7 Pie Crust Tips for the Holidays

From crisp apple to seasonal mincemeat, thousands of holiday cooks will scramble to create the perfect pie for the dinner table. Thanksgiving and Christmas are popular occasions where pies become an important part of the festivities. To enhance the look and taste of your pies, consider the following tips for the holidays.

1. For a Flaky Crust

Thanks to pockets of fat in the dough, a pie crust develops its flakiness. A pastry blender or two knives that cut into the fat will help achieve these results. The dough should still have some pea-size pieces. It is important to handle the dough as little as possible with your hands. Another way to create a flakier crust is to substitute ice-cold sour cream or heavy cream for the water in your recipe.

2. Buttery and Tender Crusts

If you are interested in making a tender pie crust, use lard and shortening. If you want a buttery flavor in your crust, use half lard or shortening, and replace the other half with butter.

3. Refrigeration

For the best results, try refrigerating all of your ingredients (even the flour) before making the dough for your pie crust.

4. Easy Rolling

To make rolling the pie crust dough easier, chill for 30 minutes.

5. Spice Up Your Pie Crusts

Adding nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon to pie crust dough will enhance the overall flavor.

6. Choice of Baking Dish

The baking dish you select for your pies will affect the end result of your pie crust. Pyrex glass pie plates are a good choice because it evenly conducts heat and lets the bottom crust of the pie bake all of the way through. When using a glass pie plate, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Also, do not oil or grease your pie plates. Aluminum pie pans do not cook evenly and if you must use – try using two.

7. Egg Washes for a Better Appearance

When you’re looking for a shiny crust, use a pastry brush to apply an egg wash to the tops of your pies. For every egg, only one teaspoon of liquid is required. A few combinations to consider include combining a whole egg and salt for a shiny crust; egg yolk and cream for a shiny, dark crust; and just plain ol’ egg white to achieve a pale, crisp crust.

Seasonal Ice Cream for Fall/Winter 2011

Edy’s ice cream offers an assortment of holiday-inspired flavors for the fall and winter season, including the creamy flavor of Eggnog and the refreshing cool of Peppermint. The holiday flavors are also offered in Edy’s line of Slow Churned ice creams, which are made with fewer calories and less fat content. To enhance the use of the holiday ice creams, Edy’s also offers a range of easy recipes – perfect for people that like to incorporate ice cream into their sweet treat recipes.

Edy’s Limited Edition Peppermint

The Edy’s Peppermint flavor is made with creamy peppermint ice cream with crushed pieces of peppermint candy that oozes a colorful sweetness. There is a bit of a crunch with the candy, which increases the versatility of the flavor. To use the peppermint ice cream to make a dessert for the holidays, consider serving the following treats for Christmas:

  • The Peppermint Pie has a crust of crushed chocolate cookies.
  • Upside Down Peppermint Ice Cream Cake requires a box of chocolate cake mix and chocolate frosting to make.
  • Peppermint Espresso creates a tasty drink – ideal for entertaining adults during the holiday season. This drink recipe also calls for brewed espresso, and Kahlua or Amaretto that is topped with whipped cream.

This flavor is available until December.

Edy’s Limited Edition Eggnog

Why sip your eggnog when you can enjoy a frozen, melt-in-your-mouth treat with Edy’s Limited Edition Eggnog ice cream? The flavor of this ice cream mimics the popular seasonal beverage. Drop a scoop for a holiday Root Beer Float or consider one of Edy’s recipe suggestions.

Put your jelly roll pan to good use by making Buche de Noel with eggnog-flavored ice cream and a chocolate cake base. The surrounding layer is made with heavy cream and dusted off with cocoa.

This flavor is only offered for the months of November and December.

Edy’s Limited Edition Pumpkin

There’s still time to grab the last of the holiday Pumpkin flavor, which was offered until October. The Pumpkin flavor of ice cream tastes like a slice of pumpkin pie with the distinct taste of cinnamon and nutmeg. The added ginger also offers a welcomed flavor. The flavor is perfect to cap off a delicious Thanksgiving spread – served in dessert bowls topped with whipped cream or used as a sweet side for a slice of pie.

Herbs and Spices for Your Desserts

Without spices, your desserts would lack the flavor, punch, and sparkle that you’ve come to expect. Experimenting with different spices will create desserts that help you think out of the box. If you’re looking for new ideas on how to use herbs and spices in your desserts, consider the following suggestions.

