I've always been able to make just about any cookies, cakes or bread that you want ~ but a pretty pie is a different story. I think I just am too particular about rolling the crust too thin (I don't like thick pie crust), so it always seems to crack and not look as pretty as it should. Over the years, I've come up with some tips to help cover up those "boo boos", and also to help you save some time and effort too!
silicone or silpat baking mats
silicone shield for edges of pie
I found this flexible silicone pie edge thingie on eBay. It keeps the edges of your pie crust from getting too brown in the oven ~ and won't fall off like those pieces of tin foil that you're using!
Rolling out the crust: I always roll out my crust on a silicone baking mat (or silpat) right next to the sink because that's the easiest way to clean up (just sponge all the mess into the sink afterwards). My grandmother always taught me to roll out my pie crust ~ then put the pie pan down onto the crust and cut a circle about 1" larger than the pan ~ then roll the crust onto my rolling pin and roll it off into the pie pan. Yes, that does work well and I did it for years! But, if you've rolled your pie crust onto a silicone mat, you can cut the circle out the same way ~ leave the pan there ~ then take all the scraps off the mat and just flip the pan & mat over! Voila! less chance of tearing the crust...
And, speaking of rolling out the crust..... put some flour on the silicone mat (or whatever surface you're using), but then put a large piece of plastic wrap on top and roll it out. No need to flour your rolling pin or put extra flour on the top side of the dough. This keeps the dough from getting too much flour into it (and making it tough ~ especially if you roll it several times, like re-rolling scraps which means you're adding flour to it several times).
BUTTER or SHORTENING CRUST? … I prefer shortening for several reasons. It's easier to work with ~ I don't have to chill it ~ and it's flakier. Here's the button link to my PERFECT PIE CRUST page, with recipes for both crusts, and you can decide which you like best.
The EASY WAY to make PIE CRUST: Did you know you can make your pie crust in your food processor? Put the flour & salt in and give it a whirl. Then put in the shortening or butter (scatter the dabs/cubes around on the flour). Pulse until it looks crumbly. Pulse in the water. Basically follow your regular recipe, but pulse the food processor instead of using a pastry cutter or 2 forks.
pulse til crumbly
roll out w/plastic wrap
And, what do you do if you have rips or tears in that top crust? Just cut out little shapes from some of your scraps and "glue" them on by brushing milk or an egg wash on the crust. Then pretend that you wanted to decorate your pie all along!
Instead of using the tines of a fork to flatten down cookies (or flattening them with your hand), use the decorative bottom of a glass or Tupperware container. Search through your cabinets and pantry to see what you can find!
I used a cut crystal glass for the regular peanut butter cookies. The monster peanut butter cookies are about 4" across, so first I flattened them with a plastic lid and then went back and used the decorative crystal glass in the center. I used a heart cookie stamp for the lemon snaps.
Another TIP: I roll the cookie dough balls in sugar before I press or stamp them.
My new favorite liquid sweetener, especially for fruit that's too hard or tasteless (peaches, nectarines, mangoes ~ winter strawberries and melons). It isn't grainy like sugar or Splenda, and the fruit doesn't get mushy. Great substitute for honey or corn syrup. ** In the fruit salad above, I just cut up peaches, nectarines and mangoes and drizzled about 1 tsp. light agave nectar over them; mixed it up gently. After about 1/2 hour, they were softer and sweeter. (60 calories per TB=15 calories per tsp)
I always buy LIGHT agave nectar because it isn't as sweet as regular strength (which is more like corn syrup). A big bottle of it costs less than $6 and is either on the baking aisle near the other sugar products, or near the honey and corn syrup.
Yes, English hothouse cucumbers are the best because the skins are tender and they have barely any seeds at all in them. But when regular cucumbers are on sale (or you're growing your own at home), it doesn't make sense to pay 4x as much for an English hothouse at the store. So, pick the smallest regular cucumber you can find and make it just as tasty and "burp-less" as an English hothouse.
1) Depending on how thin and smooth (or bumpy) the skin is, you may need to peel all of the skin off (this is what will cause most of the gas when you eat it). If it's pretty thin and smooth, I'll just "stripe" the skin with my vegetable peeler (which gives it a pretty look).
2) Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise. Then use a melon baller to take out the seeds (photo above).
It should now be as "burp-less" as the more expensive English hothouse cucumbers, and ready to use in all your cucumber salads and veggie platters.
You can search by keyword " cucumber " for all of my cucumber recipes here too.
