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Stuff They Say Is Easy, But It Ain't


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#1 Gail Hughes

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 04:42 AM

I wonder if other e-Gulleteers have dishes in their repertoire that they had been led to believe were simple to prepare, but aren't.  Dishes that everyone around you purportedly toss off one-handed, while drunk, and you are alone in the universe in your inability to make the #### thing right.

Example:  Piecrust.  I just read an interview with Maida Heatter.  She laughs at the expression "easy as pie", contends that for her, good piecrust is one of the most difficult things to make ... that a souffle is easier.  This made me feel lots better, since after years of trying, I'm still a long way from a decent piecrust, never mind perfect.  No sooner do I think I've corralled all the technique tips there are to be had than I come across another.  (I.e., sprinkle pancake mix on your board instead of flour, the crust will taste better.)   I don't make truly awful piecrust anymore, but I still hold my breath until the first bite.  Will that ever come to an end?  

Another:  Chili.   I have held for a lifetime this image of the perfect chili, and it still eludes me.  From the number of crappy chili recipes that actually see print, I gotta wonder if there's something wrong with my head, that I can't pull it off.  There's so much to consider:  Meat vs. bean ratio (not to mention what kind(s) of beans), degree of thickness, and most of all, the perfect flavor balance ... and the more I think about it, the more I think the onions should be invisible.  Onion chunks in chili are nasty.   Still, I'm getting closer all the time.  The last batch was so close that I was depressed for days. Maybe in the next decade ...

Any similar experiences out there?


#2 Fat Guy

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 06:19 AM

Everything is more difficult if you're a perfectionist. Most people I know who say they make good pie crusts simlply have low standards for pie crusts. They make what is acceptable to them and assume it's good.

Me, I'm almost never satisfied with anything I cook. I mean, maybe once or twice a year I cook something and pronounce it truly exceptional. The rest of the time I take a couple of bites and lose interest. Then, later, I eat junk food instead.

That being said, the whole category of baking and pastry is very difficult to master from books. Making a textbook pie crust is decidedly not difficult, but it is difficult to learn how to do it unless you have access to someone who knows how to do it and can show you how. Even professional pastry chefs take classes in this sort of stuff, whereas non-pastry chefs pretty much never take any formal classes beyong culinary school (and not all of them even do that). It can take pages upon pages of text to describe what can be demonstrated quickly with the hands. And even with an ultra-lengthy textual description ala Jeffrey Steingarten's pie crust method there is a lot of ambiguity and room for misinterpretation. When people are interested in taking cooking classes, I always suggest they take baking and pastry classes because those are the most beneficial.

As for chili, I can tell you the problem there: You're using beans. :)


#3 Katherine

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 08:33 AM

I've found that many of the simplest recipes are dependent on little things, like the brand of flour you use, the temperature in your kitchen, and subtle technique variations, none of which the author may have put in the recipe.

#4 chefette

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 10:53 AM

very true Katherine.  what about the reverse of Gail's initial question:  techniques and dishes made to seem complicated--or presumed to be difficult--that, in actuality--aren't so difficult after all?

#5 helenas

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 01:50 PM

like puff pastry?

#6 Steve Klc

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 08:35 PM

On the supposedly difficult but actually pretty easy side:

1. making puff dough
   (certainly much easier than brioche or croissant to make);
2. tempering chocolate
   (so many food writers and food scientists who don't   know what they are doing have tried to explain);
3. souffles and liquid center chocolate cakes
   (no more difficult than brownies)
4. melting chocolate in the microwave
   (see #2 above)
5. pairing wines with desserts
6. making a real italian meringue buttercream
7. cooking a caramel dry and then deglazing
8. covering a cake with rolled fondant
9. foams and emulsions


on the supposedly easy but actually alot harder than one might think side:

