Choosing a pie pan

Alright, this sounds easy doesn’t it, can they really be all that different?

YES!

I have bought many pie pans over the years and found that some are far better than others.  My least favorite are metal pans, and my favorite are ceramic, or glazed stoneware, below I’ll tell you why.

here are the common choices

Metal (usually aluminum)

Ceramic (always glazed)/stoneware (glazed or unglazed)

Glass (tempered)

There may be other choices, but I’m going to talk about those.

 

Metal– lets start with that.  These tend to be my least favorite because their ability to brown a crust while cooking with a filling can vary wildly.  Many are just too thin to conduct heat properly, and can cause the bottom of your crust to turn out soggy.  I bought some old fashioned looking ones with some small holes in the bottom that were touted “professional quality”  These let fat melt out through the holes causing a bit of smoke in the oven, and in spite of the holes, the crust still came out uncooked and soggy, even after being in the oven for over an hour.  Many metal pie pans are non-stick, which may seem like a good idea at first, but after cutting a few pies with a knife, their coating will start to scratch and they will start to peel.

Glass– Glass is an excellent material for baking pies.  Not only does it bake very very well, but it is often dirt cheap!  Glass holds in heat, and keeps the crust cooking, minimizing the affects of temperature fluctuation in the oven.  With a glass pan you can see the bottom of the crust making sure that it is nice and golden brown.  The down side to glass is that it is vulnerable to sudden temperature changes and can shatter quite abruptly, when working with glass, be mindful of this.  When working with a glass pan, avoid setting the hot pan on a stone countertop, glass stove top, or wet surface.  It’s a good idea to set it on a dry towel, or potholder.

Ceramic/stoneware–  This is my favorite, I own a bunch of them.  Ceramic/stoneware bake very well, just like glass, holding in the heat.  I prefer glazed stoneware over unglazed.  I see no real advantage to unglazed.  Unglazed pans are harder to clean and they stain quite easily since they are porous.  Glazed stoneware has all of the attributes of the unglazed, but is easier to clean, and can go into the dishwasher.  Ceramic or stoneware, doesn’t shatter with abrupt temperature changes, but will break or crack under extreme circumstances.  The downside to this type of pan is that you cannot see the crust through the pan.

 

What size do I buy?

The standard most universal size is 9″, most pie crust recipes are geared to a pan of this size, as well as pie recipes.  These pans will often be called “deep dish” and will be around 1 1/2 deep.  Those pre-rolled refrigerated pie crusts are geared to this size and will fit well, allowing enough crust to crimp.  Glass pie plates made by pyrex and anchor, are often sold in an odd 9.5″ size.  While 9.5″ isn’t going to ruin your pie, it will make a less thick pie, and pre-rolled pie crust will come just short of fitting.  Here is a typical 9.5″

Here is what you should look for

 

I bet you didn’t think that someone could ramble on so long about a pie pan did ya!  Yes I’m a nerd…

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Stuffing Bread!

That stuff in the box will have nuthin’ on you when you make your own stuffing with an already seasoned, herb filled homemade bread!

This bread not only makes great stuffing, but how about an open faced turkey sandwich with gravy, or a leftover turkey sandwich…  I might be on to something

Wanna make it?

Let’s do it, here’s what you’ll need

Now if you need detailed instructions on how to make bread, refer to this post.  White Bread

Get that yeast, warm water, and sugar going in a mixing bowl.  Give it a chance to get all foamy.

Add the first 3 cups of flour, poultry seasoning, oil, and salt.

Beat to combine.

Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft supple dough, yes I said supple, now get your mind out of the gutter!  Knead for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Place in oiled bowl smooth side down and flip to expose oiled surface.

See, told ya it was supple….

Let rise until double in bulk.  Then punch down and divide into two equal pieces and place into 2 standard 9×5 loaf pans that have been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Cover and let rise again until the dough fills the pans and just peeks over the top.

Now preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the loaves in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown all over.

