Buttery Flaky Pastry

My family enjoys homemade pies all year long. My first attempts at baking pies were frustrating and disappointing. The crust was either chewy, doughy or hard. I didn’t like the taste or texture of store bought pie crust. So, with perseverance, I tried a variety of recipes before I found a few that resulted in consistently flaky, delicious pastry.  Many pies later, I have discovered other delicious recipes. The following are a few of my favorites.

Making Pastry
Preparing pie crust.

When it comes to baking pastries and pies, I find that preparing my dough for pastry and pie crust a day or week ahead results in flakier pastries and pies. If I will be using the dough in one or two days, I’ll store in the refrigerator. Otherwise, I’ll place it in the freezer.

Pate Brisee has a wonderful buttery flavor and a flaky texture. I mostly use it for tarts or pies that require a pre-baked shell. Due to the high butter content, it tends to over-brown when baking pies for more than 30 minutes at a high temperature, even when using a pie shield.

Pate Brisee

Ingredients:

Lemon Tart
Image Source CanStockPhoto

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut inpieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions:

Step 1 Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and process for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube, just until the dough holds together. Do not process for more than 30 seconds.

Step 2 Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide in two. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten, and form two discs. Wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour before using. I usually prepare and freeze a week ahead. Then, I thaw in the refrigerator the day before I need it.

Source: MarthaStewart.com

Homemade Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

Puff Pastry Dough
Image Source About.com

13 ounces (390 g) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp (7 ml) salt 3 ounces (90 g) unsalted butter, cold
7 fluid ounces (210 ml) water, cold
10 ounces (300 g) unsalted butter, softened

Directions: 

Combine the flour, salt and pieces of cold butter in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Process until a coarse meal is formed. With the processor running, slowly add the water. Turn the machine off as soon as the dough comes together to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough a few times by hand, rounding it into a ball. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill overnight.

To roll in the butter, first prepare the softened butter by placing it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin to roll the softened butter into a rectangle, approximately 5 inches by 8 inches (12.5 centimeters by 20 centimeters). It is important that the dough and butter be of almost equal consistency. If necessary, allow the dough to sit at room temperature to soften or chill the butter briefly to harden.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 12 inches by 15 inches (30 centimeters by 37.5 centimeters). Lift and rotate the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.

Use a dry pastry brush to brush away any flour from the dough’s surface. Loose flour can cause gray streaks and can prevent the puff pastry from rising properly when baked.

Peel one piece of plastic wrap from the butter. Position the butter in the center of the rectangle and remove the remaining plastic. Fold the four edges of the dough over the butter enclosing it completely. Stretch the dough if necessary; it is important that none of the butter be exposed.

With the folded side facing up, press the dough several times with a rolling pin. Use a rocking motion to create ridges in the dough. Place the rolling pin in each ridge and slowly roll back and forth to widen the ridge. Repeat until all the ridges are doubled in size. Using the ridges as a starting point, roll the dough out into a smooth, even rectangle approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 50 centimeters). Be careful to keep the corners of the dough as right angles.

Use a dry pastry brush to remove any loose flour from the dough’s surface. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter. If one end is damaged or in worse condition, fold it in first; otherwise, start at the bottom. This completes the first turn.

Rotate the block of dough 90 degrees so that the folded edge is on your left and the dough faces you like a book. Roll out the dough again, repeating the ridging technique. Once again, the dough should be in a smooth, even rectangle of approximately 8 inches by 24 inches (20 centimeters by 60 centimeters).

Fold the dough in thirds again, completing the second turn. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Repeat the rolling and folding technique until the dough has had a total of five turns. Do not perform more than two turns without a resting and chilling period. Cover the dough completely and chill overnight before shaping and baking.

Yield: 2 pounds (1 kg)

Notes: If you don’t need all of the pastry for your recipe, simply cut the block into thirds or quarters and work with one of these portions at a time, keeping the rest chilled until needed.

Puff pastry sheets may be frozen. Fold finished rectangles in thirds and wrap tightly before freezing. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

Source: http://homecooking.about.com/od/breadrecipes/r/blbread85.htm

The following Homemade Pie Crust Mix is my “go to” recipe for most of my pies. It is easy to prepare and the mix will last up to 6 months without refrigeration. It never lasts that long in my home, though. The prepared crust always receives rave reviews from family and friends. It will make up to 5 single crust pie shells which saves time. Simply measure out the required amount of mix, add cold water and roll out the dough.

