Pie Dough

 

DSC_7053
Look at those layers of flaky goodness

After that post the other day, I realized I need to be doing this blogging thing more often. Mind you, I come to that realization once or twice a week, and you can see how well that’s been working. Anyway enough about me, let’s talk about you for a change.
How quickly did you shudder when you saw the title of this post? “Pie crust?? But isn’t that super hard? Its an unattainable food item, that will forever be relegated to super chefs, like Nossi Fogel, the likes of which will never be reached by me, a mere mortal.” Well my friend I’m here to tell you that I too once felt that way, but with a little tenacity and only 5 payments of $9.99, pie crusts can be yours too.
So where to begin…first thing first after all the many attempts to get you to purchase a scale, I can only assume you haven’t yet…well here’s your chance to right this ship. This pie dough is really very easy, provided you have a scale. Then again so is practically everything else in the kitchen, such as making custard, which is how you would make a quiche, which spoiler alert: is going to be the next post…sometime in the distant future.
Ok so now that a scale had been procured, the ratio that Michael Ruhlman uses is the 3:2:1 pie dough. 3 parts flour, to 2 parts fat, to 1 part water. So for all you Rhode scholars out there, if say you were using 100 grams of butter, you would need 150 grams of flour, and 50 grams of water. I think you can appreciate how easy and customizable that is if you have a scale, right? So I don’t have to convince you to buy a scale again correct? Moving right along.
The real tricky part of pie dough is accomplishing a sturdy and crispy crust that is not too tough and chewy, and it turns out we have tricks to accomplish this also, so worry not my friend.
Lets review what a pie dough really is. It falls into the category of laminated doughs, which mean there are layers of fat between layers of dough (as I’m sure you’ll no doubt remember from our scallion pancake recipe). The way to accomplish this in pie dough is to disperse small pockets of fat throughout the dough, that will essentially melt into separate layers that will separate the other  areas of dough. Now those “other areas of dough” is essentially the part of the dough where the flour and water mixed together. (If you look at the top picture of the post, you’ll see a few distinct layers of dough, and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish..)

If we were to separate these two elements, the fat dispersal and the flour and water mixing, we can really get an understanding why people think it’s difficult to make pie dough, and come up with some solutions.

IMG_0002

For the fat dispersal mission – the key is to get smallish pieces of fat, that will melt while the flour-water mixture is setting up. If it melts too soon, then it won’t disperse throughout the whole thingamabob, and it won’t make those distinct layers we talked about. The key to making sure you don’t do this is keeping the fat as cold as possible. The colder it is, the longer it takes for the fat to melt. So what I like to do, is cut the fat into cubes, and then place it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. If my inner boy scout is calling, and I really want to do everything k’fi halacha, then I will place everything in the freezer…the food processor and all components, the flour, and even the whole kitchen. It all just goes into the freezer.

IMG_0003
Notice the chunks of fat dispersed among the flour

Then, when ready to mix the fat into the flour, you basically measure out your flour (pop quiz hot shot – what are we using to measure?? A scale! riiiiiighhhht???), if you want it to be a sweet dough, add some sugar, and before adding the fat, I like to aerate the flour (and pulverize the sugar if it’s in there) by pulsing a few times. Oh and salt, always add salt, because salt isn’t just a spice, it’s a flavor enhancer… (right mommy 😉 ???). Anyway, once the flour is aerated, plop the really cold fat on top of the flour, and pulse a few times until there are “pea sized” chunks of fat.

We are now ready to commence phase #2 – Operation liquefaction. Here really the main goal is to prevent too much gluten from forming. The classical way of doing this is with ice cold water. The cold water will eventually form gluten, but like anything that’s freezing, will do so at a slower rate, plus the ice cold water has the added advantage of not bringing down the temperature. However, water + flour will inevitably make gluten, but guess what, alcohol + flour, does not make gluten, so imagine if instead of using water, we could use vodka, and since you have a bottle sitting in your freezer right now, it’ll be ice cold also!  This little trick is thanks to America’s Test Kitchen, and I’ve done this multiple times, with excellent results.

after adding vodka/water
after adding vodka/water

So after you have your pea sized chunks of fat dispersed through the flour, add the vodka/water and pulse until it’s mostly combined. I like to plop it down on a work surface, and finish putting it all together by hand.

bring it all together on your work surface
bring it all together on your work surface

Once it’s all together into a disk-like blob, I like to put it back in the fridge (or freezer if not baking that day…it freezes very well) to cool it off again.

