One pie crust works for many recipes

I learned to make pie crust while working at the living history museum.  The recipe we used there came right off of the Crisco box, and in all of my experimentation with pie crusts, I still always come back to the Crisco recipe.  It’s easy, and it works every time.  It can also be used in savoury dishes like quiche, as well as for making any type of dessert pie.

The recipe is as follows:

For a Double Crust Pie

Ingredients:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
¾ c. Crisco all vegetable shortening (well chilled)
4 to 8 tbsp. cold water

Method:
1. BLEND flour and salt in medium mixing bowl.
2. CUT chilled shortening into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut in chilled shortening cubes into flour mixture, using a pastry blender, in an up and down chopping motion, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some small pea-sized pieces remaining.
3. SPRINKLE half the maximum recommended amount of ice cold water over the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir and draw flour from bottom of bowl to the top, distributing moisture evenly into flour. Press chunks down to bottom of bowl with fork. Add more water by the tablespoon, until dough is moist enough to hold together when pressed together.
TIP: Test dough for proper moistness by squeezing a marble-sized ball of dough in your hand. If it holds together firmly, do not add any additional water. If the dough crumbles, add more water by the tablespoonful, until dough is moist enough to form a smooth ball when pressed together.
4. SHAPE dough into a ball for single pie crust. Divide dough in two for double crust or double deep dish crust, one ball slightly larger than the other. Flatten ball(s) into 1/2-inch thick round disk(s).
TIP: For ease in rolling, wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
5. ROLL dough (larger ball of dough for double crust pie) from center outward with steady pressure on a lightly floured work surface (or between two sheets of wax or parchment paper) into circle 2-inches wider than pie plate for the bottom crust. Transfer dough to pie plate by loosely rolling around rolling pin. Center the rolling pin over the pie plate, and then unroll, easing dough into pie plate.
6. For a SINGLE pie crust, trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold edge under. Flute dough as desired. Bake according to specific recipe directions.
7. For a DOUBLE pie crust, roll larger disk for bottom crust, trimming edges of dough even with outer edge of pie plate. Fill unbaked pie crust according to recipe directions. Roll out smaller dough disk. Transfer dough carefully onto filled pie. Trim edges of dough leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold top edge under bottom crust. Press edges together to seal and flute as desired. Cut slits in top crust or prick with fork to vent steam. Bake according to specific recipe directions.

On Friday night I wanted to make quiche for dinner.  We had a Costco sized package of goat cheese in the fridge (yummy!) that I wanted to somehow work into the quiche.  I did what I often do, turned to Google.  I found a few recipes and came up with my own variation, working in the things that we like.  The result was DELICIOUS.

Here’s what I did.

Bacon, Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche

Ingredients:
1 unbaked pie crust
5 slices of bacon, cubed
¼ onion diced finely
2 c. baby spinach
5 spears asparagus snapped into small pieces
8 eggs
½ c. milk
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Cayenne Pepper
Nutmeg
½ c. crumbled, soft goat cheese
Parmesan cheese

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a hot frying pan, sauté bacon until golden, then remove with a slotted spoon; set aside.
3. Add the onions and asparagus to the pan, lower the heat, and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until soft but not colored.
4. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, then remove from the heat.
5. Put the bacon, onions, asparagus and spinach into the bottom of the unbaked pie crust.
6. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over top.
7. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with milk. Add salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
8. Pour egg mixture into the pie crust.
9. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
10. Bake at 375 degrees until the egg is set and the crust is browned. Approximately 30-40 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes before cutting.

Since I made the double crust pie recipe, I had a ball of dough for another crust leftover.  We were invited to our neighbours’ for dinner tonight, so I decided to use the crust to make a coconut custard pie.  This was new territory for me, so I found a recipe and got to work.

Coconut Custard Pie

Ingredients:
1-9″ pie crust (your favorite recipe or frozen pie crust)
1 can coconut milk (must be canned)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup flaked coconut

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. If using a frozen pie crust, thaw for 15 minutes before baking. Line pie crust with parchment paper or wax paper.
2. Add pie weights or 2 cups uncooked rice or beans. Bake for 12 minutes. Set on wire rack.
3. Remove weights with parchment paper (save for other pie shell baking). Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
4. While pie crust is baking, add eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, coconut extract and salt to a mixing bowl. Beat well and set aside.
5. Mix 1/4 cup of coconut milk and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until cornstarch is completely dissolved.
6. Stirring constantly over a medium heat (being careful not to boil), add remaining Coconut Milk and cook until coconut milk begins to thicken. Remove from heat.
7. Whisking constantly, pour hot coconut milk (a small amount at a time) into egg mixture. Pour coconut mixture into pre-baked pie shell and sprinkle with coconut.
8. Bake 35-40 minutes or until the custard is firmly set. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cold.

