Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread

Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread

My dear friend Virginia and I have started cooking together recently. Whether the meal is simple or complex, I treasure the experience, the knowledge, and the stories that are shared. Cooking is never as simple as it seems. Taking raw ingredients and transforming them into a meal is a powerful thing. Preparing food for someone is one of the first and most primal acts of caring for others. It is a deeply meaningful and nurturing act that is as powerful today as it was eons ago. Cooking with someone creates a meaningful experience that is more than just the food involved. It is a transfer of knowledge and skills passed down through the ages and refined through a lifetime.

At its heart, cooking is about taking a few simple ingredients and creating a meal. This is true magic, taking seemingly nothing and transforming it into that which sustains life. This week my friend Virginia and I made bread. While I have tried a few bread variations before, the technique and feel of this experience was more valuable than a thousand cookbooks. Virginia talked about the look and feel of the ingredients. While I will try and give measurements here, this is an experience that must be done with your hands, as what you are creating is so much more than just numbers and ingredients.

More than just Bread

Talking with Virginia, it’s easy to see how a recipe is more than just the food it creates. This technique for bread making came from her mother-in-law and was passed on to her as she joined this new family. In turn, it is something that she always made for her own family as she raised her children and grandchildren. Homemade bread was a staple at holiday dinners and the recipe made so much that everyone got to take home a loaf. Something as simple as a loaf of bread can hold such deep meaning and emotion when it is tied to family and time spent together. When you bake this bread, it is more than just bread you create. It is lasting memories and connections, carried down from generations ago to the generations yet to come.

Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread
Food is more than just ingredients.

Simple Yet Powerful

Start with about half of a stick of butter (¼ cup). Let the butter sit for awhile until it is room temperature. You want it to smoothly and evenly mix in with the other ingredients. Before you begin mixing ingredients you’ll want to activate or ‘proof’ the yeast.

Virginia tells me, “The most important thing to remember when baking bread is that yeast is alive. You have to nurture it in order for it to grow. Too hot or too cold can kill the yeast.”

To activate the yeast, Virginia pours one packet (or 2 ¼ teaspoons) of dry active yeast into a coffee mug. Sprinkle just a pinch of sugar over the yeast to feed it. Then, fill the coffee mug halfway with very warm water from the faucet and give it a quick stir. The water must be warm enough to activate the yeast, but not too hot, or the yeast may die. The feel of the water will tell you.

Virginia: “You must be able to touch the water, it can’t be scalding.”

Try and keep the mug warm as well. If the mug is too cold simply hold it in your hands a minute, creating a warm and nurturing environment for your yeast to grow. The yeast is ready when it ‘bubbles’ to the top of the mug.

Don’t Rush

Virginia reminds me, “Don’t rush it. Give it time to grow.”

When making this bread, don’t be overly concerned with timing or measurements. Feel it out and enjoy the process. While your yeast is activating, heat a medium pot of water on the stove. Don’t let it boil. Like before, this water shouldn’t be too hot to touch. Just pleasantly warm for the yeast to thrive. Once your yeast is activated and the water warmed, it’s time to start mixing your ingredients. Your butter should be room temperature by now. In a large stock pot, pour over the butter, most of a 5 lb. bag of Ceresota Flour. This flour is natural and unbleached, so it makes a delicious and nutrient filled homemade bread. I would estimate about 4 ½ lbs. at first, saving the remaining ½ lb. for dusting the table to knead.

Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread
You have never kneaded dough until you’ve tackled this monster!

Kneading the Dough

This is such a big recipe that it must be mixed in a stockpot, as I have yet to find a mixing bowl large enough! Sprinkle some sugar over the top to feed the yeast. About a tablespoon should do it. Also, add just a pinch of salt. When Virginia and I made this, I measured by cupping my hand and filling just the very center of my palm. This ends up being about a teaspoon. Then, pour in your yeast and add just enough of the warm water to form a dough. When the dough is combined, dump it out onto a floured table or counter top to knead. Let me tell you, you have never kneaded bread until you’ve tackled this 5 lb. monster.

