The Sure Sign Of Fall – Making Pie Crust Dough

This is a the first pie crust of the season here on Glen Road.  Even though pies can be made any time of year, it seems we prefer pie more in the Fall and Winter seasons.  Our first pie is always made around Halloween and this year is no exception.  Making pie crust dough always brings about a little bit of anxiety for me.  No matter how many times I’ve made a crust, I am always nervous about the part of picking up the rolled dough and placing it in the pie plate without tearing or ripping the dough.  Even though I’ve made lots and lots of pies, I can’t ever seem to shake my crust anxiety.  That’s why it is important to find a crust recipe out there that works for you.  There are many….ones that use butter versus vegetable shortening, ones that use sugar versus salt, ones that use a pastry blender and ones that don’t.  Experiment with the many recipes out there until you find one that works for you.  Once you determine the right one, stick to it.  The more you use it, the easier it will be to make a crust that is flaky and golden.  Like they say, practice makes perfect.

My favorite recipe mixes everything up in the food processor.  It’s pretty quick and pain-free.  The crust always turns out flaky and browns very easy in the oven to golden without burning.  I make sure everything is cold when I add it to the flour, sugar and salt.  The butter is cut into cubes and then I place it back in the refrigerator to cool down again.  The water I add to the mixture is ice-cold.  After I form my crust into the pan, I place it back in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Popping a super cold crust into a super hot oven produces a flaky pie crust that does not pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cold, cold, cold!!  So here’s how I have been making pie crust dough for at least the last ten years:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Directions:

Pulse flour, salt and sugar in a food processor until combined.  Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about three pulses of the food processor (remember, your butter is already in small pieces so you don’t want to chop it up much more).  With the machine running, add water in a slow, steady stream until mixture just begins to hold together.

Shape dough into 2 disks. Wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour to 2 days (or freeze for up to 1 month; thaw in refrigerator before using).

Like I said earlier, everyone you know has a different technique for making pie crust dough.  I like the easy technique the food processor provides.  My friends over at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide make their pie crust dough with a pastry blender.  The choice is yours.  At the end of the day, you want a recipe that provides delicious, flaky and golden brown crust that you enjoy eating.

Also experiment with the edges of your pie crust.  There is nothing more beautiful than a pie with a gorgeous finish on the edge of the crust…whether its a simple fluted edge or one decorated with cut-out dough shapes into forms like leaves, hearts or flowers, that attention to detail makes a good pie a great one.  Have fun making your crust and don’t get nervous…like me.  How do you make your pie crust dough?

Friday Dance Party – Loretta, Shake It For Luke Bryan

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

If you had to pick a type of music for the old-fashioned barn party we went to last weekend, you would most definitely choose country music.  This music is just so synonymous with family, friends, apple pie, barns and America.  Growing up in Iowa, I used to listen to and love country music.  If you ask any of my friends today, they will also tell you that I still have a soft spot for country music.  I used to be embarrassed by my love for this music, especially when I moved to California and then to New York and Connecticut.  I guess I was a little embarrassed by my country roots.  All that has changed now and I am proud to be from the Midwest and to be a country music lover.  Believe it or not, the twangier the better.  From Carrie Underwood to Dolly Parton’s Bluegrass…..from Blake Shelton’s ‘Honey Bee’ to Conway Twitty, I love them all.

There was only one time in my life when I turned against country music.  It was only for a day.  It was a time way back in Iowa during my early high school years.  In my hometown, most old timers were either farmers or coal miners.  Iowa had quite a few black coal mines where men would ride down into tunnels and pick for coal that would be carried to the surface on rail cars.  My paternal grandfather and my great uncles were coal miners; my maternal grandfather worked in a strip mine, which was a different way to gather coal.  To commemorate this coal mining heritage, my little town used to host a coal miner’s day celebration each June, including a parade, food, games and entertainment (a lot like our old-fashioned barn party).  For the parade, many of the town merchants would build floats, which were flat beds pulled by trucks that were decorated around certain themes.  The year I turned against country music was the year there was a float entitled ‘Coal Miners’ Daughters’ based on the Loretta Lynn song.  The float was decorated with plastic flowers stapled all over the flat bed and actual coal miners’ daughters sat on chairs and cubes all along the flatbed.  As the float drove closer to my little brother and me at the parade, we could see someone dressed up to resemble Loretta Lynn.  This person was lip synching to the song ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’.

