Aunt Emma's Never Fail Pie Crust

3 c sifted flour
1 1/4 c Shortening
1 tsp salt
1 egg, well beaten
5 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp vinegar

Cut shortening into flour and salt.
Combine egg, water, and vinegar in a separate bowl.
Pour liquid into flour mixture all at once. Blend with spoon until flour is all moistened.
It can be re-rolled without toughening. Will keep in refrigerator for two weeks or divide into balls enough for one pie and wrap in Saran wrap and freeze indefinitely.

Makes 2 crusts

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Plenty and Nothing

Oh, I had plans. It was going to be my best blogging effort yet.  Photo plans: the very prolific cherry tomato plant, the very healthy basil plant, my little basket of home grown ingredients ripened beautifully, just in time for this week's recipe, Mozzarella, Tomato, and Strawberry Salad. A month ago I would have been providing my own strawberries, but it's gotten too hot for them now.

Shopping plans: we found the recommended burrata style mozzarella.  I even bought multi-colored peppercorns so I could pick out the pink ones!

Dinner plans (and this is where it all starts to go awry): Hubby asks about The Plan. I say it's Dorie Book Night. He finds the recipe. I tell him I'll make it when I've finished my workout.  I see him in the kitchen  pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator. I tell him, I'LL MAKE IT WHEN I'M DONE.  I am 10 feet away from him. He is marvelling over his new Shun knife (Father's Day gift to himself), and how well it slices the mozzarella. I ignore him.

What do you suppose happens next.

Workout is over, time to make the salad, right?

Salad is finished. Sitting on the counter. Tastes good. Game over. 

There are more cherry tomatoes on the plant outside. They are bright green.

Let's check out the French Fridays With Dorie site for other bloggers' fun experiences!

When in Doubt, Think Peanut Butter


It's the age-old dilemma, what to buy someone who can buy everything herself. Since marrying one year ago she's become a black-belt shopper in her own right. And even if she had remained "happy to be shopping at Ross" about twice a year, the new man in her life is happy following her around at the mall, or the vacation boutique, buying up whatever she pauses to look at for longer than 2 seconds.  This made it difficult for me to even think about finding her the right birthday present this year. What to do, what to do? 

It took me a couple of weeks and then one day, flipping through "Baking From my home to yours" I chanced a look under P in the index. (Cue the lightbulb and the trumpets) Behold the Peanut Butter Torte, page 282!  Bonus- two beautiful photographs.  This, I decided, is birthday-gift worthy! (The new husband doesn't cook. ha-ha)

There is a lengthy list of ingredients but most are pantry staples, the others are easy to find. i.e. Oreo cookies for the crust, salted peanuts, and peanut butter (Dorie recommends Skippy).

Without explaining why I needed to know, I was given a delivery time of 4:30 Saturday afternoon.  Her pending birthday plans were scheduled to commence shortly after 5. Saturday morning, over breakfast, I read the entire recipe for the first time. Yikes, the torte required a minimum 4 hour refrigeration before adding the chocolate ganache topping, and then another 20 minutes after that.   I had to get cranking!

Dorie has a fantastic way of describing the mechanics of a recipe.  I am a novice but, following her directions, my torte came out well.  I struggled a bit with pressing the Oreo crust up the sides of the Springform pan. Mine is a silicone affair with a ceramic bottom. Pushing the crumb mixture up the sides caused the silicone to flex. Still, I managed a reasonable facsimile. The fact that I didn't make the crust go all the way up didn't affect the outcome.
Thankfully, the Tupperware Transport gods were with us that day, and the Peanut Butter Torte delivery was accomplished without a hitch.  The Birthday Girl, who does not allow herself frequent dietary indulgences, was more than happy to cut into her surprise immediately. At this point I had to confess I did not accomplish quite all of the recommended refrigeration periods, and the mousse filling was a tad soft. Still, it was phenomenally delicious.  Birthday Girl thanked me and announced that Peanut Butter is her favorite.

But I already knew that.

Today's Date

Ah well, the actual calendar day does not matter. It's only a number, right?  Again I baked along with the Tuesdays With Dorie group, even though I am not an official member. That cookbook is a beautiful thing to behold, Baking from my home to yours.  Not every recipe has a photo with it, and this week's recipe was one of those that did not: Date-Nut Loaf from page 228. Like some of the other bloggers, a recipe including dates did not initally excite me. I was intrigued by Dorie's description about this turning out like more of a cake than a bread. I have to agree.  It is very tender, making me think of Pound Cake, but not as buttery. Perhaps 3 oz of cream cheese is the secret.  Hubby and I tried it day one with slices spread with butter. Day two, slices spread with apricot preserves. Both very delicious, not overly sweet. My conclusion: today's date is Just Right. Now that's something to be happy about, no matter what the number.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What is French for Rhubarb?

I have no idea. The most French words I know I learned in ballet class. I don't know how old I was before I realized the odd names for poses and moves were French words!  Then one day I found out fondue was a ballet move AND a food!  (My teacher taught us it is the French word for "to sink", as we were standing on one leg and bending that knee.)  Nevermind all that because this week's recipe has nothing to do with fondue!