Virginia was much better at kneading than me. Even after flouring my hands, I still ended up with dough sticking to me all over. The trick to kneading it is to lift a corner of dough up and over, onto itself, then press down and out, mixing the dough firmly into the center. Turn the dough one quarter turn each time so that your are always working with a new corner. As the dough is kneaded it will become stronger and more firm. This helps the dough to hold it’s shape as it rises. When the dough feels firm enough (after about 5 minutes of kneading) add a little oil to your stock pot and rub it along the bottom and sides to grease. Place your dough back into the stockpot and set it in a warm place to rise. Cover the dough with a clean towel and wrap it with another. This provides a warm, nurturing environment for your dough. Once the dough is all tucked in to rise, your can prepare your baking pans. This recipe makes about 5 loaves of bread, but you can use a pie pan for circular loves as well.

Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread
All tucked in!

Shaping the Loaves

Virginia: “I usually make bread for the holidays, then everyone can take home one of the extra loaves.”

Oil your pans well to prevent sticking, making sure to rub oil into the corners. Your dough is done rising once it has doubled in size (about an hour).

When ready, dump your risen dough onto a lightly floured table or counter top. Knead just a few times to push all of the air bubbles out. Then cut the dough into 5 even sections. For loaf pans, pull the two short ends over the top, just a little. Then pull up the long end closest to you. Use that end to roll the loaf up into a log. Place the shaped dough into a loaf pan and cut slits across the top. This allows the dough to stretch as it rises and vent as it bakes, as well as looking nice. Let the dough rise another half hour to forty five minutes. Don’t rush this part, or your bread will be rather dense, instead of light and fluffy. Once the dough has doubled in size, it is ready to bake. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Your bread should be golden brown on top and make a hollow sound when tapped.

Cooking with Virginia -Homemade Bread
Nothing is better than fresh homemade bread!

Look, Feel, and Sound

Virginia explains, “If the bread doesn’t sound hollow, there is too much moisture in there and it needs to bake longer”

Once your loaves are golden brown and sound hollow, turn them out onto a wire rack for cooking. Be sure to cover the loaves with a clean towel while they cool, to keep moisture in. Homemade bread is best eaten fresh, but to save a loaf for later, wait until it has cooled completely, then wrap it tightly in plastic and cover with aluminum foil to freeze. Loaves that have become a bit dry after a few days, taste excellent when sliced and lightly toasted!

Virginia:  “You know that you’ve done a good job if the bubbles within a slice of bread are evenly spaced. That means it was kneaded well!”

Making bread with Virginia has been a great experience and I can’t wait to practice this simple yet delicious bread recipe at home.

Marinated Veggie by TheLookingGlassCraft.com

Marinated Veggies

I’m absolutely in love with this new recipe that was shared with me for marinated veggies! These veggies are perfect for any occasion. Feel free to alter the veggies used, adding in your favorites. The flavors will blend well together for a variety of veggie combinations. Marinated veggies can be served warm or cold, as a side dish or overtop lettuce to turn your salad into a meal. This recipe is perfect for summer parties!

Your Favorite Veggies

What a great way to get in your daily dose of veggies! Mix up a big batch of marinated veggies and you’ll have no problem eating your greens this week. I love to throw in a variety of bell peppers for an extra splash of color, making this dish fun and bright. Slice and chop all of your veggies into bite sized pieces. For more color add in extra bell peppers, or substitute a yellow squash for a zucchini. Pour all of the chopped veggies into a large ziplock bag.

Delicious Dressing

In a small blender or food processor, pour in ½ cup Vegetable Oil and ½ cup Olive Oil. Add in ½ cup White Wine Vinegar and ½ cup Sugar. This is the base for your marinade and will make a sweet vinaigrette type dressing. Then mince 3 cloves of fresh Garlic to season your marinade. I love garlic and tend to add in a little extra if I’m making this for the family. Finally, finish the seasonings with 1 tablespoon Salt, 1 tablespoon Mustard, and 2 tablespoons Tarragon. I like to use stone ground mustard whenever possible, it adds the perfect balance of flavor, but you can use any kind you prefer. Blend these ingredients until well combined.

