An Easy Crust for Pies and Tarts

Here is a super simple dough to use for pies and tarts. One key to working with any tart dough is to keep it cold. This allows the fat to melt while baking which creates light, flaky crusts.

Plum Blackberry Almond Tart

With lots of holiday events approaching, here is a simple basic approach to a nice pie or tart dough.

If you want a double crust, double the recipe. This only makes 1 crust.

Easily done by hand, you can also use a food processor, just pulse the ingredients without the water, add water, bit by bit to make the dough mass. You may use all the water, only some or you may need more. It depends on how much moisture your flour holds.

Easy Pie or Tart Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 – 5 tablespoons ice-cold water

If creating the crust by hand, combine the salt and sugar with the flour. Cut the cubed butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, two knives or a fork.

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry...

English: A dough blender; also called a pastry blender. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cut the fat into the flour

When the mix resembles a coarse mixture (you still want to see some globs of butter, don’t make it smooth) add the ice-cold water tablespoon by tablespoon.

The mass should come together. Only use as much water as you need to bring the ball together. You may need more water or less water. This is why you add it bit by bit.

Add enough water to just bring the dough ball together when you squeeze it.
You want to see blobs of fat in the dough, not smooth.

Press the dough into a ball and place it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Press it into a disk.

Refrigerate until cold.

Roll the dough between sheets of plastic wrap

Roll the chilled dough out to the size you need while it is still in between the wrap. This makes it easier to handle and is much easier to clean up too.

Remove one side of the plastic wrap. Position the dough over the pie or tart pan and press it into place.

Alternatively, you can press the dough into the pan and then chill while you prepare the filling.

Much easier is to use the fluted tart pans with the removable bottoms. Press the dough into the tart pan. Make sure you have at least 1/4 inch at the sides and at the curve of the pan so it is strong enough to stand on its own when the pan is removed.

Small fluted tart shells ready for filling

The fluted edge pans give all your tarts such a professional finished look, they are so worth the investment. Since they come in many sizes, you can make large tarts or small individual ones and any size in between.

Ready to fill and bake. See the fat? That means you will have a flaky crust.

Fill them just as you would a pie.

If you use a top crust, decorate it with dough cut outs instead of just a pile of dough on top of the filling.

Or use a strusel topping or leave the fruit exposed and glaze with melted apple or seedless raspberry jelly when the tart is done. This puts a “sealing glaze” on the fruit and makes it shiny. The photo of the Plum and Blackberry Almond Tart at the beginning of this post is finished with melted red currant jelly.

Here are some of my thoughts about using other ingredients besides water and butter.

Butter: Fat is fat, at least the melting point of butter is lower than body temperature. Fat provides tenderness and flavor to the crust. I’d rather eat butter than Crisco or lard or hydrogenated oils like margarine. I have yet to try coconut oil.

Water: Some recipes will ask you to use vodka instead of water. It provides a flaky crust too. Alcohol evaporates faster than water therefore creating a flakier crust. Try it if you like. I don’t drink distilled spirits so it never occurs to me to use vodka.

Flour: Use a good quality organic flour. You can use gluten-free flours too. I’m just not too sure how strong the non-wheat flours will hold up in a fluted pan once the outer ring is removed. My experience is most gluten-free baked goods are crumbly due to the lack of gluten.  Not sure how to over come that but since I’m not gluten-free, I use King Arther’s unbleached AP flour and I get pretty crusts.

I do know if I had to go gluten-free, I would miss pie crust, tarts, and good chewy bread tremendously.

No matter what liquid you use, just be sure it is ice-cold. I use a large measuring cup with lots of ice and water and scoop what I need from there. When finished, I pour the cold water into a glass and make lemonade or tea. I suppose you could do the same with vodka. Use lots of ice.

Bake off empty shells by lining with parchment and filling with rice or beans and baking until done. Fill with fresh fillings.

Fill unbaked shells with fruits, custards, fillings and bake until golden and bubbly. Times vary but usually take 45-55 minutes in a 350°F oven.

There are so many finishing and fillings!

Use any left over scraps to make dough cut outs. Egg wash them and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a cookie sheet until golden brown. Use these on the top of the tarts, place them when the tart is still hot from the oven or serve as a garnish with each serving.

Be creative.

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Oatmeal Cranberry Bars or What To Do With Leftover Cranberry Sauce

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

This recipe is a great way to use up any leftover cranberry sauce you may have from holiday meals. I find whole berry works best but if you like the jelly kind, use it too. Store bought, in a can or fresh, any cranberry sauce will work out quite well.

