SFC: Pie on the Table, because the Sky is Too Far Away

                I spoke a little bit about holiday leftovers (and when I say little bit I mean LITTLE BIT) in the last post, only to realize soon afterwards of a very important thanksgiving component I had forgotten: Pie. Or, to be more accurate as far as leftovers are concerned, Pie Crust Dough.

                Perhaps my lack of initial attention given in the post was due to a glossing over of obvious thoughts; if you have leftover pie dough, you just make more pies right? I mean I LOVE pies, I want some more right now… more pecan! –throws a nut on the ground a-la Thor movie-

                -cough- Sorry. Anyways. As many can I’m sure tell of the many uses for pie dough in family dinners, various other desserts, even breakfast (quiche anyone?). At the same time, I recognize an opportunity to finally make something in representation of my favorite Pastie Truck… because I am NOT gonna try and reproduce their awesome pastry crust. But leftover pie dough… not too bad of a way to make your own tasty little at-home version.

                Now, to get started on instructions for making something probably featured in almost every culinary TV Show and most Blogs.

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Pie Dough (a-la Alton Brown)Amount: 1 ½ pie tins, ish

3 oz/6 Tb Butter

1 oz/2 Tb Lard (or in my case, Shortening)

6 oz/1 cup Flour + extra

½ tsp Salt

Up to ¼ cup Ice Water

1 Tb Apple Cider Vinegar

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                After weighing out the various components, cut and break up your fat sources into very small pieces, ½” dice equivalent works really well here. Stick in the fridge for a few hours, transferring to the freezer 15 minutes before using them.

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                The most important thing in making pie dough is keeping everything COLD. If you’re using any equipment, and fork for mixing, your bowls, and any ingredient in significant amount other than flour (it really doesn’t hold temp) should ideally be cold. This is all for the flour and butter (or more accurately, the water within), ensuring that the fat is fully incorporated, which takes some work, without the water leaking out, mixing with the starch, and getting warm enough to form gluten.

                With everything chilled, we can start mixing. This can all be done quite easily in a food processor if you have one, otherwise a bowl it is (something plastic, with rougher sides for better adherence) to work with your hands…  or that mazzaluna-ish butter cutter-mixer thing. But hey, I actually prefer working with my fingers when it comes to pie dough; I don’t know, I think it’s just that feeling of pushing in that butter, plus it allows for more actual control (like whipping cream with a whisk vs a stand mixer).

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              Combine the 6oz of flour, salt, and partially frozen butter. Blend, or work in with your fingertips, very thoroughly until “cornmealy.” This is the first step in the two-pronged attack on a quality dough, incorporating the butter around many individual molecules of starch. When cooked, these fats will soften while keeping the starches from connecting and forming some of those long gluteny chains, thus Tenderizing the dough.

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              But Tenderness isn’t everything in pie dough, so we’ll need to do something to make sure it’s Flaky. This is where the shortening comes in; though it can be any kind of fat, lard is traditional but one can also just use more cold butter. Work it into the dough like before, this time stopping when the lumps of fat are worked down to “pea” size. By keeping the shortening  larger, and not completely working it into the flour, we end up creating little fat pockets, almost like layers, in the soon-to-be dough. When cooked, these will expand and steam, expanding and creating layers similarly to what happens with a good biscuit (just, not as noticeable, smaller scale).

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               Last we add the actual fluids, the vinegar (not in the actual Alton recipe, but I always like it to ensure stability, or whatever it does) and a small amount of ice water, even more important to have the cold here due to the direct water-starch contact. If you can, adding this is done best with a spray bottle, spritzing over the flour and letting it integrate and mix faster than the sloppy-ish method of straight pouring.

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               Now, how much you’ll actually need is dependent on multiple measuring and climactic factors. Either way, only start with about half of what’s called and keep adding while mixing until it’s where it should be. When mixing by hand, this will be when the dough actually starts to naturally form into a ball (I don’t really follow the “when you squeeze and it comes together” concept, because I’ve had times where it follows that rule but the dough will still crack and not hold together when rolling), and the actual do is nice and SMOOTH, best seen when one cuts through it.

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                Wrap this in plastic, pressing down into a flatter round for easier rolling. This is the familiar point where many a recipe says to divide the dough in two; do NOT do that with this proportion of dough, as I found it’s only enough to roll out as-is for one pie. That was after dividing it and having to try and recombine them later, then the shape being all weird and filling in holes, but the flour on the dough made it impossible to fully stick and… well yeah. Just do one mound, or double the recipe for two.

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                Store in the fridge for at least an hour to firm the fats back up. Take out and let rest and soften a bit (a little too firm to roll straight from the fridge). Flour the countertop heavily, especially if it’s a random smooth counter like mine, roll out and use however. But if you’re only using a smaller amount of dough (leftovers), I found you could do a bit of rolling directly on the plastic. Which is great for these pastie-like items, since you don’t have the flour to get in the way when you have to seal any edges (though there is a downside, mentioned later).

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                Once rolled into whatever shape you want for your desired filled item, full circle for empanada-like half-fold or a longer strip to make a little package, we can get to stuffing. Take the desired inside mix, for me a Butternut and Cauliflower Saute with Curried Yogurt sauce, place near an end in a large mound.

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                Grabbing the plastic, lift some of the closer ends up around the filling to have something for the dough to overlap. Take the larger end and fold over, leaving a nice, smooth, perfect looking cover on our little savory pie package.

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                Cut off any and all excess and carefully pinch all edges, holes, and anything that could constitute a leak. Very important to be extra delicate and careful here with this unprotected, tender dough… I made sure to treat it gently, softly moved it underneath a spatula after making it nice and smooth, even and perfect, lifted and moved very carefully over to the pan for baking….

