Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Ulitmate Pie Crust Recipe

Today is the day I make pies for Thanksgiving. This time of year I usually get a few calls or a texts from friends and family asking me for my pie crust recipe. I know it by heart and I love the chance to catch up with everyone. But I’ve had lots of requests that I write it down somewhere, which is kind of a good idea because I don’t actually have it written anywhere. The original recipe came from a December issue of Fine Cooking (love that magazine) sometime around the year 2000 but I’ve long lost my copy. I don’t know how far I’ve veered from the original recipe in the last 15 years, but I don’t really care because this recipe always delivers.

Is there a better pie crust out there? Possibly. But there isn’t a tastier, flakier crust that’s this easy to make. This recipe is so forgiving. You can use a KitchenAid mixer or your hands, use salted or unsalted butter, add sugar or leave it out. Even if you over mix, it always turns out fabulous.

Double Crust Recipe

2 ¼ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 Sticks cold butter (cut into 1 inch cubes)
¼  cup ice water

Okay, for all you experienced bakers that’s probably all you need. Go make pie!

Now for the rest of you, here’s the step by step instructions.

1.     Mix flour, sugar and salt together in a KitchenAid Mixer with paddle attachment (or whisk dry ingredients in a bowl. You could be all fancy and sift them but it’s not necessary.)  If you are making a savory pie like quiche, you may choose to leaves the sugar out. I usually do. But if you a new to handling pie crust you may want to keep the sugar in because it really makes the dough more manageable and sugar isn’t overpowering. Some people prefer a slightly sweet crust.

2.      Add COLD butter This is the only slightly fussy part of this pie recipe. It works so much better if the butter is COLD. That said, I’ve made it with room temperature butter and it still makes a pretty decent crust. But it’s so much easier to work with if the butter is COLD. Also, I’m certain the original recipe called for unsalted butter but it doesn’t really matter much. If I only have salted butter on had I just decrease the salt. (To tell the truth I often forget the salt. It is better with salt but even without salt this crust is superior to 94% of crust out there.) But you must use butter! To make this recipe with anything other than butter would be a travesty. If you do something so foolish please don’t expect it to taste good. (I know there are legions of misguided souls who believe Crisco or lard make a flakier crust but the gains in flakiness do not make up for the significant loss in flavor.)

3.     Mix the butter in until the largest bits are about pea size. (or mix in by hand.)

Honestly, I think hand mixing makes the most delectable pie crust. But it’s kind of messy and takes more time. I only use my hands when I’m at a VRBO without a good mixer. I used to own a pastry cutter but really hands works so much better.

4.     Add ice cold water.

5.     Mix until dough forms a ball.

6.     Divide ball in two.

7.     Form dough into round disks. This is another place inexperienced pie makers mess up. Make sure your disk has smooth edges. Because when you roll it out even a pretty small dent can turn into a big split.

8.     Roll out dough. Everyone has their favorite way to roll out pie crust. This is mine: a tea cloth, a wooden rolling pin and a flour shaker.

I shake flour on the tea cloth and then on the dough. I rotate the disk between rolls and flip it over. Every time I flip the dough I shake more flour on. In general too much flour makes a pie crust less flaky and delicious.

But since this is such a forgiving recipe you can be fairly generous with the flour. Continue till you reach the desired diameter.

It doesn't have to be a perfect circle to work.

9.     Fold crust in half and transfer to pie tin.  If for some reason your crust is too sticky, you can use the tea towel to transfer the crust. Just flip it over on top of the pie tin. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this method but it has saved me many times.

10. Unfold and crimp the edges by hand.

11. Freeze the crust for later use or at the very least let it chill in the fridge or freezer while you prepare the filling.

12. Bake the pie according to directions. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Quick Update and Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