Allspice: Allspice gets its name because it offers a taste similar to cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The dried spice berries come in whole or ground form. The spice is ideal for spice cakes and cookies. For pies, use in plum, peach and apple creations. Allspice also works well in flavored breads and steamed puddings.

Anise: The small seeds of anise add a licorice flavoring to cookies, cakes and breads. This spice comes in dried whole seeds or a powdered form. Examples of desserts with anise include Anise Biscotti and Anise Mousse served with tropical fruit.

Cardamom: You tend to see cardamom used in a lot of Indian dishes, but the fragrant, cinnamon-like seed can add pizzazz to your breads, spice cakes, and cookies as well. Use the spice in apple and pumpkin pies. Consider making Cardamom Rice Pudding or a rich carrot pudding for your next dessert.

Cinnamon: The spicy bark of the cassia tree offers a sweet, hot flavored spice for desserts – especially apple pie served during the holidays. Other desserts that benefit from cinnamon include spice cakes, cookies, custards, and other fruit pies.

Cloves: With a pungent and sweet flavor, clove is a spice that often emerges during the winter holidays. The dried whole buds and powdered form adds flavor to spice cakes, cookies, quick breads, and fruit pies. Try making Apple Butter Tarts or Greek Baked Stuffed Apples with cloves.

Fennel Seeds: Offering a slight licorice flavor, fennel seeds are a favorite for Scandinavian bakers who add the spice to their cakes, cookies, and breads.

Ginger: Adding aroma and tang to desserts, ginger is a versatile spice that appears in many cultural sweet treats. Depending on the recipe, you may use dried ground, dried whole, preserved, crystallized, or fresh ginger. Ground dried ginger is used to flavor cakes, cookies, custard, and fruit pies. Cakes and cookies (such as ginger snaps) blossom when crystallized and preserved ginger is added.

Mace: The outer covering of nutmeg is called mace, which offers a similar yet slightly milder flavor than nutmeg. The spice works well in spice cakes, cookies, and custards. Try adding to fruit desserts – especially those made with peaches, plums and apples. Mace Pound Cake could become your next crowd pleaser.

Mint: The refreshing scent of mint adds a cool, flavorful taste to desserts. There are more than 30 varieties of mint, including peppermint, apple mint, and lemon mint. Use in various fruit salad and dessert recipes, such as Mint Chocolate Pie and Peppermint Ice Cream.

Nutmeg: Nutmeg offers a sweet, nutty taste that livens up cookies, cakes, pies, custard, and pastries. The spice is also a flavorful component when making eggnog. Add to your pecan or sweet potato pie recipe. Since ground nutmeg quickly loses its flavor, it is recommended to purchase whole nutmeg and grate when needed.

Poppy Seeds: What is a lemon poppy seed muffin without the poppy seeds? A flower produces the tiny, blue-black seeds that can be used when making cakes, cookies, breads, and pastries. Interestingly, it takes 900,000 poppy seeds to make a pound. Sometimes, the whole seeds are ground into a paste that serves as a filling for some desserts.

Saffron: Swedish bakers add the fragrant spice to cakes and breads. Doesn’t Pears Poached in Saffron Vanilla Bean Syrup sound delicious?

How to Prepare Nuts for Desserts

Nuts often play an important role in preparing, flavoring, and garnishing some of your favorite desserts. From pecan cinnamon rolls to syrupy baklava, many recipes call for different preparations of nuts. Sometimes, you must remove the skins from nuts to prevent a bitter taste in your desserts. Toasting nuts also releases their natural flavor and adds crispness. Below you will find a few ways to prepare nuts for desserts:

Skinning Hazelnuts and Brazil Nuts

Spread the hazelnuts and Brazil nuts on a baking sheet. Toast in a pre-heated oven set to 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. This will dry out the skins. After removing from the oven, wrap the nuts in a rough tea towel and rub until the skins are removed. You can pick off any remaining bits of skin still on the nuts with your fingers.

Skinning Almonds and Pistachios

You will use a process called blanching to skin almonds and pistachios. Place the nuts in a bowl and cover with boiling water for two minutes. Drain the water and let the nuts slightly cool. Squeeze or rub each nut with your fingers to remove the skins.

