101: A+ pie crust

101: Basic Pie Dough

Having a staple pie crust recipe is one of those things that makes life in the kitchen so much easier.  Eventually you will know it by heart, and will be whipping up crusts in no time, filling all your little pies & tart desires.  You can also prepare your dough in advance, freezing it until it's needed.  Moral of the story: making a homemade pie does not need to be as time-consuming as most imagine! 

So why are there so many recipe variations for plain ol' pie dough?  Since dough is basically just flour, water, and fat...striking the "perfect" combination of ingredients has been sought after by many for years.  The idea is to create a crust that is flakey & fine textured (use shortening instead of butter), but not lacking flavor (don't use ALL shortening), and definitely not one that is heavy & overpowering (all lard), since that raises health concerns about the effects of animal fat. 

What type of shortening to use? We highly recommend Crisco - a vegetable oil that has been hydrogenated (about 10% gas - which incorporates air, thus raising the melting point above room temperature, ultimately lightening the dough). Unhydrogenated vegetable oil, on the other hand, holds no extra air, so it makes for poor pie doughs.

Different recipes also vary the types of flour (flour, flour with cornstarch/baking powder/cake flour/pastry flour, or some combination of these) & liquid (water, buttermilk, milk, cider vinegar) used - but many come back to all-purpose flour and ice water.  

When making your pie dough, you can do it by hand...but a food processor does a great job of incorporating the fat into the flour - and it is easier. (Yes, you have to clean the appliance, but something tells me us will have other dishes & utensils to clean anyway...) 
- If you undermix, your crust will shrink when baked, becoming hard & crack
- If you overmix, your crust will be crumbly instead of flakey
Pulse the shortening with the flour until sandy, then incorporate the butter by pulsing until you have coarse crumbs.  Transfer to a bowl, and slowly mix in the ice water - as little as possible - with a rubber spatula & a folding motion until the dough sticks together. Caution: use at least the minimum amount of water, if you are too stingy with the water the dough will be crumbly & hard to roll.

Lastly, when rolling out the dough, make sure it is well chilled & add a minimum amount of flour to the workspace.  The dough will toughen if too much flour is absorbed when rolling.  If the dough seems to soft, it is best to refrigerate it rather than adding more flour. 

Total time: 1 hour & 20 minutes minimum
(Prep time: 20 minutes; Refrigerator time: 1 hour up to two days, or freeze)
Makes two pie doughs: enough for one double crust 9-inch pie or two 9-inch tarts

  • 2 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting workspace when rolling out the dough)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of Crisco (vegetable shortening), chilled
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) of cold, unsalted butter
  • 6-8 tablespoons of water
- Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor.
- Add shortening, pulsing until you achieve a sand-like texture
- Add butter, pulsing for about 10 seconds, until you achieve a coarse crumb-like texture with butter bits no larger than the size of a pea.
- Transfer mixture to a medium bowl.
- Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture.
- With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix, adding 2 more tablespoons of water.
- Press the dough downwards from the sides until the dough sticks, adding up to two more tablespoons of water if necessary.
- Divide the dough into 2 sections, flattening into four-inch disks.  Wrap in plastic & refrigerate for at least one hour, up to two days, or freeze.

Variation for "lattice-top pie" pie dough:
- Follow the above recipe, using 3 cups of flour, only 7 tablespoons of shortening and 10 tablespoons of butter, and increasing the ice water to 10 tablespoons.  
- When you divide the dough into 2 pieces, make one slightly larger than the other (16 vs 14 ounces), flattening the larger piece into a rough 5-inch square, and the smaller piece into a 4-inch disk.  

Waste not, want not
elz + pab
A+ Pie Crust on Foodista


dinner series 4 of 4: apple pie

Classic Apple Pie

Welcome back to our very first Dinner Series!  This week we are highlighting, course by course, our featured menu from last weekend, when we hosted PAB's parents & grandmother in our little Beacon Hill apartment.  We are so thrilled to share our evening with you in this new series on bottomlesskitchen.com.  Cheers! 

