Feb 23, 2012

Making Pie Crust in a Food Processor

My dad taught me how to make a great pie crust with a pastry blender when I was about 11 years old (see my old video here: hand made pie crust with frankie).  I've come up in the world since then, and now I own a suh-weet food processor with which I've learned to make a comparable pie dough.  It takes a little more planning ahead, because you have to freeze the butter and then chill the dough before rolling it out, but it's otherwise far more efficient and saves you the pain-in-the-wrist of blending the pastry by hand.  I show how to make an apple pie in the video, both because it's my favorite and because I'm in love with my apple corer-peeler-slicer.  

For the pie crust dough, you'll need:  
2 sticks of (salted) butter
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup of water

For the filling, I used:
about 10 granny smith apples
a mixture of:
1/4 cup of flour
1/3 cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Notes:  I love a tart apple pie, so I always use granny smith apples.  I hate over sweetened pies, so I never add a single grain more sugar than is required to make this recipe delicious.  In the video I sprinkle some sugar on top of the pie before baking.  I don't always do that, but it made the crust so yummy that I think I'll do it from now on - it's such a small amount of sugar.  And I've only got about sixty years left to live.

Feb 20, 2012

Ode to my Apple Corer-Peeler-Slicer

This ode to my apple corer/peeler/slicer is really an excerpt from the how-to-make-pie-crust-in-a-food-processor video I'm working on.  After posting it to my youtube channel, I was automatically directed to a video in which the english actor/comedian/writer Stephen Fry demonstrates it as one of his favorite gadgets.  As if I didn't already love Stephen Fry enough! 

Will Work For Food

Sure, I'll take some casual photos of the dishes at your restaurant in trade for a dinner for two.  Especially if the food is as good as it is at Tavern restaurant in Garrison, New York.  It's gonna be a low tech affair, just me and an entry level SLR.  No artificial light, no fills, no frills.  All I need is a relatively bright day and a spot close to a window.  And photoshop.  There are a few tweaks I almost always make to food photos.  I try to adjust the color so that the table ware is close to white, erring on the warm side of the spectrum.  A yellow tinted food pic is more delicious looking than one that's too blue.  I always mess with the levels, because I tend to prefer the Martha-esque "light & bright" style over darker images.  And I usually adjust the shadow areas in photoshop.  If I were a more professional photographer, I'd use a fill light or a reflector during the shoot, but that gets complicated.  I need both hands to hold my camera (I don't use a tripod) so I'd have to set up more equipment to hold the reflector.  I hate gear, and I have no desire to be a professional photographer, so I keep it really simple.  But back to how I process photos.  There are basically three things I do to my photos:  adjust the color cast, adjust the brightness, and lighten the shadowed areas.  Occasionally I will use the clone stamp tool to remove an errant crumb or bit of lint.  As a visual thinker, composition is one thing that comes naturally to me, so I rarely crop photos.  I do sometimes think about stepping up my game, getting a better camera or lenses or a light box set up so I can take photos on par with some of my favorite food blogs, but the thought of more technology and more gear to deal makes me feel sort of…tired.  You know what I'd rather have than more gear?  Ducks.
Follow the link below to see more photos of Chef Jason Woods' beautiful dishes at Tavern restaurant.

Feb 14, 2012

Tough Love Ring

I sculpted the original for this ring around this time last year.  I had a mold made and a sample cast in new york city, but when I picked up the ring it looked so crappy that I got depressed and gave up on the design.  Months later, I had another cast from the same mold in Portland - just to test a hypothesis.  Lo and behold, the ring I had cast in Portland looked about ten times better than the one I had done in NYC (meaning less loss of detail and less hand work required for me to finish the ring).  And so I'm finally adding this design to the collection I'm working on.  

Sorry there aren't many photos showing how I sculpted the ring.  After transferring thousands of photos onto two external hard drives, I can't seem to find some I took in jewelry studio last year.  Oh well.  

Follow the link below to see how I made these rings.

Feb 13, 2012

Silver Arrow Earrings

Around this time last year, I sculpted, cast and fabricated a pair of bow and arrow earrings (which you can see here).  They looked super cool, but were a bit heavy and had some mechanical issues such that I decided not to sell them.  These arrow earrings evolved from that design.  I got kinda confused while I was making them, because the natural curve of silver wire that's stored in large loops grew on me as I made the earrings.  I began to think the arrows might be better curved rather than strait - more dynamic, more feminine.  I put the two versions up for a vote on Facebook, and found that my friends' opinions were as split as my own.  I didn't make enough pairs to offer both strait and curved versions in my Etsy shop, so I decided to go with my original, strait-as-an-arrow, design.  They're more severe looking than the curved version, and probably closer to my own style.
Follow the link below to see exactly how I made these earrings.