Oven-Toasted Nuts

To toast nuts for a recipe, spread nuts on a baking sheet, and place in a pre-heated oven set to 350 degrees. Toast until they turn a golden brown color and smell ‘nutty.’ Occasionally stir the nuts.

Fry-Toasted Nuts

Place nuts in a frying pan, but do not add any fat or oils. Toast the nuts over moderate heat until they turn golden brown. Stir constantly and watch carefully because the nuts can easily scorch.

Grinding Nuts

For recipes that call for finely chopped nuts, a nut mill or clean coffee grinder will come in handy. It is suggested to grind a small batch of nuts to achieve an even texture. Do not overwork or you will turn the nuts into paste. Some people have used food processors to grind nuts, but it’s a bit harder to get even results. A downfall is the risk of overworking the nuts into a paste. Try grinding the nuts with some of the flour or sugar called for in the recipe to avoid this mishap.

Short History of Cupcakes

A cupcake, also referred to by some as a fairy cake, patty cake, or cup cake, is a small cake, often baked in a small paper or aluminum cup, and meant as a single serving. They are commonly frosted or adorned with sprinkles or other decorations.

Beginnings

The history of the cupcake can be traced back as far as 1786, when American Cookery by Amelia Simms mentioned something of “a cake to be baked in small cups”. It was first documented in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook as “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats”.

Cupcake or Cup Cake?

iconThere were two different uses for the name: “cupcake” or “cup cake” in the early 19th century. Before muffin tins were widely used, the cakes were usually baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds, which their name evolved from.

  • Nowadays, the name cupcake is given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. Fairy cake, as they have also been referred to as, is a fanciful description of its size, and thought to be appropriate for parties of fairies to share.
  • Cup cakes, on the other hand, referred to a cake whose ingredients were measured in a standard-sized cup. Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups, even though at the time, they were commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. When the use of volume measurements was established in home kitchens some years later, the recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes. This was because of the four ingredients they were composed of: 1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, 3 parts flour, and 4 eggs. Since they used about half as much butter and eggs as a pound cake, they were plain and yellow, less rich, and a little less expensive.

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Nowadays

Towards the beginning of the 21st century, cupcake shops began catching on as a trend in the United States, playing off the sense of wistfulness induced by the cupcakes. Cupcake shops like Magnolia Bakery out of New York City gained publicity by appearing on shows like Sex and the City. In 2010, Martha Stewart published a cook book solely dedicated to cupcakes.

Types of Cupcakes

A standard cupcake uses the same basic ingredients as standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Nearly any recipe that is suitable for a layer cake can be used to bake cupcakes. Because their small size is more efficient for heat conduction, cupcakes bake much faster than layer cakes. There are several variants of the classic recipe.

  • A “cake in a mug” is a variant that gained popularity on many internet cooking forums and mailing lists. The technique uses a mug as its cooking vessel and can be done in a microwave oven. The recipe often takes fewer than five minutes to prepare.
  • A butterfly cake is a variant of cupcake, also called fairy cake for its fairy-like “wings”. They can be made from any flavor of cake. The top of the fairy cake is cut off or carved out with a spoon, and cut in half. Then, butter cream, whipped cream or other sweet filling (e.g. jam) is spread into the hole. Finally, the two cut halves are stuck into the butter cream to look like butterfly wings. The wings of the cake are often decorated using icing to form various patterns.
  • A icon cake ball is an individual portion of cake, round like a chocolate truffle, that is coated in chocolate. These are typically formed from crumbled cake mixed with frosting, rather than being baked as a sphere.
  • A gourmet cupcake is a somewhat recent variant of cupcake. Gourmet cupcakes are large and filled cupcakes, based around a variety of flavor themes, such as Tiramisu or Cappuccino. In recent years there has been an uprising of stores that sell only gourmet cupcakes in metropolitan areas, such as Crumbs Bake Shop.

Cupcake Pans and Liners

Cupcakes were originally baked in heavy pottery cups and some bakers still use individual ramekins, small coffee mugs, large tea cups, or other small ovenproof pottery-type dishes for baking cupcakes. Specialized pans are made for baking cupcakes today, similar in form to muffin tins. These ovenproof pans are most usually made from some sort of metal, with or without a non-stick surface, and generally have six or twelve depressions or “cups”. They may also be made from stoneware, silicone rubber, or other materials. A standard size cup is 3 inches in diameter and holds about 4 ounces, although pans for both miniature and jumbo size cupcakes exist. Specialty pans may offer many different sizes and shapes.

