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.

6 Ideas for Soul Food Desserts

Soul food cuisine usually incorporates the cooking techniques and traditions of African Americans and highlights dishes associated with the southern United States. When it comes to sweet treats in the South, there are certain state gems that truly shine. For example, Georgia desserts make good use of their peaches and pecans. Examples of soul food desserts include:

1) Peach Cobbler: A fruity filling of peaches is poured into a large baking dish that is then topped with batter, biscuit or piecrust to create a cobbler. The dessert is then baked like a pie with a difference that  cobblers never have a bottom crust. Other popular Deep South cobbler flavors include blueberry and blackberry.

2) Coconut Cake: Covered in white frosting and dressed in coconut flakes, coconut cake typically uses white or yellow batter instead of a coconut-flavored cake base. Some recipes will replace the milk with coconut milk or include coconut extract. The shredded coconut is often toasted or sweetened. Another Southern variation of the coconut cake is to add lemon curd as a filling to produce a tart flavor.

3) Sweet Potato Pie: Although it shares similarities with pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie is a Southern classic for Thanksgiving and other holidays. Made with mashed sweet potatoes, milk, sugar and eggs, the pie uses nutmeg to create a distinct holiday flavor. Topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, Northerners may add marshmallows as a topping.

4) Pecan Pie: Primarily comprised of corn syrup and pecan nuts, this pie is a popular choice for holiday meals and often showcased as a Southern specialty. In New Orleans, Louisiana, pecan pies are quite popular and may include bourbo n whiskey in their recipes.

5) Red Velvet Cake: Behind the creamy white or cream cheese icing of the layered Red Velvet Cake is shades of dark red, bright red, or reddish browns. Usually, the color is achieved by adding red food coloring or beetroot. Despite its hue, the cake is flavored vanilla or chocolate.

6) Banana Pudding: Repeated layers of Vanilla Wafers, sweet vanilla custard (or pudding), and sliced bananas create a tasty dessert topped with whipped cream. Depending on the recipe, the pudding is made using a baked or the more popular refrigerated method. Sometimes, ladyfingers are used instead of wafers.