Immediately remove from pan and let cool

There you have it, nicely seasoned stuffin’ bread!

Printable recipe here

  • 6-7 cups all purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning (salt free)
  • 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, melted butter or vegetable oil

Now here is how you can make a simple stuffing out of this.

Take 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter and melt in a deep saute pan and and add 1 small chopped onion, and 2 stalks of celery.

add 1/4 tsp pepper and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Cook on medium low until the onions and celery are very soft, 5-10 minutes.

Add 9 cups of the cubed stuffing bread.

Hey look it’s that bread you made!

toss the cubes with the butter and vegetables.

and add just enough chicken broth to make everything moist, tossing the mixture, you  don’t want to mush it up too much.  Add just enough to moisten, it will take more or less broth depending on how fresh or dry the bread is.  If you are going to stuff a bird, you will want it a little drier, baking in a pan, just a little more moist.

here you go, homemade stuffing! This is enough to stuff a 10 pound turkey.  Feel free to double the recipe for a bigger turkey.

 

 

Posted in Bread and Dough, Holidays | 2 Comments

Pumpkin Spice Muffins!

Pumpkin and spice and everything nice….  Or something like that

 

Wanna make pretty, tall bakery style muffins?  I’ll show you how and it’s really quite easy.

Here’s the Stuff

See, no magic, just simple ingredients.  You’ll notice that I’m using just plain pumpkin, the label should say 100% pure pumpkin, don’t make the mistake of buying that pumpkin pie mix, it doesn’t work the same in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now get those dry ingredients combined, yeah, yeah I know, you already know what this looks like, but bear with me.

Now get those wet ingredients together in a larger bowl, give ’em a good stir.

Now add the dry to the wet all at once.  Looks familiar doesn’t it, kinda like a quick bread?  That’s pretty much what we are making here.

I could have melted my butter more, but it’s gonna be alright, trust me, would I steer you wrong?

There, now give it a good stir, just until combined, we want those little lumps, just stir a little and step away from the bowl!

There, the batter is all done and ready for the pan.

Spray your muffin/cupcake pan with some pan spray.  Fill each cup all the way to the top for a pretty, tall muffin, this will get ya 9 muffins.  If you want to fill them 3/4 full you’ll get a shorter muffin and you should get about 12 from this recipe, the choice is yours.  Isn’t it great to have choices?

Now we are going to make them even better.  Lets make some streusel.

In a small bowl combine all the ingredients, flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon.

Now just mush it with a fork

and keep mushin’ until it looks like coarse sand.  It’s OK if there are a few bits of butter left

Now sprinkle it evenly over the batter in the pan

Oooohhh these gonna be good!

Now bake those bad boys in that preheated oven for 18-24 minutes or until they test done.

and look what we made here.  Muffins to be proud of, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood…

Click here for printable recipe

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup granulated sugar (or light brown sugar)
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup melted butter or oil
2 eggs
¼ cup milk

Streusel

2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

 

Posted in Quick Breads and Muffins | 2 Comments

Oatmeal Bread!

Yum!  Yup that just about sums it up!

I made this for the first time a few weeks ago to go with soup, it also made really great grilled cheese sandwiches, was it the bread or my mad skillz at making grilled cheese?  The world will never know!

Today we’re gonna use the big stand mixer to make bread, it just makes things so much easier.  Of course you can make it by hand if you want to show off,  just use the technique explained in this white bread blog post.

Here is what you are going to need

Simple enough right?

First take your lukewarm milk, honey and yeast and combine in the bowl of the stand mixer.  Let stand 5-10 or until it is all foamy and bubbly, remember why we do this?

Once it gets all gassy, you can add the butter, oatmeal, flour and salt.  Remember don’t toss the salt directly into the yeast mixture, they don’t get along, you gotta ease them into the relationship and they will be just fine.

Put on that dough hook, and set the mixer to stir.  When it comes together turn up to speed 2 to knead for about 10 minutes, while you’re waiting clean up that mess you made.