1. creme brulee
   (not the bruleeing--just baking it properly.  oh, the bad creme brulees I've had);
2. ice cream and sorbet
   (very scientific, very difficult to do well, to do well consistently and to store for any length of time.  again, food writers have led us astray with the phrase 'freeze according to manufacturer's instructions');
3. toasting nuts in the oven
  ('not done, not done, not done--burnt');
4. grinding your own nut flour
   (good nut flours come from the squished, de-fatted nut cake after the oils have been pressed out.  impossible to do yourself);
5. getting a good dessert from a chef
   (or at least a dessert that is the equal of the cuisine that preceded it in terms of ingredient expense, thought, creativity and effort);
6. getting a decent espresso at a restaurant
7. using gelatin
   (80% of pastry chefs and bakers today don't understand the science behind using gelatin);
8. making a French meringue;
9. doing pastry in a professional restaurant kitchen
   (way too hot.  yes, most pastry work "spaces"--I hesitate to say "pastry kitchens"--are not air conditioned);
10.  ganache
     (some would have you believe a good ganache is just cream and chocolate--others that a good ganache is 'whipped')


#7 Katherine

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Posted 02 December 2001 - 08:42 PM

I like to reduce a recipe to its essential nature. Often, the more ingredients in a preparation, the more diluted the effect. Some of the best preparations are the simplest.

If you leaf through cookbooks regularly, you may notice this phenomenon:

Chapter 1. A discussion of the subject, its origin, ingredients, and techniques. Brief.

Chapter 2. A few authentic, or slightly modified authentic recipes for this food. Brief.

Chapter 3. Many modernized recipes, with long lists of trendy and difficult to get ingredients, seemingly randomly composed by a database program. Mostly pointless and unfocused. This shows most clearly the author's tastes, but little else. Very long chapter.



#8 Gail Hughes

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 03:56 AM

Quote: from Steve Klc on 10:35 pm on Dec. 2, 2001

10.  ganache
     (some would have you believe a good ganache is just cream and chocolate--others that a good ganache is 'whipped')

Which is it?  Both?  Neither?  What is the secret to a good ganache?

Gail


#9 Steve Klc

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 09:21 AM

Neither Gail--we got into ganache a little bit on a chocolate thread in Cooking, but could always get into it a little more over there!  Ganache is a very fragile suspension of water and fat molecules that is extremely temperature sensitive--and whipping it creates an airy, granular mess.

#10 NewYorkTexan

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 02:34 PM

I think most baked goods and desserts fall in this category.

The window between a dessert or baked item you are proud of and making something the dog will not even touch is small.  There is a degree of precision and accuracy for these items that you do not find in general cooking.  

If you start with really good ingredients, any decent cook can make an acceptable dish.  It may not be the perfect dish we strive for, but certainly very good.  With desserts and baked goods, so many nuances come into play, such as moisture, exact type of flour or chocolate, sugar content of the fruit, etc.   A slightest miscalculation and ones efforts will result in failure.

I personally find baking a good loaf of bread more rewarding than preparing a multi-course dinner party.  



#11 Lesley C

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 07:17 PM

Tarte Tatin

#12 Bux

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Posted 03 December 2001 - 11:16 PM

Aside from the fact that there's a pastry chef posting to the thread, it's interesting how often pastry comes up here. Pastry always seems like a black art akin to alchemy. You always hear of the "art of pastry," but there's a lot more science involved in dessert than in the main course. When hobbyists and homemakers are beset with failure in pies and cakes, they usually feel they need to develop a knack for what they are doing. I suspect it's often a scientific understanding of the process that's important. Once you have that and your pastry fails, you know you have to make a pact with the devil.

#13 mamster

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 10:42 AM

I'm suspicious of any claim in a cookbook that something is easy.  Of course some things are easier than others, but few things in cooking are easy the first time you try them, and too many cookbooks speak with the voice of the expert who can't remember what it was like to be a novice.

