Tips Of The Trade

Tips of the Trade

1. A Food Processor is required.

To consistently create the perfect dough, a food processor is required to effortlessly incorporate the frozen butter. It eliminates almost all the stress in mastering a flaky butter pie dough!

2. A kitchen scale is essential

In baking, exact amounts are key. A little extra here or there will alter the scientific equation that makes it all work perfectly. This rule heavily applies to all the dough recipes. The kitchen scale eliminates the avoidable mistakes. Giving you more time to play and enjoy the baking process!

Note: In matters that are more cooking related, i.e. the amount of cheese or vegetables in a tart, you have some flexibility.  

3. Baking Times

Ovens are all unique. The better you get to know your oven and observe your results, the more accurate your pies will bake up. We have provided an approximate baking temperature and time range for each pie and tart.  They are only a guide and are based on using an electric oven. 

    Convection ovens will need time and temperature adjustments. The standard conversion rule for convection is to decrease the suggested temperature by 25 degrees and time by 10 to 20 percent. 

Note: If you notice the baking times are drastically off, use an oven thermometer to confirm your ovens actual temperature. It is always possible the oven’s calibration is not accurate. 

4. Store cut butter in your freezer. 

Since I love making pies, I keep butter in the freezer at all times. This eliminates having to wait the hour for the butter to freeze. Whenever I get the urge to bake one up, I am ready to begin.

Note: In a sealed container, it will last up to a few months

5. I use Unrefined Sweeteners. 

I recommend using Whole Cane Sugar by Rapunzel. It is derived from the sugar cane and is not separated from the molasses during the drying process. I go in depth about its health benefits in Guide To Ingredients.  I have found it in many natural food stores and online. Sucanat (Sugar Cane Natural) is its closest relative. Its brand name Wholesome Sweeteners can be found in many larger chain grocery stores. 

Note: Beware of the refined sugars that may resemble whole cane sugar & sucanat: these sugars are labeled muscavado, turbinado, demarara, organic raw sugar,  and brown sugar. 

6. Ideal Temperature for Rolling & Crimping Dough

The overall temperature of the dough affects the ease of rolling out the dough. Ideally the best temperature is right after it is made.  After rolling, I recommend placing your folded dough(s) in the refrigerator while you make the filling. If the dough gets too soft, it becomes more challenging to work with and crimp.  

Note: If the dough is kept in the refrigerator longer than 30 minutes, allow it to sit out at room temperature for a couple of minutes to soften a bit before working with it.    

7. Dough can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator if properly wrapped.

Especially for the Holidays, when I am making multiple pies, I will prepare the dough ahead of time. This stretches the work over a couple of days. So I can enjoy the other important parts of my life without overdoing myself. Balance is key!

8. Many pies can be stored in the freezer until ready to bake. This includes all fruit pies, crumb pies, pot pies, and the pie & tart shells.  

It is always great to bake up a ‘fresh’ pie last minute. Whether for yourself or a get-together, a warm pie out of the oven can enliven any moment. When you are ready to bake, just brush on an egg wash, add crumb topping (if applicable) and place it in your pre-heated oven. 

Note: For best results, bake up within two weeks. If vacuum sealed freezing longer is ok.

9. Stock & roux can be stored in your freezer for up to two months.

My family loves gravy! And the health benefits of chicken broth are amazing! 

For these reasons I make stocks when I am home for the afternoon. Properly cool it down and freeze it. Then the main ingredient for gravy,  soup, or risotto is available (homemade) anytime.     

Roux (the thickening agent of a great gravy) is so simple to make, but might as well make a little extra and store it too! 

10. Try local farm raised chickens. They do taste the best! 

I have friends who are tired of the ‘organic craze’ but tell me they go out of their way for local chickens. “They just taste better!” 

Ask your local chicken farm about chicken (soup) bones. A lower cost alternative for making the perfect stock.

11. Using a cooling bath quickly reduces the temperature of puddings, sauces, and stocks. 

Making sure your food cools down in accordance with the Time/Temperature Table is very important. All foods are susceptible to foodborne illnesses. The danger zone temperature is between 40 degrees to 140 degrees farenheit. This means high risk foods (incl. meat, fish, egg, and dairy) especially should not spend more than 2 hours in this temperature range.  A cold bath will decrease the temperature quickly and efficiently. Stir occasionally to help release steam. Then, place in refrigerator to keep.

12. I prefer using pie weights. But, you can use dried beans. 

Pie weights can be reused over and over again, indefinitely. Beans can only be re-used a handful of times. They will begin to crumble. So it all depends on how many times you will use them. 

Note: If using beans, line the pie dough with parchment paper before adding the beans. Crinkle up the paper in your hand to remove its stiffness. It will lay better in the pan when you open it back up.

13. I like the shape and consistency created by an apple peeler.      

The Cheese Apple Tart Recipe requires a peeler to easily achieve the beautiful ‘rose’ like design that makes it so elegant. What I like about the peeler for the apple pie, is that it creates a delicate layered flaky experience that reminds me of a strudel. Any style will work for the fruit pies. Peel, core, and slice or chop apples to your liking. 

Note: Different apple styles may alter your baking time.  

14. Cutting of the Butter

Each dough recipe will guide you to cut the butter in specific sizes. This is because of how the dough blends together in the food processor. The pies with a double crust (more volume) require using smaller cuts of frozen butter to incorporate properly, whereas the pies using a single dough require larger ones. 

15. Butternut Pumpkin

In Australia, this squash is often referred as a butternut pumpkin. Butternut has a lower water content, is richer in flavor and color, and less stringy than a sugar pumpkin.  Uncommon to many of us, what we are accustomed to in a pumpkin pie is often made with butternut. This is due to the fact that many canned pumpkin companies use a winter squash blend which includes a high ratio of butternut.

16. Egg Wash

This is what gives the pie a deep toasted golden color. When possible, I prefer to not add any water. This dilutes its golden power. But, at times, it is necessary when the egg is too thick and not easy to spread. One egg will ‘wash’ up to 5 pies. So if you bake more than one pie in a day, you can re-use. If baking on separate days, discard and make a fresh egg wash. 

17. Crumb Topping

This recipe also makes delicious thumbprint cookies! Take a spoonful of crumb and form it into a ball. Place on a baking sheet. Lightly press your thumb into ball and add your favorite jam into the indented center (my favorite jams are lingonberry or red raspberry).  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. And, if you use gluten-free oats, this is a gluten-free cookie! 

Note: If sealed properly, it can be stored in freezer.