For the best, make your own cranberry sauce.

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Cranberry Sauce 003

Cranberry Sauce 003 (Photo credit: MGF/Lady Disdain)

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Spray the bottom and sides with baking spray, line the pan with a sheet of parchment, allowing the sides of the paper to overhang on the long edge of the pan. This makes for easy removal from the pan after the bars are baked. Simply lift the paper and the whole thing can be moved to a cutting board or platter.

Spray the parchment with baking spray. Set aside until ready to use.

Make the dough:

  • 8 ounces soft  unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Using a mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar, mix just until it comes together.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

Mix together: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pecans in a separate bowl. Add the mixture to the butter and eggs, stirring slowly to combine, slowly add all of the oats and mix only until combined.

Press 1/2 of the dough into the bottom of the baking pan.

Top with cranberry sauce. Make sure to cover the entire surface, all the way to the edges. I added some seedless raspberry jam in dollops all over the dough too.

Dot the cream cheese over the surface of the dough.

Using the remaining half of the dough, dollop it over the top of the cranberries and cream cheese.

Bake in the pre-heated 350°F for 45 minutes or until the top is lightly golden brown.

When the bars come out, drop 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top. The heat from the baked bars will melt the chips, then spread the melted chocolate in swirled patterns over the top. You could drizzle some fondant icing over them too but that might be overkill.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour.

Carefully lifting the sides of the overhanging paper, lift the baked bars onto a cutting board and cut them into the desired size with a sharp knife. Sprinkle any crumbles over yogurt.

Store covered at room temperature for up to 7 days. (If they last that long!)

Plated Oatmeal Cranberry Bar

Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Getting around to making scones for International Scone Week took some doing but finally, here is my dedicated scone.

Celia at Fig jam and Lime Cordial I believe started this “tradition” that now has an international reach.

There aren’t many photos as I figured most reading this would also have posted their scones and know the basic mixing process.

(Mix dry, cut in fat, add liquid, pat into shape, cut, bake)

This recipe is inspired by some pages from over 10 years ago entitled “The Joy of Baking Newsletter”.

This particular article had several scone recipes; some marked with “this is my favorite scone” so I thought it a good place to start.

Taking a basic “English” scone recipe ( less sugar) I added several elements together to create:

Cinnamon Blueberry Almond Scones

Cinnamon Blueberry Toasted Almond Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Cut the butter int the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse corn meal.

Mix the half and half with the egg.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour the milk and eggs into the well and mix together with a wooden spoon. Mix just until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Pat it into a 16×10 rectangle.

Allow the dough to rest while you mix the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Cinnamon mixture:

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400°F.

Spread the cinnamon mixture all over the 16 x 10 dough, covering it completely.

Sprinkle fresh blueberries and toasted almonds over the surface.

Roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching seams closed.

Cut into 1 inch slices.

Spray a 9 x 9 inch square cake pan with pan release spray.

Place each slice, spiral slice up, into the cake pan, fill it up with the rolled slices.

Brush half and half over the surface of each slice.

Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until the scones are golden brown. Test doneness by using a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the scones are done.

Remove from the oven, invert onto a serving plate, flipping them again so the scones are right side up. Two plates are needed for this.

Drizzle the scones with fondant frosting and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Fondant frosting:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons half and half or enough to create the desired consistency to drizzle the scones.

Mix together to reach desired consistency, drizzle over scones.

Serve with fresh blueberries.

Now, go out for a brisk walk or run to work off all these scones!

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Carrot, Cheddar Sandwich Rolls

 

These rolls are pretty straight forward to make and turn out wonderful.

They make a great roll for deli sandwiches, add a pickle and some crunchy chips and you have an amazing lunch.

Carrot Cheddar rolls

Carrot, Cheddar Sandwich Rolls

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 ounce dry yeast (2 packages of 1/4 ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (non-iodized)
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup All vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange peel
  • (The zest from 1/2 medium orange, use the  fine blade of a microplane)
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

Method:

Heat the milk and water to 100 – 110°F. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar.Whisk it together.

Allow to stand while you measure the remaining ingredients.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (Or do it all by hand for a great arm work-out!) add the rest of the sugar, salt, carrots, cheese, shortening, orange peel, and the egg .

Turn on the mixer and get this all mixed up.

Add the milk, water and yeast to the mixture. Mix well.