Perfect for Summer Parties

Pour the marinade over the veggies. Seal the bag tightly and refrigerate overnight. Since this marinade is essentially a salad dressing, you can eat the veggies right away. The flavors, however, will combine and develop after marinating overnight. I’ll occasionally make an extra batch of the dressing to use on salads throughout the week, since it’s delicious on it’s own as well. These veggies are wonderful for summer parties. You can make them up the night before and let them marinate until you’re ready to leave. Perfect for cookouts and potlucks! Have fun mixing up your favorite veggies this summer and enjoy!

Marinated Veggies

2 Bell Peppers

1 lb. Carrots

1 lb. Mushrooms

1 bunch Broccoli

1 bunch Cauliflower

2 Zucchini

5 Stalks Celery

½ cup Vegetable Oil

½ cup Olive Oil

½ cup White Wine Vinegar

½ cup Sugar

3 cloves garlic

1 T. Salt

1 T. Mustard

2 T. Tarragon

 

Slice and chop all veggies to bite sized pieces and combine in a large ziplock bag. In a small blender or food processor combine both Oils, Vinegar, and Sugar. Add in Garlic, Salt, Mustard, and Tarragon for seasoning. Blend until fully combined. Pour the marinade over the veggies and let sit overnight, sealed, in the refrigerator. Enjoy your veggies!

Marinated Veggies by TheLookingGlassCraft.com
This delicious dressing will have you coming back for more!
Smoothie Pops by TheLookingGlassCraft.com

Smoothie Pops

Warm sunshine on the beach, a cool breeze on the green grass, and sweet frozen smoothie pops are the best things about summer. These sweet and colorful smoothie pops are so simple to make. I love making a big batch to freeze after going berry picking at our local farms! Nothing compares to the taste of fresh berries.

Fresh, Ripe Berries

These smoothie pops are an all natural, healthy treat for your daily dose of sweet! They can be made with all varieties of fruit for your favorite flavor combination. Frozen berries can be substituted, but for the best results use fresh, unblemished berries.

Pick out ½ cup of your favorite Berries or cut fruit. This can be a single flavor, or a combination. Experiment and have fun! Pour berries into a blender and add 1 cup Yogurt.  I use plain, unsweetened yogurt for my smoothies, but you can substitute with whatever kind you like. However, if using a sweetened yogurt, omit Brown Sugar and only use ½ of the Honey called for.

Organic, Local Honey

Add in 2 tablespoons Honey to your smoothie mix to sweeten and flavor it. I like to use organic, locally grown honey whenever possible. Using locally grown honey has the added benefit of boosting your immune system and resistance to potential allergens in your area. Bee’s use the local plant life to gather nectar and make their honey, in the process their immune system neutralizes potential allergens from these plants. Just 2 teaspoons of local honey a day helps your own immune system to neutralize local allergens as well, reducing allergy symptoms.

Sweeten to Taste

Finally, for unsweetened Yogurt, add in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to sweeten. You can substitute this with a more natural sweetener, like agave nectar, if you prefer. However, if you use an alternative sweetener, adjust to taste as these can tend to be stronger than normal sugar. A drop of vanilla extract or another suitable extract can be added for flavor if you like, but start small with these as a little bit goes a long way. Pour smoothie mix into a popsicle mold and freeze.

Create and Have Fun!

One of the neatest things about these smoothie pops, is the way that berries and fruit will naturally color your smoothie, making these a fun and healthy treat for the kids as well. I recently made these smoothie pops for a 4th of July cookout and the effect was spectacular! Instead of choosing just one, I made three different flavors of smoothies. One smoothie was made from raspberries, another from blueberries, and the last one was made with a banana, cut into slices. Using a popsicle stick and plastic wrap to cover, I layered the colors one at a time into my popsicle mold. By letting each layer freeze slightly before adding the next, beautiful red, white, and blue striped popsicles were created. What a fun addition to our holiday cookout! Have fun creating your own unique combination of smoothie pops and share with us in the comments below.

