Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mmmmmm pie.

I can count the number of pies I’ve made on my fingers. I’m hoping to include toes soon. In spite of my low number I really do love baking pies. I have a beautiful pie plate that needs more use. So in honour of Thanksgiving this past weekend I baked an apple pie for one of the three dinners I have attended/will be attending (2 down, one to go).

I couldn’t remember what recipe I used for my last crust, so I hashed together a new crust recipe! Based entirely off the proportions for good ol’ Barefat’s “Deep Dish Apple Pie”. Except I replaced the shortening with DUCK FAT and the water with VODKA.

Let me explain a few things for you, in case those last two ingredients make you question my sanity (it’s ok, I totally understand). I’m big into the idea of animal fat over shortening. I mean shortening has its place, I’m sure. It makes for flakey things, and I use it when I need to. It’s just, believe it or not, way creepier than animal fat. The process you go through to render fat from various vegetables? That shit shouldn’t happen man. It just shouldn’t. But animal fat? That is a much more reasonable and natural process. Just embrace it and pretend you’re European, or a cowboy, or whatever. The extra bonus of animal fat is that the exceptionally attractive butcher will explain to you all the differences between the animals. Lard (pig fat) is the cheapest of animals fats, and is good for use in sweet or savory pies. Beef is ok too, but should really only be used in savory crusts. Chicken tastes SUPER chicken-y, so not such a good plan. Duck, ah yes duck, it’s the most expensive (other than goose I’d assume, or polar bear, but I’m not THAT fancy…. yet), but it is exceptional for all types of crust. OH, THE TASTE! So I use duck fat. It smells a little woody, but it’s soft and easy to work with. And you can freeze it.

My choice of vodka as a substitute for water is not based on my love of a good tipple, no,  but instead: SCIENCE. The problem with water is that when it meets flour it gets gluttony, or something, and makes for a tougher, less flakey crust the more you work with it. Using vodka means you can have a wetter dough which is easier to work with, without sacrificing flake. Go team vodka!

People, my pie-hating sister ATE ALL THE PIE. This crust is THAT good. So I will share it with you.

Duck Fat Vodka Pie crust:

This recipe will make a bottom crust and a top crust.

Make sure all your ingredients are very cold, but not frozen.

1 ½ sticks of good unsalted butter, cubed

1/3 cup duck fat, splodged (it doesn’t really cube as it’s so soft, like all our fatty bits!)

3 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 tablespoon white sugar

½ cup of ice cold vodka (I like to pour myself a glass on the rocks and measure it out from there)

1 egg and a splash of milk for the eggwash, keep separate.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 415 F (an odd number but it worked). Stick a tin foil lined baking tray on the lower rack to catch all the tasty juices that will inevitably ooze out of your pie. This way your kitchen won’t smell like it’s on fire. Maybe.
  2. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  3. Throw butter and duck fat in with the flour and cut in with two knives, continue until it’s a bowl full of pea-sized floury buttery bits. I usually get impatient and start using my hands. This works especially well if you are a vampire, or have naturally cold hands.
  4. Slowly pour in the ice cold vodka, and work into dough with your fingers until it’s all just combined.
  5. Divide dough into two disks, and put in fridge for 30mins, or forever. It’s up to you.
  6. After you’ve made your filling, or washed your hair, or whatever, roll out the dough until it looks like a big enough circle to fit into your pie plate with some over-hang. THEN (here’s a handy tip), fold it in half (or into a quarter triangle guy) and place it in the dish, and then unfold in the dish. This avoids breaking it to a billion pieces. SMART. Press gently into the dish.
  7. Pile in your filling! I used a cinnamon spiced apple filling and piled it in HIGH, but do whatever makes you happy! Peaches, plums, pears, whatever!
  8. Do the same but with the top! I cut out ADORABLE hearts, but if you don’t want to be barf-tastic, just make some slits with a knife, or whatever. Your pie is like a puppy, it needs to breath! So make some breathing holes.
  9. Eggwash your pie! Dip a brush into the eggwash you made, and then paint the top of your pie with it. I forgot this step, but I just did it 45mins into baking. It worked out fine.
  10. BAKE! I baked mine for about 1h 25mins, the crust was a delicious golden brown and the juices were bubbling and gurgling and leaking on to the tray below nicely. I’d start checking in about 45mins in, if your top is getting too golden for your liking, place some tinfoil on top!

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You can give them to the birds and bees…

I have just entered month four on my new, much tighter budget, and against everything I imagined, it is going extraordinarily well. I’ve actually- shock horror -managed to save $900.00, which is insane. And counter-intuitive.

 

I was lucky with timing as July was a bountiful month in terms of cash flow. I structured my budget based on two pay cheques a month, but July happened to be one of those moths where I am paid thrice! So that started me off in very good financial standing. I also received my income tax refund and a couple other government rebate cheques. That is where all of my savings has come from. I am currently looking at my savings strictly as “in case of emergency” money, though as it’s my birthday I might treat myself to a little something something.

Also, to fully disclose, I have been helped out every so often by my wonderful boyfriend, who picks up the tab for meals out and the occasional grocery trip. I like to think that I pay him back by feeding him doughnuts.

But the most important part in any kind of financial planning is to not spend more than you earn. And I am most certainly keeping within those bounds, and Mint has been a crucial part in managing all my money. It allows me to account for every single penny I earn and then subsequently spend.

Now that I count every single penny I spend, I spend my pennies much more wisely than I used to. Here is a fabulous pie chart showing the break-down of my monthly spending for September:

The most conspicuous changes in my spending are that I haven’t bought a single article of clothing since April (except for two bras which were not only VERY necessary but also VERY on sale!), I bring lunch in to work pretty much every day (added bonus being I am cooking a lot more, which makes me happy), and my restaurant and alcohol expenditure has been cut significantly. I still budget in dinners and nights out, just not nearly as much as I used to. Now, I actually look at the price of the products I buy. I am fortunate enough, however, that my tighter budget allows me to continue making meaningful choices. For example, I allocate enough money to groceries that I can continue to buy organic, free-range meat and eggs, as these things are important to me.

There are some things in my budget that surprisingly were a surprise. My dog, for example, is the thing I spend the most money on after rent and groceries. Because I’m a sucker, or responsible, – you decide –  she gets fancy brand dog food that costs $60 a month, pet insurance for another $60, and a bag of treats for $7 or so each month. I could cut those costs by more than half by chucking the insurance and getting crappier food, but as I’m 100% in charge of her life and welfare it’s just not something I’m inclined to do. While I feel no remorse for living off ramen myself, I don’t want to purposefully inflict a crap diet on something that has no other choice, so Sprinkles dines on wild boar and sweet potato. I do fine too, as I noted above, with my affinity for local, happy livestock. Though, man, do I love a bowl of ramen.

Thus far, I’m doing really well. I’m pretty proud at my self-restraint and my abilities to manage money, as I have been known to be a little out of control. I’ve also learned what things are important to me that I am more unwilling to bend on: Coffee still gets a budget, while H&M has lost some business.

 

Let’s hope I can stay the course!

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