Rosie’s Recipe — Victory Pie Crust

One of my earliest childhood memories is of standing on a stool, in front of the kitchen counter, watching my mother make pie crust. She could sculpt the crust on the rim of the pie plate like Picasso, and, in my child eyes, I must have perceived this as the grown-up equivalent version of playing with Play-dough. She’d always break off little pieces and let me taste it. The raw dough was delicious. (It still is.)

Sadly, for whatever reason, my mother soon stopped baking pies from scratch. I never knew exactly why. She always said her mother could whip up a pie crust with virtually no effort at all, so perhaps my mother felt that she simply couldn’t compete with Grandma’s pies. Or maybe she simply didn’t like making pie crust. Whatever the reason, her homemade pies virtually disappeared from the family menu, and, on those rare occasions when she did bake a pie, she used the frozen pie shells from the grocer’s freezer.

Since I had no one to teach me how to make a pie crust from scratch I never learned how. I just assumed that it was too difficult, causing me to develop an affection I’ll call, Pie Crust Phobia. After I became an adult and left home I too bought the frozen pie shells. They’re not bad, but they just don’t have the flavor, or the flakiness, of a pie crust made from scratch.

Fast forward a few years. I’m testing recipes for, Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, and the time had come to conquer my Pie Crust Phobia by going for broke and making my own pie crust from scratch.

They say that certain genes skip a generation as I discovered that making pie crust from scratch isn’t rocket science after all. All you need is some flour, baking powder, shortening, and a little water. Having the right tools helps too. I bought a pastry cutter at Walmart, and that investment of a few dollars really paid off because it makes blending in the shortening a snap.

Victory Pie Crust is used in many of the historic recipes in Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. And one other historic note. The word, “victory,” was a significant par of the lexicon during World War Two. It was a moral booster that was used everywhere.

GM

VICTORY PIE CRUST

  • 1¼ cups sifted flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons cold shortening
  • 3 or 3½ tablespoons ice water*

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut shortening into small pieces; add to flour and cut in until mixture is almost as fine as meal. Make small well in flour mixture. Turn 1 tablespoon ice water in this and mix quickly and lightly with surrounding flour only until a small ball of dough is formed. Do not over mix. Repeat this way, mixing all of the flour in separate portions. Then press portions together lightly but firmly into one dough. Makes enough pastry for 9-inch pie shell. Double recipe for pastry for two-crust pie.

*Use only 3 tablespoons ice water with 4 tablespoons shortening; use 3½ tablespoons ice water with 3 tablespoons shortening.

Note: If the crust should come out too dry and crumbly simply add small amounts of water until the mixture has a more doughy consistency.

Rosie’s Recipe–Crown Roast of Back Ribs

The back rib. It’s the ugly cousin of the short rib, but with a little creativity you can make them delicious. I’ll admit this recipe seemed daunting at first, but then a friend told me you can attach the ribs together with wooden toothpicks or skewers instead of sewing them together. This made the dish much easier to prepare, and the results were positively yummy. This recipe is included in Rosie’s Riveting Recipes. Enjoy.

GM

CROWN ROAST OF BACK RIBS

1½ lbs. back ribs
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 cups soft bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasonings

Rub back ribs with salt. Mix remaining ingredients to form dressing. Sew ends of ribs together to resemble a crown. Place stuffing inside of ribs and bake in 350º F oven for 2-3 hours or until tender. Makes 4 servings.

Modern adaptation: Ribs can be tacked together with wooden toothpicks or toothpicks or skewers. (Do not use plastic.) After cooking, allow the ribs to rest before removing the toothpicks. Three slices of bread, with crusts removed and cut into cubes, can be also be used to make the dressing. You can also add chopped celery, nuts, or mushrooms.

Rosie’s Recipe–Buttermilk Biscuits

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my mom or dad baking homemade biscuits on Sunday mornings. Biscuits and gravy were a Sunday morning breakfast staple, and, over time, my older brothers also starting baking homemade biscuits. However, I don’t remember any of them ever reading a recipe, so it must have been a technique that they learn from our parents. Or perhaps some secret family recipe. You never know.

Sadly, for whatever the reason, the recipe was never handed down to me. So, after I moved out, I made my biscuits from the Bisquick box. Don’t get me wrong, Bisquick is a very good product, and the biscuits you make with it are far better than the pre-made biscuits found in the refrigerated section at the grocer. But they were never quite the same as those homemade biscuits mom and dad made from scratch.

So fast forward a few years, (well, maybe more than a few years.) I’m testing recipes for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, the updated version of Anna’s Kitchen, a historic cookbook I self-published back in 2005. There are about a half-dozen biscuit recipes in Anna’s Kitchen, so what better reason was could there possibly be to recreate those happy childhood memories than by baking a batch of homemade biscuits from scratch. And you know what? They were exactly the same as the ones I grew up with. Aha! The secret family recipe finally revealed.

GM

BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½  teaspoon soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • ¾  cup sour milk or buttermilk

Mix and sift dry ingredients. Work in margarine with a fork, add the sour milk gradually to make soft dough. Roll to ½ inch thick, cut, place on baking sheet; bake in moderately hot oven, (400 F) until done and brown. Yields 16 biscuits.

Modern adaptation: To turn plain milk into buttermilk simply place a scant tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill with milk until it reaches the ¾ mark. Let it sit for 5 minutes before using. Prepare as directed above. Bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Yield will vary, depending on the size of the biscuit cutter used.

It’s All About Baby Steps

If you’ve ever seen the TV show, Worst Cooks in America, on Food Network, then you probably feel for the contestants. I know I do. It’s so obvious that they lack both the skills and the self-confidence to prepare the dishes they’re being challenged to make. I’ve been cooking for most of my life, and some of the dishes I’ve seen on that show would be a bit challenging for me as well. What’s even worse is they take away their recipes and the notes they take from the chef’s demos. I know, it’s just a TV show produced for entertainment purposes, but that said, this is not how you should teach people to cook.

Cooking, like any other skill, takes time to master, and if you’re teaching someone how to cook you start them out with the very basics. When I first started learning how to cook no one expected me to prepare chicken cordon bleu. They expected me to make french toast.

I started out learning how to cook bacon, and to make scrambled eggs and the aforementioned french toast. Then I learned how to make hash browns. Yes, there is a pattern here. Traditional American breakfast foods are some of the easiest dishes to prepare, making them the good place to start teaching a novice how to cook. And since it’s hard to mess up scrambled eggs, their confidence starts to build. Beginners can start learning basic knife skills by learning how to prepare salads. I’m no Hamburger Helper fan, but it’s a good place to start teaching a beginner how to follow a recipe, and since it’s a prepackaged kit it too is hard to go wrong, so the novice’s self confidence keeps building. From there they can start to learn more complex recipes–beef stew, chili con carne, beef stroganoff, and so on.

The same approach applies when teaching someone how to bake. My mother started me with cake mixes and canned icing. From there I worked my way up to the cookie recipes on the back of the chocolate chip packages. Then I learned how to make casseroles.

It’s all about baby steps. Some will have more of a natural talent than others, and those who demonstrate a particularly strong talent or desire for cooking or baking may end up becoming professional chefs, although most won’t take it that far. This is true of most things in life. Cooking, however, is a life skill, so we all need to be taught the basics, such as learning how to make scrambled eggs or beef stew.

My thought for the day.

GM