Sometimes you might need more flour, sometimes you’ll need to add a little water to get the right consistency, once again this isn’t an exact science.  When the consistency is right, it should clean the sides of the bowl but still hang on to the bottom, like this.

Now after it has kneaded, and it should be nice and elastic, it should have some fight to it!  Place into an oiled bowl and flip it over.

cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it has doubled in volume, probably around an hour depending on how warm your kitchen is

Look at that, a few simple ingredients and you’ve created an awesome, living bowl of dough!  Don’t worry, it doesn’t bite….

Now plop it out and form it into a loaf.  Place some extra oatmeal on the counter, we’re gonna make this a purdy loaf!

With a wet hand, dampen the dough, this will help the oatmeal stick

Ooh more of that trademark artistic blur..

Roll it into the oatmeal and set into a greased loaf pan.

Cover and let rise until just peeking over the top of the pan.  When it is close, get the oven preheating to 350 degrees.

Now slide it in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown all over.

Immediately remove from pan onto a cooling rack.

Now I didn’t create this recipe, although I would love to take credit for it.  It is from those great bakers over at King Arthur Flour.  They included raisins and currants as options in their recipe, but I just skipped them.  Don’t tell them that I used Gold Medal Flour, maybe they won’t notice…

This dough would also make great dinner rolls to sop up that gravy from a pot roast.

Now get bakin’!

King Arthur Flour Oatmeal Bread

 

 

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What a Hoot, Owl cupcakes!

Here is a really easy, cute cupcake that will bring a smile to just about anyone’s face!

Here is what you’ll need

Cupcakes

Buttercream Icing in white, brown and yellow

chocolate chips

slice almonds

Yup, that’s it!

Now take a cupcake and frost the top with the white icing, don’t worry about it being too smooth.

Now take the brown icing and make two large dot for the eyes, and then take the white and make a slightly smaller dot on top of the brown.  Place a chocolate chip onto the white icing.

I know I know, it doesn’t look like an owl yet, but it will soon!

Now place the sliced almonds around the eyes.

and take the yellow and make a beak.  I use an upside down rose tip (#104) or you can use a whole cashew turned curved side out, the design that I copied these from, used a cashew.  I forgot to buy cashews so I had to get creative, that’s how I roll!

and when done, they will look like this, you can also use the almonds, aka “feathers” to give him feathers on top of his head.

anyone who doesn’t smile when they see these, needs their head examined!

Now go make ’em, you know you want to!

 

Posted in Cakes, Holidays | 4 Comments

Pumpkin Face Cupcakes!

BOO!

Scare ya?

Didn’t think so.

Lets have some fun and make some goofy looking cupcakes!

First you will need some naked cupcakes, any flavor you like, you can even try these ones, Apple Spice Cupcakes

Next you need some frosting, this one works great, just follow the instructions for piping.  American Style Buttercream You can even look up the instructions, right here on this blog, convenient ‘eh!

Now color a bit of icing in 4 colors, orange, green, brown and black.  Save a bit of white as well.  Use plenty of food coloring, make some nice bright colors!  I didn’t realize that I didn’t have brown color, so I added some cocoa to make it brown.

Now using pastry bags (I buy disposables because I’m lazy) and #2 writing tips, fill each bag with a different color, reserving some orange to ice the cupcakes with.

let’s bring these things to life.  First using black, make the outlines of the eyes and mouth.

Hey whut ‘chu lookin’ at?

now fill in with some white

Now give him a little button nose, a stem and some vines

gosh look at them teeth.

that’s all their is to it, and I couldn’t let him hang out all by himself, so I made him some friends with a range of emotions…

Looks like a tense situation, what do you suppose is going on?

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

 

 

Posted in Cakes, Holidays | 4 Comments

Make your own vanilla extract!

