Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Weigh Everything Project

When I make a 2-layer cake, a batch of dough that makes 2 loaves, or anything else that requires even division (like last night's Tofu-Tofu Burgers from Elizabeth Andoh's Kansha), I often have a moment of regret when I reach the division point.  "I wish I knew the weight of the bowl I'm using," I think, "so I could do some simple math to figure out how I should divide this."  But I don't know, so I either eyeball it, or mess up another pan (which I have just weighed).*

Not too long ago, probably while I was making lots of plum jam, I had an idea to prevent the division regret:  weigh all of my favorite bowls and pans, label them prominently, and take their pictures.  Then, when next I am baking a 2-layer cake, or mixing a batch of dough that makes 2 loaves, I can consult the photos to get the weight. (Clearly, one could also get in the habit of weighing the empty bowl before starting the recipe, something easier said than done.)

The photos will be on my desktop computer, but for easy access in the kitchen, I plan on uploading all of the pictures to Evernote** with a tag like "Kitchen weights", thus making them available on my Android phone from the kitchen.

* Of course, for many recipes you don't really need to be exact -- a muffin that is 25% bigger than its neighbor will probably turn out OK.
** A wonderful application that has greatly improved my life, giving me a place to store to-do lists, shopping lists, article, travel notes and all kinds of things that used to get lost on small slips of paper.

Random link from the archive: Food Bloggers on the Farm in San Francisco

Monday, August 06, 2012

Recipe: Pie Crust with Butter and Coconut Oil

Pie Making Machine, US patent 2,200,347
My post about pie crust making with coconut oil promised a recipe for the crust; this post delivers it.  
The foundation of the recipe is something from Cooks Illustrated that was posted at Serious Eats.  The recipe has quantities suitable for a two-crust pie, but since you might not always want to make that much crust — I typically make half a recipe, which is enough for two 8-inch diameter free-form galettes — I converted the ingredient list into two tables with various fractions of the full recipe.  One table has metric units, the other has U.S. Imperial units. (A third table could be a hybrid for the American kitchen with a scale and standard measuring spoons, with all weights in grams and volumes in teaspoons and tablespoons.  I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

For more about how I approach pie baking, see my 2009 post Building a Great Galette, Piece by Piece.

Recipe – Pie Crust with Coconut Oil and Butter

Adapted from a Cooks Illustrated recipe (available at Serious Eats

Units One-quarter One-third One-half Full
Unbleached all-purpose flour g 87.5 117 175 350
Table salt mL 1.25 1.67 2.5 5
Sugar mL 7.5 10 15 30
Unsalted butter, cold g 42.5 57 85 170
Coconut oil, cold g 25 33.3 50 100
Vodka mL 15 20 30 60
Water mL 15 20 30 60

U.S. Imperial
(note: all instances of ounces are “weight ounces”, not fluid ounces)

Units One-quarter One-third One-half Full
Unbleached all-purpose flour oz. 3.1 4.1 6.2 12.3
Table salt t. 0.25 0.33 0.5 1
Sugar T. 0.5 0.67 1 2
Unsalted butter, cold oz. 1.5 2 3 6
Coconut oil, cold oz. 0.9 1.2 1.8 3.5
Vodka T. 1 1.33 2 4
Water T. 1 1.33 2 4

  1. Mix the water and vodka in a thin-walled container (preferably metal for good heat transfer) and put it in the freezer to chill.
  2. If using coconut oil, weigh out the specified amount, then slice it into slivers that aren't any thicker than the desired final thickness of the crust.
  3. Cut the butter into 1/4" slices.
  4. Put the salt, sugar and two-thirds of the flour into the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a few seconds.
  5. Add butter and coconut oil to processor and process until a rough dough begins to form, perhaps in several pieces, about 15 seconds.  Scape sides of bowl.
  6. Add remaining flour and pulse a few times to break up the mass of dough.
  7. Put mixture into a medium or large bowl.
  8. Sprinkle liquids over mixture. 
  9. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together using a spatula.  Depending on your conditions, an additional quantity of water (1-2 T / 15-30 mL) might be necessary.  Don’t worry if dough doesn’t fully hold together. 
  10. If making a complete recipe (for a two-crust pie), divide into two pieces.  Flatten the piece(s) into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap, parchment paper or waxed paper.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  11. Roll and bake according to the tart or pie recipe. For best results, refrigerate the finished pie/tart/galette for about 15-30 minutes before baking (to prevent the coconut oil from separating from the dough).

Appendix:  Comma-Delimited Data
If you want to put the recipe into a spreadsheet with minimal trouble, here are the ingredients tables in comma-delimited format. 

Ingredient,Units,One-Quarter,One-Third,One-Half,Full (for a 2-crust pie)
Unbleached all-purpose flour,g,87.5,117,175,350
Table salt,mL,1.25,1.67,2.5,5
Unsalted butter - cold,g,42.5,57,85,170
Coconut oil - cold,g,25,33.3,50,100
Ingredient,Units,One-Quarter,One-Third,One-Half,Full (for a 2-crust pie)
Unbleached all-purpose flour,oz.,3.1,4.1,6.2,12.3
Table salt,t.,0.25,0.33,0.5,1
Unsalted butter,oz.,1.5,2,3,6
Coconut oil - cold,oz.,0.9,1.2,1.8,3.5
Vodka,T.,1,1 1/3,2,4
Water,T.,1,1 1/3,2,4

Thanks to HTML Basix for help with the tables.

 Random link from the archive:  On Being a Vegetarian Tourist in Tokyo