Smoothie Pops

1/2 cup Berries (or cut fruit)

1 cup unsweetened Yogurt

2 T. Honey

2 T. Brown Sugar

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Experiment with new flavors and enjoy!

Smoothie Pops by TheLookingGlassCraft.com
Perfect for summer parties or a sweet treat for the family.
Spicy Cajun Pasta

Spicy Cajun Pasta

Opposites attract, in the best of ways, with this creamy, spicy dish. This rich and smooth Fettuccini Alfredo kicks it up a notch with colorful peppers and spicy seasonings! Our Spicy Cajun Pasta is a step away from the ordinary with a unique, colorful dinner that’s quick and easy to prepare. This spicy variation of an Alfredo sauce came together one night when my husband brought home a Siracha seasoning mix for me to experiment with. That night a new family favorite meal was born. The calm Alfredo sauce balances out the intense spices in this dish and the colorful peppers make it as pretty as it is delicious.

Classic Dinner with a Spicy Twist

Using fresh ingredients and a homemade Alfredo Sauce makes this a meal bursting with flavor! Peppers can be sliced and stored ahead of time, making this dinner a breeze to throw together.

Prepare your Homemade Alfredo Sauce in a small stove pot , or heat a pre-made Alfredo over low heat. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. This can be adjusted for taste. Next mix in ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder and ¼ teaspoon Onion Powder. This will give the sauce a rich, hearty taste, without a lot of extra effort. It lays a great foundation for the additional spices. Now comes the hot stuff. Add 1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning. I love this seasoning as it adds just the right amount of spicy flavor, without being too hot or overpowering. Stir in ½ teaspoon Siracha Powder to really kick up the spices a notch. Siracha powder is an intense spice, so don’t overdo this one! ¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes adds some extra bits of color as well as enhancing the flavor and adding an extra bite of spice. Finally, stir in 1 teaspoon of your favorite Hot Sauce. I usually use Franks or Louisiana hot sauce. Combine all of these seasonings together with the Alfredo sauce to create the perfect balance between smooth and spicy. Continue letting the Alfredo thicken or heat until it is the right temperature and consistency for you.

While the sauce is heating, slice 1 Bell Pepper of each color (red, green, yellow, and orange). Sauté the peppers in a large skillet with 1 or 2 tablespoons Butter. When the peppers are soft throughout and no longer crisp on the inside, remove from the heat. Pour the finished sauce and peppers over cooked noodles and toss to combine. Serve immediately for the best taste. Enjoy!

Spicy Cajun Pasta

Alfredo Sauce

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Pepper

¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder

¼ teaspoon Onion Powder

1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning

½ teaspoon Siracha Powder

¼ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

1 teaspoon Hot Sauce

1 Green Pepper

1 Red Pepper

1 Yellow Pepper

1 Orange Pepper

Cooked Noodles

Heat or prepare Alfredo Sauce in a small stove pot. Mix in all seasonings for a spicy kick. Slice 4 different colored peppers (Green, Red, Yellow, and Orange) and sauté in a large skillet. Pour the Spicy Alfredo Sauce and Sautéed Peppers over cooked noodles. Toss to combine and enjoy!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodle Cookies

Sometimes you can tell how well liked a recipe is by the number of sugar, flour, and butter stains that are worn into it. This is certainly the case with these snickerdoodle cookies. Soft and light, made with sugar and cinnamon, these cookies are the perfect snack. They taste best freshly made, when they are warm and soft, but that’s not usually a problem because they disappear faster than you can bake them.

Cinnamon and Sugar, The Perfect Pair

These cookies were so much fun to make as a child. The dough comes together very quickly, but the best part is rolling the cookie dough balls in cinnamon-sugar to coat. The sweet outer layer of these cookies adds the perfect amount of flavor to these melt in your mouth cookies.

