‘Baking Wisdom’: Recipes and Tips From Anna Olson
Pucker-worthy lemon bars with fresh blueberries are perfect for teatime or dessert. Photo: Janis Nicolay
Anna Olson, beloved pastry chef and longtime Food Network Canada personality, says her latest cookbook, Baking Wisdom: Everything You Need to Know to Make You a Better Baker (March 14), was inspired in part by “listening to readers’ baking questions and searching for answers.” As such, the 460-page volume, which includes her top baking tips and more than 150 perfected recipes, is sure to please.
When asked for her personal favourite recipe in the book, there’s no easy answer. After all, with so many delicious concoctions on offer, who could decide? “That’s a question with a changeable answer depending on the season, my mood and what baking happens to be preoccupying my mind at the time,” she told Zoomer via email.
“In this particular moment,” she adds, “I am eyeing meringue desserts, with thoughts of spring,” she says. “I love meringue … so that could be a Lemon Meringue Tart, Pineapple Pavlova or Giant Chocolate Meringues.”
Speaking of which, scroll down if you’d like to try Olson’s recipe for chocolate meringues. And if that isn’t sweet enough, we feature other recipes from the book, including Lemon Blueberry Bars with Crème Fraîche, a savoury quiche and sure-to-impress Salmon and Spinach Wellington.
But first, some culinary wisdom from Olson, including how to save on your grocery bill, dishes for stress-free entertaining and her fave flavour boosters.
Cooking on a Budget: With rising food costs and inflation, many readers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars at the grocery store. Do you have any tips for this?
While baking ingredients can be relatively simple, like flour and sugar, ingredients like butter, cream, nuts, chocolate and vanilla are dear. That doesn’t mean you have to stop baking, especially if it is a weekend hobby that makes you happy or you’re baking to celebrate an occasion that deserves a nice dessert. Plan your portions accordingly so that you’re not over-producing, and fortunately many baked goods can be frozen in their baked or unbaked forms. We are a household of two, so I rarely need ten Classic English Scones all at once, so I’ll bake two and freeze the rest, unbaked. That way I can thaw and freshly bake them later. Many recipes can be cut in half easily without compromising the end result.
You can also buy and freeze key ingredients when you find them on sale: butter, cream, nuts and even milk can be frozen. Have I been known to get a rain cheque if a sale item is sold out? You bet!
Insider Tips: Can you share your favourite flavour boosters — and any other secret weapons?
This is a great question, and one that actually relates to the above. Vanilla extract is so expensive these days, I look for flavour builders that let me reduce or eliminate the vanilla in a recipe. Lemon zest is a perfect example — it lends a wonderful aroma to a baked good and a subtle lemon flavour, but no tartness (since that comes from the juice). And a pinch of cinnamon also adds a wonderful perfume to baking as well, in place of vanilla. A number of desserts with centuries of (pre-vanilla) history, use lemon and cinnamon, such as Portuguese Custard Tarts.
Easy Entertaining: What is your go-to dish for cooking/entertaining without the stress?
Ah, a non-baking question! I love to serve roasted chicken just about any time of year (OK, maybe a grilled, split chicken in summer) because you can get it in the oven and forget about it for 90 minutes. And instead of a gravy, I roast the chicken with lemons and garlic (or marinated with lemons and garlic, if grilling) and make a vinaigrette instead of a gravy for it.
Must-Haves: What items/ingredients do you keep stocked in your pantry/fridge?
I am a butter girl and, as per above, I do buy on sale and freeze so that I never run out. I also always have at least one full dozen eggs (I get stressed if I run low on eggs … Is that a pandemic quirk for me? Maybe.) Other essentials are lemons and fresh thyme. For some reason we always seem to have at least three types of mustard in the fridge.
In the pantry, I keep the standards: tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, pastas of assorted shapes … the usual. But my spice cupboard is quite extensive, due to the recipe development I do. All the baking spices, but also saffron, Aleppo pepper, sumac, star anise, fun extracts like pandan and violet, and lots of spice blends like ras el hanout, garam masalas (about six different blends), and even a Georgian ajika seasoning blend (spicy and garlicky).
Finding Comfort: What is your go-to comfort food dish?
Butter chicken! I love the smell of it simmering away on the stove, and it’s so quick to make. A little warm naan brushed with garlic butter … mmm.
Snack Attack: What is your favourite snack, healthy and otherwise?
I may be known for making cookies, but I do keep my snacks pretty healthy: yoghurt, fruit, almonds, Medjool dates and the like. When we are taking food photographs (up to a dozen desserts a day!) we always have a plate with cucumbers and hummus to run interference in case we catch ourselves reaching for a (second, or third) cookie. And if I really need to put the brakes on overeating sweets, I eat a few olives (black or green, doesn’t matter). After eating a briny, bitter olive, the last thing you want to put in your mouth is something sweet. A pickle seems to do the same trick, if olives aren’t your thing.
Multigenerational: Favourite dishes to cook with the kids (or grandkids)?
My granddaughter is just over a year old, so I’ve loved witnessing her exploration of flavour. She’s going through a cheese and egg phase right now, and her face absolutely lit up at her first taste of arancini. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to strap on an apron and we can bake together. I have such fond memories of baking with my own grandmother, I’m excited for the new moments little Esmae and I will share together.
