Saturday, December 27, 2008

quick tip: pie crust & biscuit shortcuts

If you're tempted to skip desserts or meals with pie crusts or biscuits because of the work involved in hand-making these items, try this tip. Instead of cutting in the butter, melt it and mix it in instead.

Pie crusts and biscuits made this way won't be as flaky as if you cut in the butter the traditional way, but they are definitely acceptable for a usual weeknight dinner or dessert. And of course, making them from scratch is much healthier than buying the chemical-laden convenience options in the grocery store.

And a tip on pie crusts wouldn't be complete without a reminder to double, triple or even quadruple your pie crust recipe whenever you make it. Even if you don't have time to roll out the pastry, you can always store it in a ball in the freezer to pull out at your convenience.

The recipe I use calls for only butter (no trans-fats) & is very simple. It is:

2 cup flour
2/3 cup butter (this equals 1 stick plus ~3 Tbls. of another)
1/4 tsp. salt
4-5 Tbls. water

I like to make the pastry a little on the wet side so that it can soak in more flour when I roll it out without becoming too tough.

If you have a large-capacity food processor, you can use cold butter and let your machine cut it in for you. Just cut the butter into chunks an inch or so in size, put them in your processor with the flour & salt, and pulse until your mixture looks like tiny crumbs. Add the water slowly, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it forms a dough ball. You then roll out as usual. This method is so easy, you can make crust or biscuit dough in under 5 minutes, almost as long as it takes to get one of those biscuit roll packages to "pop!"

High-Protein Pancakes

This recipe is great for those of us who know we should be eating something higher in protein first thing in the morning, but can't get past the carb cravings when we wake up.


1 cup flour, any kind, gluten-free also works well
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cottage cheese
2-4 eggs (I use 2 because I don't like too strong an egg taste, but you can use up to 4)
1/2 cup milk or water
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 ripe banana (optional)
1/2 cup ground nuts (optional)

oil for frying


Combine all ingredients except frying oil in a food processor, blender or mixing bowl. Blend at high speed. (6 minutes hands-on)

Heat frying oil on a griddle until medium-hot, fry pancakes until brown on each side. (4 minutes hands-on for about 4 pancakes)

Top with honey, fruit or maple syrup if you want a sweeter pancake as these won't be sweet by themselves.