I've long had trouble with soup.  Everyone says soup is easy;  probably most of these people make one or two soups and have been doing so for years and refining their technique each time.  As I see it (and I realize it's silly to talk about all soups as if they were the same), with soup there are an unusual number of things that can go wrong, and one of them often does.  These days I mostly make Thai soups, since anything with that much lime juice, chiles, and fish sauce has to be at least pretty good.

And don't get me started on beef stew.


#14 Jason Perlow

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 12:40 PM

#Moderation Mode

Moved here


#15 Katherine

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Posted 04 December 2001 - 01:07 PM

Please do post about beef stew. There are so many right ways to make it...

How do you like it?


#16 helenas

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 10:28 AM

Artichokes? Although i don't know to what category they belong: deceptively easy or the other way around?
Honestly, i never tried to prepare them from scratch.
Although i like them very much, i always use olive oil marinated ones, sold in Wegmans Mediterranean deli section. Surprisingly enough, they turn pretty tasty both in gratins and braised chicken.

#17 Fat Guy

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Posted 05 December 2001 - 10:30 AM

Quote: from Katherine on 3:07 pm on Dec. 4, 2001
Please do post about beef stew. There are so many right ways to make it...

How do you like it?

With lamb. :)

#18 project

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Posted 05 January 2002 - 11:10 AM

Pie crust?

Well, I learned from my father.

He learned from his mother.

When she was cooking at her home, in West Valley,
NY, a little south of Buffalo, she made about one
pie a day.  Mostly she made apple pies, but there
were some occasional cherry, etc.

Yes, when my father taught my mother to make pies,
the crust was the hard part.

Long after I learned from my father, I read lots of
descriptions in books, American techniques, French
techniques, etc., and the books mostly didn't do
what my father did.

I think my father's pie crust is good for pie crust,
but it's not puff pastry or some such.

It's not a 'tart' or 'flan'.  Instead, it's "as
American as apple pie".  It's not what you might
serve at a state dinner or in one of the world's
best restaurants.  It is appropriate for someone
that is to make one pie a day, by hand, at home, to
feed their family.  It is pragmatic.  Still, done
well, it's tough to beat no matter what elaborate
gymnastics are performed.

For the flour, my father just used all-purpose.  For
the fat, he used just shortening (Crisco).  I did
some trials once, for a cherry pie, with lard, and
found that it can yield a better texture in the
final result.

My father used a wooden pastry board, not a marble
working surface, and he didn't wrap the dough and
let it rest, use butter, etc.

Yup, the idea is to get the crust tender and flaky.

Okay, for both of these, the big key is DON'T WORK
THE DOUGH VERY MUCH.  So, you are deliberately
leaving small chunks of fat.  These little chunks
are what become essentially the individual flakes.

To help with all of this, it helps to keep the dough
cool.  It's a little better to have a cool kitchen,
but you don't have wait for a blizzard, throw open
all the doors and windows, and make the crust
standing in snow up to your knees.  Actually, I grew
up in Memphis; we had lots of terrific apple pies
there, and the kitchen was never air conditioned.

Start with the Crisco from the refrigerator.  When
you add the water, add ice water (without the ice).
And, generally minimize how much your hands contact
the dough.  And, work quickly, and roll out the
dough only once.  If you make too many mistakes in
the rolling part and have to gather the dough and
roll it out a second time, then the results will be
much less good.  The crust will be tougher and less
flaky.

Now, to mix the fat and flour, don't do very much.
One option is to use a little hand-held 'pastry
blender':  This thing has a U-shaped piece of metal
with a wooden handle across the top of the U.  The
bottom of the U consists of about 5 parallel crude
blades.  So, with this thing, you can mash the flour
and fat and get them mixed together.  But, my father
and grandmother thought that such a tool was
over-kill, offered too little control, and risked
over-mixing the fat and flour.  So, they liked using
a dinner fork in one hand and a dinner knife in the
other.  So, maybe the fork is in the right hand --
it is held upside down from the usual way of holding
a fork.  Then the knife and fork just touch at their
sides and form an X in the bowl.  Some of the
mixture is against the tines of the fork, and you
pull the knife to the left and, thus, cut some of
the mixture.  No, the knife blade doesn't go between
the tines of the fork -- that's too intricate.  This
is AMERICAN pie crust, and we are pragmatic!  That
is just one blade cutting, no more.  Instead of a
knife and fork, it is also good just to use two
dinner knives.

