This Week's Adventure

Easter, rolls, and the piecrust problem

Easter was a very busy weekend for us. Saturday morning was spent at church, doing rehearsal for an Easter skit that Husband was in, practice for the choir (which I was in), and a spoken word performance I did. As per usual, there were all sorts of tech complications and we had to do things over a couple times. We got home about one, and I had a couple other things to do before making rolls.

While rolls are at their most delicious fresh out of the oven, I figured with church and everything on Sunday, it would be easiest to bake them beforehand. The Baker’s Companion has a section on how to shape their basic white bread recipe–“White Bread 101”–into rolls.

I’ve made my fair share of dinner rolls before, mostly using the rolls recipe in my parents’ Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. This recipe was different in that it used nonfat dry milk rather than milk, plus some potato flour or potato flakes. I used the latter, since I had it on hand.

Working with this dough was simple, a breeze for anyone familiar with yeast dough baking. I did have some worries that I wasn’t using enough flour. I’ve been weighing out flour for recipes on my beloved kitchen scale, but the recommended amount left the dough just too wet. The recipe did say that you could add more as necessary for kneading, but to be careful about adding too much. With a haphazardly dumped 1/4 cup or so, the dough came together within a few seconds. I wondered if the problem might be because I’m using (accidentally purchased) bleached flour, which absorbs water a little differently.

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Amazing the difference just a little flour can make.

I decided to make Parker house-shaped rolls and brushed them with butter after baking, then one more time after warming them in the oven Sunday afternoon with dinner. Golden and gorgeous.

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My other Easter baking adventure had its ups and downs, but ended up tasting good. My mother-in-law brought a rhubarb pie from her sister, who is an all-around domestic goddess and near-professional baker. However, we thought we needed another, so I settled on a pie I thought would be springy, go with rhubarb, but not suffer too much from using frozen fruit, since my little rural grocery store’s selection is limited this time of year: a fruit cream pie. This counted as two recipes, since I was trying KAF’s medium-flake piecrust and the filling.

Piecrust and I don’t always get along. There was a while in high school where I was practicing a lot, and I had some success, but I wonder if that was beginner’s luck, because the last couple of times I’ve tried it just doesn’t hold together and I end up piecing the crust together in the pan.

The medium-flake crust involves working shortening thoroughly into the flour, then mixing in small pieces of butter. I typically use a mix of butter and shortening too, but hadn’t thought of using the two for two aims in the crust: one to coat the flour, and one to remain in pieces to create flakes. I’d say that went well.

My problem comes with feeling out the right amount of water, then rolling it. I want to be cautious about adding too much water to overwork the gluten and making a sticky mess, but no matter how moderate I try to be, it always seems a little dry.

I mixed in tablespoonsful of ice water one at a time with a fork, until it held together when squeezed, then added one more, as instructed. It still didn’t seem to want to be thoroughly cohesive, despite the squeeze test, and didn’t seem to improve much during its 30-minute chill in the fridge. Then this mess happened.

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Bottom left is the crust after an attempt at flipping during rollout. Bottom right is a good six minutes of work later. Top is the finished crust, pretty, but barely together.

Rolling took a while, and it had deep cracks almost the whole time. I was able to fold it into quarters for transfer to the pie dish, but it took a lot of patching and patting to get it to cover everything evenly. It looked very pretty, though, with those nice chunks of butter.

Maybe next time I will try their suggestion of using part pastry, part all-purpose flour to keep the crust tender without worrying about overworking it. And maybe I’ll err on the side of more water, and see if I can deal with it better.

The filling was easy to make. I suspect it might have turned out a bit prettier if I had used fresh strawberries, as they’d be less likely to go off color and mushy when baked. But though it won’t win any photogenic awards, it was quite good, and the crust held together okay once baked.

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Left, my not-too-pretty but fairly tasty strawberry cream pie. Right, Aunt Brenda’s perfect rhubarb pie. I bet it didn’t take her fifteen minutes just to roll her crust and get it in the pan…

Next time, I might review this guide and watch some videos. Piecrust is one of those things I really want to master, and though you couldn’t tell how finicky it was with the finished product, I would love to be able to whip up a piecrust on a whim. Pie, whenever I want… now that sounds like power.

Easter this week was beautiful, but I felt a bit rushed during it. Last year I really got to sit back and listen to the music and the message, and it had me in tears.

I can’t think of any decent way to combine thoughts on baking with thankfulness for Jesus–just a really awful pun about dough, like Jesus, being risen–but hope you were able to celebrate and reflect on the meaning of what Christ did for us on the cross. He is risen!

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