Thursday, July 28, 2011

Because you asked for it: Homemade pie crust

I've had so many requests for my pie crust recipe that I thought it about time to blog my methods.  I've gone back and forth about posting my techniques, since, really, I am no professional.  What I do, I do because it works for me, not because there's any reason for it.  It's possible that some of the things I do are even no-nos in the baking world.  I certainly haven't had any culinary classes to know any better one way or the other.  All that I know is that my pie crust is consistently delicious; I won't be buying any pre-made crusts from the store in the near future, for sure.  So, without further ado, here it is, my recipe for a double-crust pastry!

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 c. COLD butter
8-10 TBS cold water

1) First mix the flour and salt together.  Then, cut in the butter with a pastry blender small chunks at a time. (If you don't have one of these, two knives work just as well, it merely takes more effort!)  Continue until mixture consists of crumbs no larger than a pea.

2)  Then, add water a tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork or knife after each addition.  I do this by eye; I no longer measure the water amount.  I continue adding water until the mixture looks completely moistened (NOT WET).

3)  You should be able to form a large ball with the crumbs.  Be careful not to spend much time making the ball!  The more you play with the dough, the less delicious and flaky it will ultimately be.  If it's still too crumbly, add more water.  (But again, be careful not to add too much.)   At this point, separate the large ball into half and place one half on a piece of wax paper with a dusting of flour.

4)  Now, this step is not crucial to the crust, it is merely my way of making the process less anxiety-ridden.  It's very stressful when the crust gets stuck to things and you can't easily move it to the pan.  I have developed this method so as to keep the process as stick-free as possible.

I lay another piece of wax over the dough and roll it.  After the first couple of rolls, I pick up the piece of wax, sprinkle a little more flour, and turn it over to the other side to do the same.  This seems to prevent the dough from sticking and makes it easy for me to ultimately move it from the counter to the pan with little effort.

(If at any point, it seems like the dough is sticking to the wax, simply lift it and sprinkle a bit more flour.)

5)  When you are finished rolling out the dough, simply lift off the top layer of wax paper and then slide your hand under the bottom piece of wax paper.  Flip the dough onto the bottom of the pan.  (Sorry for the bad quality of these pictures; I was attempting to photograph the process myself which was difficult since both my hands were occupied... :) )

6)  For your second crust, simply repeat steps 3-5, though you may want to make the circle a bit larger this time.  Lay the crust on top of the filled pie.

7)  Pull off any extra dough to leave only about one inch extra around the entire pan.  Fold this under itself to create a nice clean look on the top.

8)  Next, you want to put on the finishing touches.  Beautify the edges however you'd like (pinching in one finger is my standard method, as shown here.)  Make a few cuts on the top of the pie to let steam escape (you can always get creative here in your designs....).  And then finish it off with a sprinkle of sugar for good looks and added "yum!"

And you're done!  Simply put it in the oven and follow the baking directions for the pie.  Remember to put foil on the edges of the crust to keep them from browning too soon.  (But be forewarned, sometimes this is tricky!)  You'll be glad you took the time to make homemade crust in the end...!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Goodbye, Hairy Guest

My husband and I came downstairs the other day to find that the spider had completed an egg sac.  This is something she attempted about two weeks ago, but for whatever reason she failed to do correctly.  Here's a picture of her half-built egg sac and what seems to be her eggs (the yellow liquid) on the bottom of the glass.

In some ways I was disappointed that her attempt had failed.  Finally, I thought, this made the decision of what to do with her more clear.  My husband could absolutely not keep the spider if she was about to lay another hundred replicas of herself.  She had to be taken away--far, far away.  But alas, she never completed the sac and we deduced that the yellow liquid must have been her eggs...

Yet, as I mentioned, just days ago we found she had built another sac.  This time, she completed it.  And there was no yellow liquid to be seen.  I was once again feeling comforted that her future had become more clear.