IMG_0006

I would say the last hard part about baking the dough is rolling it out, and honestly this just takes time, but guess what? No one cares if it looks like your 2 year old did it, and bonus idea – when your pie does look like your 2 year old rolled it out, just lie and tell them she did! I lie all the time, and look where it’s gotten me!

We’re going to blind-bake the crust (which is fancy talk for baking the pie crust without any filling in it). First take the disc, and start rolling. The easiest way to do this, is by rolling out, and rotating the dough a 1/4 turn, and rolling out. Maybe one of these days, when I get around to posting videos, I’ll post one on rolling pie dough, but until then just …umm, roll it, ok?

this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter....and this is what it looks like after blind-baking
this was rolled out by my 2 year old daughter….and this is what it looks like after removing the weighted foil (before browning a little)

Once your dough is in the receptacle of your choosing, I like to “dock” the dough (fancy talk for poking holes in it [like with a fork] to allow gases to escape, and not get trapped underneath the dough, and potentially cause an air bubble), and then place aluminum foil on top, with weights on top of the foil. This also prevents any air bubbles from forming (for the weights – you can actually buy “pie weights” or you can use household items, like dried beans, or better yet – pennies). Then you bake it for about 10-15 minutes, remove the foil, and bake another 5-10 minutes, until just beginning to brown.

And that my friend is how we do.

Tune in next time when we take this seemingly innocent pie crust, and transform it into a quiche, using nothing more than a scale…Magic!!

 

Advertisements

Bobby’s Apple Cake

DSC_3644

We’re up for another round of The Kosher Connection Link up thingamabob, and with Rosh Hashana right around the corner, this months theme is apples. So ever since I was a little kid I can remember my grandmother making this thing we all called apple cake. For some reason, I never really questioned the idea of how this became known as “apple cake,” as you’ll soon see. Well this apple cake really was always made for Sukkos, and my grandmother had this special sheet pan that she used for it, in fact I think it’s the only thing she made in the pan. Anyway, suffice it to say that it was awesome. It would sit behind my kitchen table, half covered in aluminum foil, but really anyone who passed it, for some reason, had this innate need to just even out the edges. You know – a little slice off the edge to make sure the edge was even…all in the name of science. Last year I decided it was time for me to try and make this “cake.”

KOSHERCONNECTION5

The reason I call this a “cake” is because it’s really more like a pie than a cake. There’s whole apples, mixed with spices, sandwiched between two enriched doughs. Sounds like a pie to me, but for some reason, it’s always been known as apple cake in our house

So last year I ventured out to make it, and got the recipe from my grandmother through my sister in law, which means my grandmother probably left something out, so we wouldn’t make it as well as she does. (I once asked my grandmother for her recipe for meatballs, and she pretty much just told me to throw a can of tomato sauce in a pot with the formed meatballs…after I did that with unwavering faith, and the meatballs were terrible, I asked her, and she was like “well what about the ketchup, sugar, and more water? Of course you have to put that in also!”)  Getting a recipe from my grandmother is like playing broken telephone with some one speaks broken english and can’t hear that well. It’s not always easy. Here’s what I ended up with:

DSC_3621

First thing is to make the dough. I said it was with enriched dough, and by that I mean there’s added fat. In general, you can categorize doughs as just plain old flour, water, yeast, and salt; or you can enrich said dough with different types of fats. This enrichment, obviously effects the taste, but it also preserves the dough, and effects the texture of the dough. You can see the difference when you compare homemade bread (without any added fats), and homemade kokosh, or cinnamon buns. There’s an inherent richness to the dough, but the dough will also be fluffier, and actually last longer. (I say homemade dough, as opposed to store bought dough, because all store bought bread will have different preservatives in it…it’s not natural for a loaf of bread to last more than 3 days). There’s also eggs in the form of yolks, which also add richness, along with color, and other properties that I’m not in the mood of getting in to (read: I’m not really sure, and not in the mood of doing the research).