Your goal is to get the fat into little pieces about
the size of a pea with flour all around.  Each such
pea will become one nice flake.  And, yes, there
will be some fat and flour not so neatly deployed --
that's okay.  But, when the largest piece of fat is
about the size of a pea, STOP cutting!  So, when you
are cutting, you don't just cut randomly or blindly.
Instead, at each cut, your target is the largest
piece of fat not yet cut.  That is, once you cut a
piece of fat, the cut surfaces get coated with flour
and then no longer want to stick together, and
partly that's what you want.  JUST DON'T CUT MUCH.

And, keep the mixture spread out in the bottom of
the bowl; you are not trying to form it into a ball
yet, and having the mixture spread out lets you
better see and control what is happening.  Or, once
some of the mixture is in a large clump, then you
can't see what is in the middle of the clump or get
to it to do things to it.

Then you add the ice water.  How much water depends
on the moisture content of your flour, and that
depends on the source of your flour, your kitchen,
the weather, etc.  But no matter:  You want only
just enough water to get the dough to hold together
just enough.

To add the water, just dribble it over the flour-fat
mixture.  Then use the knife and fork pair again
very gently to spread the wetter spots to the drier
ones.  Don't pull the mixture together into a ball
yet because once you have a ball, you can't
distribute anymore water into the mixture.  So,
until you are sure you have enough water, keep the
mixture loose in the bottom of the bowl.

When you have in enough water, with the moisture
distributed uniformly enough, use your fork to make
a rough ball; put some flour on your pastry board,
on your hands, and on top of the rough ball, reach
into the bowl, pull the dough together into a ball,
pressing enough to get it to stick together.

It's good to use your hands to squeeze the dough, no
harder than fairly gently, to encourage it to stick
together, but really MINIMIZE this handling.

Put the ball onto the pastry board on the flour.

Put some flour on top of the ball.

Maybe take out a few seconds to wash and dry your
hands.

Typically you will divide the dough into two pieces,
one for the top crust and one for the bottom.  To
divide the dough, just use your table knife to cut
it.  Then, for each of the two pieces, stick half of
the cut wet cut surface to its mirror image on the
other half of that cut wet surface so that all the
surface of the piece is dry with a coating of flour
again.  If one piece is a little bigger, then use it
for the bottom crust.

To roll out a piece, take a rolling pin, say, wooden
with a smooth cylinder and where the cylinder rolls
on an axle, and roll the dough into a rough circle.

In this rolling, you may have to (1) add flour to
the pastry board to keep the dough from sticking to
the pastry board, (2) add flour to the top of the
dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin,
(3) use a metal spatula with a straight edge to
remove dough stuck to the pastry board, (4) use your
table knife to remove dough stuck to your rolling
pin, (5) use a few drops of water and maybe a
dusting of flour as glue to rejoin torn places in
your dough.  That is, you have to use some common
sense.

And, before the dough circle gets very big and the
dough gets very thin, you should plan to put some
flour on top of the dough and turn it over.  During
the rolling operation, you may turn it over twice,
likely not more than three times.  This turning over
is the main way you have to get enough flour between
the dough and the pastry board.

Also, as the dough becomes thinner, the edges want
to crack and split.  My solution is to (1) generally
minimize how much rolling and pressing is done on
the edges and (2) occasionally use my hands to push
the edges back toward the center of the circle, thus
reducing the diameter of the circle and making the
edges a little thicker.

For rolling out the dough, (1) look at what you are
doing and see what the dough needs and what it
likely will do, (2) plan ahead a little on the work,
(3) work quickly, (4) practice.