Add 1/2 of the flour and mix well; about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining flour. It may be necessary to finish the flour addition by hand. This depends upon how strong your machine is and if it can handle kneading dough.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Oil the inside of a bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl. Wipe it around to cover the ball with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap or linen cloth.

Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 hour in a warm area.

When risen, punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces weighing about 3.5 ounces each. The same weight is important to ensure the same size roll and even baking time.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and dust with cornmeal.

“Round” each dough ball into a nice round ball, flatten slightly and place on the parchment lined baking sheet dusted with cornmeal.

Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until the rolls double in size.

Bake at 375° for 14-20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.

Immediately transfer the rolls to a wire rack to cool; brush the top of each roll with melted butter. Cool completely before using.

 

How To: Standard Breading Procedure

Dear Tyler,

You asked how to bread something to make Tonkatsu or Parmesan style dishes. So here it is!

If you want to bread something so the breading actually stays on the product, you need to follow a standard breading procedure,

It is a 5 station set-up. Breading your food using this method ensures a great finished dish.

Flour, Egg wash and Bread crumbs
(To remember the order, think of the abbreviation for the month of February: FEB)

1) Ready to go product – seasoned

2) Flour – just plain flour

3) Egg wash – make it liquid

4) Bread crumbs – You can use any bread crumbs, Panko are amazing in my opinion. Instead of bread crumbs, you can also use any kind of ground nut, crushed potato chips, corn flakes, or plantain chips, Trisket crumbs, coconut, etc.

5) Final breaded product

In this post I am using catfish, but the same method works for everything you want to bread.

Prepare the product, trim it, skin it, pound it thin, what ever you want to do, do it before it gets breaded.

Season with salt and pepper and other seasonings if desired.

Here, catfish is getting seasoned with lemon ginger seasonings before breading

Dip each piece into the flour

Then into the egg wash

Then into the bread crumbs

Place the breaded items onto a baking sheet; drizzle with oil.
Bake at 375 F for 20-30 minutes to ‘oven fry’ or pan fry in a saute pan with a small amount of oil.

The family favorite for this is to make “Katsudon”  with thin sliced pork loin or a chicken breast sliced and pounded thin. We serve it over Basmati rice with Bull Dog Brand Tonkatsu Sauce. (I usually buy this in an Asian grocery store.)

Bull Dog Sauce

When using chicken breasts, you can cut them into fingers or slice a large breast into thirds, place each slice into a zip bag (don’t zip it!) and pound gently it so it gets evenly flattened. Season and proceed with the breading procedure.

To pan fry instead of cooking the cutlets in the oven, heat a saute pan to high, add a thin-film of oil to the pan and saute until each side is golden brown.

Pan fry in a thin-film of oil until golden on each side

Add steamed broccoli to round out your meal.

You can take the plain breaded cutlets and serve them with different sauces and sides to create very different meals from breaded cutlets.

Boil some rice, add some frozen green peas when the rice is done. The peas only need to warm through.

Place the fried cutlet on top of the rice and drizzle with Bulldog sauce.

To make a “true” katsudon, place caramelized onions over the hot steamed rice, top with the cutlet and then top it all with an egg. Cover and the steam from the cutlet and the rice will gently cook the egg. Break the egg yolk and stir it in to create a wonderful sauce. Drizzle with Bull Dog Sauce .

Tonkatsu with Bull Dog Sauce

You can create Chicken Parmesan by topping the golden brown cutlet with marinara sauce and cheese – I am partial to Asiago – but Parmesan, or mozzarella are just fine too.

Melt and brown the cheese, serve over pasta and more sauce on the side. Top it all with more cheese and serve with a salad on the side.

Chicken Parmesan

Breaded Cutlet with Lemon

Be careful when pan frying, place the cutlets into the pan so it splashes away from you, not towards you. Once the cutlets are golden brown, you can finish cooking them in the oven that has been pre-heated to 350°F.

Enjoy making these and think of other ways to serve them too. Change the sauce ( try Thai Green sauce!) and starch. Put a cutlet on a bun, add coleslaw and BBQ sauce to make it into a sandwich.Or make Chicken Piccata with lemon and capers.

Let me know if you come up with other ideas!

If you want to freeze the breaded cutlets, freeze them raw as soon as you finish breading them. You can cook from frozen over medium heat.

Love ya!

