Pie Crust Tutorial

A while ago, I drafted a pie crust tutorial. I have since changed my methods a bit. You see, I always make my crusts from scratch. Completely. No machinery. But recently, I tried using a food processor for combining the butter and flour mixture. I was surprised to find the dough springier, for lack of a better word. And the marbling that I prize was still present, so the crust came out flaky.

Anyway, homemade is definitely the way to go, and it’s not difficult or particularly time-consuming. It really does make a world of difference. Store bought crusts usually have shortening and I can stand that stuff. It just tastes awful to me. I have read many times that the perfect crust is made of a mixture of lard and butter, but since I don’t usually have lard lying around, I make do with all-butter crusts.

Pie Crust Tutorial
 
Crust 1 1/4 C of all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1 Tbsp of sugar
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup to 1/2 Cup of ice-cold water
It is very important that both the water and butter are super cold. If the butter is all melty, your crust won’t be as flaky in the end.
Step 1: Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl. So far, so good, right?


Step 2: Cut the butter into chunks and plop them into the flour mixture. At this point you can use a food processor to mix these ingredients until you get a cornmeal-like texture. I usually do this by hand. One could say that this makes it taste better (because of love, or whatever). Actually, the real reason is that, by hand, I am more likely to leave larger chunks of butter. Towards the end, when you are rolling the dough, this butter will “marble” with the rest of the dough, making the result MORE FLAKY.

Step 3: Add water, in increments, and form a ball. The ball should be a little sticky, just a little. Refrigerate this for about half an hour.

Just a tad sticky
Flour the surface to prevent sticking


Step 4: Remove from the fridge and roll out with a rolling-pin, or any long, cylindrical object (I have used a wine bottle in the past).Make sure to flour the rolling-pin, dough, and counter surface liberally, or else you’ll have a heck of a time getting that dough off the counter. And, not to insult your intelligence, but make sure to roll out the dough so it covers the pie dish, with some hanging over.

Roll out slowly, turning dough as needed
Check out the marbling


Step 5: Place the dough on the dish. Tuck in the edges for a neat look and style them for effect. My favorite technique is to crimp the edges using a pinching method with the pointer and thumb of my left hand, and the thumb of my right hand. Braids are also very nice, but time-consuming. Maybe I’ll do a post on that later.

Some will be leftover
Pinching method


Step 6: Poke the bottom of dish with a fork several times and put in the freezer for AT LEAST a half hour, preferably an hour. Crusts will keep for a few weeks if you want to make them ahead of time.

The traditional rim
Et voilà!


Step 7: Ta da! Now fill the inside!

Meringue makes for a pretty picture

 

Blueberry Pie

I made a blueberry pie a few days ago. Nothing special, but the crust came out amazing and I want to show it off. I also want to announce the crust tutorial I’m planning to post in the coming week. It took me a while to get this level of flaky crust perfection, and I’m ready to share!

Just the crust

Just the crust

I used the Pioneer Woman’s blueberry pie recipe and tweaked it to my taste. Not many changes really. I added half a teaspoon of cinnamon and was liberal with the lemon juice.

Egg wash

Egg wash

Raw sugar to add some delicious texture

Raw sugar to add some delicious texture

Finished product

Finished product

 

Fingerless Gloves

It’s been a little while since I last posted. I got busy in the last two months and neglected to update this little blog. The good news is that I managed to get some projects done!  And now that I have settled in to a new place (0ne of the many things that has been keeping me from posting) I’m hoping that will mean greater productivity.

I’m going to start off by posting these fingerless gloves:

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I am pretty pleased with the results. They are made with an alpaca and silk blend that is super soft. These are going to be my last fingerless gloves for a while because I realized that all I own are fingerless gloves. Not really practical in the “polar vortex.”

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I wanted to try a daintier pattern for these gloves, since I used such a a nice yarn. The scalloped edges on this one caught my eye and so far have gotten plenty of compliments. They were supposed to be shorter, but I’m fine with this length since it provides a little extra warmth. The button detail was also a nice touch the designer put in.

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Hot Cross “Wrist Warmers”

  • Pattern: ravelry
  • Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran (which is apparently discontinued)
  • Notions: Brass colored buttons
  • Adjustments: None.
  • Would I recommend it to other crocheters: Yes. It’s a really nice looking pattern. However, I clearly made some sort of mistake because they came out much longer than in the ravelry example. My guess is that the yarn I used was too thick. You can also see from the picture that I didn’t do such a neat job where the edges meet in the round. I have since done another project in the round with the same issue. I may be miscounting the stitches.

Vintage Blouse

This month, I decided to join a sew-along. I thought it would be a good way to stretch my new skills. Over at Seamstress Erin‘s, a bow blouse challenge is taking place and I gave a try. I chose a reproduction 60′s pattern from Simplicity. The only other pattern I had ever tried from that pattern company was the disastrous sheet dress I made as my first garment project. It all went surprisingly well this time. I chose to go a size up from the usual– 6 to 8–in order to get a looser fit. Cutting and pinning took an absurd amount of time, as usual, but sewing it was a piece of cake. It took the better part of an afternoon. And to be fair, it only took that long because Bright Star and Jane Eyre both happened to be on TV while I was sewing.