That's my advice for the hard issues.

My father's apple pies were not done with fancy
techniques, but the pies were shockingly good.

He just put the bottom crust into the pie pan --
usually glass.  Then on top of the bottom crust in
the pie pan, he arranged the apple slices, sugar,
usually with some flour, and dots of butter.  So, he
didn't pre-bake the crust, pre-cook the filling, or
water-proof the crust.  He did pile the apples
fairly high in the center.  Then, as the pie baked,
the pile fell and the top crust fell and became
wrinkled -- looked plenty good enough and tasted
fantastic.

For an apple pie or other juicy fruit pie, it is
important to get a good seal around the edge between
the top and bottom crust and to crimp the edge and
have it stand as a dam against the juices.

But, with a good crust, the crimped edge will be
nicely flaky and plenty nice to eat.

My experience is that using lard gives a flakier
crust but that handling is more difficult because
heat from hands can more easily cause the lard to
soften and the crust to fall apart.

It's not puff pastry or 'thousand leaves', etc., but
it is 'pie crust', and it's plenty good.

And, yes, a souffle is easier.  Of course, if you
want to get the souffle texture just right, smooth,
firm, not like scrambled eggs, then a souffle gets
hard, at least until someone gives you the secrets
there!  The many souffle recipes in my cooking
library don't even mention 'texture'.

Uh, for any leftover dough, roll it out, top it with
sinfully generous amounts of sugar, butter, and
cinnamon, bake it, and eat it before others come
running!

Of course, this food is fine if your days are spent
working on a farm, especially in cold weather.
Growing up, my father could eat apple pie as part of
breakfast and then again as part of dinner, one or
both times with sharp chedder cheese.  Between the
two, it's good to milk some cows, shovel some snow,
load some hay, repair some fences, chop some fire
wood, break for lunch with some apple cider, etc.



#19 Gail Hughes

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Posted 06 January 2002 - 09:03 AM

from project on 1:10 pm on Jan. 5, 2002
Pie crust? ...(snip) ...That's my advice for the hard issues.

Many, many thanks for this lengthy note, C-Esc!  I'm thrilled to know that I'm pretty much on the right track as your Dad knew it.  I didn't know about turning the rolled-out crust over during the rolling, though.

Gail


#20 oraklet

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 02:39 AM

searching for advice on pie crust, i found this beautyful thread, with project's absolutely wonderful post. thank you ever so much, project!

:smile: :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile:





edited for the usual spelling mistakes.

Edited by oraklet, 22 November 2002 - 02:39 AM.

christianh@geol.ku.dk. just in case.

#21 jaybee

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 05:02 AM

Lesley C
Tarte Tatin


For me, the hardest part is/was getting the caramel right. When someone gave me the tip to set the caramel first in ice water when it reaches the right color, the problem was solved. Until then, my results were inconsistent. And Granny Smith's always (unless you can get the right French apple). And Normandy butter...and baste with the juices while cooking on stove top (thanks Julia Child).

Thank you Project for that pie crust procedure and recipe. It is sorely needed by me. :biggrin:

