Words to the wise from Dr Sister Outlaw

I am a quiche maker extraordinaire, and a dab hand at buttery shortcrust. The quiche I made for last night’s Earth Hour/40+something-too-big-to-tactfully-mention-any-more-party literally flew off the plate, with much ooing and aahing about my magic ingredients, which in this case included sage, oregano and thyme and a judiciously sliced preserved lemon quarter, in a mix of eggs and ricotta.

But before you go all funny about me blowing my own trumpet, I would like to share with you some of the learnings I have gleaned in the last week’s baking, during which I made three quiches, one successfully:

  1. Always check that one actually possesses a rolling pin before one makes the pastry. An old bottle of Cascade Ultra-C is not a worthy substitute. (Observant readers may recall that I have mentioned my rolling pin deficiency on this site already. You would think I would learn, but alas, I forgot I lacked a rolling pin twice in one week.)
  2. Olive oil is no substitute for butter in pastry, no matter how many foody websites insist that it produces a nice workable crust. On the other hand, if you actually want a biscuit crust that tastes like olive oil and falls away from the bottom of your quiche, go right ahead. Personally, I would just cut your losses and make frittata, but then maybe the rolling pin deficit is to blame?
  3. Silicon baking dishes are robust, but not robust enough to tolerate being set on top of a lit gas jet for some minutes.

Just in case you thought this was a blog restricted to people who are actually competent in the kitchen.

25 comments ↓

#1 kate on 29.03.09 at 1:12 pm

Even compentent types suffer the occasional bad day or dodgy bit of advice (olive oil is not the solution to every cooking problem, who knew?).

Glad you pulled a goodun’ together by the end of the week. Can I suggest you go buy a rolly pin first thing tomorrow, no later than ten past nine?

#2 Penthe on 29.03.09 at 4:44 pm

Tupperware sugar containers also don’t survive sitting on top of the hotplate, in my experience. And getting heat-affected sugar out of the griller is a nasty job.

I have a rolling pin, but I also have Pastry Fear and hot hands. What will make you remember to buy a rolling pin while you are out of the house and not actually trying to make quiche, do you reckon?

#3 Dr Sista Outlaw on 29.03.09 at 4:54 pm

Good question Penthe. I suppose if there was a nice kitchen shop nearby I would be drawn to wander in and find one. Or if I saw a good one in an op shop. Thing is, I loathe marble rolling pins and don’t like those ones with tapered ends either, and piney cheap ones are out so … I just can’t remember what I did with my last good one! Rather a serious case of Rolling Pin Forgetfulness I am afraid.

Sorry to hear about your Pastry Fear :(

#4 Zoe on 29.03.09 at 5:57 pm

What’s not to like about marble ones?

#5 Dr Sista Outlaw on 29.03.09 at 6:12 pm

Well, if you really want to know, I’ve found they don’t sit still but spin, and they don’t pick up that nice coating of flour on them that wooden ones do, meaning they pull, slide and press rather than roll out the pastry. Their weight is excellent, and I reckon they might be good if you suffer from too warm hands, but they’re just not for me.

#6 kate on 29.03.09 at 6:45 pm

I have my grandma’s plastic one. It’s got removable ends so you can put icy water in it, but to be honest, I never had. Any difference between my baking and Grandma’s is User Error, unfortunately, because I have most of her tools.

What I don’t have is her old brown tea cup with the broken handle which she used to measure, and I can’t get any of her recipes right because the quantities are just ever so slightly wrong with my cups.

#7 Zoe on 29.03.09 at 7:54 pm

kate I’ve been recipe testing lemon meringue pie and the divinely named White Mountain Ash Cake this weekend for a C19 Louisiana banquet that Gillian of Food History is planning the menu for – and I had to buy an teacup from the op shop for the purpose. My teacup was 200 mls.

The banquet is for a specfic convention, btw!

And I don’t have a problem with flour not sticking to the marble, but there you go. I like the weight of it, and find it much easier to clean. My old wooden one got lots of divots and scratches in it that were murder to dig dough out from.

