Archive for November, 2007

30
Nov
07

Better Get to Livin’

Why here on a home blog? One, because Dolly gets life in a way I hope to emulate. Two, because I just shut my other blog down so I needed a place to post this. There will always be room for Dolly (and Amy Sedaris!) at Good Home.

27
Nov
07

Christmas Time’s A Comin’

Busy getting ready for the holidays, but wanted to show you a few finds. Mom, Dave and I went to the Country Friends Open House last Saturday. They had even more holiday stuff out than they did a week before. The holly and greenery at Country Friends is particularly good this year. I got this variegated type for our back porch chandelier because it had kind of a vintage look to it.

Porch Chandelier

I usually mix real with artificial, in this case with Frasier Fir remains trimmed from our tree. My mom got a more sage-colored, dusty green holly (sorry, I forgot to take pictures) that came in sprays as well as a garland. It was beautiful and more subtle than my garish taste usually allows me to get away with.

While poking around for Christmas I also found this red David Smith Windsor chair.

Red Chair
We just painted our mudroom from red to the same deep eggplant color that is in our kitchen and I was missing the red just a little. The chair scratches that itch and gives me something light to pull into the kitchen when we have more guests than chairs around Sam (our woodstove).

I kind of like the way it looks next to this sweet wreath Dave made us just in time for the holidays. Dave’s wreaths are normally more restrained.

Wreath
He said he made a conscious effort to make this one look like it was about to whirl off the door (even used bird feathers) because he knows I like wreaths that , well, look like they are about whirl off the door. Not sure why, but I do favor spiral shaped wreaths. Though the one I have for the front door seems pretty subdued in comparison. Pam at J. P. Parker flowers remade this one from an old one I had.

Reworked Wreath

I was so glad my mom and dad came up this past weekend. They helped us get our tree decorated and mom helped me haul out and place all of the “stuff.” I really don’t mind doing it, but having help always makes it a lot more fun.

27
Nov
07

Pecan Poll – Chopped or Whole Nuts in a Pie?

Jennie brought up an interesting question about what size pecans should be in a pecan pie.  She thinks whole.  I think chopped Beth’s way, maybe with a few left whole for show, but certainly not small chunks.  Do you have a theory?  Please share.

23
Nov
07

Beth’s Pecan Pie

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This recipe can be doubled. Again, our friend Beth’s recipe. I was asked to bring a pecan pie to our Thanksgiving at John’s dad’s this year. I’m happy to do what I’m told, especialy when John’s step-mom, Linda, does most of the work (turkey, potatoes, dressing, noodles, etc.). But my family would tell you how ironic it is that I was asked to bring a pecan pie. My mom makes great ones, but I never ate them because we used fresh pecans from my grandfather’s giant tree in Arkansas. Sometimes a little pith would be left in the nut and the bitter taste bugged me. I’ve come to realize what a treasure that old pecan tree was, but not until I moved so far away that I can’t watch mom make the pie. Thankfully, our friend Beth came to the rescue.

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbs. flour
1 cup dark Karo syrup
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped

Beth slices her pecans this way in no time. I was surprised by how easy it is to chop them by hand (I’m using a steak knife because our paring knife is missing), and the pecans have a nice even shape and size that makes slicing the pie easy. Bring the blade in on the “belly side” of the pecan.

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Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs lightly. Set aside.

Place chopped pecans into empty piecrust (see Beth’s pie crust recipe).

In a large saucepan, work flour into brown sugar. With a big spoon, mix Karo and butter into flour mixture.

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Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, only until butter is melted. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly in the pan. Stir vanilla into cooled mixture.

Stir about ¼ cup of sugar mixture into eggs. Then add egg mixture back to pan of brown sugar mixture and stir slowly until mixed.

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Pour mixture into crust. No need to do much rearranging. The mix will sort itself out.

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Bake for 35-45 minutes on lower middle rack. If you can avoid it, don’t open the oven door during baking time. Pie is done when filling is slightly domed with a few crack on top (see photo above). I could have taken this one out just a few minutes sooner. Place a foil cover around the crust portion if it starts to brown too much. Remove and cool.

21
Nov
07

Beth’s Pie Crust

(Makes two crusts)

Our friend Beth, one of the best Southern bakers I know, came to stay with us last weekend. While she was here, she showed me how to make a good (and unbelievably easy) pie crust. I’ve seen two kinds of pie crust recipes in the past – one is basically a list of ingredients with vague instructions like “mix together and roll out.” The other kind cautions you a million times not to handle the dough to the point that you feel guilty for looking at it. Both make me nervous. The benefit of having an experienced crust baker nearby is that they can say, “It’s going to be just fine” to you and show you some handy tricks. Since Beth can’t be around all the time I thought I would print her recipe with a few photos. I’m using it to make a pecan pie for Thanksgiving, and I’ll include that recipe later.

In addition to ingredients, Beth would tell you that the following will help make things easier, though the food processor and the wax paper are the only gadgets that are essential to this recipe:

A food processor (worth getting one if only to make pie crusts)
Two pieces of wax paper
Heavy rolling pin (Marble is preferable)
White corning ware ceramic pie plate (she buys them on E-bay for about $2.00.)

Ingredients:

2 and ¾ cup flour, measured in a liquid measuring cup
1 cup butter flavored Crisco
¼ cup ice water
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. vinegar
1 egg

Use a spoon to dip 2 3/4 cups flour into a liquid measuring cup (the kind with a spout for pouring). Dump flour into bowl of food processor.

Place Crisco in bowl of food processor with flour. Pulse until it looks like cornmeal.