#22 GordonCooks

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 05:51 AM

Pie crust?<p>Well, I learned from my father.<p>He learned from his mother.<p>When she was cooking at her home, in West Valley,
NY, a little south of Buffalo, she made about one
pie a day.  Mostly she made apple pies, but there
were some occasional cherry, etc.<p>Yes, when my father taught my mother to make pies,
the crust was the hard part.<p>Long after I learned from my father, I read lots of
descriptions in books, American techniques, French
techniques, etc., and the books mostly didn't do
what my father did.<p>I think my father's pie crust is good for pie crust,
but it's not puff pastry or some such.<p>It's not a 'tart' or 'flan'.  Instead, it's "as
American as apple pie".  It's not what you might
serve at a state dinner or in one of the world's
best restaurants.  It is appropriate for someone
that is to make one pie a day, by hand, at home, to
feed their family.  It is pragmatic.  Still, done
well, it's tough to beat no matter what elaborate
gymnastics are performed.<p>For the flour, my father just used all-purpose.  For
the fat, he used just shortening (Crisco).  I did
some trials once, for a cherry pie, with lard, and
found that it can yield a better texture in the
final result.<p>My father used a wooden pastry board, not a marble
working surface, and he didn't wrap the dough and
let it rest, use butter, etc.<p>Yup, the idea is to get the crust tender and flaky.<p>Okay, for both of these, the big key is DON'T WORK
THE DOUGH VERY MUCH.  So, you are deliberately
leaving small chunks of fat.  These little chunks
are what become essentially the individual flakes.<p>To help with all of this, it helps to keep the dough
cool.  It's a little better to have a cool kitchen,
but you don't have wait for a blizzard, throw open
all the doors and windows, and make the crust
standing in snow up to your knees.  Actually, I grew
up in Memphis; we had lots of terrific apple pies
there, and the kitchen was never air conditioned.<p>Start with the Crisco from the refrigerator.  When
you add the water, add ice water (without the ice).
And, generally minimize how much your hands contact
the dough.  And, work quickly, and roll out the
dough only once.  If you make too many mistakes in
the rolling part and have to gather the dough and
roll it out a second time, then the results will be
much less good.  The crust will be tougher and less
flaky.<p>Now, to mix the fat and flour, don't do very much.
One option is to use a little hand-held 'pastry
blender':  This thing has a U-shaped piece of metal
with a wooden handle across the top of the U.  The
bottom of the U consists of about 5 parallel crude
blades.  So, with this thing, you can mash the flour
and fat and get them mixed together.  But, my father
and grandmother thought that such a tool was
over-kill, offered too little control, and risked
over-mixing the fat and flour.  So, they liked using
a dinner fork in one hand and a dinner knife in the
other.  So, maybe the fork is in the right hand --
it is held upside down from the usual way of holding
a fork.  Then the knife and fork just touch at their
sides and form an X in the bowl.  Some of the
mixture is against the tines of the fork, and you
pull the knife to the left and, thus, cut some of
the mixture.  No, the knife blade doesn't go between
the tines of the fork -- that's too intricate.  This
is AMERICAN pie crust, and we are pragmatic!  That
is just one blade cutting, no more.  Instead of a
knife and fork, it is also good just to use two
dinner knives.<p>Your goal is to get the fat into little pieces about
the size of a pea with flour all around.  Each such
pea will become one nice flake.  And, yes, there
will be some fat and flour not so neatly deployed --
that's okay.  But, when the largest piece of fat is
about the size of a pea, STOP cutting!  So, when you
are cutting, you don't just cut randomly or blindly.
Instead, at each cut, your target is the largest
piece of fat not yet cut.  That is, once you cut a
piece of fat, the cut surfaces get coated with flour
and then no longer want to stick together, and
partly that's what you want.  JUST DON'T CUT MUCH.<p>And, keep the mixture spread out in the bottom of
the bowl; you are not trying to form it into a ball
yet, and having the mixture spread out lets you
better see and control what is happening.  Or, once
some of the mixture is in a large clump, then you
can't see what is in the middle of the clump or get
to it to do things to it.<p>Then you add the ice water.  How much water depends
on the moisture content of your flour, and that
depends on the source of your flour, your kitchen,
the weather, etc.  But no matter:  You want only
just enough water to get the dough to hold together
just enough.<p>To add the water, just dribble it over the flour-fat
mixture.  Then use the knife and fork pair again
