Pastry crust recipe

Using alcohol instead of water prevents gluten from developing. Any type of alcohol is fine, although higher proof is more desirable, and you can use flavored types if you prefer. How about beer crust??

Standard Pastry Crust

(makes 8- or 9-inch one-crust pie)

1 cup flour

1/2 teas. salt

1/3 cup butter

about 3 Tab. ice-cold vodka

(for an 8-inch two-crust pie, use 1-1/3 cups flour; 1/2 teas. salt; 7 Tab. butter; 4 Tab. cold vodka or so)

Measure flour and salt into a bowl.  Cut in the shortening.  Add the vodka and hope that the flour is moistened and dough almost cleans the side of the bowl.  You may need to add more vodka.  Gather the dough into a ball (or two if for a two-crust pie).  Carefully flatten the ball(s) so that a round shape is maintained.  Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight before rolling out — this is supposed to help with gluten reduction.

Apple pie

Apple pie recipe from my mom. This particular write-up is a compilation of several different recipes and techniques, and has not been vetted so be careful.

The recipe was adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and a Joy of cooking (or maybe Betty Crocker) recipe, seen below.

A classic.

Apple pie recipe (makes 8-inch pie)

Pastry for 8-inch two-crust pie

5 cups thinly sliced pared tart apples

1/3 cup sugar (this is less than the original recipe recommends)

1/4 cup flour (the original recipe calls for 3 Tbs but juicy apples need more) or 2 Tbs tapioca starch

1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon

dash salt

1 Tbs butter

  1. Shrink apples by gently heating them in a Dutch oven (recommended) or thick-bottomed pan.  Then let them cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 425° (or a lower temperature, if you prefer. 350° or 375° are probably fine too). 
  3. The next step is tricky because now you have to mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt AND then add that mixture to the apples.  It will be messy because the apples are juicy.  You can drain the juice but that seems like waste of good apple juice. 
  4. Roll the pastry and line the pie pan.  Put the filling in the pastry-line pan.  Dot with the butter.  Cover with the top crust.  Seal and flute edges.  Brush the top with milk or water and sprinkle with a generous amount of sugar.  Cut some vents.  Place the pie on parchment on a tray (to catch drips).
  5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in the crust.  You may prefer to start the pie at the high temperature (425°) and reduce the heat (I’m assuming to 375° or so) after about 15 minutes.  If the crust is nicely brown but the pie isn’t done, make a tent with foil.


Use different apples, depending on taste. It is usually recommended to use a combination of sweet (Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Braeburn) and tart (Granny Smith, Empire, Cortland) apples.

Use tapioca starch instead of wheat flour. A smaller amount (1 1/2 tsp for every Tbs of flour called for) gels just as well, and doesn’t risk imparting a chalky texture.

Sake update

I think the chewed sake (kuchikamizake) is done. The liquid on top of the rice pieces is clearing up, which is a sign that there is no longer any fermentation going on. If I add more rice, I may be able to get the yeast going again, though.

After the fermentation is done, you’re supposed to strain out the rice pieces (sake lees or sake kasu, which can be eaten or used for pickling), then put a chunk of charcoal in to make the sake clear. In lieu of that, J suggested running the sake through a Brita filter. It uses activated charcoal, after all, and if we keep making sake, it may be useful in the future.

The koji sake doesn’t seem to be done yet.

Pecan pie recipe

The blog seems to be turning into a repository for family recipes, which I’m pretty happy about (: Please enjoy!

This recipe is from my great aunt (by marriage, but she may have been related from another direction too. There were some first-cousin marriages). Unlike most pecan pie recipes, it features a not-too-sweet filling. (The pecans weren’t included in the original recipe, so please use your judgement on how many to add.)

Pecan Pie Recipe

(Probably meant to fill 9-inch pie pan)
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
(Not in original recipe, but about 8oz of pecans, chopped)
Uncooked pie shell
Mix ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake about 25 min at 350°F.


Pecan pie is usually too sweet, so I was considering subbing brown rice syrup, which is super viscous, but not very sweet, for the corn syrup. Then again, this recipe is supposed to be perfect.

Roast chicken and veggies

Roast veggies in the new 12″ skillet.
Huge (6 lb) and expensive ($40) roast chicken from our local farmer’s market. Fortunately, it had an organic, pastured, and sustainable life. The chicken’s not actually burned; the burned spots were an attempt to add flavor via mirin. That long skinny thing off to the left is the chicken’s spine.

We butterflied the chicken, which is supposed to help keep the breast meat from getting overcooked and dry. The meat has had many second lives, in soup, in tacos, and there’s a ton left over for future uses.

Sake update

Our sake has been fermenting for almost three weeks now. It’s looking pretty good! The remaining experiments smell strongly of alcohol.

In order from left to right: rice + koji + bread yeast + brown rice syrup, rice + barley malt soaking liquid + brown rice syrup, rice + ginger + brown rice syrup, rice + chewing + brown rice syrup.

As I discussed in the planning post, you can use different sources of amylase to digest the rice. Koji works really well, chewing/saliva is fine, barley malt is less than desirable, and ginger doesn’t work (at all, as far as I could tell). The brown rice syrup, which started fermenting unaided in the cupboard, was added to provide a wild strain of yeast.

A close up of the koji one. The bubbles of CO2 from fermentation push the bigger bits of rice up to the top.

After taking these pictures, I threw away the ginger one. It wasn’t rotting, but it didn’t seem to be doing the right thing either. A few days later, I also threw out the barley malt one. It had a weird skin on the surface, maybe kahm yeast?