I sell baked goods on eBay, and have done dessert catering in the past, so I quite often have to make 5 or 10 different types of cookies or other baked goods in one day. Not as difficult as it sounds, with just a few easy tips.
(1) COOKIE ASSORTMENTS ** I sell cookie assortments on eBay, and sometimes send out as many as 10-12 orders per day during the Holidays (each order is 2 dozen, with a minimum of 4 different kinds in each order ~ although I always have at least 6 kinds). I make up 4 or 5 kinds of cookie dough at one time, and keep them in Tupperware containers (with plastic wrap inside) in the refrigerator. So, I can just scoop and bake as many cookies as I need at one time.
I'll also make my own "slice and bake" cookie logs ~ wrap them in waxed paper, then put the logs into freezer baggies. You can put the baggies into the refrigerator, or freeze them for up to 3 months (and no need to thaw them out when you slice & bake either).
Just be sure to write down the name of the cookies, and baking instructions ~ tape it on the container or baggie.
*** And don't be afraid to bake and FREEZE cookies ahead too! Gingersnaps, mandel brot, biscotti, Spritz cookies, Rum balls, cake balls all freeze very well. I line a big sturdy Tupperware or Rubbermaid tub with plastic baggies (from the grocery store) and put the cookies in layers (with waxed paper between the layers), and a plastic baggie on top of it all. They'll actually stay frozen really well for about 3 months! QUICK BREADS and MUFFINS also freeze very well too. ** Note that meringues do NOT freeze well, and will totally crumble.
(2) How to ARRANGE the ORDER of your BAKING: ** I start with the plainest item I need to bake. First is anything with white batter ~ then anything with yellow batter ~ then anything with yellow batter and spices. Next is anything with yellow batter and peanut butter (because a little bit of spice in peanut butter is just fine). The last things I bake are chocolate.
And, the reason for this order? Because I can usually get away with just scraping down the bowl and beaters really well with my rubber scraper, and not having to totally wash everything between recipes! .... Then, I wash everything well before I start the whole arrangement process again with frostings. ** Of course, if you're doing anything that requires separating and beating egg whites stiff, do that FIRST before you do anything else! You can just put them into another bowl and set them aside until you're ready for them.
I had a big (11-3/4") white Texas Ware mixing bowl for over 40 years, and then dropped it and it broke (cleanly in half). I was devastated because it was beyond a doubt the very best mixing bowl ever! No comparison with pottery, glass, pyrex or stainless steel. Nothing sticks to it, and it looks beautiful (even after constant use for 40 years). Not only can you mix baked goods in it, but you can also use it as a salad or serving bowl.
So, I went on eBay and used "Texas Ware" as my search word. I found lots of them there ~ not white, but the speckled ones are even nicer! Yes, they're used (not sure if they're still made), but I bought 2 (a 9" and an 11-3/4", which is #125) and both look brand new. They're very heavy resin ~ like what the old melmac (melamine) dishes used to be. So, if you're looking for mixing bowls, I highly recommend these!
Hello. My name is Cindy, and I'm a coffee addict. .... I admit it and I'm not ashamed of it!
I'm also a coffee snob and would never have considered drinking decaf coffee until just recently. I suffer from migraine headaches, and my doctor told me to cut down to just one regular cup of coffee a day. "But, Doctor! Your nurse told me to have a cup of strong coffee whenever I felt a migraine coming on!" .... "yes", he replied, "but that's when you don't drink coffee! Not when you drink 4 or more cups of strong coffee a day (plus take Excedrin Migraine, which are equal to 10 cups of coffee)." .... oops ~ my bad. .... so, the search to make that dreaded decaf taste like heaven.
First, I was so glad that my current Keurig machine was one that had the option to make a cup of coffee stronger. I think it's the 2.0 model. Yes, the water tank is slightly smaller (maybe 48 oz. instead of 64 oz.?), but that doesn't really matter. Same price as the other less expensive models too. (I got mine at Walmart.)
Then, my search for the best decaf K-cups ended with Green Mountain Dark Magic (for a strong, bold flavor) and Newman's Own Organic (for a nice, well-rounded bold flavor). I find them both at the grocery store.
Ok, the last little hint: put a dash of CINNAMON in the bottom of your cup before you brew the coffee into it! It just seems to add that depth of flavor that decaf lacks (and disguises the somewhat metallic flavor of decaf). ... And, if you want a Latte, just add some liquid coffee creamer (flavored or not) into the cup before you brew your coffee into it. ... Enjoy!