Start by sifting your flour. You need 2 3/4 cup sifted Flour, mixed with 2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar and 1 teaspoon Baking Soda. Add in ½ teaspoon Salt and 1 ½  cups Sugar. Stir together dry ingredients before adding in 1 cup Shortening and 2 Eggs. Blend well with a mixer.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare your dough for baking by rolling into balls. Mix together Sugar and Cinnamon to taste in a small sealable plastic bag. Drop the cookie dough balls into the bag, one or two at a time. Seal the bag and shake gently to coat the dough with cinnamon-sugar.

Place each prepared cookie dough ball on a grease baking sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes. Be careful not to over bake, or the cookies will be dry and hard instead of soft and moist. Got leftover crumbs? Try making this delicious cookie crumb dip!

Snickerdoodle Cookies

2 ¾ cup Flour, sifted

2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

½ teaspoon Salt

1 ½ cup Sugar

1 cup Shortening

2 Eggs

Cinnamon and Sugar combined to taste

Sift Flour. Mix together all dry ingredients. Beat in Eggs and Shortening with a mixer. Roll the dough into balls. Place Cinnamon-Sugar in a small plastic sandwich bag. Shake the balls of cookie dough in the bag to coat, a few at a time. You can also roll the balls of cookie dough in a bowl of cinnamon-sugar. Place cookie dough on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 – 8 minutes. Enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie from the Something Sweet Series

Chocolate Pecan Pie

This chocolate pecan pie was one of the classics at my grandma’s every Thanksgiving. The warm melted chocolate emphasized the rich and creamy texture of this filling, while the pecans contrast it nicely with a slight crunch. Together they make a delicious dessert that is both decadent and comforting.

Smooth, Crunchy, and Rich

This recipe is fun to make and can be thrown together very quickly! Start out with an uncooked Pie Crust, as always I recommend trying this delicious homemade pie crust recipe. Store bought crusts can be used if you’re pressed for time, but nothing beats the taste of homemade.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine 3 beaten Eggs with 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract and 2 tablespoons melted Butter. Next, mix in ½ cup Sugar and 1 cup Corn Syrup. This will make the mixture very thick, be sure to mix in all of the sugar, and not let it settle on the bottom. Then, add in ½ cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips. You can substitute dark chocolate if you like, but for me semi-sweet is just right. Finally, mix 1 ½ cup Pecan halves and stir to combine all ingredients evenly.

The filling for this is an interesting texture. The pecans and chocolate chips will basically be suspended in a thick, semi-fluid mixture. Pour this into to unbaked pie crust and remember to cover the edges of the crust with tin foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes, removing the foil for the last 5 – 10 minutes to let the edges brown.

Let the pie cool for at least an hour. Because of the eggs, the center of the pie will be raised up towards the end of baking, but it will settle as the pie cools.

Keep an eye on it towards the end. With all the chocolate mixed in it’s easy to get a very dark looking top on this recipe. As you can see in the picture, I left mine in for a minute or so too long. If you’d like, melt a little extra chocolate to drizzle across the top of the pie or over individual slices.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 Eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon Vanilla

2 tablespoons Butter, melted

½ cup Sugar

1 cup Corn Syrup

½ cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips

1 ½ cup Pecan Halves

1 unbaked Pie Crust

Combine beaten Eggs, Vanilla, and melted butter in a medium sized mixing bowl. Stir in Sugar and Corn Syrup, mixing until well combined. Add in Chocolate Chips and Pecan Halves, stirring until the pieces are evenly suspended. Pour mixture into an unbaked Pie Crust and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 50 minutes. Let cool 1 hour.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

This cake is so much fun to make! It is Grandma June’s special recipe for all the birthdays, and for good reason. This cake is so moist and delicious it doesn’t even need frosting (although who can resist adding some anyway?) This chocolate mayonnaise cake was rich and delicious, I can’t wait to try a batch with different flavorings as well. The batter comes together so quickly you will never bother with a boxed cake mix again.

Mayonnaise in Cake!?