IMG_0403The most tedious part of sewing: cutting out the pattern.

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The point at which I realized I had not bought the zipper…

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Simplicity 2154: Secretary Blouse

  • Size: 8
  • Fabric: Flower print light cotton(?) with metallic detail
  • Lining: No, this project used facings.
  • Notions: Tiny black rosebud for neck detail, grey zipper
  • Adjustments: None.
  • Would I recommend it to other sewers: Absolutely. It was super easy to put together. I’m planning on making another one in a lighter fabric.
  • Techniques used/learned: rectangular facings, attaching a collar, invisible zipper.

Passionfruit Meringue Pie

Passionfruit is my absolute favorite of all flavors. You don’t usually see it in pies, but I am determined to make it a thing. A friend and I came up with this recipe and “tested” it three times. You know, for science.  It’s a special twist on the traditional lemon meringue pie . A little tart, a little sweet, and the buttery, flaky crust balances it all out.

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Passionfruit Meringue Pie + crust tutorial

Crust

  • 1 1/4 C of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 Tbsp of sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 Cup of ice-cold water

It is very important that both the water and butter are super cold. If the butter is all melt-y, your crust will not be as flaky in the end.

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Filling

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 5 Tbsp cornstarch (thickener)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Cup passionfruit pulp ( I used the Goya brand, found in the frozen food section of supermarket in a Hispanic neighborhood)
  • 1/2 lemon

First things first. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Pre-bake the crust using some kind of blind weight, like beans, over some foil for about 15 minutes, until golden edges appear. We used a pot as a weight. Don’t knock it till you try it.

Lower the temp to 350 for baking the pie.

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly mix in the milk until the cornstarch dissolves. Mix the egg yolks in a separate bowl. Let the milk mixture come to a boil gradually.

Being careful not to cook the eggs, mix about a cup of the milk mixture into the eggs, then pour this mixture back into the saucepan. Add passionfruit pulp. Let simmer while whisking for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Whisk with a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten it up.

Meringue

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 Cup sugar

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The meringue was hand-whisked. You pretty much whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar over a pot of boiling water (no direct heat!) and add the sugar gradually until you get this marshmallow-y and delicious white goop.

Take the pre-baked pie shell and fill it with the thickened passionfruit mixture. It should set pretty nicely. Smooth the meringue over the top and bake for 20 minutes, or until the meringue has a nice tan.

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For the Night is Dark and Full of (T)errors

I am proud to say that I went all out for Halloween this year. After more than a year of planning and postponing and sewing on and off, I finally finished my Melisandre costume. I have to say, I went through a lot of drama along the way. The sheer number of hurdles that this project presented should have put me off of costume making, but now that the finished product is in front of me I’m determined to make a costume every year. I posted earlier that my goal for next year is to be skilled enough to make a civil war era dress. I feel a lot more confident about that goal now!

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You might notice there is some bunching where the bodice and skirt meet in the front. One of the many issues that plagued me as I was making this costume.

Continue reading

Happy Halloween!

     This being my favorite holiday, I thought I’d whip up a quick post to show you something I made this week. I tend to go to a lot of Spanish food stores and I have found some interesting desserts and candies. By far one of the oddest is this pistachio gelatin:

Gelatina

     It’s not the flavor so much as the preparation. You add milk to it instead of water. I wouldn’t say it tastes like pistachios, but it has a pleasant candy flavor and it’s not too sweet.

 Pistachio Gelatin Zombie Brains

  • 1 Package of pistachio gelatin
  • 4 Cups of whole milk
  • 1 fun mold

     According to the Instructions you just boil the milk, add milk, and let it sit in the fridge until it sets. I brush the mold with a little bit of oil to make the gelatin come out easier. It comes out perfect every time.

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The Summer Dress

When I decided to try my hand at sewing a few months ago, I wasn’t sure if it was something that I would stick with. My main motivation was to add affordable vintage pieces to my wardrobe. My favorites are the silhouettes of the 1950′s and 1960′s. It’s not always easy to find vintage/reproduction pieces that fit my budget or my proportions. Since I am petite with a larger bust, sizing is an issue for me. Making my own clothes seemed like a step in the right direction.

I bought what is basically a toy sewing machine and I made the worst dress ever out of an old, drab sheet. I chose the smallest size and it came out comically huge.  I’m still not sure why the sizing was so off. The pattern is from the 90′s, so maybe it has something to do with the aesthetic of the time. Or maybe I made some error in my stitching. But honestly, even the most prudish church mouse wouldn’t wear such an unflattering sack. On top of all of this the “fabric” had a terrible drape, which made the fit even more awkward. Alright, so that does not sound like a roaring endorsement of sewing, but I was still hooked! I couldn’t believe that all the pattern pieces fit together. Or that I could makes sense of the facings. My mother was sufficiently impressed with my efforts that she gave me her Brother.