Individual cups, or cupcake liners, may be used in baking. These are typically round sheets of thin paper pressed into a round, fluted cup shape. Liners can facilitate the easy removal of the cupcake from the tin after baking, keep the cupcake moister, and reduce the effort needed to clean the pan. The use of liners is also considered a more sanitary option when cupcakes are being passed from hand to hand. Like cupcake pans, several sizes of paper liners are available, from miniature to jumbo.

In addition to paper, cupcake liners may be made from very thin aluminum foil or, in a non-disposable version, silicone rubber. Because they can stand up on their own, foil and silicone liners can also be used on a flat baking sheet, which makes them popular among people who do not have a specialized muffin tin. Some of the largest paper liners are not fluted and are made out of thicker paper, often rolled at the top edge for additional strength, so that they can also stand independently for baking without a cupcake tin. Some bakers use two or three thin paper liners, nested together, to simulate the strength of a single foil cup. As an alternative to a plate of individual cakes, some bakers place standard cupcakes into a pattern and frost them to create a large design, such as a basket of flowers or a turtle.

We hope you enjoyed our post!

Clearly Fresh Bags

Clearly Fresh Bags are a new product from Apio, Inc. In Spanish, this company’s name means Celery and that’s because they are a fresh vegetable company.

They have been growing/shipping fresh produce from Guadalupe, California since 1979 and are best known for their Eat Smart line of fresh cut vegetables found in grocery stores and club stores nationwide.

Apio has been using a technology called “BreatheWay” on their vegetable packages for well over 15 years as a way to help their products remain as fresh as possible while they travel throughout the United States.  After many years of positive feedback from consumers they are just now launching a retail application so that consumers can use these bags on ANY fresh fruits and vegetables that they’d like to last longer.

They have only one product to offer – and that’s their Clearly Fresh Bags but the innovative piece here is that they will help extend the fresh shelf life of fruits and vegetables NATURALLY. Using a technology commonly considered a ‘modified atmosphere’ technology – their BreatheWay membrane (the small white patch on each bag with their logo) offers a ‘window’ if you will, that allows a very specific amount of Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen to enter and leave the package.  Thus fresh fruits and vegetables can create their own ideal atmosphere to preserve freshness.

PRICE:

These bags are currently selling for $3.99 per unit (a package of 10 bags) plus shipping.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK:

Often fragile, fresh berries and seasonal fruit have very short shelf life making it a challenge to take advantage of fresh items from the farmers market, garden or local grocery store.  These bags should help provide an extra bit of time that may make for a little more culinary breathing room! Let us know how you like them!

ClearlyFreshBags.com/

How to Make a Fluffy White Frosting

When making cupcakes, cake and other sweet treats, you can enhance the appearance and texture of the dessert by choosing a unique topping. To add a touch of fanciness to one of your recipes, consider making a fluffy white frosting with an appealing gloss and texture. Below you will find a meringue-like recipe for fluffy white frosting that also doubles as a tasty dessert filling or icing for sandwich cakes.

Fluffy White Frosting

(This recipe will make enough frosting to fill and ice a 9-inch sandwich cake)

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 tablespoon liquid glucose
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, water, egg whites, and glucose in a large heatproof bowl (or on the top of a double saucepan). Stir the ingredients just enough to mix.

2. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with boiling water. Make sure that the base of the bowl does not touch the water.

3. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the ingredients at high speed for about 7 minutes. Beat until the frosting is thick and white. It should also form stiff peaks.

4. Remove the frosting from the heat. Add in the vanilla and continue beating for about 3 minutes. The frosting should have also slightly cooled by this time.

5. Use the frosting immediately.

Flavored White Fluffy Frosting

To further enhance the taste and effect of your white frosting, you may add different flavors. Create an orange frosting by substituting orange juice for the water. Add one teaspoon of grated orange zest to cap off the taste. Also, reduce the vanilla to ½ teaspoon. For a lemon frosting, use two tablespoons each of lemon juice and water in the recipe. Add ½ teaspoon of grated lemon zest and reduce the vanilla to ½ teaspoon.