Homemade Pie Crust Mix

Ingredients:

Pie Crust
Preparing Pie Crust

6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/3 cups (1 lb. can) Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening

Directions:

Combine flour and salt in large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Store in covered container up to 6 months. No refrigeration is needed

Measure amount of mix for pie crust into a bowl. Sprinkle water over mix, a tablespoon at a time. Toss lightly with a fork until mixture comes together to form a ball. Do not over mix.

Use to make crusts for your favorite pie recipes.

Amount to use:

Single Crust Pie: 1 1/2 cups mix and 3 tablespoons cold water.
Double Crust Pie: 2 1/4 cups mix and 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water.

Source: Crisco.com
Image Source: Allrecipes.com

Do you have a favorite pie crust recipe? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

Here are a few baking tools you may find useful:

Grip EZ Pastry Blender from Norpro
Grip EZ Pastry Blender
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measure Cup Set
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measure Cup Set
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measuring Spoons
Decorative Fleur De Lis Measuring Spoons
Pie Crust Maker
Pie Crust Maker
Pastry Cloth & Rolling Pin Cover
Pastry Cloth & Rolling Pin Cover

Decadent Brownie Trio

Vintage Style 1 qt Ceramic Milk Bottle
This Ceramic Bottle will keep your milk cold and fresh to enjoy with warm brownies!

Decadent Brownie Trio

Brownies are a quick and simple way to fulfill that craving for decadent chocolate goodness. They’re always a huge hit at social gatherings and we like to keep some in the freezer for unexpected company. Here is a trio of gooey richness sure to satisfy your brownie indulgence.

Caramel Brownies

Ingredients:

Caramel Brownies

1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix with pudding
3/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. Watkins Original DS Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Watkins Butter Extract
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup chopped pecans
13 ounces individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray one 9×13 inch pan with Watkins Baking Spray .

Combine the cake mix, butter, extracts and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Mix well and pour 2/3 of the batter into pan.

Press pecans into batter and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the caramel and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Stir until melted and smooth; pour over cooled cake mix.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of caramel and top with spoonfuls of remaining cake mix. Bake for additional l5 to l8 minutes; cool and cut.

Adapted From allrecipes.com

Cheesecake Brownies

Ingredients:

Cheesecake Brownies

1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix
1/2 tsp. Watkins Original DS Vanilla
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1/2 tsp. Watkins Almond Extract
1 egg
1/3 cup white sugar

Directions:

Prepare the brownie mix as directed by manufacturer. Stirring in vanilla extract. Preheat oven to temperature indicated on box. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

Spread the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, egg, almond extract and sugar until smooth. Dollop the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter. Swirl together using a knife or skewer.

Bake according to manufacturer’s instructions. Brownies will be done when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in the pan, then cut into bars and serve.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Ghirardelli® 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Watkins Baking SprayPeanut Butter Brownie Bites
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Watkins Original DS Vanilla
Extract
1/2 teaspoon Watkins Butter Extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp Watkins Peanut Butter Extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips, chopped

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze:

1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon Watkins Original DS Vanilla
Extract
1 cup Ghirardelli® 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, heat and stir the 3/4 cup Ghirardelli® 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips and the butter over very low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat; cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Coat foil with cooking spray; set aside.

Stir the 1 cup sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture in saucepan. Add the two eggs, one at a time, beating with a spatula or wooden spoon just until combined. Stir in extracts.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, peanut butter extract, the 1 cup sugar, and one egg. Stir in the 1/3 cup chopped Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips. Spread mixture evenly over slightly baked brownies using a tablespoon. Bake for 35 minutes or until top is light brown and mixture appears evenly set. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Spread Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze over the top of the cooled brownies. Let stand until set. Use the foil to lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut into 36 pieces.

Enjoy immediately, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze: In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream and vanilla just to a boil over medium high heat. Remove from heat. Add Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips; do not stir. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir until smooth.

Adapted from allrecipes.com

Leave a comment below letting us know what your favorite type of brownie your family enjoys most.

Here are a few kitchen tools you may find useful:

Adjustable Batter Dispenser from Norpro
Adjustable Batter Dispenser
Stainless Steel Cake Pan from Norpro
Stainless Steel Cake Pan.
Nut Chopper from Progressive
Nut Chopper from Progressive
Visit The Kozy Nook
View our complete line of culinary tools.
Non-stick Brownie Pan
Non-stick Brownie Pan