Sunday, November 25, 2018

O Tannenbaum

We drove past the Christmas tree farm after church today to see if it was open, and it was. Today was as good of a day as any, so we headed to get our tree this afternoon. It's a tradition I love and one that does not give my dear husband a thrill, but he loves me, so he graciously supports me in this annual outing.

Natasha selected THE tree this year; complete with a bird's nest. We wanted to keep it securely in the tree, but the the tree farm worker didn't know, so he yanked it out when it was being shook. Natasha dashed out and grabbed it to bring home anyway. We will stick it back in the tree and I think she has plans to tuck an ornament in it.

Lincoln hadn't had his nap yet, so he was a grump most of the time he wasn't in my arms, but we tricked him into smiling for at least two pictures. He's wearing my Dad's little earflap hat that is probably 60+ years old. Glad it's getting some use a second time around.

Bring on the Christmas music and greenery! I'm off to water the tree and make the first garland from clippings of our own pines in the back field.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Gluten-Free Pie Crust For All

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and I have a feeling everyone is google searching "Gluten-Free Pie Crust" right? Well, I've got the one for you. Years ago I actually contemplated cutting up my antique rolling pin to make a wall hook of some kind, because I thought I'd never roll out pie crusts again. The gluten-free crust recipes available back then didn't require rolling out and were less than satisfactory, but it's all I had. Thankfully I did NOT cut up my rolling pin and have found much better pie crust recipes.

Here is my current favorite: "Gluten-Free Apple Hand Pies" found on Serious Eats.

My tips and adjustments for the recipe are as follows:

  • I use lard in place of butter. Not that I don't like butter, I just have lard on hand and like to use it for pies. I have found when using lard, I need to decrease the amount. So, the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter and I use about 3/4 cups lard. 
  • One recipe makes 2, 9" pies with top and bottom crust, if you are careful and don't roll it too thick.
  • I hardly ever take the time to wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate. The few times I have, it gets too hard and then takes too long to thaw when I need to make a pie...right now. So I suggest using ice cold water and if needed, sticking it in the fridge for approximately 1/2 an hour (not two, as the recipe says) and see how it behaves then.
  • For single crust, baked filling pies (such as pumpkin), I fill the pie and bake the crust with the filling. For single crust pies with a refrigerated filling, prick the bottom with a fork a few times and bake alone for about 10-15 min. Keep an eye on it. 
  • This crust doesn't brown very much, so keep that in mind when baking and testing for doneness. 
  • When I don't need a full recipe of crust, I make a half recipe:
Gluten-Free Pie Crust, Half Recipe

1 c. rice flour
1/3 c. tapioca starch
1 1/2 T. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/3 c. lard
4-8 T. water (Never just pour 8 T. in right away. Start with even less than 4 T. and work your way up slowly and gradually.)
This makes a nice two-crust pie, or two, single pie crusts (again, if rolled carefully), OR, one 9x13" baking pan crust for other desserts.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

When rolling out:
  • Always use a rolling pin cover. I have found it incredibly helpful for gluten-free crusts. Also, always roll out on parchment paper.
  • My sister-in-law shared her tip of greasing your pie pan, which I have found helpful with this recipe.
  • Sprinkle the paper with tapioca flour more than once if necessary. And it probably will be necessary. 
  • Ideally, this will be happening when all the children are otherwise happily occupied, such as naptime, or dare I say, movie time? Gluten-free crusts are the one thing that have made me curl my toes and want to say bad words. They just are NOT easy to work with, so be prepared for some deep breathing if things go awry. It can be done.

Gently roll out from middle to edges, alternating sides and pressing evenly. Every so often, lift all the dough up and off the paper and turn it over. Do this before it gets too thin. 

Once you're ready to lift it into the pie pan, gently lift the edge of the parchment paper up and thus lift the crust up and over the rolling pin.

If you're ready and brave enough, gently lift it all the way up and move towards the pie pan.

 See that little face peering over the counter? Obviously it wasn't naptime NOR movie time this day.

Here's where real life happens have to take that deep breath, sigh, and start all over again. Maybe stick it in the fridge for a bit if you have time, to harden up, or just plunge ahead if you're short on time, which I typically am. Maybe I didn't have enough of the crust draped over the rolling pin.