#8 Dr Sister Outlaw on 29.03.09 at 8:26 pm

Is it bad to feel that the encrustations of flour enhance the finished product and that such fine cleaning is unnecessary?

And yes, somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my memory is a grade seven home economics (aka ‘cooking’) lesson instruction that teacups were indeed 200 mls.

Home economics lessons, now there’s a blog post brewing about the construction of the ideal rural woman in a hop and apple growing region … or alternatively, just one about Queen of Puddings, brown stew and an egg white omelette I will never forget, for all the wrong reasons.

#9 kazari on 30.03.09 at 7:58 am

I think there’s something about quiche that invites disasters. Two of my personal favourites were:
- on re-heating while distracted, I put in a low oven with the gladwrap still covering it. Laminated quiche for dinner! (I was only 17, but still)
- making from scratch (distracted again), I poured in the egg mixture and stuck it in the oven. I THEN turned around to see the pastry still on the bench… Frittata for dinner!

#10 Cristy on 30.03.09 at 8:41 am

The only oil that I have ever found to work in pastry is coconut oil – due to its solidity. Otherwise non-transfat marg is the only acceptable butter substitute.
I have a metal rolling pin with a latex coating. I quite like it – heavy, easy to clean and sticky to flour. It probably gets a but warm for purests though…

#11 Dr Sister Outlaw on 30.03.09 at 8:54 am

Coconut oil is a good tip!

Another quiche-related disaster in this week, akin to forgetting to put the pastry in the flan dish, relates to the dearth of rolling pins. Because I didn’t have one I spent ages pressing the pastry out with my fingers, and inadvertently left a crack in it. Egg ran out of the crack and the space between the bottom and sides of the flan tray for quite some time. Lucky I had slipped it on a scone tray, or my oven would be like the sugary grill.

#12 kate on 30.03.09 at 9:46 am

After a bit of trial and error, I came to the conclusion that Grandma’s measuring teacup wasn’t 200ml, or any other quantity that would ever reveal itself to the world of metric. Perhaps I’ll give it another five years and try again. Perhaps I wont.

I probably should sit down with Mum and transcribe the exercise book of recipes though, because no one else can read them.

Kate’s Word for the Wise for this weekend: Put the casserole in the oven. Leaving it on the stove while you get distracted will result in burning of the spicy plum jam sauce (salvagable, but a few stressful moments).

#13 worldpeace and a speedboat on 30.03.09 at 10:26 pm

totally with Dr Sista on the marble rolling pin – they spin for me too, I’ve never gotten the hang of them.

I have a wooden one that’s about 20 yrs old now, quite a long one and getting nicely seasoned. but it’s not a patch on my mum’s, which feels fabulous… it’s short and smooth. she has the best pastry hand ever, smooth, cool dry hands and the lightest touch.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people I know who are great at pasta-making at a bit shite at pastry, and vice versa. one needs thumping and the other needs gentle hands. what do you think?

also, I’d kill for a glass rolling pin. partly because I’d love to have the option of cooling it, partly because I collect green glass and they’re getting rare and valuable!

#14 Zoe on 31.03.09 at 7:08 am

Someone I follow on twitter found a green glass rolling pin buried in her backyard, speedy. I think the hunt for stoppers was a bit tedious.

#15 Dr Sister Outlaw on 31.03.09 at 2:46 pm

If I hadn’t spent the whole post lamenting my kitchen failings I would hold off on answering Worldpeace and Speedboat, but as I have, I am not afraid to say that actually, I am good at both pasta and pastry.

I knows my dough, technical incapacities notwithstanding.

#16 kate on 31.03.09 at 9:04 pm

I haven’t made pasta in a very long time, but I am good at both pastry and dense wholemeal bread, which is perhaps a similar contrast.

Is it time to brag now (food nerd alert! food nerd alert!) about the first time I made filo? Or the second (and last) time I made filo? I managed to halve the prep time on the second attempt, and then I was done.