After our main course, we cleared a few dishes & took a stroll through our neighborhood before settling back into our chairs for dessert (or, in PAB's case, assumed his standing position at the end of our table: We only have four high chairs for our tall kitchen table...preventing one from pulling up a normal chair.)  Alas, the tastiness of our meal was not sacrificed due to the lack of a fifth chair, we made do.  For dessert, we baked an Apple Pie with, of course, local apples, also from the Copley Plaza farmers' market, to finish off the evening, served with a scoop of Brigham's vanilla ice cream.  

** DINNER SERIES 4 of 4 **
Fourth course
Classic Apple Pie

Total prep & cook time: 1.5 hours
(Excluding your pie dough prep time, which is 20 minutes of active time + at least an hour in the fridge)
Serving size: one pie

We made our pie dough, baked our pie, and ate our pie all in the same day, which was not ideal.  This recipe recommends letting your pie cool for at least four hours after baking - I think we made it about two.  Many people even recommend eating pie the day after.  With this being said, you could have a) a drawn out pie-making process, mixing the dough, baking the pie, and eating your masterpiece, on three different days...or, b), you could opt for our speedy style (read: procrastination, running way behind schedule) that keeps you on your toes!  Either way, if you follow our recipes, your pie should be satisfyingly delicious either way! 

  • Basic Pie Dough recipe (find this recipe in our next post), yielding two 4-inch disks
  • 2 tablespoons of unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting your work surface
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, about 1/5 pounds
  • 4 large McIntosh apples, about 2 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 of a cup of sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 large, lightly beaten egg white
- Remove one pie dough and let stand at room temperature, if refrigerated for more than one hour
- Place oven rack on lowest level, preheat oven to 500 degrees. (Optional: heat up a baking sheet with the oven.)
- Lightly flour your work surface (or use parchment paper) and roll the dough into a 12-inch circle.
- Transfer the dough to the 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the pie plate.  
- Ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting and pressing the dough down into the corners, leaving any overhanging dough, and refrigerate.
- Peel, core, and quarter the apples.  Then cut the quarters into 1/4 inch slices and toss with the lemon juice & lemon zest, covering evenly.
- In a medium bowl, mix the 3/4 cup of sugar, the flour, spices, and salt.
- Add the apples to the medium bowl, evenly coating the apples with the sugar mixture.
- Remove the pie plate from the refrigerator and disperse the apples, mounding slightly in the center.
- Roll out the second pie dough in a 12-inch circle.
- Place it over the filling.
- Trim the edges of the pie dough (top & bottom) to 1/2 inch beyond the pan.
- Tuck this extra 1/2 of dough underneath itself, creating a flush, sealed edge of pie dough against the pan edge.
- Taking your right hand, lightly pinch your thumb & index finger together. 
- Keeping this position, place against the inside of the dough crust, pushing outwards, while simultaneously pressing your left-hand index finger from the other side of the crust, pushing inward, in between your right hand thumb & index finger.
- Lift fingers from initial position and repeat as your move around the entire pie crust, creating this fluted edge.
- If pie dough is really soft, place in freezer for 10 minutes.
- Gently whip the egg white in a small bowl & brush on the top crust.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top crust.
- Place the pie in the oven (optional: on preheated baking sheet), lowering temperature to 425 degrees.
- Bake the pie for about 25 minutes, until the top crust is golden brown.
- Rotate the pie from front to back, reduce the heat to 375 degrees, and continue baking for about 35 minutes, until the crust is deep golden brown in color.
- Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature, (ideally) at least four hours.
ELZ & PAB's review: For a pie made in a hurry, it was pretty good!  ELZ accidentally fluted the bottom layer of the pie crust as she hurriedly worked during the last few minutes before the guests' arrival, before realizing she wasn't making a tart and would be adding a second layer to cover the pie...but all's well that ends well!  We forged ahead and made a successful pie, it may have just had a bit of a larger crust than average...
Waste not, want not
elz + pab
Homemade Apple Pie on Foodista


dinner series 3 of 4: pan-fried noodles with pork

Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork

Welcome back to our very first Dinner Series!  This week we are highlighting, course by course, our featured menu from last weekend, when we hosted PAB's parents & grandmother in our little Beacon Hill apartment.  We are so thrilled to share our evening with you in this new series on bottomlesskitchen.com.  Cheers! 