Hey! What do you know we are still alive and well! 
Since I last posted Lizzy got into BYU and moved to Provo, John started middle school, (Zoey and Will same old, same old-high school and elementary) we moved out of our house for a major remodel, Lizzy got a mission call to Bolivia, BOLIVIA!, our roof has been torn off our and a new beautiful sloped roof built in its place and we are all just hoping we can move back into our house by the holidays.
Before Lizzy went to college she asked if I could put all of my recipes on the family blog so she could easily access them. Obviously, that didn't happen. But now I have a little more than a year to reach that goal and I'm going to make it happen. 
Since it's October let's start with a family favorite: pumpkin muffins. I know to a lot of people these are my pumpkin muffins but I actually got the recipe from Mary Purser (the source of many delicious recipes) when we lived in the Dallas. I can’t say how many batches of pumpkin muffins I’ve made in the past ten years. My kids never tire of them. (Let’s face it they’re basically cookies for breakfast.) I almost always make them in mini muffin tins. I think they taste better this way and there’s more to share.  John always asks for extra to give to friends at school.
Pumpkin Muffins
  • 3 cups sugar (yep, you read that right. Nutritionally, these are more like cookies.)
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
  • 4 eggs
Dissolve and add to above
  • 2 teaspoons soda in
  • 2/3 cup water
Combine in separate bowl and then mix in above:
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (can do up to two cups with wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
Then mix in:
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or more than one cup)
Spoon batter into mini muffin pans coated generously with cooking spray. (You could be boring and put them in a regular tin or mini loafs, just be sure to adjust the baking time.)
Bake at 350º for 15-17 minutes.
This makes A LOT of muffins. You may want to refrigerate or freeze leftover batter. The batter lasts in the fridge up to a week and in the freezer for several months.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Slideshow

I woke up New Year's Day a little sad. 2015 is the year Lizzy graduates from high school and leaves for college. It's hard for a mom to be excited about her oldest moving away from home, especially when the child is as delightful and helpful as Lizzy.  Putting together our annual slideshow was a sort a therapy for me.  2014 was a really good year.

At the end of the day, I watched Lizzy's vlog and saw how much she's looking forward to this year and felt kind of selfish. Having her leave home will be bittersweet but like her, I have high hopes for 2015.  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 Christmas Letter

Dear Family, Friends and Random Blog Stalkers,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

2014 was such a great year and our kids are such perfect ages that I wish I could push a pause button on life. Alas, that is not a viable option; so all I can do is try to capture this year in a Christmas letter.

Prefers bow ties.

Will turned 8 this year and was baptized in June. Will wakes up every morning bright and cheery and says something like, "This is going to be the best day ever!" He likes to read, play legos and is a demon on the ski slope. He also likes to play the piano--especially "We wish you a Merry Christmas" over and over and over.

Bug and Lizard catcher extraordinaire.

John is 10 (almost 11) and just as awesome and hungry as ever.  He always brings in the groceries. When I ask him to do something, he answers, "Sure thing." He likes Ted Talks, math, Legos, robots and Mine Craft. Most nights he stays up way too late reading.

This spring Zoey took her 8th Grade parent trip with me to Paris. She was a delightful traveling companion and learned quickly how to navigate a foreign city. She was thrilled to finally finish middle school and finds high school slightly more tolerable. In September, she ran her first Ragnar with Lizzy and I.  She plays piano and viola, loves to read, eat chocolate and take long naps. 

Leaving on a backpacking trek at Philmont.

Lizzy is a senior in high school. I know, I know. It's terrible. She's pretty much set on going to BYU and studying to be an actuary.  She'd also be happy going to Utah State. She's senior class president and spends lots of time planning school fundraisers and activities. This fall she started a vlog, which I am in full support of because I'm terrible at phone calls and texting and want some method to stay in touch with her next year. Also, she's very entertaining.

Bill's still crazy busy with work and his church calling. Just thinking about his schedule makes me tired. He's getting better at managing his time and staying cheerful on little sleep. Also, the hospital keeps hiring more doctors for his team and that helps. He's been biking more this year, a habit Lizzy endorses wholeheartedly; because she gets his car.

My life is pretty much laundry and dishes or ignoring said laundry and dishes to write. I also spent a lot of time planning and preparing for our family's epic road trip. In July, we drove from San Diego to New York City in the minivan.

We spent a week in Philmont, New Mexico;

Dressed in our Sunday best while camping.

Spray painted cars in Amarillo;

Cadillac ranch.

Visited old friends in Dallas;

 Ate beignets in Shreveport;

Hiked and slid down rocks in North Carolina; 

Saw Gettysburg;

Where brother fought brother.

and spent a fabulous weekend in New York.

On the way home we visited church history sites.

The Sacred Grove.

Kirtland, Ohio

Nauvoo, where the kids learned to walk on stilts.

In Utah, we visited family and mountains.

Zoey and her cousin Lyla

Both Bill and I were sad to see the trip end. The kids were great all 6,000 miles. The most arguing  in the car was Bill and I bickering over directions and  even we improved at that. The whole trip deserves its own post but this will have to do. I haven't been blogging because I've been spending my free time on my own writing. More on that in a future blog post--stay tuned.

