Quick Pie Dough Tip

Gluten is protein.  While gluten needs to be “worked” in bread, be careful not to overwork pastry or pie dough, which of course, should be light and flaky.  This is why in most pastry recipes you will see the phrase “until it just comes together” – meaning, don’t overwork your dough!

Water activates gluten. Two simple ways to reduce gluten activation in pastry are: 1) Substitute some or all of the butter in the recipe with lard or vegetable shortening (butter contains water, lard doesn’t), and 2) substitute some of the water in the recipe with vodka.  YES!!!  I said vodka.  Actually, any 80 proof spirit will work, but vodka is very neutral.  There is far less water content in alcohol (60% vs 100%!)  No worries, the alcohol is gone by the time your pastry is baked.  No drunken pies!  – Lula

Hats off to Daveed’s!

Kudos to David Cook for once again feeding not only my mouth but my soul.  He and his wife’s restaurant in Mt. Adams remains one of our favorites, not only for special occasions but for their tasting menus as well, which are really FUN!  The Duck Breast was transcendant, as usual, with, who would’a THUNK IT?!? White Cheddar!!  My smoked Shrimp app was divine, not to mention the “warm me from the toes on up” Squash Soup.  Gordon’s Filet was ever so perfect with light whipped potatoes and some fried potato sticks on top!  He also enjoyed the veal terrine and is begging me to have terrine’s on hand at home all the time.  Not much to ask, huh?  Service was impeccable and we just loved being there!!  www.daveeds.com  for a romantic night out ANY day of the week!  -Lula

For bakers…

Keep a couple of butter quarters in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  When a recipe calls for cutting butter into a pastry dough or say, biscuits, cut off the required amount and grate it into your flour or mix.  Much quicker and easier than “cutting in”! – Lula

A Quick Storage Tip

Do you ever run out of storage containers?  All in the fridge/freezer?  Try this: once your food is frozen, pop it out of the container and put it into a resealable bag…most leftovers will fit into a gallon bag no matter what shape the container!  Suck the air out (yes, I said suck, it’s a manual process), after you seal the bag 90% up, exhale, put your lips to the open corner, suck the remaining air out, and seal it real quick! Air is the enemy of frozen food, remember… and voila! you now have your container back for use.  -Lula

the “Thai” difference

What makes Thai taste Thai?  How can you do it quickly and easily at home?  Here are a few ingredients/substitutions for you folks “woking up a stir-fry” in the chinese style at home with your soy sauce and garlic…

Fish Sauce is to Thai what Soy Sauce is to Chinese.  It is now easily found at the grocery – either in condiments or the chinese aisle.  Lime Juice is used in conjunction with Fish Sauce either 1/2 1/2 for puriests,  or 1/3 Fish Sauce to 2/3 Lime Juice for those of you who can’t or don’t want to take the sodium.  Thai cooking always balances heat with sweet, and palm sugar is their go to sweetener, but these days they use white sugar equally, and it’s much easier for us to find, so go for it!   Always add onion in some form or other, be it shallot or green or whatever.   Round out whatever you’re stir-frying with some fresh chopped cilantro and mint, and blissfully float to the shores of exotic Thailand! – Lula 

White Pepper

Let’s talk about white pepper.  White pepper is black pepper that is harvested at a riper stage, with the hulls removed.  The hull is black.  The hulls contain some of the heat, so when you remove them, away goes some of the heat (white pepper is milder – duh!).  When the particular heat component of the hull is removed, a milder,  somewhat citrusy flavor is left to describe white pepper.  I never buy white peppercorns – I just buy the smallest quantity I can in ground form, and get rid of it when the fragrance has left the container.  I just don’t use enough of it to warrant a special grinder.  It is a lovely ingredient to pale foods where you don’t want the flecks of black – creamy mashed potatoes perhaps, or other mild starches – like parsnip puree, or, if you use it as I do sometimes, in DESSERT!!!  If you’ve ever tasted one of my homemade desserts, and thought, “hmmm – what IS that flavor?!?” – it could be white pepper!  – Lula

In Lula's Kitchen, Love is ALWAYS our First Ingredient!