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super butter-y pie crust

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For a long time, pies and tarts have been the bane of my existence. Either the dough fell apart in my hands, the crust burned in the oven, or, god forbid I cover it with tin foil, the pie would be under-baked and liquid-y. My experience with pie has been…frustrating.

But I promised myself I would get into it once moving home, and that I wouldn’t stop until I could make a decent pie. I nearly mastered macarons, so I should be able to do this, right?

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I picked out a recipe from a trusted book, Mom’s Big Book of Bakingwatched YouTube videos until my eye bled out, and made a few different batches of dough. Fortunately, you can (and should) freeze the dough for up to a month, so I can spend an hour making 2-3 different recipes (enough for 6 – 9 tarts), and let them rest for a few days while I recover from the trauma. Additionally, if you can manage enough dough, you can knock out two birds with one oven: you can test filling recipes with your test dough!

I made a few different versions of the “buttery pie crust,” some with extra butter, some with sugar, and used each one to try a different filling, while setting aside a handful of dough to bake without filling so I could taste the crust on its own. To be honest, all the crusts tasted unbelievable, but they don’t all hold up well as a tart. Of the four I tried (the original plus three of my own), this was the best both with and without any filling.

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I’ve found that pies are one of those pastries that can stupefy even the most intrepid among us (meaning those of us who will eat butter from the box, or cover our faces in sour cream in order to get rid of zits), and as such, the most effective way to succeed is to embrace your fear of failure. It’s something I’m still learning even after seven years of kitchen mishaps.

 

super butter-y pie crust

makes enough for four 9-inch pies (with measurements for 7-inch pies in parentheses)

 

25 oz all-purpose flour (7″: 12.5 oz)

hefty pinch of salt

16 oz (2 c) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen and chopped into small pieces (7″: 8 oz)

8 oz ice water(7″: 4 oz)

 

In a food processor, mix flour and salt. Dump in diced butter and pulse (2 seconds, stop, 2 seconds, stop, etc.) until it’s well-chopped (the pieces are about the size of a pea or smaller.)

Add water about an ounce or two at a time and pulse quickly until the dough just starts to clump together.

Dump it all out onto the counter and squeeze it together into a large mound. Divide the mound into four and form each part into a smaller mound, squeezing and turning. Don’t knead the dough.

Form four balls and wrap each in cling wrap, then squeeze and rotate each ball until it forms a disc one inch thick. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.

Frozen dough will keep for at least 6 months. Refrigerated dough will only keep for about 48 hours before it becomes discolored and soggy.

When ready to bake:

If the dough is frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator all day or overnight (up to two days.)

On the day you want to bake it, put the dough, wrapped, out on the counter for 15 minutes to soften.

Flour a work surface, unwrap the dough, and roll it out until it’s about 2 inches wider than the rim of the pie pan. Alternately, sandwich the dough between two sheets of clingwrap and roll it out.

Put the dough into the pan and chill for at least half an hour, or freeze for later.

Pie crust can be baked directly from the freezer or the fridge.

Some pies can be blind baked (pecan pie), some don’t need to be (apple pie,) and some are assembled after baking (chocolate pie.)

 

 

If you make one recipe, you’ll have enough tart dough for a Thanksgiving dinner or for a month of pies!

Pie, y’all!

Nick P(ie).

Categories: pies and tarts

just the best mayonnaise

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Growing up in the U.S., I had never really been a fan of mayonnaise, except when we went to Subway. In elementary school, I took swim lessons every weekend with a friend and we always went to Subway afterwards for lunch. Every weekend I ordered a simple turkey sandwich with bacon and mayonnaise and it was heaven in my mouth, oh my god. There was just something special about that mayonnaise.

For years we tried to recreate that sandwich at home and other variations, often the week after Thanksgiving using leftover turkey. They were good but never as good as the Subway mayo.

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I never understood why mayonnaise tasted so damn good when I went for a sub, but was unbearable when it came from a Hellman’s jar…until I went to Japan. All the mayonnaise in Japan is unbelievable. I could drink a whole jar of Kewpie without any regrets.

My second year abroad, a Subway opened up in the center of the city, and afterwards I discovered another branch had already been opened near the prefectural office. The offerings were totally different (tandoori chicken sub, anyone?) and I never did find out if they would let me build my own sandwich even though I went there countless times. I did, however, find out that they import the mayonnaise from the U.S….and not from Subway. The Japanese Subway mayo is like Hellman’s, while grocery store mayo in Japan is as good as Subway mayo here in the States…intriguing.

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Because of all of this, I made it my first goal for the kitchen to be mayonnaise. I’ve been practicing recipes since I moved home (and when they’re successful they are delectable, oh lord) and as much as I can, I’d like to try mayo from other places (what is French mayo like??)

And so, after 3 successful attempts and two blatant disasters, here is my Better Than Subway But Also Really Simple Mayonnaise.

 

simple homemade mayonnaise

makes ~1/2 cup (one small jar)

Notes:

There are hordes of methods for making mayo and as many different recipes. This is based on the first one I tried and it was successful enough that I stuck with it. I find this is a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” thing, though as I venture into aioli and other types of mayo, I’ll add other recipes to my repertoire. It takes a lot of patience but isn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it would be. The hardest part is making sure the oil emulsifies, and you have to add it slowly (at least at first…if you feel confident after about 1/4 cup, you can add the oil more quickly.) Also, the more oil you add, the thicker the mayo will be. You can double the oil if you want thicker, more solid, mayo.

 

1 egg yolk

spoonful (~2 Tbsp) Dijon mustard

1/2 c light-tasting vegetable oil (peanut or light olive oil work well)

lemon juice (as desired, for taste)

salt and pepper (also as desired, for taste)

 

Blend the mustard and egg yolk together in a medium-large bowl.

Add about a drop of oil and whisk it in. Add the oil in very small amounts (like 1/8 of a teaspoon, or a few drops) and blend well after each addition. Once you’ve added about 1/4 cup and can see the mayo staying thick instead of becoming watery, you can add the oil faster (in a slow but steady stream, about 1/2 tsp at a time.) Blend very well (with a whisk or electric mixer) after each addition until all the oil is fully incorporated.

Blend in the lemon juice gradually, and then any seasonings, salt, or pepper. Taste as you go and adjust.

Mayonnaise keeps in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

 

Bon appétit!

Nick P.

Categories: side dishes