very gently to spread the wetter spots to the drier
ones.  Don't pull the mixture together into a ball
yet because once you have a ball, you can't
distribute anymore water into the mixture.  So,
until you are sure you have enough water, keep the
mixture loose in the bottom of the bowl.<p>When you have in enough water, with the moisture
distributed uniformly enough, use your fork to make
a rough ball; put some flour on your pastry board,
on your hands, and on top of the rough ball, reach
into the bowl, pull the dough together into a ball,
pressing enough to get it to stick together.<p>It's good to use your hands to squeeze the dough, no
harder than fairly gently, to encourage it to stick
together, but really MINIMIZE this handling.<p>Put the ball onto the pastry board on the flour.<p>Put some flour on top of the ball.<p>Maybe take out a few seconds to wash and dry your
hands.<p>Typically you will divide the dough into two pieces,
one for the top crust and one for the bottom.  To
divide the dough, just use your table knife to cut
it.  Then, for each of the two pieces, stick half of
the cut wet cut surface to its mirror image on the
other half of that cut wet surface so that all the
surface of the piece is dry with a coating of flour
again.  If one piece is a little bigger, then use it
for the bottom crust.<p>To roll out a piece, take a rolling pin, say, wooden
with a smooth cylinder and where the cylinder rolls
on an axle, and roll the dough into a rough circle.<p>In this rolling, you may have to (1) add flour to
the pastry board to keep the dough from sticking to
the pastry board, (2) add flour to the top of the
dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin,
(3) use a metal spatula with a straight edge to
remove dough stuck to the pastry board, (4) use your
table knife to remove dough stuck to your rolling
pin, (5) use a few drops of water and maybe a
dusting of flour as glue to rejoin torn places in
your dough.  That is, you have to use some common
sense.<p>And, before the dough circle gets very big and the
dough gets very thin, you should plan to put some
flour on top of the dough and turn it over.  During
the rolling operation, you may turn it over twice,
likely not more than three times.  This turning over
is the main way you have to get enough flour between
the dough and the pastry board.<p>Also, as the dough becomes thinner, the edges want
to crack and split.  My solution is to (1) generally
minimize how much rolling and pressing is done on
the edges and (2) occasionally use my hands to push
the edges back toward the center of the circle, thus
reducing the diameter of the circle and making the
edges a little thicker.<p>For rolling out the dough, (1) look at what you are
doing and see what the dough needs and what it
likely will do, (2) plan ahead a little on the work,
(3) work quickly, (4) practice.<p>That's my advice for the hard issues.<p>My father's apple pies were not done with fancy
techniques, but the pies were shockingly good.<p>He just put the bottom crust into the pie pan --
usually glass.  Then on top of the bottom crust in
the pie pan, he arranged the apple slices, sugar,
usually with some flour, and dots of butter.  So, he
didn't pre-bake the crust, pre-cook the filling, or
water-proof the crust.  He did pile the apples
fairly high in the center.  Then, as the pie baked,
the pile fell and the top crust fell and became
wrinkled -- looked plenty good enough and tasted
fantastic.<p>For an apple pie or other juicy fruit pie, it is
important to get a good seal around the edge between
the top and bottom crust and to crimp the edge and
have it stand as a dam against the juices.<p>But, with a good crust, the crimped edge will be
nicely flaky and plenty nice to eat.<p>My experience is that using lard gives a flakier
crust but that handling is more difficult because
heat from hands can more easily cause the lard to
soften and the crust to fall apart.<p>It's not puff pastry or 'thousand leaves', etc., but
it is 'pie crust', and it's plenty good.<p>And, yes, a souffle is easier.  Of course, if you
want to get the souffle texture just right, smooth,
firm, not like scrambled eggs, then a souffle gets
hard, at least until someone gives you the secrets
there!  The many souffle recipes in my cooking
library don't even mention 'texture'.<p>Uh, for any leftover dough, roll it out, top it with
sinfully generous amounts of sugar, butter, and
cinnamon, bake it, and eat it before others come
running!<p>Of course, this food is fine if your days are spent
working on a farm, especially in cold weather.
Growing up, my father could eat apple pie as part of
breakfast and then again as part of dinner, one or
both times with sharp chedder cheese.  Between the
two, it's good to milk some cows, shovel some snow,
load some hay, repair some fences, chop some fire
wood, break for lunch with some apple cider, etc.<p>