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In a small separate bowl and in the following order mix the ¼ cup ice water, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tbs. vinegar, 1 egg. Whisk together.

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Pour liquid mixture into processor with flour mixture and process in pulses until it forms a ball or is mostly sticking together.

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Split dough into two pieces. Place one half on a piece of plastic wrap. Use the plastic to turn the dough into a ball. Wrap and set aside.

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Gather the other piece of dough into a ball and place it between two pieces of wax paper. Pat the ball through the wax paper into a ¾ inch thick disk.

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Then, using a large rolling pin, roll the disk into a circle.  Roll in the direction of midnight, then 1:00, then 2:00, etc. until you have a circle that is just a little wider than the wax paper.

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Remove the top piece of wax paper. Then, place the other piece dough side down into a white ceramic pie plate.

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Tuck the dough along the side of the plate so that lays flat against the bottom.

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The dough needs to extend beyond the plate slightly all the way around, so gently work areas of excess dough into thinner parts around the pie plate.

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Using your right index finger, bring dough that is extending beyond plate in so that a slight ridge is formed evenly all the way around the plate.

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Finally, shape a chevron crust by putting the thumb of one hand (flat so that you can see the entire fingernail) on one side of the dough ridge and the index finger and thumb of your other hand (so that you see the sides of your fingers, like you are about to pinch something) on the other side of the dough ridge. Bring them together until the ridge is shaped into a chevron pattern all the way around.

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Gather any stray dough from the rim and shape it into the chevrons.

Then finally, gently, using your thumb nail, push excess dough into the curves of the chevrons and gently press the points or each chevron against the pie plate. This will help prevent shrinkage.

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Now you’re ready to either fill and bake, or use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust and bake to be filled later.

I’m sure there are lots of good crust recipes out there, but this is the least messy and Troy proof (in pastry circles I’m known as “Thunder Hands”). But in this recipe your fingers don’t even touch the dough until you start shaping the top of the crust. I’m finally looking forward to making pies! Let me know if you try it.

Coming soon: Beth’s Pecan Pie recipe.

08
Nov
07

A Good Biscuit

Contrary to popular ideas about the South, the inability to bake the perfect biscuit won’t diminish one’s social standing in the community. If for no other reason, hardly anyone bothers to make them from scratch anymore. In the age of baking mixes and downright decent frozen grocery store biscuits*, actually whipping up a batch yourself is fast becoming a craft you’ll soon have to travel to a History Center to observe in progress. If you struggle with some besetting sin, however, listen up, because serving a hot and tender homemade biscuit can keep your social stock out of the gutter pretty much no matter what you’ve done. “She works her kids like a mule-skinner, but she bakes a decent biscuit. “Biscuits are not hard to make. I’m sure mine (a combo King Arthur, Mark Bittman and Mom technique) aren’t the best, but here’s a basic recipe if you want to give them a try. The key is gentleness, a sharp biscuit cutter (no inverted drinking glasses unless you like flat biscuits, some do I think) and a hot oven. My cousin Odell, who is probably baking biscuits with Jesus right this very minute, when she was alive told my mom to get her oven good and hot (450 degrees) so that the biscuits nearly fried when they baked.Biscuits (Makes about 9)2 cups flour (cake flour if you have it, all purpose will work fine)3 tsp baking powder1 tsp baking soda1 tsp salt (scant)5 tbs butter (cold and cut into small pieces)7/8 cup of buttermilk or plain yogurt (Mark Bittman says yogurt is better)Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a baking rack in the lower middle position.In a food processor, mix dry ingredients together. Sprinkle butter pieces over dry ingredients and pulse until butter is mixed in and mixture looks like cornmeal.Put mixture into a medium bowl and with a large spoon stir in buttermilk or yogurt just until liquid is incorporated and dough forms a ball. Dough will be a little loose.Dust a surface with flour, put a little flour on your hands and knead dough no more than ten times. Use extra flour only to keep your hands from sticking too much to the dough. The final ball of dough should be like a baby’s bottom. Pat dough into a rectangle about ¾ inch thick. Cut with a sharp edged biscuit cutter (this will allow the dough to rise better when baking). Place biscuits one inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.If you have the time, freeze the biscuits for 30 minutes (or longer) before baking. This will help their chances of rising during bake time.Place on lower middle rack for 7-9 minutes. Serve hot.  (Update: I’ve made some improvements to this recipe, which you can find HERE.) *In her cookbook Paula Deen and Friends, Paula has an entry for biscuits. In it she suggests readers save themselves some time and go buy a bag of frozen biscuits.   

06
Nov
07

Goodbye Dominque. I’ll try not to stalk you.

David called me last night with a punch in the gut: Conde Nast will stop publishing House and Garden.  December’s will be the final issue.  

The New York Times noted that the shelter magazine market is a crowded one, and HG had lots of competition, including Conde Nast’s own upper market publications, like Archictectural Digest. For me, HG had a uniquely gracious, spacious and modern style.   

But with declining ad sales and the resignation of publisher Joe Lagani CN executives took the op to reevaluate the magazine.

What will I miss most? While I thought the latest iteration of HG (they closed once before in 1993 and reopened in 1996) was full of warm and sharp-witted interiors, it is Dominque Browning, HG’s editor-in-chief that I pine for most. Seriously, I feel like I know this woman. She understands the nuanced relationship between life (both the good and bad of it) and the spaces with which we surround ourselves.

Her rich and honest perspective resulted in an eye for interiors that reflected all that life in our homes can be and not just romantic and formulaic fantasies. These are what I saw in HG. I feel like a friend has moved away without telling me.