All in all it's been a great year.  Thanks for reading this letter. Only the most devoted friends (and stalkers) get this far. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 

Much Love, 

Ruth and the rest of the Mitchell Family

P.S. If you are in need of a little extra Christmas cheer, watch this clip it'll put you in the true Christmas spirit and it always makes me tear up.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Yosemite and a new kitty

Becky and Ruth on top of Vernal Falls.

This week we went camping in Yosemite where we met our good friends the Hulls. Becky Hull and I were room mates in college in fact I met her one day before I met Bill. This was both families first visit to Yosemite and we had such a great time. Despite the wildfire we were able to visit the valley.  In addition to seeing Half Dome and El Capitan, we hiked to Vernal Falls. 

656 Steps--according to Zoey

 On this hike you hike for a mile or so and then climb some steep steps to the top of the falls.

The next day we hiked closer to our campground at Lembert Dome. This hike exceeded all our expectations. For very little effort we got the most amazing views.

Zoey and Sophie on top of Lembert Dome

From the top of the dome we could see the Rim wildfire. (You can sort of see it in the distance to the right of Bill) Oh and there was almost no one on the trail this might have been because of the wildfire.

When we came down from our hike, we met some friendly firemen who told us that the road to the valley--the one we had taken the day before--was now closed. We felt fortunate that we got to see the valley and we weren't stranded on the wrong side of a road closure.  

In other news....

Can you spy the kitten in the bookshelf?

Meet Holly Golightly our new kitty. Technically she's Zoey's birthday gift, but we waited until after Yosemite to get her. She's named after the Audrey Hepburn character from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" who--like our kitty--often wears a little black dress.

 We are having so much fun with her, especially John.  This kitten might be the only member of this house who does not tire of John's teasing....yet.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Zoe's Super Super Hero Party

Zoey turned 13 and we decided to have a party. She chose the super hero theme.  And then we came up with super hero activities, including Super Hero Clue (below).

But instead of weapons and rooms you try to figure out which super hero saved the day as well as in which city and with what super power. The game board, figures and cards were all darling. But the came proved more challenging than expected--no one ever figured it out. The kids had much more fun playing super Hero sardines in which everyone looks for the super villain as well as super hero mafia. The citizens are super heros, the mafia super villains. They also played a super hero relay in which the put on capes and masks and had to rescue a cat from a tree.

Considering how last minute we threw this party together (the earliest invitees found out about it on Sunday) the decorations were pretty nifty. We got a lot of help from my friend Jordan who was mostly responsible for the fabulous centerpiece above. She also helped Zoey and Mia with the tissue paper explosions below.

The cake was another rendition of the flag cake, this time as the Captain America shield.

Probably my favorite decoration is the city skyline we put up on the wall, it might be awhile before I take it down.  Oh and Lizzy made Zoey a glitter t-shirt with a Z in the superman logo. I don't have a picture that shows it well but take my word for it, it is also super cool. I should also mention here how much Lizzy spearheaded the planning and prep for this party she made color-coded lists for everything. And Zoey...she was amazing. She worked all day, cheerfully--not one trace of birthday selfishness.  I'm so glad we were able to pull together such a super party for such a super girl.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fourth of July

Flag Cake--wouldn't be the 4th without it.
 So one of my New Year's resolutions was to blog weekly. (I hope you are all doing better with your resolutions than I am.) Anyhow, rather than trying to catch you up with the rest of the year which has been awesome, I'll just start with the 4th.

The day started with our neighborhood 5K. Lizzy, John and Will ran it with me. It was John and Will's first 5K.  They did great especially Will who beat lots of adults and older kids, including his older brother.

Then I went and bought  500 pounds of ice. Because as Grandma Mitchell always said: "Anything worth doing is worth over doing."

 After purchasing ice and trying to cram it all into our freezers, we went swimming at our friends' new house in Poway. Their pool is fabulous but it doesn't quite compensate for them moving so far away.

Zoey testing the water slide.

 Then to our second annual picnic and ice blocking extravaganza.  At which we hand cranked ice cream...

.....made homemade root beer

 and ice blocked!

I have a great video of ice blocking that I wish I could upload. But no luck, so this picture will have to do--it's pretty great anyhow.

John liked to ice block on his tummy. He calls this penguin style and it resulted in a really muddy t-shirt which I'm afraid will never be clean again.

As it grew dark, we climbed to the top of the hill and watched fireworks. It was a very happy fourth.