So I’m left with the koji experiment and the chewed experiment. Fortunately, they both smell strongly of alcohol. I hope they’ll be done soon (how do I tell when that is?). I may add another batch of rice to each. Doing this can push the alcohol content higher than it would otherwise be, since having more food available can trick the yeast into fermenting more.

Friend V from college is interested in sampling the experiments, including the chewed one! Yay! I thought I would be the only one trying it- it’s my saliva, after all.

Feijoas and chickens

The other day, J and I took a trip to pick up free fruit.

Free pineapple guavas (feijoas) from someone on Freecycle! The fruits have an amazingly fruity, floral smell that’s apparently due to (naturally-occurring) methyl benzoate.

I’m not sure what I’ll use these for. Eating, of course, but they get overripe fast. I was thinking of making cobbler or drying some. Any other suggestions?

On the way to pick the feijoas up, we saw chickens!!! I guess zoning allows them in this area.

They weren’t scared of us at all. In fact, they walked up to us as if they were expecting treats.
The chickens had a ton of space. Definitely free-range, cage-free, and probably pretty happy. There were several different breeds, too. I wonder if any were heritage breeds?

During the trip, J and I stopped by Whole Foods to buy some stuff and to recycle some number 5 plastic through the Gimme 5 recycling program. Plastics are turned into plastic lumber and maybe into consumer products. They also recycle Brita filters!

Fancy coffee drink from Whole Foods.

We used the trip to go to our local Japanese grocery store, where we had dinner. I check out 99 Ranch’s and Nob Hill’s dumpsters on the way. Unfortunately, they both use compactors, so I couldn’t go diving.

Lastly, we stopped at Goodwill for more mason jars! I think we’re finally reaching the saturation point for prepared food storage. At this point, I’m attempting to get enough that we can store dry goods in jars too. It’ll make the kitchen cabinets a lot more organized.

Garage-cleaning out sale!

Weekends are great for garage sales. Recently, a multi-family garage-cleaning out sale was happening near us. I enjoy non-curated sales since they are usually cheaper and have more useful stuff. The fact that this was garage cleaning masquerading as a sale was a good sign.

Indeed, amongst the hazmat suits, gas masks (one of the sellers was a retired EPA hazardous waste cleaner-upper), and old clothes, were several good finds. One was a stack of cast iron, of which we bought for $1 each:

Giant cast iron skillet! It’s 12″ in diameter. It was in pretty sad shape, and then I accidentally took the seasoning off the middle of the pan (got it too hot when trying to reseason it), but it’s looking a lot better now.
Wagner-brand griddle. It’s perfect for crepes and pancakes because it has a low edge and is verrrrry smooth. Cast iron skillets used to be sanded to make the cooking surface smoother. It helps make them more non-stick.
This is the least useful of those we bought. It’s 10 1/2″, the same size as the one I already own, but is super smooth inside. I bought it because of the smoothness, but am wondering what to do with it now… Give it as a gift?
$10 filing cabinet.
$15 state of the art fryer-alternative. J had high hopes for it- it has great reviews online- but it acts just like a conventional convection oven. So… we’re giving it away.

We got a small pack of pH paper (also from the hazardous waste guy). Maybe it’ll be good for cooking? Canning? Fermentation??

I also looked at very enticing Japanese hankies, but I already have plenty from my dead grandparents… I just wanted to give the hankies a good home ;_; They might end up all alone in the world.

J and I got a ride back from the very friendly hazmat guy. It would’ve taken us a while to lug the air fryer, filing cabinet, and cast iron all the way back (1 mile), so it was very appreciated!


We made popovers, an airy, eggy baked item. Although I like them a lot, I’d never realized how easy they are to make!

Mini popovers don’t work so well. The ratio of surface area to volume is too high and you end up with a dry interior. This is a large mini muffin tin.
A second attempt prepared in a porcelain mug. Much better!

Popover Recipe

6 eggs

2 cups (480 mL) milk

6 Tbs (90 g) butter, melted

2 cups (240 g) flour, sifted

1 tsp (5 g) salt

  1. Generously butter whatever you’re baking in. The original recipe (from Betty Crocker?) calls for ten 1/2-cup (120-mL) ramekins.
  2. Whisk together eggs, milk, and melted butter until frothy. Gradually beat liquid into flour and salted until mixture is smooth.
  3. Spoon batter into baking containers until three-quarters full. If using separate containers, put on baking sheet for ease. Place in oven preheated to 425°F (220°C). Reduce heat to 375°F (190°C). Bake about 30 min.

Substitutions: I substituted whole wheat pastry flour for the flour. Because popovers are leavened by eggs and don’t require gluten, basically any type of flour should work.


It was one of those nights where we had a bunch of leftovers that don’t fit well together. Fortunately, we were able to pull everything together by making tortillas!

I found this seemingly legit recipe. Tortillas are really easy in concept. The dough is made from ground corn, traditionally nixtamalized to improve nutrition, and water. The tortillas are formed by pressing, then briefly heated in a skillet.

Keep dough from sticking to press by sandwiching in between heavy plastic.
Cook briefly on each side on a very hot skillet.
The cooked, but a little crispy, tortillas.
Eaten with leftover: roast veggies, pinto beans, roast chicken, and rice. I believe there was homemade salsa involved as well.

Unfortunately, there were some difficulties. I pressed the tortillas flat using a Pyrex square baking dish, so each tortilla had a faint “Pyrex” emblazoned on it. It took a surprising amount of force to press the tortillas, and they were still too thick to cook properly. I see the benefit of a special press. We had to cook the tortillas longer than called for to cook through, but doing this caused the outside to be crispy, rather than soft and flexible.

Making tortillas used up our masa (one of the goals!), so this may not happen again anytime soon.