Mom

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Interview Cookies

I was asked to bring cookies to a job interview one day so I made a batch of Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies. Walking across the street for the interview, I realized the cookies were still on my kitchen counter. Going in empty-handed was not an option so running home as fast as possible, I grabbed the cookies and waltzed into the interview only a few minutes before it was time to start. Typically being there 5-10 minutes early is preferred rather entering right on time. Luckily I lived close by.

I was right about going home to get the cookies. There was a “refreshment” table set with a big empty space for the platter. Milk, tea, coffee, plates and napkins –  a successful interview hinged on good cookies. The interview panel was outfitted by the colleges cookie monsters.

Being cookie monsters, they were satisfied munching while they took turns grilling me with questions. After the cookie interview, it was required to film a ten-minute lesson of their random choosing.

I wondered what they wanted to eat next.

After several more interviews over several weeks, they awarded me the position.  I always wondered if they were curious why I talked so fast or was out of breath at the initial interview. Probably not.

My son called from college the other day and asked for some cookies. These will work nicely.

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

Recipe adapted from Quaker Oats Company “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies”
  • 1/2 cup ( 1 stick) + 6 tablespoons soft room temperature butter
  • 3/4 cup  dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Dry Ingredients
  • 1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon non-iodized salt
Measure to fold in last
  • 3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350°F

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until creamy.

Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large bowl.

Mix  the dry ingredients together well with a dry whisk, spoon or fork.

On low-speed, slowly add the dry flour mixture to the creamed eggs and sugar.

Add the oats, then the cranberries, mix well to combine all ingredients.

Use a scoop and scrape it along the edge of the bowl to level the portion size for consistent sized cookies

Drop by rounded spoonfuls, or use a cookie scoop, onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Space 2″ apart.

Space evenly 2" apart to allow spreading. Use silpat or parchment on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Use a spatula to lift the cookies from the parchment.

Cool completely.

Drizzle the cookies with icing. Make note of the parchment and tray under the cookies to catch icing drips.

Watch out, cookies disappear before they are finished!

Drizzle with fondant icing if desired.

Fondant Icing

1 cup 10x confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon milk and more as needed.

Place the 10x sugar in a bowl. Add the milk and stir. Drip more milk, drop by drop, into the sugar until drizzling consistency is reached.

It is easy to make this too liquid so start with a small amount of milk first and add while stirring. It changes quickly.

Using a fork, drizzle the frosting over the cookies while still on the cooling rack.

Allow the frosting to dry before storing in an air tight container.

These cookies are best inside of tummies, guarded by a glass of milk or cup of tea.

Take a bite!

Rosemary and Lavender Savory Scones

There is nothing quite like a great scone and these Rosemary and Lavender scones fit into the great scone category easily.

Scones are typically thought of as being sweet and fat. This recipe replaces the fat with goat cheese and the dough is delicately scented with rosemary and lavender honey.

If you can’t find lavender honey, you can infuse honey with lavender buds to get the flavor. Put the honey in a double boiler, fold in the lavender buds and warm gently for a couple of hours.

Use only the lavender buds because that is where the essential oil, scent and flavor is, not the stems or leaves.

If you “hyper-heat” the mixture to a boil or heat in the microwave, you will get a very bitter flavor from the lavender. Use too much, you can end up with that “old-lady soap” flavor and no-one wants that!

The amount to use is 1/2 tablespoon to 1 cup of honey. Once the honey has cooled back to room temperature, strain out the lavender. The lavender imparts a very delicate color so if you use a light-colored honey you will see the lavender hue. You won’t see it in darker honey.


Rosemary and Lavender Honey Scented Savory Scones

  • 1 – 1/3 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 –  1/3 cup semolina flour, fine
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 oz chevre (a semi-soft goat cheese)
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lavender honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup cream or milk

 

  • Mix dry ingredients.
  • Cut goat cheese into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse corn meal.
  • In a separate bowl combine wet ingredients.
  • Add to flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
  • Spread the dough out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Try not to handle the dough too much. Pat it lightly to shape and thickness desired
  • Cut into triangles or other desired shapes.
  • Bake at 350° F until golden brown; about 10-20 minutes, depending upon how thick the dough was rolled out.

 

Mix wet and dry ingredients until incorporated

Pat the dough to desired thickness and shape; cut into triangles or desired shape before baking.

Bake until golden brown

Serve warm.

 

If desired, spread with goat cheese and drizzle with lavender honey.

These scones make a great breakfast!

I also like to serve them with roasted leg of lamb.

If you didn’t like goat cheese, you can substitute cream cheese.