OK, so maybe I’m a weirdo, but I often make my own vanilla extract.  I like a nice high quality extract, but it can be very expensive to buy in the store.  Most real vanilla extract goes for $3 and up per ounce in the grocery store, that’s crazy!

I’m going to show you how to make 24 oz. of real vanilla extract for around $15.  You may ask, “how does he do it, is he a wizard?”

First we need just two ingredients vanilla beans and vodka, no really, just two!

Start off with 3 vanilla beans per cup of vodka.  So for this 750ml. bottle of vodka, you’ll need 9 vanilla beans.

 

You don’t need any highfalutin vodka, just get some cheap stuff, depending on where you live you should be able to get 750ml. for around $5

I get my beans from Amazon.com, you can currently get a dozen Madagascar vanilla beans for around $10.  Today, I’m using Mexican vanilla beans, they are my favorite.

Now you’ll want nice fresh vanilla beans, they should be shiny and very fragrant.  They should have a very “leathery” texture.  They shouldn’t be small and brittle, those aren’t fresh beans.

 

Now just cut each bean in half, and with the tip of a knife split down the middle lengthwise.

now if the bottle of vodka is filled right to the top, take off a scant 1/4 cup (this will give you 3 even cups) to make room for the beans, do what you will with that 1/4 cup of vodka, an impromptu martini?

Just take the split beans and place them in the bottle, place the top back on the vodka and you are done, well almost…

Now is just waiting for it to steep, and this is going to take a while.  You want the extract to steep for at least a month…  what, too slow for ya?

About once a week give the bottle a shimmy shake, and take a whiff.  You’ll notice over time it will smell less like alcohol and more like sweet delicious vanilla.  Whoever equated vanilla with boring, never had the good stuff!

 

 

 

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Vanilla Extract

 

Vanilla, the flavoring that wakes up the flavor in so many baked goods, should you spend an arm and a leg to get the good stuff?  NO!

There are lots of choices out there, there are imitation flavorings, pure extracts, and blends of the two.  As you might have guessed, my favorite is high quality pure extract.  This doesn’t mean that I pay a fortune for the stuff, I just get creative.

Imitation vanilla extracts are just that, they often contain no real vanilla at all, but usually synthetic vanillin.  The quality and flavor of this product can vary wildly, this is not to say that it is a terrible product, but often the stuff in dollar stores usually isn’t very good.  If you are going to go with imitation extract, go with a known brand like McCormick for instance, the quality will be good and consistent.  If you want an extract that won’t change the color of your icing or baked goods, you can get clear imitation extract, this can often be found in craft stores in the cake decorating supply area.

Pure Vanilla extracts have to meet certain standards according to the USDA, they need to have a minimum of 35% alcohol and 13.35 oz. vanilla bean per gallon of alcohol.  Grocery stores seem like the most expensive places to buy this stuff, from what I’ve seen they are charging $3 and up per ounce, OUCH, that’s ‘spensive!  You can get great prices on pure vanilla extracts online and at big club warehouse stores.  Look for extracts that have only have a few ingredients, real vanilla doesn’t need corn syrup of other stuff in it, there should be alcohol, water and vanilla beans (or extractive of vanilla), that’s it.

I always suggest using a good vanilla extract because I think that it really does make a difference in baked goods, but if your budget only allows for the imitation stuff and you are happy with the results that you get with that product, then keep using it, there isn’t anything wrong with that!

Stay tuned, I’ll show you how to make your own Vanilla extract tomorrow!

 

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That Weird Buttercream

This is a weird way to make a buttercream, but so tasty all at the same time.  This recipe uses no powdered sugar and it a lot less sweet than a regular American Style buttercream.  This recipe uses FLOUR that is made into a paste and beaten together with butter and granulated sugar.  I know what you may be thinking, Mike has gone off the deep end, but I have news for you, that happened a long time ago!

Trust me on this, it works and will produce a very light and creamy buttercream.

Please forgive me, I forgot to take a picture of the ingredients, but there  is nothing exotic here, just milk, flour, sugar, butter and vanilla.