Feb 9, 2012

No Knead Rye Sandwich Bread

I didn't take a lot of photos while I was making this bread (I was focused on the concurrent elk pastrami project) but it turned out so well that I wish I had. I'll make the bread again soon, and either take more photos or film a video.  For now, I'll post the pics I have and give you the recipe.  

First, I whisked together in a large bowl:
2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Then I added the flours and caraway seeds:
2 cups white flour
1 cup rye flour
1 cup wheat flour
3 tablespoons caraway seeds

I mixed it all together and scraped the dough down into the bowl.  Then I loosely covered the bowl with a plastic bag and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next day I scraped the bubbly, sticky dough out of the bowl and onto a heavily floured surface.  I folded it over on itself - with plenty of flour - about three times.  Then I did my best to shape it into a ball.  The dough was heavy and wet, so the ball wasn't very tall.

Feb 8, 2012

Elk Pastrami

About a week ago, I experienced a sudden craving for a Rueben sandwich.  I briefly considered traveling down to the city to get one.  But no, in spite of the availability of a great pastrami sandwich in NYC, the dining experience leaves much to be desired.  I've got gobs of meat in the deep freeze at home anyway - half an elk, quarter of a cow, about 20 chickens.

It took a few days to come to fruition, but yesterday I enjoyed an excellent Rueben sandwich with elk pastrami and rye bread I made at home.

This is my first project from the Michael Ruhlman/Brian Polcyn book Charcuterie I received for Christmas.  I basically followed the recipe in the book, with some minor adjustments:

-I made half a gallon instead of a whole gallon of brine, and I left out the honey.  
-I used a super lean hunk of elk shoulder instead of a more fatty cut of beef.
-I coated the meat with olive oil before adding the spice crust.
-I used about three times the amount of coriander and black pepper to cover the meat than the Ruhlman recipe calls for.  
-I smoked for 2.5 hours with no regard to the internal temperature of the meat.  I didn't see why that mattered since I'd be slow cooking it in my oven after smoking.

The results were somewhere between very good and excellent.  Probably would have been excellent if I'd used a fattier piece of meat.  I will definitely make pastrami again.

Follow the link below to see exactly how I made the pastrami.

Feb 6, 2012

Rustic Dot Earrings

I was pretty psyched when I first learned how to use Precious Metal Clay (a clay made of super fine particles of precious metal that gets fired in a kiln).  In spite of how expensive it was, it seemed to offer a whole new world of jewelry making possibilities - with no material waste!  After taking a class, buying a ton of PMC-specific studio gear, and a year of working with the silver version of the clay, I concluded that there was not a whole lot of use for it in my designs.  For one thing, it's weak.  I mean that the resulting metal is porous and breakable in a way that traditional silver is not.  So if you have a relatively large design, especially one with any long/thin parts, they can easily be bent and broken apart.  Another issue is that the clay rapidly dries out as you work with it, and once it's dried it can never be used in the same way a fresh blob just out of the package.  You can reconstitute dried PMC with purified water, but it loses its original smoothness and remains somewhat grainy and even more difficult to work with.  I had hoped that working with PMC would allow me to solder less often, but that didn't turn out to be the case either, because the clay is so weak that you have to solder on traditional silver for any loops, earring backs or wires, etcetera if you don't want them to fall apart.  And did I mention how expensive PMC is?  $55 for .9 ounces of wet clay that amounts to even less after firing…what all this boils down to is that it's too stressful for me to work with PMC as a primary medium in my jewelry studio.  I'm still using the syringe version of PMC to set stones, and I like to tell myself that it was worth all the time and money I spent for that purpose alone.  I guess I'd better set a lot of stones.  

This "rustic dot" earring design converges my desires to make some simple stud earrings and find a way to use the reconstituted silver PMC clay I still have in my studio.  Follow the See More link below to see exactly how I made them.

Feb 3, 2012

Stag Fight Earrings

Sometimes, it makes more sense to pay someone to cast pieces in silver than for me to fabricate (meaning cut, file, hammer, and solder) them myself.  This pair of earrings is a perfect example.  They took me more than a whole day in studio to make, and at that level of input I'd have to sell them for $200 a pair.  What I should have done, and what I will do in the future is to fabricate the originals, have molds made of them, then pay another craftsperson to cast multiples from the molds. That'll add cost to the production of the earrings, but save enough hassle for it to be worthwhile for me.  I would still have to set the stones, solder wires to the backs of the earrings, oxidize, and polish the earrings, so they won't be cheap.  But hopefully a little more accessible price wise that what I'd have to sell these for.  

To see exactly how I made these earrings, follow the See More link below.