Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Challenges

Hello, everyone.  I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while.  We had a wrench thrown into our lives.  My daughter was diagnosed as severely gluten-intolerant.  I have had to learn a whole new way to cook.  Having a background in and love of cooking has helped tremendously.  Little by little I am getting a handle on this.  I have had some serious failures, like the 24 cannonballs that should have been rolls, but I have had some real successes as well.  The funny thing is, when we went gluten-free my arthritis and nerve pain disappeared.  Gluten problems are genetic, so I guess we know where she got it from.

I don't have any intention of turning this into a gluten-free blog.  There are some wonderful blogs out there that I have come to rely on as I learn.  I will give gluten-free options for any recipes I do, except regular bread and such.

My previous post was about pie and I promised to write about making pie crust.  That is what I will do today.  Here is my most recent pie, an apple beauty.  Yes, it is gluten-free.

If you have a food processor pie crust couldn't be easier.  If you don't, you can still make it, but it can be a bit trickier.  Pie crust freezes beautifully, so if you are going to make some just make extra and freeze it.  

Basic pastry dough is just flour, fat, and liquid.  There are lots of variations, but those are the only necessary ingredients.  The trick is cutting the fat into little bits in the flour.  This allows them to melt while baking and create pockets and layers.  That is what makes pie crust flaky.  The real trick is to not allow the fat to melt until it goes into the oven.  Everything should be very cold when making pie crust and you should touch it as little as possible.  Your skin will melt the fat, plus overworking will make it tough because you will activate the gluten.  That is why a food processor is great.  It cuts everything in and mixes it up in a couple of pulses.  Food processors create heat when they spin quickly, so be quick and don't let it just run.  Pulse, pulse, pulse.

For your fat you can use butter, shortening, margarine, or lard.  Don't discount lard out of hand.  It has less cholesterol than butter and it isn't hydrogenated like shortening.  It really doesn't matter which you use, or you can use a combination.  I tend to combine butter and shortening just because I like the flavor.  When I use shortening I always measure it out first and pop it in the freezer to get cold while I measure everything else.  

For your liquid you can use milk or water.  Milk will create a tender crust and water will create a flakier crust.  Just make sure it is literally ice cold.  I fill a bowl with ice and add water.  Then I just measure out what I need from the bowl.

Here are the basic ingredients for my husband's grandmother's vinegar pie crust:

1 cup flour
1 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoon vinegar
pinch of salt

I often use only 1 teaspoon of vinegar and then add whatever water is needed.

My grandmother always said, "Pie crust is as easy as 1-2-3.  1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons shortening, and 3 tablespoons milk or water."  The problem is she used a coffee cup and a huge kitchen spoon to measure.  She also forgot to tell us she always added a dash of vinegar.  We didn't know that for many years.  I figured out measurements based on watching her.  

1 1/4 cup flour
4 tablespoons shortening
1 tablespoon butter (you can use another tablespoon of shortening instead of the butter)
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water
1/4 teaspoon vinegar

Whatever recipe you try just follow the basic method and remember the amount of water will vary depending on the humidity in your home.  It can be different every day of the week.

Put your flour (and salt or sugar, if using) into the bowl of your food processor.  Add the shortening or butter.  Make sure the butter is cubed and both are very cold.  Put the lid on and pulse the machine a few times until the shortening is in small pieces, the size of a pea or smaller.  Add the vinegar and half of the water.  Pulse a few times.  If the mixture is dry add another tablespoon of water and pulse a couple times again.  Do this, adding more water, until the dough just begins to form around the blade.  This should be a very quick process.  

Put a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough onto it, scraping everything out of the bowl and off the blade.  Without touching the dough directly, pick up the edges of the plastic and form the dough into a disk while quickly wrapping it.  Put the dough into the refrigerator of 30 minutes or up to several days.  At this point you can freeze the dough.

When you are ready to roll the dough put a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper on the counter.  Spray it lightly with cooking spray.  Take the dough out and unwrap it.  Put it in the center of the paper and put the plastic back over the top.  Roll out the dough between the paper and the plastic.  This can be done on a floured board with a floured rolling pin, but I don't like to add extra flour.  This method works particularly well for gluten-free dough.  You can turn the paper to get the dough to roll out evenly.  When it is the size you want, lay your pie plate upside down on it, pick up the parchment paper, and flip it all over.  Carefully press the dough into the pan and remove the paper.  Cut the dough edges until they just hang over the edge and flute the edges however you like.  You can always just press it lightly with a fork for a decorative edge.

You can fill the dough with your filling of choice for baking, or you can prebake it.  Some pies don't get baked after the filling is added, like lemon meringue or chocolate cream.  For those you want to line the shell with parchment and fill the parchment with dried beans or rice.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove the paper and beans and bake for another 10 minutes.  Save the beans or rice for the next pie. 

It only takes a couple of minutes to roll out a crust.  Making several ahead and putting them in the freezer is simple too.  Take it out to defrost in the morning or the night before.  It will defrost in the refrigerator while you are at work or overnight.  These crusts can be used for quiche and pot pies as well.   Once you get the hang of it you will never go back.  Store bought crust just doesn't taste the same.

Gluten Free Pie Crust from Gluten,Wheat, and Dairy Free by Love Food

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon gluten-free flour blend
large pinch of salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon fat (margarine, butter, shortening)
1 egg yolk
3 to 6 tablespoons of cold water

Use the same method above.  Add the egg yolk with the first 3 tablespoons of water.