Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How I make pie crust

(This is how it should look when you're done mixing - this is 2 crusts worth.)
Proportions from "The Basic Pie Crust" in Bernard Clayton, Jr.'s The Complete Book of Pastry, Sweet and Savory

6 Tblsp of fat, frozen. Lard is perfect. Butter is too soft, but half
butter, half crisco works pretty well. I freeze discs wrapped in wax
paper because it's easy to break the discs up.

Put 1 c flour in the food processor. Add a spoonful of sugar if you
want. Break up the fat onto it. Pulse until no fat particles bigger
than a pea are left. Add a little bit of ice water (Tblsp at a time if
you want to measure) give it a couple of pulses, check to see if it's
starting to clump together. Repeat the add water/pulse step until it
does. You are trying to create flour covered fat lumps that have just
enough water to gather together.

Dump the dough out onto some cling wrap, shove it into a lump. Wrap it
up and stick it in the fridge for at least 4 hours, not much more than
a day.

When you roll it out, be crazy generous with the flour. Cover the
surface, cover the rolling pin, cover both sides of your dough lump.
Once I have it rolled out, I usually fold it into 4ths to transfer to
the pie pan.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We love this dog

Vlad has been very sick. Two Thursdays ago, he was diagnosed with Auto Immune Hemolytic Anemia which on its own is often fatal. His white blood cells are trying to kill his red blood cells, and they had gotten dangerously low. His tongue was completely white by the time we got him into the vet. Not knowing to look for paleness, all we knew was that he was lethargic and had stopped eating. (Most dogs don't stop eating. I'm glad he did - Vlad lethargic is about as active as Gustav, so it didn't seem like we needed to worry that much other than the lack of eating.) Within a few days after his diagnosis, he also had pancreatis (pancreatitis? something bad.) and his blood proteins were way off. It turns out that when you have low protein in your blood, fluids seeps out of the blood vessels and collects in the belly. Vlad gained 5 lbs in fluid. (Normal weight: 30 lbs) There was so much fluid it was pushing on his lungs. After two transfusions (one of plasma, one of a plasma substitute) we are now treating his kidneys with a special diet and yet another pill.

The low protein and the pancreas problems are not usual complications of the auto immune induced anemia. He's just special.

So now we're giving him steroids and a human immune supression drug. We did a round of antibiotics. And he's got drugs for his kidneys. And antacids to try to keep the steroids from giving him ulcers. He's down to 31 lbs.

He still may succumb to the anemia pretty quickly, but for now, it looks like it's under control.

If your dog becomes lethargic and you think his tongue/gums are pale - get to the vet!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Suggestion for your First Loaf of Bread

Slight adaptation of King Arthur Flour's Our Favorite Sandwich Bread
2 tsp yeast
1 c water
1/3 c dry milk
2 Tblsp sugar
1 c whole wheat flour
2 Tblsp butter, soft
1 1/4 tsp salt
All purpose flour for remainder

The ingredients are listed in the order that I suggest adding them. It shouldn't matter much, but it's kind of nice to to dissolve the yeast in liquid first.
I use Rapid Rise yeast. Rose uses it for everything, so it must be fine. BUT it's fine to use any kind - you just may have longer rise times.
I use dry milk because a) I always have it on hand and b) the more finicky recipes I see say you must scald milk before you use it, but that dry milk is ok to just dump in.
It doesn't have to be white sugar. Brown sugar might add some warmth to the flavor. Honey is nice but kind of a pain to measure in small quantities. Molasses will give it a noticeable kick.
The whole wheat flour is optional - you can just use all purpose for the whole thing and get a nice white loaf.
I'd probably just do two rises at sea level - this was tested at high altitude.

Stir main ingredients together.
Add 1 c all purpose flour and stir.
Add about 1/2 c flour at a time, stirring, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to come together as a single mass.

Cover your hands in flour (adding more as needed) and knead 6-8 minutes. (Punch it, fold it, throw it on the counter, search for youtube instructional videos - however you want to knead it.) As far as I can tell, you pretty much CAN'T overknead by hand, so go at least the 6 minutes and all the way up to 10 if that makes you happy.
For a single loaf recipe like this, I often mix in a large bowl, knead in the bowl so I don't get flour everywhere, and rise it in the same place.

Oil a bowl lightly, form the dough into a ball by tucking the ends under, place it in the bowl and cover. Kitchen towel or cling wrap will do if your bowl doesn't have a lid.

Allow to rise until doubled in size - about an hour, but varies GREATLY by warmth of room, altitude, etc. The first rise is usually the longest.

Punch it down, give it a few folds to distribute the bubbles. Reform, recover the bowl, and allow to rise to double its size again.

Oil (or better - that spray oil with flour incorporated) a loaf pan. Flatten your dough into a rectangle, and roll it into about the length of the pan. Tuck the ends over if you need to. Place in the pan with the seam down.
Spray oil top of dough, cover with cling wrap. Allow to rise til crest is about an inch over the top of the pan.

You may slash the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. I did a single slash down the center.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.