Perfect Pie Crust At Your Fingertips

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Let’s face it: few things are as loved and as feared as homemade pie crust.

We love it because at its best, it’s perfectly flaky, yet perfectly tender, and it reminds us of Grandma and the comforts of home. But many novice bakers have avoided mastering this kitchen repertoire staple because it has the reputation of being very difficult.

The truth is, pie crust is a little tricky, but not nearly as scary as it may seem. Let’s walk through some of the basics that will help you make a perfect pie crust from scratch.

Fats

Some people love butter, others prefer vegetable shortening, and still others swear by lard. You can use any or a combination of all of these fats. Butter doesn’t give pastry quite the flakiness that shortening does, but the flavor is much richer. Shortening generally makes the dough a little easier to handle, but you do sacrifice some flavor. Lard produces a flaky crust as well. Combinations of fats often create the best results.

Keep Ingredients Cold

Whether you opt for shortening or use Grandma’s recipe that calls for lard, one secret to flaky crust is to keep your ingredients cold. Flaky crust is created by pieces of un-melted fat rolled between layers of flour, which then melt during the baking process, leaving crispy pockets. Chill fats, water and even your flour thoroughly to maximize flakiness.

Mix Properly

Cut fats into dry ingredients before adding liquids. Using a pastry blender, a couple of forks, or the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, combine fats and dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. Then add cold water a bit at a time until the dough holds together. Don’t overwork your dough. Too much kneading will make it tough.

Flour Thoroughly

Be sure to flour your work surface before rolling out the dough. The last thing you want is for your perfectly rolled pastry to stick to the counter top! Dust the surface liberally with flour, and rub flour on your rolling pin, as well. Alternately, you can roll crust between pieces of parchment paper.

Handle With Care

Don’t handle the dough any more than necessary. Heat from your hands will transfer to the pastry, causing the fats to melt and sabotaging your flaky texture. To safely transfer your dough to the pie plate, gently roll it up over the rolling pin and slide it off into place.

Chill Before Baking

Pie dough has a tendency to lose its chill once its been rolled, shaped and fitted to the pie plate. It never hurts to pop the entire plate, dough and all, into the freezer for one last chill. Thirty minutes in the freezer will allow the fats to solidify again and help keep the dough from shrinking once it goes into the oven.

‘Baking Blind’

For pies with a cream filling, you will need to pre-bake your pie shell, also known as “baking blind.” To keep the crust from shrinking in the pan, it’s helpful to line your formed shell with a piece of parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights or dry beans. Remove them before cooling.

Top Crust

Don’t attempt to put a top crust over warm pie filling. Your dough is essentially glued together with butter and water and will quickly fall apart if placed over hot filling. Also, some recipes call for an egg wash, which will give your crust an attractive shine. Another option is a milk wash, which is often paired with a sprinkling of sugar to create a nicely browned crust.

So break out your rolling pin, tie on that favorite apron and stride confidently into the kitchen. You’ve got this! With these helpful hints and a bit of practice, you’ll be serving up your own perfect pie crust in no time.

5 Ways to Get More Veggies in Your Diet

 

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We all know that veggies are good for us, and many of us probably don’t get the recommended two cups per day like we should. So how can we “veg-load” our meals? A person can only eat so much salad, right? Fortunately, there are many options for increasing your vegetable intake. These are some of our favorites.

1. Shred Your Veggies

We like to shred squash, eggplant, and other vegetables and mix them into hamburgers for summer cookouts. The veggies will keep the meat moist and juicy, while also bringing added nutrition and fiber to the dinner plate.

2. Multiply Your Measurements

One super easy way to get more veggies in your diet is to bump up the amounts of veggies in your recipe. Making minestrone? Why not double the spinach and carrots? Pizzas, casseroles and pasta are also ideal candidates for extra veggies, like this Whole Grain All Star Pizza.

3. Veg Up Your Smoothies

One of the great things about smoothies is that they are so flexible. You can combine any number of fruits to make a delicious smoothie, but you can also load them up with veggies without losing that fruity flavor! A handful of spinach, kale, arugula, chard or even celery leaves into a fruit smoothie pumps up the nutrients in your glass.

4. Prep Your Snacks

Make snacking on the good stuff easy with a little preparation. Wash and cut several days’ worth of your favorite veggies into snack-size pieces, and store in the refrigerator next to your favorite dip. Try Clabber Girl blogger Savory Simple’s recipe for Roasted Garlic White Bean Hummus. Be sure to stash the veggies at eye level so this healthy option is the first thing you see when the munchies strike!

5. Supercharge Your Sweets

Bake your way to more vegetable servings. Quick breads made with pumpkin, zucchini and sweet potato are great options. We love these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and this recipe for Sweet Potato Walnut Bread. You’ll find other delicious variations, as well as treats like our Carrot Cheesecake Sheet Cake in the Clabber Girl Recipe Box.

13 Kitchen Superstitions Plus One

Friday 13 rubber stampLook out! It’s Friday the 13th and you know what that means: bad luck. Or at least that’s what the superstitious among us may think. But the kitchen is not immune to the influence of old wives’ tales and superstition. Though they vary from place to place, depending on culture, food superstitions might just be one of the things kitchens around the world have in common.  Check out our list of crazy kitchen superstitions from near and far.

Salt

Have you ever seen Grandma throw a bit of salt over her shoulder? That’s because spilling salt is considered to be bad luck, and the remedy is to toss a pinch of it over your left shoulder. Not only that, but in Greek lore it’s believed that if you sprinkle salt behind an unwanted guest, it will cause the person to leave.