DSC_3613

Allright, let’s get some margarine a-melting. About 1 pound of fat, which is 4 sticks of margarine/butter. Once the melted margarine is cool, whisk in the eggs. Set aside, and work on the rest of the dough. Add the flour and sugar, and whisk together, and combine remaining sugar, yeast, and tepid water, and whisk to combine. Add yeast mixture and fatty fat fat mixture to the flour, and using the paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon) to mix until it just comes together, and then switch to a dough hook, and knead until it pulls away from the bowl, and a tacky, but not sticky dough forms. Allow that dough to rest in the fridge over night (or up to 3 days).

DSC_3618

On the day you’re ready to make your apple cake, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour. While the dough is coming to terms with it’s surrounding, make the filling. My grandmaw’s recipe calls for 10 apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. You shred the apples, and wring out any excess liquid, and then mix everything together. DSC_3641

You then roll out half the dough, put it on bottom of the sheet pan, place the apple mixture in (leaving about a half inch around the borders) cover with other dough, and crimp the whole thing shut. Brush some egg over top, and let it bake until golden brown and delicious.

DSC_3642\ DSC_3643

So I actually made this last year for Sukkos, and luckily was able to dig through the archives of all the food I take pictures of (it’s a lot…like, I take pictures of everything, and then I’m too self conscience to post anything about it…but I’ll just save that last part for the couch…aaaanyway…), and if I could critique it, I would say, I would treat this “cake” more like a pie, and would definitely add some sort of thickening agent; flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca, whatever. Also, I would consider mixing the apples with sugar, allowing it macerate, and then taking the liquid, and cooking it down and adding that concentrated apple flavor back in. Those are the modifications I’ll probably do this year.

As usual, click on the funny frog looking guy right below this paragraph to see what actual talented people did.

Bobby’s Apple Cake

I know that when I made this last year, I ended up with two whole apple cakes, but I can’t remember if that was because I doubled the recipe. So if you see that there’s a lot of dough, then instead of using half to line the sheet pan, use 1/4…knowwhatimsaying?

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup tepid water
  • 4 sticks margarine
  • 4 yolks
  • 1 whole egg

For the Apple filling:

  • 10 apples (I like to use a mixture of yellow, green, and another apple, to get a good mix of texture and flavor out of the apples), shredded
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

For the Dough:

  1. Combine flour, and 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Combine the vanilla extract, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, yeast, and water in a bowl, and stir to combine until frothy.
  2. Melt the margarine, and when cool, add the yolks and egg, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour mixture, the yeast mixture, and margarine mixture to bowl of a mixer, and with the paddle attachment, mix until everything is combined. Switch to the dough hook, and knead on medium-low until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. Place dough in an oiled container, cover, and place in the refrigerator over night and up to 3 nights
  5. On the day of baking, allow the dough to come to room temperature for at least an hour before handling.

For the filling:

  1. To shred apples, peel and core the apples, and run through food processor’s shredding blade.
  2. Combine apples, sugar, and lemon juice, and let sit over colander set in a bowl for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Take reserved apple juice, and set in a pan over medium-high heat and reduce liquid until syrupy.
  4. Add syrup back to apple-sugar mixture, along with corn starch, cinnamon, and vanilla extract, and mix to combine.
  1. Divide dough in half, and roll out half the dough, and spread on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
  2. Spread apple mixture over bottom half of dough, leaving a 1/2 inch space around the borders
  3. Roll out other half, and cover everything cinching it all closed.
  4. Whisk remaining egg, and brush over dough
  5. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and delicious (I can’t remember how long it took, but if I had to guess, it was probably 30 minutes? I dunno, let your nose decide)

Gravlax

DSC_6130

I don’t know how the gene for liking preserved fish is managing to hold on so tightly, but somehow through the throes of evolution, people are still enjoying it, and not because they need to. You see back in the day, if you wanted to eat certain foods that weren’t just caught, such as fish which have a nasty habit of spoiling rather quickly, you needed to preserve them first. The problem with food, is that we’re not the only organisms that need it to survive. Apparently there are these tiny little organisms called bacteria, and they just love the taste of meat. So how do we get rid of said bacteria? We don’t…we just learn to get rid of the ones that we don’t like. And we’ve done that rather smartly (if we do say so ourselves) by subjecting the bacteria to something that we’re usually ok with, namely: salt. It’s rather ingenious, by putting enough salt, you basically are depleting the amount of water the bacteria can get to (through the process of osmosis), and either killing the bacteria or slowing them down enough that they can’t harm you. Another added benefit of adding salt to meat, is it dissolves the muscle proteins, making them weaker and more tender, but at the same time, the dehydration of the tissue allows the whole meat to be more dense and compact. What you end up with is this tender yet firm piece of animal flesh, ripe for placing on top of a bagel.

