Comfort Food, Fun in the kitchen!, Soups | 3 Comments