Monday, November 29, 2010

Crispy Crust Pumpkin Pie

This Thanksgiving was a quiet day for the Hub and me. But, side benefit, it seemed I could do nothing wrong while cooking. The roast chicken was yummy, and I think the stuffing might have been my best ever. That, along with mashed potatoes, gravy, and fruit salad, made up our meal. I know, there wasn't a green thing on the menu, if you discount the grapes in the ambrosia.

Oh, and for dessert we had pumpkin pie, the subject of this post.

I've long hated the way the bottom crust on pumpkin pie so often turns out soggy. Seems I could never truly get it done; it was just bleahh! So last Thanksgiving I tooled around the internet until I found a lovely article at the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which paper I must say, has some of the best recipes I've ever found. (Perhaps I think that because I spent ten years of my youth in Pittsburgh and found a number of recipes in that newspaper that I still treasure.)

The Post Gazette article agrees with my contention that keeping the crust crisp is the biggest challenge of making pumpkin pie. They say the problem is caused by proteins in the milk and eggs, which denature and exude water.

So now we know what the problem is, the question becomes how do we fix it?

What it boils down to is baking the shell first--yes, I know, you already do that--then making sure the filling is warm when you pour it into the crust.

Here are details from the article?

"Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (Some recipes bake for a short time at a high temperature, but that can cause the pastry to shrink.) Use your usual pie pastry recipe, transfer it to the pan, fluting the rim higher than usual to contain the filling. Put the raw shell in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm it up. (I think this helped immensely.) Put a piece of foil directly onto the cold pie shell pressing it to conform to the shape, and pour in the pie weights or beans. (I use weights.) Bake the shell for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the weights or beans and continue baking until the crust is light golden brown and cooked through, another 15 minutes or more. Let cool on a rack.

"When ready to bake the pie, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine room temperature filling ingredients (pumpkin, eggs, sugar and spices) and mix well. Heat milk or cream until it is hot but not boiling. Slowly whisk the heated milk into the pumpkin mixture. It should register about 100 degrees on a digital thermometer, no more, just beyond lukewarm. (Poke your finger in to take both a temperature reading and a taste.)

"Pour the filling into the baked pie shell and bake about 30 to 40 minutes depending on your oven. The pie is done when a knife, inserted off-center into the pie, comes out clean. (This was new to me. I've always stuck a toothpick in the middle of the pie.) The center of the pie will continue to cook after the pie is removed from the oven. Do not overbake.

"The pie crust will stay crisp until the pie is gone, even the next day. That is, if it lasts until the next day."

I have to say it actually does stay crisp that long, longer actually cuz between us it takes several days to eat a whole pie.

As a sidenote, I make the filling with Splenda. I'm not that crazy about using artificial sweeteners, but I also can't use sugar, and I do like pumpkin pie this time of year. So sue me. ;^)
I'll be pulling this recipe back out again come Christmas time. It's a given that we have pumpkin pie both holidays. But give it a try, whydoncha? It really does work.

I'm linking to Hope Studio's Tutorial Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Button Icicle Tutorial

The other day I was in a hurry to find a little thank you gift to include with an item someone had bought from one of my Etsy shops. Quickest thing I could think of was to whip up a small button icicle ornament. I didn't take a pic of that one, but thought I'd create a tutorial to show how I make these ornaments. They're fast and easy.

Some in the pic above were made with vintage plastic buttons. The one I'm showing is vintage MOP (mother-of-pearl).

Materials needed:

Heavy duty thread/string (I use crochet cotton; I didn't care for waxed linen.)
Buttons of varying sizes
Sheer Ribbon
Some kind of dangle--I'll be using a bead charm on this one.

First lay out your buttons in diminishing size. I try to do two of each size. The quick thank you I made only had about eight smaller buttons, but I usually do fourteen to sixteen in these larger ones.

Cut a cord at least six inches longer than the length of your buttons.

Tie a loop in one end of the cord; trim the short end. (If you're a jewelry maker, a crimp bead would work well here. I've made some using such, but am not sure where I stashed those beads so I had to improvise!)

Begin stringing the buttons. I don't use a needle since the size of the holes vary and a needle with a hole large enough to thread the crochet cotton doesn't always fit into the smallest button.

Be sure to string the buttons back to front. (I'm sure you already knew that, but believe me I had to work it out.)

Continue stringing buttons, laying back sides together.

Once all buttons are strung, tie dangle tightly onto the bottom (or use a crimp bead). Here you can get creative. I've used dangles from old earrings, old pendants, the beads from beaded fringe, plastic beads from Walmart. Practically anything goes.

If you tied rather than crimped the dangle on, thread the tied end back through the bottom few buttons and tie off. Clip the end.

Loop a length of ribbon through the beginning thread loop.


The one I showed in the tutorial is the third from the left.

While I'm at it, I'd like to show another ornament I made yesterday--not that it took that long to make. In the early '90s, while garage sale-ing with my sis Betty, I found this hand-painted pendant. I meant to give it to my mother but never got around to it. Never found anything else to do with it either and it's been stashed in a button box ever since. I think the painting is nicely done so I tied a ribbon on, sewed on a button and Voila!

Truly, I think it makes a better ornament than pendant. What think you?

I'm linking to Hope Studio's Tutorial Tuesday.

That's all for today. Take care, y'all.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Shop Additions

I will get past this dearth of posts eventually. That's a promise.

Lots of things happening here. In my last post, I mentioned Hub had been in the hospital. What we feared was heart-related turned out to be pneumonia, although while in hospital the docs found his stenotic (narrowed) valve has narrowed even further. Which means heart surgery. (This is probably TMI, but valve narrowing has a completely different cause than artery blockage. As it was explained to me, or rather as I understood what was explained to me, valve blockage is similar to scar tissue, caused by a number of things, one of them being strep throat. Who'da thunk?) He doesn't see the surgeon until next week, had to have time to completely get past the pneumonia. So we're in a holding mode here.

Enough about that. Since I've hardly done anything creative in the past month, I thought I'd share with you some of the things I recently listed in my shops.
I found several old sugar sacks at a garage sale a couple of years ago. Couldn't think what to do with them; they were too small and the graphics went the wrong way to make even a small pillow. So I cut one up for Christmas ornaments.

I love these next brooches, picked them up for next to nothing. I've listed all six in the vintage shop.

These are actually a lot larger than the photo makes them appear. The scarved lady--doncha love her!--is 2.5 inches long. (As a side note, the pink marbled stone brooch is much prettier than it looks here.)

Those who love blue and white--and who doesn't?--might appreciate this dessert plate by Mason in a pattern called Romantic. It's hard to tell from the mark exactly when it was made, but it was at least before mid-last century.

Another thing I've been working on is button hair clips.

I've put together a mixture of old and new buttons and attached them to hair clips. Personally, I think they're gorgeous!

Love the colors of these!

And these.

But I think of all of them, these are my faves.

Hope you've enjoyed the pictures. I am working on a few more projects: new pillows for my living room sofa, a new euro-sham for the master bedroom--we traded our queen bed for a king--and I just finished a new bedskirt for my sis. I'll get photos of them in situ in the next few days and will post then.

'Til then, y'all take care.