DSC_6127

Gravlax means “buried fish” and probably is named such because back in the day, the fishermen who caught the fish, didn’t even have a lot salt lying around to preserve the fish, so they would lightly salt it, and bury it underground. The fish would then ferment (which is technically a different step then just salting), and would have a very strong, cheesy taste. Modern versions of gravlax is simply salting a fish, and dry curing it for a few days.

Most gravlax recipes are pretty standard. Cover a piece of salmon with a lot of salt and sugar, place a whole bunch of dill on top, place something heavy over the fish to weigh it all down, and let it sit in the refrigerator for a few days. The only things set in stone is the amount of salt and sugar, and that you need to weigh it down, other than that, you can play around with it. You can use a different herb if you’d like, different sugars, etc…It does help to baste the fish once a day with pooled liquid to help redistribute the salt, and to make sure it’s evenly coated.

DSC_6129

For our gravlax, I followed the America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe. They used brown sugar for it’s slight smokiness, and also drizzled a little brandy over the fish. For the brandy, I used 777, which for some odd reason I had lying around, which I figured since it’s not really for drinking, maybe I can use it on fish (I’m still not sure if I could). If you don’t have any, it’s fine, there will be enough liquid that exudes out from the salt.

DSC_6131

After three days in the chill chest, wipe away everything from on top of the fish, and slice it really thinly.

DSC_6167

This “recipe” is really simple, all you need is time, and if left whole it can be left in the fridge for up to 1 week, just slice what you want, and use the skin to flap over the cut surface.

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, this is not the same as what we commonly refer to as “lox.” Lox apparently is Yiddish for salmon, but the lox we usually buy is cold smoked salmon. We didn’t get into it, but another way of preserving meats is by smoking it (although it really only “cures” the outer most layer), and when it comes to smoking you can either smoke with hot smoke (what you normally think of when you think of smoking [generally anywhere above 90 degrees, I think]), or you can cold smoke it, which leaves the meat raw, but gets the benefits of smoking (flavor, and anti-microbial).

I love lox, like a lot, I could eat it every day, but if you’ve ever had fresh lox (whether cold smoked salmon, gravlax, or whatever), you’d see there’s a world of a difference between fresh and the other stuff, to the point where, and not to sound snobby, but I wouldn’t even eat the non-fresh stuff, it’s just not worth the heartburn. This gravlax I made was up there was one of the best lox (I’m just gonna lump them all in one category) I’ve ever had. It was difficult to slice paper thin, but it was still awesome.

If you give this a try, let me know what you think

Gravlax

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup packed (2 ⅓ ounces) light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1-pound skin-on center-cut salmon fillet
  • 3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh dill

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar and salt in small bowl. Place salmon in 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and drizzle brandy slowly over top (it will drip down sides). Cover the salmon with the suger-salt mixture, patting it down, and then cover it with the chopped dill.
  2. Cover salmon loosely with plastic wrap, then place a dish on the tallest part of the salmon (close to center of fillet). Weigh baking dish with 2 or 3 heavy cans and transfer salmon to refrigerator.
  3. Every day for next two days, Take off the cans and dish, and baste the fish with the liquid that pooled on the bottom. Replace cans and dish, and place back in the fridge
  4. On the third day, drain off all of the liquid and scrape off the dill. Slice the salmon as thinly as possible on bias.(The salmon can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; it should be left whole and not sliced until ready to serve, and use the “flap” of skin to cover the cut surface)

Chipotle Garlic Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise it’s hot in here…ammiright? Yeah, I’m funny like that. Yeesh, tough crowd.