My husband, on the other hand, was not as comforted.  Over the past two weeks since her failed attempt to build a sac, my husband spent various hours building a beautiful home for her.  He found a large glass container and outfitted it with dirt, rocks, sticks, and even a bathing pool.  Why a pool you ask?  Because he had also spent a similar amount of time on the computer researching just what this spider would enjoy in her habitat. And, as he researched, he found that she was most likely a fishing spider, still under the larger category of nursery web spider.  A spider who would enjoy a nice pool.

I can't say I wasn't a little jealous--I wish he spent that much time worrying that our home was as beautiful or well-equipped for our creature comforts.  But, that's besides the point.  The point is, she was, as far as anyone could tell, comfortable in her new terrarium.  Comfortable enough, it seems, to make a second attempt at building an egg sac, and comfortable enough to succeed in that attempt.

The egg sac is amazing.  It is so beautifully round and the colors are almost speckled.  Despite my disgust at the thought of one hundred more spiders growing inside it, I am in awe at the sight of it.  Some interesting facts: the spider will not eat until the eggs have hatched (she's too busy guarding her kin), and it will take upwards of two weeks until the baby spiders come out.  And in that time, my husband was tasked with finding a new home for the soon-to-be family.

Shock.  Pain.  Acceptance.  Stages of grief... even now applicable.  My poor husband couldn't bear to see his precious pet go.




But he is a good husband.  A sacrificing husband.  An understanding husband.  And ultimately, he loosened his grip and let go...  We took a walk to the campus lake and he let her free, by the water, a suitable habitat for such a creature.  She was a long-standing presence in our home, and so it seemed fitting to spend a moment on a farewell.  She didn't scamper quickly away as I expected.  My husband had placed her on a rock, and there she stayed.  Even as we walked away, she sat.  Still.  Perhaps wondering what to do next?  She probably had lived her whole life in our basement.  I hope the big wide world of nature wasn't too much for her.

Goodbye, our large hairy guest.  I wish you well in your new life.... far from mine.

*I made my husband pose for these pictures....just in case you wanted to know. :-P

Friday, July 8, 2011

Computer Theft

Or at least, that's what it feels like.  Back in the day--that is, back in the time of the academic school year--I had the computer all to myself in the evenings.  The kids would be in bed asleep, my husband would be working on his own laptop on the couch, and I would be happily typing away.  Those were the good ol' days.

Then came summer break.

In the past, I used to long for my husband to work less; he always seemed to be doing so much more than the other professors I knew.  And now that I have my wish, I long for him to be working again in the evenings so that I can have my computer time back.  It's great getting to see him more during the day, but I'm in internal despair in the evenings as I sit on the couch watching him play computer games.  It should be me, sitting there in front of that screen, a mouse click away from writing a blog, checking my email, or browsing the new children's clothing sales....

Suddenly, a lot more is getting done in the evenings.  I find myself trying to fill that computerless space with laundry or dishes.  I supposed the house is all that much better for it.  I can't say the same for my attitude.  Sometimes I sit on the couch, five feet behind him, and glare into the back of his head, wishing I could secretly form thoughts in his mind like, "oh, hmmm, I will stop playing computer games now and let my lovely wife use the computer since she's been busy taking care of kids all day...."  Or, perhaps a compromise, "I think I will go get my laptop from my office so that both my darling wife and I can use a computer simultaneously in the evenings....."

Judging from the results of these attempts, I am clearly not capable of this kind of telepathy.  And so I merely find more chores to do or simply fall asleep on the couch.  The latter is really not that bad, since I'm exhausted anyway.  But I'd really rather be goofing around on the computer than sleeping.

I still have over a month, though, until summer break is over.  In the meantime, I guess I'll just have to get used to my computerless evenings.  I suppose I can spend this time relishing the increased cleanliness of my home.  Besides, by the time I get the computer time back, there will also be another new baby in the house.  Who knows what the state of my computer availability or house cleanliness will be at that point anyway.  All to shambles I presume.