I set the over timer for 40 minutes and then got caught up with the baby and the toddler.  Pie probably should’ve come out at 35 minutes, as it turned out a bit overdone at 40 minutes.  It’s just nice and toasted.

Top: What it should look like Bottom: A bit over toasted!

Top: What it should look like
Bottom: A bit over toasted!

After a delicious dinner, the pie was dished out and enjoyed by all.  A great Saturday night with the greatest friends.

A nice end to a fantastic dinner!

A nice end to a fantastic dinner!

Try this pie crust recipe, you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

The Bread Ritual

There is absolutely nothing better than freshly baked bread.  The smell as its baking, the steam that comes out when you tear open a bun that’s just come out of the over, the way the butter melts from the warmth, I could go on and on.  Despite all of this, I don’t make bread too often.  It seems to me that bread is something you have to commit to.  You can’t just decide to make it on a whim and whip it up in half an hour.  Bread takes time, and there is some ritual involved.

I spent my summers in high school and university working at a living history museum set in 1914.  I wore a costume and taught school programs, and “animated” the village.  Basically, my job when I wasn’t teaching, was to make the buildings I worked in look lived in to the public.  I spent a lot of my time in an Old Order Mennonite farmhouse.  I attribute most of my baking skills to my time spent in the Peter Martin House.  I think my idea of bread being a ritual comes from this period of my life too.  We would open up the house in the morning and get the wood stove lit.  In 30 degree July heat with humidex warnings, I’d be lighting a wood stove, but it was all part of the commitment to the bread.  At the end of a long, hot day, we’d be rewarded with hot, fresh, delicious bread.

Because I learned to bake bread this way, the thought of using a bread machine is absolutely ludicrous to me.  Obviously, when I bake bread at home now, I’m not throwing it into my gas fireplace to bake (sadly, no wood stove in my house), I use my fancy Kitchenaid oven that even has a bread proofing setting.  When my appliances got delivered a year ago and I saw that setting which I didn’t notice when we made the purchase, I was literally jumping for joy (you know you’re a grown up when new appliances are the most exciting thing in the world), I thought I’d be making fresh bread everyday.  Like I said earlier, bread is a commitment, and it takes time, and let’s be real, I just usually don’t have the time.

Now that I’m on maternity leave, I have a lot more time.  Sure I have a newborn who wants to be fed every 90 minutes, and a 3-year-old who wants my undivided attention at all times, but still there is more time.  Now when I really think about it, bread isn’t actually a whole day affair.  On Monday afternoon Scarlett and I made it start to finish in just under 3 hours.  We made buns, so I’d add about another hour if we were making loaves, just because they need a bit more time to rise.

The first part of making bread is my favourite part, activating the yeast.  Growing up, I was never exposed to baking things with yeast because my mom, in her words, was scared of it.  I think she just felt like using yeast was a big undertaking.  To activate yeast, you mix it with some warm water (to wake it up) and some sugar (to feed it), and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  This is where the magic happens, you are literally unleashing microorganisms that are going to work for you to make delicious, soft, fluffy bread.  The yeast wake up and start buzzing around, and since they had a good meal of sugar, they start releasing gases.  These gases are what is going to help your bread rise.  Don’t worry though, these microorganisms die off when you’re baking the bread, but they had a good life that was sacrificed for the cause!

Activating the yeast...and 10 minutes later.

Activating the yeast…and 10 minutes later.

On Monday when I decided that fresh buns would compliment our dinner nicely, our afternoon got away from us a little bit and I was feeling pressed for time.  I set Scarlett up on the iPad and got down to work.  It never fails, as soon as she sees me pulling out baking supplies, “Mommy, what are you doing? I wanna help!”  I tried to brush it off as nothing, because again, I knew if she helped, it would take longer, but she’s WAY too smart for my trickery and so my kitchen sidekick was ready to make bread.

After the yeast was activated, it was time for us to add the rest of the ingredients and mix up our dough.  Because of my helper, we had flour everywhere and stuff flying in all directions while the dough was being mixed, but the kitchen was filled with the beautiful sound of toddler giggles.