#17 emica on 03.01.10 at 4:09 am

I’ve just had a baking failure and a baking semi failure and need to vent.

My cheese scones are dense, lumpy rocks. Splitting and grilling them might possibly make them salvageable to have with soup.

I just spoke to my grandma who told me never to use all wholemeal flour for scones because it’s far to heavy. I used wholemeal because that’s what I had in the cupboard for the muffins I usually make, which are a lot more forgiving. I don’t do a lot of ‘proper’ baking. I make muffins instead because I have Pastry Fear.

then I made zucchini, walnut & cranberry loaf. I had to cook it in two batches and my loaf tin rather overfloweth. But it tastes nice and I had a baking tray to catch the drips.

Does anyone else find silicone bakeware is too floppy to hold the mixture?

#18 Dr Sister Outlaw on 03.01.10 at 8:43 am

You can vent here Emica, any time! Some answers for your problems. Wholemeal scones usually include just a bit of wholemeal flour which gives substance, but there are still large quantities of white flour available. Scones depend on the expansive powers of heated flour and the stretch in the gluten and you can never get wholemeal flour to stretch the same way, even with raising agents (most wholemeal breads also include plenty of white flour).

The reason you can get away with wholemeal flour (and other things like polenta) in muffins is that you have eggs and oil (or butter) in large quantities, which both bind and moisten.

I have so far not over filled my silicone bakeware, but there is yet time. I suspect they suit lighter mixtures?

As for a use for your cheese scones – perhaps post them home for my chooks?

#19 FDB on 03.01.10 at 3:03 pm

If you want wholemeal, don’t make scones.

#20 Emica on 03.01.10 at 7:58 pm

Thank you for the wise words on the chemistry of scones Dr SO. My vague intentions to counter balance the cheese & butter by making them ‘healthy’ with wholemeal has obviously gone awry.

I may try again with (plain flour!) buttermilk scones, as an excuse to use up the last of the divine damson jam I bought on our camping trip to the Lake District.

I’m going to attempt a jam roly poly tonight. I will follow the recipe to the letter this time! Fingers crossed…

#21 Emica on 03.01.10 at 8:00 pm

Dr SO – forgot to say, I didn’t overfill the first loaf and the silicone loaf tin still bulged at the sides.

Perhaps silicone isn’t a good material for loaf tins, given that they are usually pretty heavy mixtures?

#22 Zoe on 04.01.10 at 2:39 pm

Emica, if you’re in the market for a good guide, Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio is fanastic and a lot easier going than Harold McGee.

#23 Emica on 03.04.10 at 4:05 am

ARghgh! another baking failure. Am I cursed to never successfully bake anything?

This time my scone mixture was way too wet (although did use white flour). If I had tried to add more flour, it would have made them inedibly tough. And I bought jam to have with them too!

Also, I made these biscuits for a new baby visiting morning tea (we brought biscuits, they provided the baby)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/apr/25/ginger-macadamia-biscuits-dan-lepard

I followed the recipe to the letter and the buggers spread all over the place. Even the second batch, which i spaced out and made smaller. I like a biscuit to have a bit of body and these felt like the butter to flour proportion was wrong and too greasy.

Hmmm. do I concede defeat?

#24 Dr Sister Outlaw on 03.04.10 at 4:53 pm

I haz looked at the recipe and I think you are right – not enough flour, and when you add that amount of butter and sugar you are gonna get a big syrup that just won’t stay put. Cut the butter to 100 grammes, cut the sugar to 150g and increase the flour to a cup and I would say that would work quite well. If it doesn’t, add even more flour.

Not all recipes in books or mags or newspapers work, sadly.

#25 Emica on 03.04.10 at 5:36 pm

thanks for the advice DSO :)

I’ll give your amendments a go, cos it’s worth a second try – although it turned out more like some kind of ginger and macadamia flapjack, they were very very yummy!

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