Professional Cooking Tips
Professional cooking tips: Emergency pie recipes. How to save a sauce or gravy from being a complete flop. How to make a professional quality pie or gravy.
When emergencies strike, such as a forgotten bake sale or unexpected guests, it’s nice to be able to whip up a pie for dessert quickly. First, put pride aside, and keep some piecrust mix like Krust-ez or Pillsbury for a quick crust. Replace a bit of the water with a few tablespoons of sour cream. No one will ever know you used a packaged mix and the sour cream will add flavor as well as help to make the crust flakier.
For a quick filling, cook apples on the stovetop with butter. Slowly add flour until the desired consistency is obtained and cook until al dente or soft according to your preferences. If you’re really in a fix for time, pre-bake the bottom crust with fluted edges, add stovetop cooked filling and sprinkle liberally with a crunch topping (recipes to follow). Cover the edges of the piecrust with foil and place pie under broiler just until crunch topping is golden brown.
You may also keep frozen piecrust and pre-sliced frozen apples handy for emergencies. Bachelors, this is a great way to impress a girl or visiting parents.
If you are topping the pie with a lattice top or full crust top, brush on a bit of cream or milk and sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar prior to baking. This adds a nice crunch to the crust and imparts an excellent, professional look.
When attempting a difficult crust, such as those recommended in monthly cooking publications, try these hints for an easier, more enjoyable baking experience:
Keep the work surface cold – use ice bags or refrigerate a metal or glass cutting board to keep the crust cold.
Refrigerate crust thoroughly until very cold, but not frozen – as the crust warms up, put it back in the refrigerator. This makes the crust easy to work with, but also keeps the butter and flour from mixing; forming a substance called gluten. Gluten will make your pie crust very tough.
Lightly dust work surface with flour – too much flour will cause your crust to be tough, too little flour will cause the crust to stick to the work surface – experiment with a small piece of crust to get the right coating.
Be sure to stir the crust only until combined and handle as little as possible – each time you roll the crust, or touch it once it is ready for rolling, causes gluten to form making the crust tough.
When rolling out crust, roll from the center out, very lightly, then cover with a large piece of plastic wrap – continue to roll carefully and turn crust over so that the crust is now on top of the plastic wrap. Place another piece of plastic wrap on top and finish rolling to desired thickness, refrigerate if necessary. With butter based crusts, the plastic helps hold the shape of the crust, eases annoying splitting of the crust, and helps keep you from adding too much flour. When ready to place the crust in your dish or tin, remove one side of the plastic, fold crust in half, plastic side touching, gently lift the crust and place the half in the approximate position. Unfold the crust, avoid stretching while performing this maneuver, and remove the final piece of plastic wrap. Lift the crust gently from the edges and position properly – flute edges as desired
Gravies and Sauces
Lumpy gravy of any kind is always an embarrassment. Even seasoned professionals occasionally have lumps in sauces and gravies. Simply drain the sauce or gravy through a fine sieve to remove lumps and discard them. Veteran gravy makers, like Grandmothers, will think you’re a kitchen whiz. Soups can also be drained with the addition of a coffee filter. Discard the vegetables that were cooked with the broth, but save the meat. Lightly sauté more vegetables in butter and white wine or sherry. Once they are al dente, return to the soup and serve hot.
To thicken a runny gravy or sauce, scoop a cup of the sauce and then add either flour or cornstarch. Mix carefully until smooth and then add to the original mixture. This will help avoid lumps in the first place. If you are initially making the gravy from grease, pan drippings or bullion cube, mix flour or cornstarch with water prior to adding to gravy mixture. This will provide a smooth thickening agent. If using a bullion cube to make a gravy, be sure to add a dash of sugar to cut the saltiness from the cube – they are very high in sodium and can ruin an otherwise fine gravy.
1 C brown sugar
¼ C flour
1/3 C oats
½ t cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
¼ C melted butter
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle with butter, adding more if necessary, until well formed, large crumbs develop. Sprinkle on pie, cake, coffeecake or scones.
Sour Cream Crust
Krust-ez or Pillsbury Pie Crust mix
1 T sour cream per number of desired crusts
Prepare piecrust mix as directed. Before adding ice water, add sour cream and mix lightly. Add only enough water to form a ball. Too much will cause you to work in flour, which may produce a tough crust – too little water will produce a crumbly crust that may not form well.
Common measurement abbreviations:
T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon
C = Cup
# = pound