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I took over at this point because you have to get your hands right in there and knead the dough for about 10 minutes to make sure everything is all mixed up.  I promised Scarlett that she could do this in a little bit because we had to do it two times.  I love kneading dough.  It’s hard work, and you can really work up a sweat.  You have to put your whole body into it, and the more you knead, the stiffer it gets.  If you’ve had a bad day or you’re feeling stressed, you can really work out your feeling as you knead the dough, beats therapy!  After my kneading workout, I gathered the dough into a nice small ball and put it back in the bowl which I covered with a tea towel and popped into the oven.  If your oven doesn’t have a bread proofing setting, just set the bowl on the stove near where the steam/heat from the oven vents out (it just needs a warm spot to rise).

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After about an hour of rising, your dough should have doubled in size and feel light and puffy (mine didn’t quite double, but I didn’t give it a full hour, maybe about 45 minutes).

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I called my helper back into the kitchen for kneading round two.  For this round of kneading, you alternate between punching and kneading.  Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and get punching.  Scarlett loved this part, the giggles and squeals of delight once again filling the kitchen.

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After this, shape your dough into 2 loaves or many buns.  We opted for buns.  I take two 8×8 cake pans and put 9 dough balls into each pan.

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Scarlett helped with this, so the dough balls aren’t as uniform as I would’ve liked them to be.  Cover your pans and let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes.  After they have risen, remove the dishcloth and pop them into the oven at 400 degrees to bake until golden brown (usually takes about 20 or so minutes for buns, and longer for loaves of bread).

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With buns, you don’t really have to let them cool for too long before you dig in. Bread loaves need to cool longer so that they can be cut.

Check out the steam!

Check out the steam!

Slather liberally with butter, and enjoy!  We did!

So much butter!

So much butter!

Basic Bread Dough

Ingredients:
1 tsp. sugar
½ c. warm water
1 tbsp. yeast
1 c. milk
3 tbsp. sugar
shake of salt
2 tbsp. butter (softened)
½ c. warm water
5-6 cups flour

Method:
Dissolve sugar in water and add yeast. Let activate. Add milk, sugar, salt, butter and water. Mix well. Stir in flour. Knead 5-10 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl. Let rise for one hour. Punch down and knead. Shape into greased pans. Let rise again. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown.

 

You can never go wrong with pancakes!

In our home pancakes are a favourite, usually reserved for a lazy Sunday morning. This morning Scarlett told me that she “really really wanted pink pancakes for breakfast!” We compromised and decided on some blueberry chia pancakes.

The recipe we use for pancakes is super easy (no pancake mix in this house), delicious, and pretty much foolproof. It’s a basic recipe and depending on our mood, we add different ingredients to make them exciting (pink food colouring is a favourite of Scarlett’s, but chocolate chips or peanut butter chips have been known to happen!).

As we headed on our pancake cooking adventure, Scarlett and I started by getting the ingredients we needed collected.

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I decided we would add in frozen wild blueberries and chia seeds to liven things up. If you’ve never heard of chia seeds, you should make a point to try them out. Remember Chia Pets? They’re one of the “super foods” getting all the attention, and in my opinion, they are delicious! I sprinkle them on everything from my breakfast oatmeal to soups, salads and sauces. You can even add them to breadcrumbs if you are making chicken fingers, etc.  They are full of calcium, fibre and omega fatty acids, but I digress.

I had my little helper start mixing up the ingredients that we needed.  She loves to help out in the kitchen.

Mixing up the batter!

Mixing up the batter!

Once we had a nice fluffy batter ready to go, we added a good amount of frozen wild blueberries and about 3 tablespoons of whole chia seeds.

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While Scarlett stirred those in, I got our frying pan heating up.  The recipe calls for putting vegetable oil in your frying pan, but I prefer to use cooking spray.

The recipe makes about 12 pancakes that are about 2-3″ in diameter.

We served them with a generous amount of butter and some maple syrup.  I thought they were delicious, and I couldn’t even tell that there were chia seeds in them.  Scarlett took one or two bites and told me that she was done, typical 3 year old behaviour.

The delicious results!

The delicious results!

Try them out on your lazy Sunday morning, and let me know what you think!  Enjoy!

Easy Basic Pancakes Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Directions:

1) In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil), and egg. Add dry ingredients to milk mixture; whisk until just moistened (do not overmix; a few small lumps are fine).

3) Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium. Grease with vegetable oil (here I use cooking spray instead).

4) For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 2 to 3 in a large skillet).

5) Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more oil and remaining batter. (You’ll have 12 to 15 pancakes.) Serve warm, with desired toppings.