After our second course, we move on to the main attraction: a Chinese dish! We rode our bikes down to Boston's Chinatown to scope out the freshest ingredients for our noodle dish.  Coming home with more than we bargained for (ELZ needed to have some authentic red bean ice cream dough treats, candy fruit chews, and the cutest set of little soy sauce dishes, of course), we quickly got moving in the kitchen, as our guests were due in a few hours...

Third course
Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork

Total prep & cook time: 1.5 hours
Makes four servings

  • 1 pound of boneless pork ribs (or boneless country-style pork ribs, or lastly pork tenderloin)
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1/2 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch
  • 2 medium garlic cloves (about two teaspoons), minced or pressed in garlic press
  • 2 teaspoons of grated, fresh ginger
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons Chinese rice cooking wine, Shao-Xing brand recommended (can substitute dry sherry)
  • 1/2 pound of shiitake mushrooms, about three cups
  • 2 bunches of scallions
  • 1 small head of napa cabbage & half a bunch of swiss chard
  • 12 ounces of fresh Chinese noodles or 8 ounces of dried linguine
  • 1 tablespoon of Asian garlic chili sauce

- Trim pork of surface fat and slice crosswise, creating 1/8 inch thick pieces
- In a medium bowl, whisk soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, and five-spice powder together.
- Place three tablespoons of mixture in large zip plastic bag & add the pork, pressing all excess air out of the bag before sealing.
- Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, but no more than an hour.
- Add the cornstarch & broth into remaining soy sauce mixture, whisking together.
- In separate bowl, mix the minced garlic & grated ginger with a 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.  Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or non-stick skillet over high heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, add the pork in a single layer.
- Leave for 1 minute, without stirring.
- Continue to cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 2 or 3 minutes
- Add 4 tablespoons of wine to the skillet.
- Cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly, until liquid is reduced and pork is well coated.
- Transfer pork to a medium bowl & wipe skillet clean with paper towels, then returning to high heat with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
- Add mushrooms, stir occasionally until light golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add scallions, stir occasionally until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer vegetables to bowl with pork.
- Bring four quarts of water to boil in a Dutch oven. (~16 cups)
- Add noodles to the boiling water, stir occasionally under tender, about 3 to 4 minutes for the Chinese noodles, or 10 minutes for the dried linguine.
- Add remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil and cabbage/swiss chard to the now-empty skillet, stir occasionally for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Clear the center of skillet & add the garlic-ginger mixture, mashing the mixture with the back of a spoon for 30 seconds (until fragrant). 
- Stir garlic mixture into cabbage/chard & return the pork-vegetable mixture to the skillet.
- Immediately add the chicken broth-soy sauce mixture to the skillet.
- Simmer until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat.
- Once noodles are cooked, drain noodles completely and return to empty dutch oven, adding the cooked stir-fry mixture and garlic-chili sauce, tossing to coat.
- Serve immediately, enjoy! 

ELZ & PAB's review: So tasty!  Since there were five of us dining, we doubled this recipe just to be on the safe side...we all have hearty appetites here.  Luckily, this also provided us with leftovers, which is always a nice bonus.  This dish was delicious, especially since there was NOT a lot of oil or fat in this recipe.  So, in other words, it was healthy Chinese food.  We substituted pork tenderloin for the boneless pork ribs.  We were lucky that we read up on the reviews for this recipe: pork tenderloin can easily become chewy & tough in this recipe, so we made sure to err on the side of under-cooking, if anything.  The results?  Positive all around. 