Well, I was born a coal miner’s daughter,
In a cabin, on a hill in Butcher Holler,
We were poor, but we had love,
That’s the one thing my daddy made sure of,
He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar.

IT WAS OUR MOTHER!

We were horrified.  Each of us ran to hide at the sight of our mom in a big curly black wig, long dress and big microphone with a cord.  It is hard enough to be a teenager without your mother doing this to you.  It took us many years to recover and even today we grimace every time we hear someone mention Loretta Lynn.

Other than this one time, country music has been a great source of joy for me.  Given our barn party and that we haven’t danced to a country song in a long time, let’s celebrate this week by dancing to a little Luke Bryan.  If you are a country girl, go ahead and shake it for me him.  We’ve all made it through another week and deserve to celebrate.  Let’s dance!  Are you a country music lover?

An Old Fashioned Barn Party

This is the entrance to our friends’ barn in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  Every October for the last several years, we have met at this barn to take part in an old fashioned barn party.  The barn on my friends’ property is very old and is constructed of stone and wood.  The top has a floor made of wooden beams with several stalls on top that most likely once housed larger animals like cows, horses or pigs.  Underneath is another level that most likely housed equipment and smaller animals like chickens, ducks and geese.  Over the years, my friends have restored their barn to its original appearance and the party is held to help raise money for old barn restoration in the area, to sell high-end craft items to the guests and general public who attend and offer up a great way to see old friends and family one more time before the holidays.  We also ate lots of food and drank lots of drinks (from coffee to wine to champagne).

This year the barn party also tried to teach guests a few tricks of the trade from local artisans.  There were booths and workshops where guests could see the looming of thread, hear live music played by a local musical group, learn to knit, learn to tie a fly for fly fishing or learn to make some wine among other things.  Of course there was an apple pie baking contest followed by a cookie baking contest with prizes for the top three finishers.  Come enjoy a few of the pictures that we took during the day.

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By the end of the day, most of us had a bag full of craft goodies, a full stomach and an introduction to a new skill.  I am now a novice knitter learning in the class with some yarn and chopsticks for knitting needles.  It was also great to catch up with everyone, especially those that we don’t see on a regular basis.  It was a big day and a lot of work, but everyone had a great time.  Here’s to next year’s party!!  What Fall festivities go on in your neck of the woods?

A Sweet Little Drink From The Devil Sisters

This is a sweet little drink we enjoyed this weekend at a party in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  From the three open bottles of champagne, you can tell that it was pretty popular.  It is a drink that is on the sweet side.  What could be better….a sweet drink to enjoy on a sweet day.  My two friends that grew up in Iowa with me (they are sisters) from Peonies From Heaven had this drink and then made it at the party.  I don’t recall hearing the name of the drink.  I’m sure they didn’t invent it (although I’m sure they would claim that they did if you asked them), but I’ll go ahead and name it in their honor.  Because they have a wild streak and take every opportunity to harass me (I don’t deserve it) along with it being close to Halloween, I’ll name it ‘The Devil Sisters’ Champagne Brew’.  All kidding aside, this champagne brew is delicious.  Make sure to have the following ingredients on hand:

  • Champagne of your choice
  • A bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • A bottle of orange bitters
  • Sugar cubes
  • Fresh oranges

The Devil Sister’s Champagne Brew:

Take a champagne flute and fill it about 3/4 full with your favorite chilled champagne.  Then add about half of a shot of the elderflower liqueur into the flute.  Next, drop in one sugar cube that is generously soaked in the orange bitters.  Garnish by dropping in a slice of fresh orange peel.  Enjoy!!