Rhubarb: memories of my Grandma in Michigan sitting on her porch (as described in an earlier post), gigantic mosquitos trying to eat me alive, and some pretty wonderful pies.  Grandma was raised on a farm and I'm sure she cooked some pretty wonderful meals when we visited. Why do I only remember green iced tea on the table, wilted lettuce salad with sugar on it, and that pie?  Maybe because I never had any of those things growing up in Phoenix.

I was excited to make Roasted Rhubarb with the other Doristas. (page 397 in "around my french table")  I found great looking rhubarb at our local Sprouts.  As far as I know, we can't grow it here in Phoenix.  I wonder it if could be a winter plant, maybe I'll investigate.  Anyway, nothing could be more simple than following Dorie's recipe and coming up with a most wonderful rhubarb dish.  Three ingredients, come on!

Right out of the oven, gave it a little stir...

First night we had it along side a piece of Lemon Olive Oil Cake. Delish. Second night we had it along side vanilla ice cream. Wonderful. Third try (and final serving) was with Honey Vanilla Greek yogurt.  Awesome.  Even hubby, who is ho hum on rhubarb liked it. This one is a total winner. On Friday you can check out how the group did at
PS. I don't like it when strawberries try to get into my rhubarb. So let's not go there.

Espresso and Almonds and Cocoa, Oh My!

Instant Espresso Powder. Now this is an ingredient I have never baked with, or even purchased. This weeks Tuesdays with Dorie baking group chose "Chocolate Biscotti" from the "Baking..." book, page 144.

This recipe came together in the usual fashion: creaming sugar and butter, mixing in eggs and vanilla, incorporating the dry ingredient blend before stirring in chocolate pieces and nuts.  The technique for shaping the biscotti, and the second visit to the oven were new for me. I got worried when cutting the logs into pieces resulted in some breakage, but in the end the results were FANTASTIC if I do say so.

You might ask, has she never had homemade biscotti?  That would be NO.  Apparently I've never even had good biscotti since these little gems stand heads and shoulders above my previous tastings.  They were not the teeth-clenching, head-jarring bars that often require dunking into the preferred hot beverage to get them down.  Indeed, these tender morsels are rich with chocolate, enhanced by almonds and totally delectable.  Score!

I know, I know. I'm working on the photography!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Another First- French Fridays with Dorie

So, along with the online cooking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, comes the newest manifestion: French Fridays with Dorie. Formed by the same blogger, this group cooks each week from Dorie's newer book, "around my french table". The title on the cover is written like that, without capital letters. This group is allowing new members, so I am joining them for the first time with the chosen recipe- cola and jam spareribs. (Lower case again, I see a trend.)

I am totally unfamiliar with Chinese Five Spice. Don't know how it got into my spice cupboard, but there it was, brand new.  Smells sweet!  A key ingredient, along with ground ginger, salt and pepper makes a dry rub.  Apricot jam, orange juice and lemon juice come together to make the marinade.  Followed the recipe to the letter, my usual MO.  Had no trouble with meat sticking to the pan, or juices drying out. Needed no extra water. Added the Coca-Cola for the last 30 minutes and basted often.  Also added fresh ears of corn, wrapped in foil with butter, salt and pepper, to the top rack of the oven.  (Visiting taster is a corn and spare rib afficionado, big time.)

Let me just say the corn was a huge hit!  Unfortunately, the ribs were not.  First of all, they were a tad over cooked. Had I known what the heck I was doing, I might have pulled them out earlier. (I was waiting for the Coke to carmelize.)  Still, the ribs were edible. It was the flavor combination we found not so much to our taste. Too sweet I would say, so not a do over at my house.  I hope the other bloggers have better outcomes! You can find them here:  I fear not- I'm already making my grocery list for next week's cooking!                                                                               

Maybe Plain But a Great Personality- Tuesdays With Dorie

So I've done it. Completed my first week. Tuesdays With Dorie is an online cooking group that I read about in O magazine. Since the group has been cooking together for a while, and has grown to enormous proportions, they are no longer accepting new members. I am not deterred. They still publish their recipe selections, week by week, from Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking: From my home to yours". The group members leave their blog links so we can look to see how they did with the chosen recipe.

This week's recipe, from page 36, Blueberry-Brown Sugar Plain Cake.  Sounds fantastic!

The list of ingredients is not complex. I opted for fresh blueberries rather than frozen.  I included the optional cinnamon. Followed the instructions to the letter. My Pyrex dish measures slightly more than 11x7.  This cake went together easily, although I am no expert in whipping egg whites. Not sure how far to go for "firm glossy peaks", so when I saw peaks with a hint of sheen I stopped.
Ready for the oven!

Smells delicious!

There were three of us tasting. Tender and moist. Rave reviews. Bravo! Definitely a do-over.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Newest Favor to Myself

My Dorie Greenspan books have arrived. The grocery list is made. Rib-making with the group will commence this weekend. Fun!