Waste not, want not
elz + pab

Pan-Fried Pork on Foodista


dinner series 2 of 4: beet salad

Beets served with Fresh Greens & Orange Wedges

Welcome back to our very first Dinner Series!  This week we are highlighting, course by course, our featured menu from last weekend, when we hosted PAB's parents & grandmother in our little Beacon Hill apartment.  We are so thrilled to share our evening with you in this new series on bottomlesskitchen.com.  Cheers! 

After our tomato appetizer, we served a beet salad complimented by sweet orange slices. This recipe continued in the theme of highlighting fresh & local (other than the orange!) food from the farmer's market. 

Second course
Beets served with Fresh Greens & Orange wedges

Total prep & cook time: about 2 hours (mostly roasting beets and letting mixture sit before serving)
Makes six servings

  • 2 bunches of small beets (about a dozen) with the greens attached
  • 1 orange
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Preheat oven to 400°F. 
- Cut greens from beets & coarsely chop.
- Wrap the beets in foil and roast for about 45 minutes until tender (longer for medium or large beets). Carefully open foil and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
- Boil a few cups of water and stem the beet greens. Drain and press in the colander to remove excess water. Let the greens cool in the colander.
- Peel the orange and chop into small segments. Add to a medium serving bowl.
- Thinly slice the sweet onion and add to bowl.
- Once cooled, peel the beets by pinching off the skin at the base of the beet. Coarsely chop the beets, add beets & greens to the serving bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, & garlic. Mix into serving bowl. Season with sal & pepper and toss to combine.
- Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for an hour before serving. Enjoy!

ELZ & PAB's review: This was an excellent salad option. The sweetness of the beets work well with the citrus & red wine vinegar.  We love being able to incorporate the beet greens. In the grocery store the beet greens can often look wilted and unappealing, but the farmer's market greens were delightful. According to the Bon Appetit recipe, the greens are a great source for potassium, folic acid & magnesium. The multi-colored beets gave the dish a distinctly autumnal feel. This recipe requires a few hours of lead time, but is not very labor intensive so it allows you to spread out the prep work while cooking the other courses. The only negative was the amount of aluminum foil that was required to individually wrap each of the small beets... we tried grouping a few beets together in a foil packet. Those seemed to come out just as well so we would recommend this method to reduce foil consumption.

Waste not, want not
elz + pab

Roasted Beet Salad With Orange Wedges on Foodista


dinner series 1 of 4: heirloom tomato mozzarella salad

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Salad

Welcome to our very first Dinner Series!  Over the next week, we will be highlighting, course by course, our featured menu from last weekend, when we hosted PAB's parents & grandmother in our little Beacon Hill apartment.  We are so thrilled to share our evening with you in this new series on bottomlesskitchen.com.  Cheers! 

Although our pie crust was still chilling, the mozzarella unsliced, and the main course in its infancy stages when our buzzer rang with the 6 o'clock arrival of our guests, we somehow managed to pull off a perfect evening (we judge 'perfect' by a room filled with laughter & great food). 

First course
Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Salad

While at the Copley Plaza farmers' market, we purchased this awesome, local heirloom tomato: 

Total prep time: 15 minutes
Serving size: 1 pound tomato per three people

  • Tomato
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • Fresh basil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
- Slice tomato into rounds, arrange on serving plates.
- Thinly slice mozzarella and distribute evenly over tomatoes.
- Finely chop basil leaves and distribute evenly over tomatoes.
- Lightly drizzle balsamic vinegar & olive oil over each plate. (Note: you can always add more, but it is hard to remove excess...)
- Sprinkle salt & pepper to taste
- Serve & enjoy!

ELZ & PAB's review:  A staple summer appetizer, there is no better way to eat fresh, seasonal tomatoes.  And this monster tomato was no exception.  One of the largest tomatoes we have ever eaten, it easily served five...with enough for a second round the next day.  The presentation was stunning, and the light seasoning complimented the sweetness of the fresh tomato perfectly.  