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                And of course it all screwed up after I actually pulled the spatula AWAY. Had to turn it upside down and put all this extra dough on top in a not-so-pretty configuration. Which is a lesson for you all (but really a message to me) to at least get some flour on the bottom before moving… or even better just stuff and fold the dough in the pan itself.

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                Wash and brush the top with a nice layer of milk to encourage good browning and slide into a 350F oven for, say, half an hour, maybe a bit more.

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                Finished, you’ll have a nice, good sized hot pocket of pie dough and delicious filling which, to my surprise, holds up very well to being picked up. The dough itself is obviously much flakier than the Pastie, so it can make a bit of a mess of pastry “snow” on the plate, but if wrapped up in a parchment sleeve it’d make for a very suitable to-go meal.

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                So yeah, that’s it. A longer post for pie dough than I thought I’d make, not I’m feeling tired and ashamed at my ramblings. Either way this should leave me with no more leftovers to forget about, at least until Christmas. Too bad I don’t have any more dough, for some reason I’m craving pie…

The Holiday Dilemmas

                Thanksgiving has come and gone (besides the weekend get-togethers some are required to have), and now is the time for leftovers. And as such it’s also the time for an army of bloggers, news shows, TV Chefs, restaurants, and anyone else we can think of to try and impress the reader/watcher with “fun new ways to use them!” Hell, I just saw a local bar’s facebook post on using them in 3 different cocktails.

                It certainly makes for quite the deluge of information and recipes which I doubt I could even begin to try and compete or add a proper installment into. Not that I wouldn’t love to try… how I wish I could fill a post with Turkey-Stuffing-Potatoes-Green Bean Casserole-Casserole, or make a giant Hoagie filled with everything, and Eggbake made with dinner rolls, even a dessert of candied yam custard with cranberry coulis.

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                Oh all the things I would like to make a post about… if only I had enough leftovers to actually do it with. The majority of our Tupperware is filled with baked butternut squash (not candied with marshmallow, just plain butternut squash… not really the traditional/cliché thanksgiving fair) and some mashed potatoes. 3 rolls and enough Turkey for about only one or two sandwiches accompany only enough leftover stuffing (and GOOD stuffing too! With sausage…) for a midday snack.

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                Sooo no real recipes today, I haven’t been able to do that much with what I’ve got besides some roll sandwiches and a sautéed hot dog-stuffing mix. I did think of a fun little portable pocket item though.

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                Take whichever rolls one has used on hand and split in half (the best are those firm, round rolls with the crispy crust; can cut them like a clam shell easily) and pull out the fluffy insides, leaving just the hollowed out crust. From here I easily stuff both sides with small amounts of practically everything we have left; a little turkey, some stuffing, potatoes, gravy, squash, cranberries, even half a green bean.

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                I then reattach the halves and fill whichever openings I can find with the bread insides, effectively hiding all its stuffing into what looks like a regular bun (not sure what situation you’d need the trick for, but it’s still fun). From here, we could enjoy it as is like a cold sandwich (I can’t say I haven’t done this around midnight) or move into a 300-350F oven for a while, warm the bread and insides up while crisping the outside.

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                It’s not much but a pebble in the deluge of possibilities, but it contains the fun possibilities one can do for a quick minute snack. Besides, if I’m not recounting some of the things I do at home, what’s the point of having an outlet like this in the first place?

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                I hope all of your Thanksgivings have gone the best they can, and wish you luck in your leftover devourment. Experiment to your heart’s content or just shove everything into a baking dish, enjoy the food the best you can!

                Until the next holiday season or whichever recipes come before, Good Eating to all.

SFC: That Old Dumpling Thing

                Alright, got those dumplings figured out and done; got them turned into a sandwich. I’d really love to fill them, however the dumpling itself has a tendency to expand noticeably during the boil. As such I’d just end up with a lot of dumpling and a tiny filling; would have to go really big to get a decent proportion, and by that point it’s no longer Food Truck-reminiscent.

                Here’s a quick, easy recipe for them:

Chicken Soup Dumplings

2 cups flour

2-3 tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp salt

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 c milk

Combine all

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                Pretty simple. Adjusting the baking powder will change the structure depending on preference; adding more will make it “fluffier,” but at the same time it’ll break up a lot more during the boil. I like keeping to lower amounts for Bun purposes. I also thought I’d try adding a little more egg on this batch, but it just ended up tasting like an egg. Would be really fun if you were making a breakfast sausage patty with melted cheese sorta thing, but otherwise don’t do it.

                Drop these into boiling liquid; whatever size is up to you. As I said though, these WILL expand noticeably when boiling, so think of desired size and hold back a little. If we were doing this for soup, I’d boil about 12 minutes; however, they get sticky, and I need to be able to hold them.

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               So I cook them about 4-6 minutes, let them get their size sort of set first. Take out, let drain, and transfer to a Parchment-lined sheet, covering them with some melted butter; can sprinkle on some salt, sesame, celery seed, etc if you want. Move them to a 375F oven for about 15-20 minutes; this will finish the cooking process while keeping the outside dry (well, except for the butter).

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                If you want them to be brown on top, you will have to flip them over halfway; they color more on pan contact than open-air. After taking out, we are ready to build. Lucky me, I happened to have some cooked Turkey Breast leftover for dinner, so I piled that on top of a bit of torn lettuce, a bacon-wrapped deli ham, and to finish a little bit of cranberries we had alongside it as well. Sort of a twist on a club, though the buns sorta remind me of those Asian Steamed Buns.

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              Since the ones I made were small, I just used two different pieces for a top and bottom; again, just make sure the bottom piece is bigger (see Beer Bread). Oh, and these dumplings don’t “grip” the food as well as others, so don’t stack things that one has troubles biting through cleanly; learned that with the turkey.

 

Do you have any other fun Make-shift sandwich Buns?