DSC_2730

Anyway, mayonnaise that kind of disgusting thing we all are so fond of. That falls into that realm of mysterious kitchen product, which you probably don’t want to know how it’s made, kind of like shortening, and hot dogs. Yet, you can’t deny it’s all powerful presence in the kitchen. It’s delicious, and it makes other food delicious. So I think it’s high time we understand this delicious gloopy weirdness.

So it turns out mayonnaise hails from Spain, and was popularized by the French, and is just another run-of-the-mill emulsion. When it comes to making emulsions there are a few things that need to happen. We know that water and oil don’t really like each other, so we need “something” that on one side of this “thing” it likes oil, and on the other side of this “thing” it likes water. This thing can then hold on to water and to oil, and will stabilize the oil and water mixture. This “thing” is called an emulsifier. One of the best emulsifiers are lecithin, which is found in egg yolks, which molecular speaking has one side that likes water and one side that likes oil. Another good stabilizer is mustard, for a somewhat different reason (basically, to make mustard, you grind up little mustard seeds, and those seeds have a lot of “mucilage” which helps coat oil, and allows it then coexist in water..).

DSC_2723

Another thing an emulsion needs is to add the oil slowly. Basically like we said earlier you need to disperse the oil into a bazillion tiny little droplets which get interspersed throughout the water, and in order to do that properly, you need to add the oil slowly.

DSC_2725

Traditionally, mayonnaise is a pain in the butt to make, because you need to whisk constantly with one hand, while slowly adding the oil, which means somehow stabilizing your bowl (a towel curled up around it helps), and whisking some more, and then some more, and yeah, it’s annoying. Then came along the food processor, and things got much easier, especially if you use it properly (utilizing that piece on top that has a tiny little hole that allows the oil to stream in slowly), but it’s still hard if you want to make small batches. But now I bring you an even easier way, and all you need is a stick blender, and thin-ish cup.

DSC_2726 

All you need to do is add the yolk, lemon juice (or vinegar), mustard, spices, and whatever else you’re planning on putting in except for the oil (in our case it was chipotle and garlic), and then pour all of the oil on top of it, stick your blender in, and turn it on. As it starts off, the blender slowly starts pulling in the oil little by little, which is perfect for mayo, until the whole kit and caboodle thickens up like mayonnaise. (You’re going to want a thin vessel so the bulk of the oil remains on top of everything, and is slowly brought down into the yolk mixture)

DSC_2727

There’s a lot of different opinions as to how much oil you should use per yolk, but as Harold McGee says, what maters isn’t the amount of yolk, but the amount of water, which is in the form of lemon juice/vinegar, some of the yolk, mustard, and also plain water, and as he says the water part should be 1/3 of the amount of oil, so if you’re going to use a cup of oil, you should have 1/3 cup of yolk, lemon juice/vinegar, mustard, and water.

For this recipe, I used dried chipotle (you can use the canned ones if you’d like), which I had rehydrated with hot water (and let it sit for 5 minutes…that top picture), added some minced garlic (and yes, I know that “garlic mayonnaise” is called aioli, it was just too much to say chipotle aioli), and then poured the oil on top, and voila!

Since you’re still reading I’ll let you in something cool. One of the amazing things about mayonnaise is that it’s a oil-in-water emulsion. You see most emulsions are oil in water emulsions (the exceptions that I know are – butter and a vinaigrette, both of which have more oil than water), however the cool thing about mayonnaise is that the ratio of water to oil is 1 part water to 3-4 parts oil, that means that there’s roughly 3-4 times more oil than water, and yet we consider the water as the main part, and the oil is the part that gets dispersed among it. This kind of shows you the power of the egg yolk, and it’s ability to emulsify oil and water. Who needs molecular gastronomy when you have regular cooking??

Chipotle Garlic Mayonnaise

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 small dried chipotle
  • hot water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice/vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil

Directions:

  1. Cut up chipotle peppers, and pour enough hot water over them, and allow them to sit to re-hydrate, about 5 minutes
  2. Drain the peppers and reserve 1 tablespoon of the water
  3. To the chilis and water, add the yolk, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and salt and pepper, and blend them
  4. Then add your oil, all at once on top of the other stuff, and stick your stick blender in, and turn it on, and watch as mayonnaise magic happens right in front of your very eyes