The pattern that started it all…

…and the resulting dress.

Armed with my awesome new machine and some basic skills, I tackled Butterick 5748. It’s a reproduction pattern from the 50′s. I admire the simplicity of the design. It’s a clean, classic look that ended up being a perfect intro to various techniques. The two most challenging aspects of this pattern were putting in the zipper and hemming the circle skirt. I thought the hemming would never end. And the tension in my machine must have been wrong for the light fabric, because my hem kept bunching up, making it extremely frustrating to sew. Overall, I’m very pleased with the fit and drape. I have plans to sew this one up again for my sister. When that time comes, I’ll post  a more detailed tutorial for this dress.

B5748

Front view. Much improved from dress #1, yes?

Back view, bow detail

Continue reading

Hooked

     A friend of mine taught me how to knit about 2 years ago.  I started off with a very simple project: a small scarf in stockinette stitch using a heather colored yarn. It took me months to complete it. I was amazed to find out that other people could knit whole scarves in mere hours.

     Needless to say, I’m not a very prolific knitter. I finished that scarf and started a shawl from a craftsy* class, but unraveled it when I found a better shawl pattern (and after I had to keep undoing the same mistake over and over). That’s it for my knitting portfolio.

     About three months ago, I learned to crochet using this book. To my surprise, it was all very straight forward. I made the flower first and felt confident starting some gloves. Soon enough, a cowl followed and then a beautiful collar.

The Deets

  • Yarn: 2 skeins of Wintuk from Thomas Hodgson & Sons, Inc.
  • Color: 5165 (medium gold)
  • Hook size: 4.25 mm
  • Projects completed: a collarcowl, and fingerless gloves

My first crotcheted collar!

My first crotcheted cowl

My first crotcheted gloves!

     I finished all these projects in just three weeks! Considering the unprecedented pace at which I crochet, I’ve become obsessed with all things crochet. Call me crazy, but I love feeling like I’m good at something. I have since tackled a more complicated pattern for fingerless gloves, and I made some mistakes that I’m going to make into a crochet trouble-shooting post very soon. To help me with figuring out new stitches, I used Youtube videos and the Lion Brand Crochet PDF. The latter is one of the best free resources out there. They also have a knitting version. I highly recommend it for any beginner.

     While my next couple of projects are going to be crocheted, I haven’t given up on knitting. The echo flower shawl is high up on my ravelry queue. If only I could manage to be a less clumsy knitter…

*I have several classes in craftsy classroom. Once I get through them, I’ll start posting reviews!

Guava Apple Crumble Pie

     On a little island in the Caribbean there is a quaint little cement house with my name inscribed in the concrete of the back porch. My grandfather wrote it there many years ago, perhaps thinking that I would live there someday, or at least visit often. Well, I no longer live in the balmy Caribbean and most of my close family has settled in the US. The house has largely become a distant, dreamy memory.

     What does all this nostalgia have to do with this blog? Well, the back porch that I mentioned is surrounded by fruit trees and other tropical plants. Guavas, acerola cherries, sugar cane, plantains, limes, oranges, avocados; you name it, it grows there. Those are the flavors I grew up with, even though I spent most of my life in the US.

     I like to think that by working on these recipes I’m melding two culinary traditions that are important to me; something in between what I would have eaten at the little cement house and what I learned when I first started baking in college…and it tastes a little something like this:

Not the best picture, granted, but by far the recipe I'm the most proud of.

Not the best picture, granted, but by far the recipe I’m the most proud of.

Guava-Apple Crumble Pie

An American classic with a streusel topping and  a tropical twist.

Crust:

     My go-to recipe is from the Joy of Baking website (cut in half because we only need the bottom crust). It never fails, but you must have the technique down. I’ve finally gotten it down after about two years of self-taught baking. I’ve gone through the trial and error so you don’t have to! It’s not difficult, it just takes practice. I’ll write a post later with tips for the perfect, flaky crust. I’ve adjusted the salt to my taste.

  • 1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Cup ice water

Filling:

  • 2 Large baking apples
  • 3-4 Guavas
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2-1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 1/4 Cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 Cup butter, melted

Instructions:

     Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients for the pie crust. Incorporate the butter chunks by hand (my preferred method), or using a food processor. The consistency should resemble corn meal. Add some cold water until the dough sticks together in a nice ball. Using a generous amount of flour, roll out the dough and place on the pie dish. Shape the edges, prick the bottom with a fork and leave in the freezer for 30 minutes.

     For the filling, mix the dry ingredients and set aside. Cut the apples and guavas into thin slices. Mix with the dry ingredients throughly and then add the vanilla and lemon juice.

     Mix the dry ingredients for the Streusel and pour in the melted butter until the mixture is well incorporated.

     Pour filling into the pie crust, and place streusel on top. Cover pie loosely with foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and continue baking for an additional 35 minutes.

Guava Apple Crumble 2

Up Next: Passionfruit Meringue Pie

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