Noodles

In parts of China, long noodles are believed to symbolize long life. So, it’s considered bad luck to cut noodles when eating.

Knives & Hot Peppers

It’s been said that you should never hand a knife or a hot pepper to someone, or it will cause strife in the relationship. Rather, set the items down for the other person to pick up. We don’t know about strife, but at least in the case of the knife, it’s probably safer.

Garlic

Sure, you knew it would keep the vampires away, but did you also know that European folklore holds that garlic will ward off the “evil eye?”

13 Dinner Guests

In France, it is long believed to be bad luck to have 13 guests for dinner.  So serious are the French about this that they are known to hire a professional dinner guest, known as a quatorzieme, to round the number to 14. Quatorzieme literally means “fourteenth.” How do we get that job?

Bread

European bakers often cut a cross in the top of their rustic loaves of bread. It stems from the belief that the mark would keep the devil from sitting on the loaf and causing it to fall.  We don’t know about that, but it’s probably a good idea to make sure your yeast or baking powder is fresh!

Bananas

Bananas have long been associated the bane of boats. Fishermen and sailors believe them to be bad luck to have on board.

Rosemary

Need to keep the witches at bay? A pot of rosemary at your door is said to do the trick.  We must concur, as we have a pot of rosemary and we’ve never had any trouble with witches at all!

Tea

While undissolved sugar at the bottom of your teacup means someone is in love with you, that good fortune may be quickly dashed if you put milk to your tea first.  Legend says that love never comes to those who add milk before sugar.  So stir, stir, stir your sugar until it’s all dissolved… and then add the milk.

Eggs

After cracking an egg, one must crush the eggshell.  Otherwise a witch will come, collect the pieces, construct a boat and wreak havoc on the seas.  That must be one tiny witch!

So right about now you are shaking your head at all of these silly superstitions from far-off lands.  Don’t think we fall for that sort of thing? What about these…

Rice

It’s pretty common knowledge that it’s good luck to throw rice at newlyweds. These days, this has given way to bubbles, birdseed, and the like. But still, you knew what we were talking about, right?

Birthday Cake

And who doesn’t try to blow out all of those birthday candles in one breath? We know we do. Every time. Because that’s the only way our birthday wish will come true. The good news is, even if we fail, hey there’s cake!

Black-Eyed Peas

Also in the good luck department are black-eyed peas, traditionally consumed on New Year’s Day for good luck in the coming year.

And because we don’t want any sort of French bad luck, we felt it appropriate to add one extra superstition to round out our list at an even 14…

Wishbone

Last, but certainly not least, the wishbone from our Thanksgiving turkey.  Whoever gets the big side will have her wish granted, so it’s game on once the bird has been carved, right?

Mocha Tres Leches Cake

Mocha Tres Leches CakeYvette Marquez-Sharpnack from Muy Bueno represented Clabber Girl at Hispanicize 2014.  Her time in Miami inspired the flavors of this Tres Leches Mocha Cake.  She writes:

“I developed this dessert, because it reminds me of my trip to Hispanicize— it’s sweet, spicy, and fabulous, just like Miami. This mocha tres leches cake is rich and moist and has unique flavors with the addition of coffee and a spicy kick of cayenne pepper. What I love most about tres leches cakes is that they are sliced and served directly from the pan with no need to invert the pan. That is always my biggest fear when it comes to baking. I’ve had many cake disasters as I flipped them on a serving platter. Tres leches is very forgiving and the whipped cream over the top covers up any flaws.”

Serve a slice with fresh raspberries for a stand alone treat or a grand finale after a special dinner.

This mocha tres leches cake is rich and moist and has unique flavors with the addition of coffee and a spicy kick of cayenne pepper.

For the recipe and to see a video of her presentation at Hispanicize, click here: http://www.muybuenocookbook.com/2014/06/mocha-tres-leches-cake-hispanicize-recap/

Fresh Ideas for Fresh Herbs

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One of the things we love about summer is the abundance of fresh ingredients. Whether we visit the farmers’ market, or grow our own, nothing beats locally grown fruits, veggies, and herbs. Fresh herbs are a particular treat this time of year because they’re way more economical than buying a few small sprigs at the grocery store—like we had to do all winter—and they bring an intensity of flavor that simply screams summertime.

One of the most commonly used baking herbs is rosemary, and with good reason! The aroma of rosemary baked goods is enough to make us swoon, and the flavor of fresh rosemary in a savory bread is off-the-charts delicious. We combined chopped rosemary with a little lemon zest to make simple biscuits extra fresh this spring. You could also try Mani Niall’s recipe for Bacon, Gruyere and Rosemary Scones, a Clabber Girl favorite. It’s bacon, rosemary and cheese combined into golden wedges of bliss.

Chives are another summertime favorite. We love adding freshly snipped chives to some of our savory favorites like these Chive and Buttermilk Griddle Cakes. And the pretty purple blossoms make fantastic garnishes!

Though most often associated with Italian cooking, basil gives all kinds of dishes a fresh, summery flair. We love it in everything from bruschetta to pesto, but basil is also a great addition to obvious choices like focaccia, as well as these Herb Biscuits.

The rule of thumb for substituting fresh herbs in place of dried is to multiply the measurement of dried herbs by three. For instance, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of dried basil, use three tablespoons of chopped fresh basil. But if you like your biscuits even more herby, then add a little extra! Or, double up the flavor by adding chopped fresh herbs to your butter.

Is your mouth watering yet? Same here. So make the most of the summer’s bounty of herbs!