Waste not, want not
elz + pab
Heirloom tomato mozzarella salad on Foodista


boston: save the date!

Boston Local Food Festival
Saturday, October 2nd: 11am - 5pm

WHO: The Boston Local Food Festival & Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston

WHAT: "Spotlighting specialty products carefully made by Massachusetts and New England artisan food crafters, many that include locally-grown foods. Be ready to sample and then buy jams, pickles, baked goods, sauces, pasta and more.”

WHEN: Saturday, October 2nd, 2010 from 11am - 5pm

WHERE: Boston waterfront at Fort Point Channel (use public transportation!)

WHY: "The most important objective of the Boston Local Food Festival is to increase accessibility and availability of healthy local food for all. Massachusetts eaters of all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels will see, taste, and appreciate the variety of healthy, delicious food choices that local specialty crops and products make available to them in their own back yard. This unique festival will bring Massachusetts farms together with individuals and families from diverse backgrounds, organizations, businesses, and local food advocates in an informative and fun way."

WIIFM?? (What's In It For Me?)
  • Meet local farmers, fisherman, and butchers
  • Watch live presentations and demostrations from top chefs
  • Beer tasting! Tickets for tastings are being presold here
  • Urban gardening exhibits: raised garden bed, master container gardening, learn how to cultivate your own heirloom seeds

We hope to see you there!

Waste not, want not
elz + pab


we had a craving for peanut butter...

Decadent Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookies

With a craving for something sweet, we were perusing a few great foodie blogs before we stumbled upon this recipe from Jacob's Kitchen, a favorite fellow food blogger of ELZ's.  We were excited to whip up a batch of his peanut butter cookie sandwiches based on the original recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. (We highly recommend heading over to his blog.)

Total prep & cook time: about 2 hours and 45 minutes
Makes about a dozen cookie sandwiches (dough yields about 24-30 cookies)

Ingredients for the peanut butter cookies:

  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/2 of softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

Ingredients for the peanut butter filling:

1 cup of confectioners' sugar
1 cup of peanut butter, creamy
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup of heavy cream

- Mix ingredients for cookie dough: combine sugars, peanut butter, butter and egg in large bowl. 
- Stir in the remaining ingredients to complete the cookie dough (flour, baking soda & powder, and salt). 
- Cover and refrigerate dough for about two hours (until firm).
- Heat oven to 375ºF.
- Shape the cookie dough into 1 1/4-inch balls, placing on an ungreased cookie sheet, about three inches apart.
- Flatten with a fork that is covered in sugar, creating a pattern of your choosing (the crisscross pattern is popular)
- Bake for about 9 or 10 minutes, until cookies are light golden brown. 
- While baking, make the peanut butter filling: Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt on the medium-low speed, scraping the sides down with a rubber spatula, until creamy.
- Add the heavy cream & beat on high until the mixture becomes light & smooth.
- Refrigerate for a couple minutes if you'd like. (Use your judgement depending on how far along your cookies are)
- Once cookies are done, remove from oven and cool directly on cookie sheet for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.
- Spread a generous tablespoon or two of the peanut butter filling on a cookie and sandwich with another for a deliciously decadent peanut butter cookie sandwich!!

ELZ & PAB's review: These cookies are sweet sweet sweet!  Now we know what some of you are thinking...these are way too much for me!  But we also know that every once in a while, you have to indulge...right?? So maybe you won't make these tonight or tomorrow...but one day, when you have that craving or need a hostess gift or are planning ahead, this recipe just may come in handy!  And plus, since they are so sweet...maybe you'll eat less...unless of course you are PAB and you will eat too many.  But ELZ interprets this as a job well done. 

Waste not, want not
elz + pab

Crunchy Peanut Butter Cookie Sandwiches on Foodista