Crazy right? I had never heard of a cake made with mayonnaise before. I defiantly wouldn’t have thought those two things could go together. But in this delicious cake recipe, they fit perfectly. Mayonnaise is basically just eggs and oil, so using it in a cake replaces the eggs and makes the cake creamy and delicious. This will be the go to recipe for birthday cakes in my house this year!

In a large mixing bowl sift together 3 cups Flour and 3 tablespoons Baking Cocoa. This breaks up the clumps so you won’t get a big bite cocoa powder, making a nice smooth batter. Stir in 1-1/2 cup Sugar and 1 tablespoon Baking Soda. Then add 1-1/2 cup Mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Vanilla, and 1-1/2 cup Water. Mix these into the dry ingredients all at once, to keep the batter from clumping. Grease and flour a cake pan and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the batter into the pan evenly, then drop the pan lightly on the table a few times to force out any air bubbles. Smooth out the top, then place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Grandma June’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

3 cups Flour

3 tablespoons Baking Cocoa

1-1/2 cup Sugar

1 tablespoon Baking Soda

1-1/2 cup Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1-1/2 cup Water

Sift together Flour and Baking Cocoa. Add in Sugar and Baking Soda. Mix Mayonnaise, Vanilla, and Water into the dry ingredients all at once. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Egg Noodles

Egg Noodles

When I think back to holidays as a child, there are certain traditions that stand out above the rest. These things made our holiday gatherings special and unique. Thanksgiving, in my family includes turkey as more of a side dish. The real reason for having turkey on thanksgiving is to use the broth and drippings to flavor Grandma Walker’s Egg Noodles. Egg noodles were the main dish in our family’s Thanksgiving. When the whole family got together, there would be a table full of egg noodles drying. My cousins and I would take turns stirring the pots of noodles, cooking and thickening them on the stove. Sometimes all four burners would have pots filled with egg noodles! To this day I always make some for my family at Thanksgiving, but they are also a favorite of ours year round.

The Family Tradition

The recipe for egg noodles is actually very simple. It’s the process of making them that is special. With a few simple ingredients, you can have a delicious homemade meal for your family. Egg noodles can be cooked on their own in any flavor broth, or used in a recipe like Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

To make the egg noodles, start with the beaten eggs. When I would ask grandma how many eggs to use she would say, “well, it depends on how many noodles you want to make.” This recipe can easily be adjusted up or down depending on the size of your family, but I recommend starting with 4 Eggs. Beat them together, then add 1 teaspoon Salt and 1 cup Flour. Mix this together, then slowly start adding 1 additional cup Flour, a little at a time until you cannot mix more in with a fork. Spread the remaining flour out on a clean surface and turn the dough onto it. Work more of the remaining flour into the dough with your hands, then roll out the dough until it is very thin, turning and flouring it occasionally so it doesn’t stick.

Drying and Cutting

Let the dough dry for about a half hour. Sprinkle more flour on top of the dough and roll it up lightly into a log, like a jelly roll. Make sure you add enough extra flour when rolling so the noodles don’t stick together when cut. Cut the dough roll into thin slices to make little pinwheels. Once your pinwheels are all sliced, toss them up a little and run your fingers through to separate them. Some pinwheels might stick together and have to be unrolled by hand. When all the spirals are unwound, spread them out across the surface to dry.

Let dry about an hour, then transfer to a pot with 4 cups boiling stock or broth. Reduce to a simmer and cook the noodles about 15 minutes until the broth is thickened into a sauce. If you would like to save your noodles for later, freeze them after the drying process, but before cooking. Then when ready, simply drop the frozen noodles into boiling stock to cook.

Grandma Walker’s Egg Noodles

4 Eggs

1 teaspoon Salt

2 cups Flour

6 cups Stock or Broth

 

Mix beaten Eggs, Salt, and Flour together. Roll out dough on a heavily floured surface. Let dry 30 minutes. Roll dough up into a log and cut into thin slices. Unroll spirals of dough and let dry 1 hour. Boil 4 cups Stock or Broth and add in noodles. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 15 minutes, until broth has thickened into a sauce.