I’ve seen more and more drinks that are being made these days with the elderflower liqueur.  I’ve read that it is an artisanal French liqueur made from hand-picked elderflower blossoms.  The starry white flowers are gathered by 40-50 folks pedaling the Alpen French countryside picking the flowers that is then distilled into this liqueur.  It is blended with a small amount of citrus and natural cane sugar to accentuate the subtle flavor of the elderflowers.  The resulting liqueur is delicate and balanced with fresh floral aromas and flavors and hints of pear, apricot and grapefruit zest.  So if you are looking for a sweet little brew, go ahead and give this one a try….and let me know what this is called if you know its name.  Have you ever used elderflower liqueur in any of your drink specialties?

“Fall”ing For Pumpkins And Gourds

This is the easiest (and prettiest) way to know that Fall is here.  It’s the appearance of pumpkins and gourds almost everywhere you look.  From pumpkin patches, to pumpkin and gourd decorations on doorsteps of homes across the state and even in the aisles of our local supermarket, seeing pumpkins and gourds is one of my favorite Fall reminders.

I’m always amazed at the colors that pumpkins and gourds come in at the patches we go to find and buy them.  There are the traditional orange pumpkins and green gourds, but there are also ones in ivory, yellow and variegated to name a few.  The odder the color, the more I like it!  Are you seeing pumpkins and gourds everywhere you look in your community?

Friday Dance Party – GaGa’s You And I

This is another edition of Friday Dance Party on Acorns On Glen.  It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth.  How do we celebrate another week of living?  We dance.  So, are you alive this Friday?  Are you and your family safe and sound?  Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have.  Did you give thanks for that?

Good, now let’s dance.

This weekend we are off to Pennsylvania to see some old friends that I grew up with in Iowa all those years ago.  While we have been out of Iowa for a long time, we have remained close through the years and try to see each other at one of our homes as often as possible.  It’s funny, when we all get back together it is amazing how easy it is to catch up as if we had just seen each other a few days before.  I guess that’s the beauty of having close friends.  To honor our Iowa roots, I thought we could dance this week to Lady GaGa’s ‘You and I’.  It seems that she is traveling back to her country roots to find and reclaim a lost love?  I end that sentence with a question mark because after watching the video a few times I’m not quite sure what to think about her mission.  It’s a great song and a great video….I can’t take my eyes off of it.  If it makes sense to anyone, please let me know.  Mermaids and farm country….you tell me!  So take a few minutes to be in the moment and be happy for another week of living.  You’ve made it through and deserve to celebrate.  Turn up those speakers and dance with GaGa.  Let loose and be a little monster for a few minutes.  What are your plans this weekend?

The Last Of Our Fall Bloomers

This is Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ and it is one of the last things to bloom for the season here on Glen Road.  It’s hard to imagine Fall without the appearance of our Colchicums.  Their bright blooms rise without warning and shine in the sharp light of Autumn.   We planted our bulbs at the base of our Japanese maple trees several years ago.  Colchicum ‘Water Lily’ produces several double, lilac-pink flowers.  Their silky texture is a great contrast to the ruddy complexion of Fall.

Sometimes called the Autumn Crocus, the Colchicum is a one-of-a-kind wonder in the flower kingdom.  They grow from corms, which are available in late summer, and the astonishing thing about them is that they will flower without being planted at all.  Just setting them on a sunny window sill is enough.  They can, however, be arranged in a shallow dish of gravel, pebbles, etc.  The best thing to do is plant them like we did outside in shallow soil in a sunny area where they will not be disturbed so that you can easily enjoy them on a yearly basis with minimal, if any, work involved.

Colchicums come in various tones of pink and lavender and never fail to surprise with their delicate appearance amid the rougher weather of Fall.  It all starts in Spring, when a clump of broad, deer-proof leaves emerge, stay for a while and then vanish by midsummer.  Then in Fall, these dainty flowers emerge to show off their brilliant color.  Here is an older shot of their Spring appearance.  See their leaves on the right?

So we are officially near the end of the 2011 garden season with the blooming of our Colchicums.  It is a good feeling mixed with some sadness.  Like the plants, all gardeners need to re-energize during the Winter, but we will miss all of the pretty blooms that we have seen over the Spring and Summer.  What final blooms do you see in your garden that signal the end of the growing season?