Happily it worked the second try and I moved on. Very carefully, lower the crust into the pan, allowing it to settle nicely.

Delicately lift the top edge up so you can ease the crust into the pan sides and bottom edges. The top edge will probably crumble off the edges but that's okay. If you have cracks, just pick some extra up and press it on. Once it's in the pan, it's rather forgiving and can be pressed together to seal seams that might develop.

  • I stick with fairly simple edges. Rustic, is the name of the game and I like to say all my pies are on the rustic side of things. I'm sure you've seen the ones that are sealed with fork tines or spoon tips. They work great for this pie crust. 

  • If you have a perfect basket woven lattice topped pie crust top in your mind, erase it. It is not possible without cracks galore. Give yourself a break and just lay the strips of dough on top of each other for that topping. They will still crack, but it's okay to cheat in this area.

  • This dough does perform beautifully with cookie cutters, so if you want to try making edges like this, go for it. For a pumpkin pie, you do need to bake the pie part way (and any cut out designs all the way) before adding them or else they sink.

  • You can certainly roll out a second single layer for the top and gently lay it on as one layer for a traditional apple or peach pie. Just use the same method as I showed above for lifting the dough over the rolling pin and gently laying it on the filled pie. 
  • One of my favorite ways to add a top crust for a traditional pie like apple or peach is this patchwork style. It's very forgiving and there's way less chance of crusts tearing mid-air. 

  • I have made hand pies with the recipe as it originally is written for, and they are fabulous. They hold up extremely well for picnics and the best tip ever is cutting the top layer slightly larger than the bottom. It really allows for covering the filling properly and lets you have enough to crimp at the edges. So if you're making hand pies, definitely follow that tip.

Fourth of July 2018 
  • I've also made pear pies of sorts. Once baked, I turned them over and put a streusel topping of nuts, cinnamon, sugar and butter in the cavity and broiled it slightly to crisp it up.

So happy pie baking...whatever the season! 

Monday, October 1, 2018

October 1st

Boy, am I ever glad to see fall arrive. All the cozy vibes going on over here...pumpkins, cardigans, the search for warmer shoes, thoughts of putting the sandals away till spring, pumpkin desserts, and yes, even the fake fireplace on Netflix. 

I finished sewing this new dress for Natasha the other day. In its former life, it was a Lands' End Women's wrap front dress which I found at a garage sale. But, I basically shrunk it since it wasn't fitting me the best and I knew Natasha would get more use from it. I kept as many of the original design as I could, with the front pleats in the skirt and the waistband. The wrap front couldn't be saved since it was needed to be cut into a new bodice. Since I use the existing hems on the sleeves and skirt hem, it comes together so quickly.

Now. To go light a candle on this properly dreary, October day. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

End of Summer

When did my children become so photogenic? 

 The first egg from our chickens, the first day of school, a fresh new pile of books from the library, trimming lavender, pretending to take pictures with the film camera... These are the memories I want to tuck away from the end of summer 2018.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summer in the USA

We are having a really fun July this year. For the entire month, we are privileged to host Ane, who is from Basque Country while she is here with the program SUSA. And what full, fun days we have had ever since she arrived. Take a look at what we've been doing:

We have always wanted someone from another country to come visit us so we could show them around our piece of the United States and Ane is the first person to do so. She is grand. We laugh together, exchange a few Spanish words (even though she's here to improve her English), laugh some more and ask a lot of questions about Basque Country. Lincoln officially has a new buddy and probably thinks she's here to stay forever. Not sure what we will do when it comes time for Ane to return home... 
If anyone else wants to come and spend a month with us, we'd be happy to show you around too. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

More Wildlife

Another turtle was discovered last night. 
Also, a toad. He soon hopped away, but not after being named, "Kenta", meaning "healthy and big". 
The turtle was slightly slower in escaping, and the name chosen for it was, "Mimiko", meaning "beautiful".
(Natasha is on a Japanese kick these days, so I believe those are Japanese names.)

Natasha really wanted to keep the turtle; she wants a pet so badly. For some reason she doesn't consider our chickens pets. But alas, we told her this turtle is probably going to be happier out and about, so she took him back in a basket, towards the pond at the bottom of the hill.