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#23 cakewalk

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 05:51 AM

3. toasting nuts in the oven
  ('not done, not done, not done--burnt');

Oh the joy of recognition! :biggrin:

#24 maggiethecat

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 11:54 AM

On the supposedly difficult but actually pretty easy side:

1. making puff dough
   (certainly much easier than brioche or croissant to make);

Steve: How true! We spent numberless years being intimidated by puff pastry, only to try again recently. It is NOT HARD, and the results pay back enormously for the effort spent.

And oh! the glorious feeling of having puff pastry in the freezer. (Chicken pot pie tonight!)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."
Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com


#25 Marlene

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 12:40 PM

Ceasar salad dressing - by hand like they do in restaurants

pie crust

bread without a machine

making candy either to runny or rock hard even with a candy thermometer

oddly enough, I have toasting nuts in an oven down to a science. LOL
Marlene
cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.
Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

#26 stagis

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 01:37 PM

Pretzels... I know, I know...we're back to the bread/pastry complaint, but..sheesh. Turns out that when I'm mad enough, I still have a pretty good pitching arm.....

Chili's easy - if you ain't aiming for a specific result ;)

My problem - spaghetti sauce! How in the hell do you get it thick? I know that sounds stupid, but I"ll have this beautiful pot of bubbling ooze, heavenly scents abounding, red wine flowing - and when I put it on pasta, it all falls thorough... *sigh*

#27 stagis

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 01:44 PM

I'll take the 'american as apple pie another step, even if this isn't an american salad)
Caesar dressing (and salmonella be damned):

One tin of anchovies (American tin - what's that? 2 ounces?) well-rinsed and roughly chopped. That means I peel off the lif of the tin and hold it under running water. Anchovies onto the cutting board, literally roughly chopped.....maybe 1/4" long pieces?

Anchovies into the hand-smoosher thing...OK - now I'm losing track...mortar and pestle

1 egg into the mortar and pestle

Lots of pepper into the - you get it...

1/4 cup of oil or so

touch of ground mustard powder...

Way too much garlic - maybe 5-6 cloves if you're having company - more if not.

Um - smoosh it. Pestle it?

rip up the head of romaine lettuce with your hands and put into a large bowl

Pour the dressing over it.

Add way too much parmesan and way too many boxed croutons.

Heaven.

Substitutions? *grin* Don't flame me....I'll eat anything:
prepared mustard
anchovy paste
all kinds of lettuce
add onions
I actually made homemade croutons once...

#28 LESider

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 03:16 PM

Whoever said Soup , I'm in agreement. I can cook lots of things but with soup I'm inconsistent.

#29 sparrowgrass

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Posted 22 November 2002 - 05:39 PM

Oh, the pie post was lovely. I would just add that the thing that always made me crazy was picking the crust up and getting it into the pan without tearing it or having it fall to pieces.

If you very gently roll it up onto the rolling pin, you can lift it right over the pan and roll it right in.
sparrowgrass

#30 Kerouac1964

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Posted 23 November 2002 - 02:44 PM

Here is a good soft pretzel recipe that I made on the very first try!!

They taste darn close to the commercial ones I get at the mall.


Auntie Anne's Pretzels
----------
Recipe By :www.copykat.com
Categories : Copycat Snacks

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse salt -- to taste
2 -4 tbsp butter -- melted


Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl, stir to dissolve.
Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve; add flour and knead dough until
smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.
While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups
warm water and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Be certain to stir often.
After dough has risen, pinch off bits of dough and roll into a long
rope (about 1/2 inch or less thick) and shape. Dip pretzel in soda
solution and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise
again. Bake in oven at 450º for about 10 minutes or until golden.
Brush with melted butter and enjoy!


Toppings~~After you brush with butter sprinkle with coarse salt or
cinnamon sugar mixture.