Pie Crust

Pie Crust

For generations cooking and recipes have been handed down through the family. The recipes you knew by heart were the ones taught to you by your mother, grandmother, neighbors, or friends. Now, with all the fast and convenient alternatives available, we sometimes miss out on learning these basic recipes and skills. In my family we all would like to preserve these special recipes from my grandmother, but our busy lives and the distances between us make it hard to keep these traditions alive. So in honor of this, I’ve decided to share with everyone a special recipe taught to me by my grandmother, handed down from her mother before her. This is Great Grandma Stuckey’s Homemade Pie Crust.

Less of a recipe, and more of an Art

I always remember the pies that grandma would make for Thanksgiving. I wish now that I had learned more from her, but I will always treasure her teaching me this special pie crust recipe. Grandma’s cooking can only be described as an art. You could write the recipe down and measure it out, but her cooking was always more of a process and a feeling than an actual recipe. That is where the fun comes in, and you can appreciate cooking as more than just numbers and measurements, but as a beautiful and simple act of creating.

Start with 3 cups Flour and 1 teaspoon Salt.

Mix in 1-¼ cup of Lard with your hands.

That’s right, with your hands. For the perfect pie crust you want to pay attention to the unique texture as you mix it. Mix the lard in lightly, breaking it into small, pea sized bits. Don’t over-mix; it should still be very lumpy with a consistency similar to wet sand.

Grandma’s Secret Ingredient

Grandma always used lard, not shortening in her pie crust. You can substitute shortening, but the effect is not quite the same as when you use real lard.

Next, beat 1 Egg and add it to the flour mixture along with 1 teaspoon Vinegar. Add 5 to 6 tablespoons Cold Water.

I recommend starting with 5 tablespoons cold water and adding just a little more if you need it. Again, don’t over-mix! You want to combine the liquid just enough to make a dough that mostly sticks together. It should still be slightly flaky and a few bits may break off.

Roll out the Dough

Sprinkle some flour over your counter top, so the dough doesn’t stick, and turn it out. Divide the dough in half and pat the first half down into a flattened circle before rolling out. As you roll out the dough, frequently flour and turn it, very gently to keep it from tearing. Once the dough is about an inch wider than your pie pan on all sides, gently lift the edges and slide your pan underneath.

If the dough tears in a few places, just patch it in at the end with an extra piece from the edges. Gently press the dough into the pan and poke holes in the bottom to prevent air bubbles underneath. Cut away the excess around the pan with a knife.

Filling and Baking

You can pre-bake the crust now at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes and use the second half of dough for another pie. Or you can add a filling of your choice, and then roll out the second half of dough to cover it. This homemade apple pie filling is one of my favorites, and ready in minutes.

When the filling is covered by the second sheet of dough, press all around the edges with your thumbs to seal and cut slits in the top to vent. For apple pie bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake another 40 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Don’t Forget!

Whether you bake the crust plain or filled, always remember to cover the edges in tin foil first then remove the foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. This will keep them from browning too quickly.

Homemade pie crust can add such a meaningful addition to special holiday events or just as an extra treat. It can also be wrapped and frozen to bake later. This is a fairly simple recipe that is easy to master, with a great effect. You can try all different types of filling or use the scrap dough to create decorative shapes on the edges. Have fun, get creative, and share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

 

Pie Crust

3 cups Flour

1 teaspoon Salt

1-¼ cup Lard

1 Egg, beaten

1 teaspoon Vinegar

5-½ tablespoons Cold Water

Mix the Flour, Salt and Lard until it “crumbles” then add the beaten egg, vinegar and cold water. Mix lightly until just combined and roll out on floured surface. Press lightly into a pie pan and poke holes in the bottom with a fork. Always cover the edges in foil before baking and remove for the last 5 to 10 minutes until it browns. Baking time will vary based on the filling used. For an empty pie crust, bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. For an apple pie, bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees for another 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.