Sunday, November 29, 2009

Best Pie Crust EVER...

My friend Linda who has a gift shop in Wilmore, gave me an awesome recipe for crust that I just have to pass along. This is the first Thanksgiving in years that I have made homemade crusts because the recipe is so easy.

The genius of this recipe is that you make it up, divide into four balls, flatten a bit, and freeze the ones you don't need in a sandwich bag. Then, when you want to make a pie, you thaw the crust [I left it in the fridge over night, but you could let it thaw on your counter], roll it out and are ready to go. And it rolls out so easy. It is very elastic so that it doesn't break and have to be patched.

And, it tastes great and is very flaky. Where has this recipe been all my life? So, without further verbiage, here is the recipe.

Linda's Pie Crust

Makes four single crusts

3 C flour, don't sift
1 tsp salt
1 C butter, cold

Mix together flour and salt and cut in butter till it is incorporated. You can use two knives, a pastry cutter, or my favorite, low speed on a Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix till it looks like coarse cornmeal.

Mix in separate bowl: [I whipped it all together with a wire whip]
1/2 C ice water
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vinegar

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; pour in liquid and mix. Knead about 20 times. Separate into 4 balls. Use now or flatten balls a little and freeze in zip-loc bags. To use, let thaw on counter about a half hour and roll out with a bit of flour.

Bake according to whatever recipe you are using.



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cheese Danish Recipe

This is a great recipe and so easy to make. The main thing is to remember to start it a day early-let time do the work instead of you. [Notice in the picture we already ate half of one before I took a picture.]

I got this recipe from Robin on the Sonlighter Club Forums last year and I have made this recipe 3 or 4 times since.

Plan ahead, the dough needs to chill for 8 hours

Dough: Heat first four ingredients in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until butter melts. Cool to 105-115 degrees.

1 (8 oz) container of sour cream or yogurt
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt

Using amounts below, combine yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream mixture and eggs; gradually stir in flour (dough will be soft). Cover and chill at least 8 hours. [I put it in a Tupperware container in the fridge.]

2 (1/4 ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 large eggs, beaten
4 cups of all purpose flour

Divide dough into fourths. Turn out each portion onto a heavily floured surface, and knead 4 or 5 times. Roll each portion into a 12x10 inch rectangle, and spread each rectangle with one fourth of the cream cheese filling (see below), leaving a 2 inch border around edges. [I like to add cherry preserves on top of the cream cheese, but you don't have to.]

Cream Cheese Filling: Beat all ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.
2 (8 0z) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup of sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [or almond]

Cut 6-8 diagonal slits along each long end, about 2 inches deep—almost, but not quite to the filling. This will make “arms” along each side. Make sure to make the same amount on both sides. Starting at the bottom, fold the right arm over the dough, then a left, then the right, and so on so it looks like a braid. Turn both ends up and press shut so the filling doesn’t come out the bottom.

Cover and let rise in a warm place (85degrees), free from drafts, about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Slightly beat an egg white and brush on just before baking [optional] I put some streusel on top too [see recipe below], but it is optional.

Streusel: [optional]
Mix together till crumbly:
2T butter
2T sugar
1/3 C flour.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Drizzle warm loaves with powdered sugar glaze. Yield 4 (12 inch) loaves.

Powdered Sugar Glaze: Stir together all ingredients

1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [or almond

Note: Braids may be frozen after baking. Thaw in refrigerator, and glaze before serving.

• Put almond in the cream cheese and top with slivered almonds instead of struesel.
• Put several teaspoons of cherry, raspberry or peach jam on top of cream cheese before
braiding dough.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Bleak and Gray...

Sometimes you don't get what you expect. Bob and I are on a nice South Carolina Beach Vacation. Well, I am on vacation, Bob is attending a conference. The conference is at Kiawah Island, which is a lovely privately owned island with expensive beach homes, lots of golf courses and a plethora of tourist accommodations.

We stayed in a beach townhouse complete with a full kitchen, screened in porch, separate bedroom and a washer and dryer.

I had visions of reading my Christopher Fowler mystery on the beach dressed in my capris and wearing my sunglasses. But, the recent Gulf hurricane kind of ruined all that. It has been cold and rainy the whole time we have been here. I mean, I have had to put my hoody and LL Bean parka on to stay warm as I poked around some little beach shops yesterday.

The whole time here I had not seen the beach, so this morning, I bundled up and decided to hunt down the beach and see what I was missing.

I followed the boardwalk through the highly vegetated dunes and was delighted to see several birds flitting around enjoying the early morning.

Everything was so gray. The steel gray sky met the angry gray ocean as it ran up to the drab gray beach. I was the only one out there in this area of the beach and it seemed rather lonely and forbidding.

As I walked down the beach I noticed piles of shells, washed ashore during high tide. They were so interesting and unique because most of the shells were intact, two halves still joined.

It brought back childhood memories of happy beach days when we would hunt and hunt for a couple of good shells.

I wish I had had a child with me because we could have picked up a grocery bag full of the lovely shells.

Along with the shells there were horseshoe crab exoskeletons partially buried in the hard-packed, cold sand.

There we also some unidentifiable "sea worms" or coral or something that were intriguing.

As I walked along I saw a lone fisherman, silhouetted against the bleak seascape.

Further down I saw a family of sand pipers scurrying around trying to find a tasty low-tide breakfast.

I also came upon a middle age lady with her little grandson who was dressed in a snow suit! The little guy was happily digging in the sand while grandma sipped on a hot coffee, the steam rising around the cup that was clenched in her icy hands.

Actually, it was a wonderful walk. I was thinking how I had been cursing the darkness before I went out. I felt sorry for myself that my dream beach vacation wasn't what I had imagined.

But then, I realized that I had this big beautiful beach almost to myself and it was incredible.

I have to think that happens a lot in life. We are expecting one thing, and we forget to appreciate and embrace the unexpected.

We probably miss a lot that way.

My beach vacation was not what I expected, or what I would have ordered, but I got to see the beach in a way I had not experienced it before.

God's majesty is incredible!
Take care,

Friday, November 6, 2009

I love Ginkgo trees. Today I walked up to the front yard of Asbury Seminary to take a few pictures of the Ginkgo. I love the flaming leaves not so much for their amazing color, but for the leaves themselves.

Ginkgo leaves are not like other leaves.
They are fan shaped and sort of spongy, almost like they are filled with a bit of wool or cotton batting. They do not deteriorate like regular leaves, but keep their distinctive shape. Here is one that fell on a bush.

Now, the miracle of Ginkgo leaves is that when they fall, they mostly all fall in the very same day. Then the leaves pile up in inviting piles, luring kids and adults to jump in the spongy leaves.

The trees are huge and because they grow so slow these trees must be very old. Every year Wilmorans [this is what I lovingly call folks who live in Wilmore] wait for the trees to turn gold and for the leaves to fall.

Years ago we would take the kids up to play in the leaves and Kari still talks about how fun that was. The problem is, the seminary is very quick to rake the leaves so it is always a challenge to find the one or two days after the leaves fall and before they rake them up.

There are two trees on the lawn and one had already dropped its leaves but this one will probably be de-nuded in a matter of hours or possibly tomorrow.

Today, there was a mom with her children, taking advantage of this wonderful, free photo opportunity. I love this picture. Just before I shot this photo the kids were rolling and jumping in the leaves.

I laid right on my back to take the shot at the top of my blog. Falling leaves-makes kids of us all.

Take care,