Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Flakey All Butter Pie Crust

For years I happily made my pie crusts using only Crisco, oblivious to the lack of flavor, happy with how easy it was to work with and how flakey and tender it was. I was afraid that if I used butter my crusts would be tough. Then I found "Cook's Illustrated" magazine's recipe for pie crust that used a combination of butter and vegetable shortening, i.e. Crisco, and it was better tasting and still easy to make and flakey. Last year I decided that I was ready to move to an all butter crust and tried a couple of recipes. I was discouraged though, because they were tough. The flavor was definitely better, but I just didn't seem to have the knack of making pie crust even after all those years of practice with the Crisco training wheels. I went back to making the combined butter and Crisco crusts. Then Susan Karon sent me a link to the blog "Chez Pim" and Pim's all butter pie crust. Pim's inspiration was a recipe from Judy Rodger's "Zuni Cafe Cookbook". I have looked at a local bookstore for the cookbook, but they didn't have it and the library has been closed for over a week and so I couldn't find the original recipe. I changed Pim's ingredients a bit, but I used her technique. Making a crust using this recipe is easy as pie. The flour measurement is given by weight and volume. I weighed my flour. You will need a pastry scraper and a brush.
Thank you Susan for sending me the link that helped me over my all butter hurdle.

A Truly Flakey Tender All Butter Pie Crust
enough for one double crust or two single crust pies

250 grams/2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
225 grams/8 oz/ 1 cup cold unsalted butter
60 ml/1/4 cup ice water

Whisk the dry ingredients together and then dump them on your work surface. Cut the butter into large slices and place it on the flour.

Toss the butter and flour together so that the butter is coated with flour.
With the heal of one hand push on the butter and with the scraper toss flour onto the butter. You will be sliding your hand as you push onto the butter, working flour into the butter. You will keep pushing on the butter with your hand and flipping and tossing the flour with the scraper and then as they mix, flour and butter, onto your heap on the counter.

The butter will become thin flakes and when there are more buttery flakes than loose flour, stop. If some of your flakes are really big you may break them up a bit.

Make a well in the middle of your floury heap and pour the ice water into it. Quickly mix in the water with your finger tips. When the water is evenly mixed into the dough, scrape up the dough and fold it in half over itself. Do this until it holds together, pat it into a round, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Flour your work surface liberally, put the dough onto it, and flour the dough liberally also. Roll the dough into a longish rectangle.

Brush off the excess flour with the brush and then fold the dough into thirds on top of itself like you are folding a letter. The dough will crack and maybe break, but don't worry about it.

Flour your work surface and the dough and turn the dough 90º. Repeat the rolling into a rectangle and the folding, brushing before you fold.

Do this a total of 3 times. Refrigerate during the process if the day is hot and your dough is getting warm. The dough will become smooth and pliable.

Roll the dough one last time into a smaller rectangle and cut it in half.

Pat each half into a circle and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until you are ready to make your pie. You're done. Congratulations!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Butternut squash and white truffle oil mac and cheese

This recipe came about when Chris and I were in Richmond, VA and saw this intriguing sounding macaroni and cheese on the menu of a restaurant we went to. We decided to order something else, but come home and make it for ourselves. It's delicious. I use sharp cheddar for the recipe, but that's a personal preference.
  1. Slice half a butternut squash into 1/3" slices and cut so they are about bite size. Saute them lightly in olive oil with some sage and water. Set aside when done.
  2. Optional: take some slightly stale sourdough bread and make breadcrumbs. We keep the breadcrumbs separate from the macaroni and cheese until right before serving, as we realize if you sprinkle them on top of the dish, the next day they will not be crisp anymore.
  3. Grate 8oz of cheddar cheese. Set aside.
  4. Melt 3tbsp butter in a pot, stir in 3tbsp flour, and whisk over low heat for 3 minutes. Keep whisking and add (little by little) 2.5 cups of milk. Keep whisking until the sauce is about the thickness of cream. Salt to taste. Raise the heat to medium and stir continuously until the sauce begins to simmer. Lower the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes (stir occasionally). Turn the heat off and gradually stir in the cheese until it is fully incorporated.
  5. Boil al dente some pasta, I like to use cavatappi.
  6. Butter the dish and add in the pasta, butternut squash and cheese sauce. Mix all together and sprinkle a teaspoon of white truffle oil over the macaroni and cheese. Too much truffle oil will overwhelm the dish.
  7. Place in the oven at 400 Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool for five minutes, sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the individual servings.