First you want to make the paste, you’ll want to do this a couple hours in advance because it needs to be cooled before using, don’t put it in the fridge, it needs to sit at room temp.

Combine the flour and the milk in a small saucepan and whisk to combine thoroughly before turning on the heat.

Now turn the heat to medium and cook until nice and thick, whisking constantly.  After the mixture comes to a boil, cook for 1 minute, this will get rid of any pasty flour flavor.  You want to make sure that your heat isn’t too high, you don’t want this mixture to scorch, or cook onto the bottom.  If it does, throw it away, wash the pan and start over.  It should look like this.

Now what I do is spread it out on a plate so that it will cool faster.  Then cover it with plastic wrap pressing against the paste to prevent pudding skin.  I’ve known people who liked pudding skin, they’re weird.

Now while the paste is cooling, take your butter out of the fridge and let it set out until soft at room temperature, don’t hurry it in the microwave, you’ll mess things up…

Now once the paste is cool take the butter and sugar and put in a mixing bowl and beat together on high speed for around 5 minutes, you want this mixture to be very fluffy and the sugar crystals starting to melt into the butter.

While white sugar is the norm, but I’m using brown sugar here, and it is really delicious, and great on spice cakes, or a spoon….

Once you have a nice fluffy mixture, you can start adding the cool paste a spoonful at a time, until well mixed and the mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Oh look more artistic blur….

Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Here is what you end up with, fluffy light but very rich buttercream

Printable recipe click here

  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (light brown sugar is awesome too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

 

Posted in Frostings, Fillings, and Glazes | 2 Comments

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream

Fall, my favorite time of year, things baked with apples just say “comfort food” to me.

I made a similar cupcake last year with a cake mix, not something that I usually do.  This year I wanted to make these again except from scratch, could it be done?  Of course it can!

The recipe that this is built on was originally a pumpkin spice cake, so I just switched out the pumpkin for apple butter.  I decided that apple butter would give me the most apple flavor, apple sauce doesn’t have enough oomph, and I have a slight aversion to chunks of moist things in my cake, so chopped apple was out.  Lets make these things.

Now get that oven preheated to 350 degrees!

Here is what you’ll need.  I had to buy fancy pants apple butter to avoid high fructose corn syrup, but that’s my issue, you can use whatever brand that you get your hands on, it’ll work just fine, just don’t blame me if you grow a tail!

Now place the vegetable oil, sugar and eggs in a bowl.  With a mixer beat until will combined.

Add the apple butter and again, beat to combine.

Now in a separate bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, salt , and baking powder, and baking soda.  Whisk to combine.  Are you smelling those spices, the aroma of fall baking, smells fantabulous!

Now add the dry ingredients all at once to the wet.  This goes together a lot like a quick bread recipe, the texture is similar as well.

Now beat to combine, you should have a nice smooth batter.

Now get out your cupcake/muffin pan, I use the standard size and line them with white papers, I like the white papers, but use whatever color you can get your mitts on.

I fill the cups half way, with about a 1/4 cup of batter.  You can see that I’m using that handy dandy disher, #24 again.  This makes just the right sized cupcake for me, and insures that they are all the same size and cook all at once, and all is right in the world, or at least my kitchen…

Yup that’s a Paula Deen muffin pan, and it’s fabulous!

Now place in your preheated oven, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until they test done.  Remember how we did that?  With a toothpick that comes out clean?  I knew you remembered!

See how great that disher portioned the batter, its consistency like this that feeds my OCD soul.

Now once they have cooled for at least 10 minutes, you can gently remove them from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool COMPLETELY, be patient, warm cupcake = melted buttercream, not what we’re going for!

Now just slather on a generous amount of brown sugar buttercream, you can just spread some on with a spatula.

Or you can be a showoff and using a piping bag like I do.

Printable recipe click here

Buttercream recipe click here

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups apple butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

 

 

 

 

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