Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dean's birthday

It was Dean's birthday today! I baked an apple pie, since he doesn't care so much for cake, and I make the world's nicest pastry. It's called Never Fail Pastry, and IT IS!! It comes from a Mennonite cookbook, and my mom discovered it. She never made pastry when we were kids, because she was convinced she couldn't do it - it always was hard and tasteless. It turned out she just had a bad recipe. When she found THIS recipe, it was such a success, she was turning out butter tarts and pumpkin pies practically every week!
Never Fail Pastry

Sift together:

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Using a pastry cutter (or a fork, though it takes longer) cut in 1 lb. of lard, until the mixture looks like rough crumbs.

In a one-cup measuring cup, mix 2 eggs and 2 tblsp. vinegar. Then fill up the cup with cold water to the one cup mark.

Blend this into the flour mixture, cutting it in at first, then kneading it in with your hands. Don't handle it too much. If it's too dry, it will be crumbly, and there will be flour still in the bowl you can't blend in - add a little water, a spoonful at a time, until you can make a nice solid ball of dough. Contrariwise, if it's sticky and gooey, that means it's too wet, so just sprinkle in a bit more flour.

This makes enough for 3 double-crust pies. You can divide it into 3 balls and freeze it until you need it. When you roll it out, sprinkle flour on the counter, and roll with a rolling pin until it's the size you need. If it sticks to the rolling pin or the counter, sprinkle a little more flour, or rub flour on the rolling pin. You'll get the hang of it after trying it once or twice. The secret is not to handle it too much, and don't let it get warm, because if the lard starts to melt, it gets greasy, and that will make the crust tough. Keep everything cool, but not cold, and work fast, and you'll be famous for making the lightest pastry in the world.

Anyway, back to Dean's birthday. It's getting hard to choose presents now, so I asked him a while back if he'd like a useful present, or a fun present. He said a fun present, so I got him this: the complete collection of Thin Man movies on dvd. These are great fun, and we loved them on video when we were first married.

I told him that the other thing I'd been considering, the "useful" present, was a chainsaw, for cutting the wood he collects from the river, and he was quite relieved that he'd gone for the fun present. Not that a chainsaw can't be fun, of course - I'm sure it can. It's probably just a question of temperament.

It was also a lovely warm spring day, the first really warm day we've had. Half the snow has vanished from the back yard since Tuesday, and I can see plants already breaking through the soil, even though they were covered with snow a few days ago. The bleeding hearts have new shoots just at soil level, and I was stunned to see that the chives are already putting out green shoots! I ate one. Columbines are pushing up everywhere, and some of the herbs like thyme and oregano are still green on their lower leaves; I suspect they stayed green under the snow all winter. I can hardly wait to see what a week of warm temperatures will produce.

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