This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Giant Chocolate Meringues
These fluffy dollops of swirled chocolate meringue are just like the ones you see in pastry shop windows. What sets confectionery meringues apart from the ones used in other desserts like the Pineapple & Pink Peppercorn Pavlova is the amount of sugar. These ones are sweeter, and the additional sugar helps the outside of the meringue set up crisp yet tender, yielding to a slightly chewy, soft centre.
Makes: 6 giant meringues
Prep time: under 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
5 large egg whites
1½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of fine salt
2 tbsp (15 g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 225 F (107 C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Heat the egg whites and sugar. Whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt together in a metal bowl placed over a pot ﬁlled with an inch (2.5 cm) of gently simmering water. Warm the eggs to no more than 98 F (37 C), which helps the sugar to dissolve better as you whip the meringue. Warming the egg whites with the sugar fully dissolves the sugar, which gives the meringue its structure.
- Whip the egg whites. Transfer the warmed egg whites and sugar to a stand mixer ﬁtted with the whip attachment or use electric beaters to whip the whites to a stiff peak on high speed. Sift the cocoa powder overtop and fold it into the meringue, but only partly — you want to see streaks and ribbons of the cocoa powder and not have it fully mixed in.
Because these crisp meringues have a high sugar-to-egg ratio (sugar is double the weight of the eggs) it takes longer for the whites to reach a stiff peak and you really can’t overwhip them. Sugar stabilizes a meringue, so resist any temptation to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe — any less sugar and the meringues may collapse or crumble.
- Portion and bake. Use two large kitchen spoons to make six big dollops of meringue on the baking tray. Bake the meringues for 2 hours, until they lift easily away from the parchment paper. Cool the meringues on the tray on a rack. The meringues will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for
Lemon Blueberry Bars
Photo: Janis Nicolay
I love a pucker-worthy lemon bar, and the addition of fresh blueberries is a magical match for the creamy yet tart lemon filling. These bars can definitely be served in larger portions as a dessert.
Makes: one 9-inch (23 cm) square pan (24 bars)
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cook time: 50 minutes
1½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour
6 tbsp (48 g) icing sugar
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
½ tsp fine salt
½ cup (115 g) unsalted butter, cold
1¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (37 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (15 ml) finely grated lemon zest
²/³ cup (160 ml) fresh lemon juice
¹/³ cup (80 ml) sour cream or Crème Fraîche (recipe below)
4 large eggs
¾ cup (95 g) fresh blueberries
Icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan and line it with parchment paper so the paper comes up the sides.
- Make the crust. Stir the ﬂour, icing sugar, lemon zest and salt together in
a mixing bowl. Use a box grater to grate in the cold butter and use a pastry cutter or your ﬁngertips to work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a ﬁne, sandy mixture. Alternatively, you can pulse the butter into the ﬂour using a food processor. Tip the crust mixture into the pan, and using the back of a spoon, press it into the bottom and up against the sides just a little. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes, until it begins to brown a bit at the edges.
- While the crust bakes, prepare the ﬁlling. Whisk the sugar, ﬂour and lemon zest together in a medium bowl. Whisk the lemon juice and sour cream (or crème fraîche) in a small bowl to combine, then add to the sugar, whisking well. Whisk in the eggs until smooth and evenly combined.
- Pour the ﬁlling onto the hot crust. When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the ﬁlling over the still-hot crust. I find that pouring the filling onto the hot crust starts to cook the filling immediately, which helps prevent it from leaking around the edges (a common issue with lemon bars) and softens the base ever so slightly so that, once cooled, the bars slice without crumbling. Fresh blueberries are definitely preferred over frozen or dried in this recipe, to retain their shape and colour during baking. Of course, you can omit the blueberries for a classic plain lemon bar.
- Bake the bar for 15 minutes and then sprinkle the blueberries overtop. Continue baking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the ﬁlling is set when the pan is gently jiggled. If the ﬁlling rises up at the edges, turn down the oven temperature to 325 F (160 C). Cool in the pan on a rack and then chill for at least 4 hours before cutting into bars.
The bars will keep in an airtight container or loosely wrapped in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Crème fraîche is a high-fat soured cream made from whipping cream. It has 30% fat content and milder flavour compared to regular full-fat sour cream, which is 14% fat content and tangy, makes it a great addition to raw desserts and for whipping. Crème fraîche is delicious served in place of clotted cream with Classic English Scones and jam, or alongside sweet desserts like Sticky Toffee Date Loaf.
Makes: just under 1 cup (250 ml)
Prep Time: under 5 minutes (make a day ahead), plus resting
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1 Tbsp (15 ml) buttermilk or fresh lemon juice
- Sour the cream. Stir the cream and buttermilk (or lemon juice) together, place in a glass pitcher or bowl and cover. Set the pitcher into a larger bowl and ﬁll the larger bowl with hot tap water up to the line of the cream. Let sit on the counter for 24 to 36 hours. I find I get a tighter set to the crème fraîche using buttermilk, but don’t go and buy a large carton of buttermilk just for this 1 tbsp (15 ml) when lemon juice also works.
- Check and chill the crème fraîche. Lift the glass pitcher or bowl out of the water and look to see if there is liquid separated and sitting at the bottom. If not, let the pitcher sit out for another 12 hours (not in a water bath this time). Do not stir. Chill the pitcher for 3 hours, then spoon off the crème fraîche without stirring in the whey. Chill until ready to use.You can discard the whey or use it in place of buttermilk in a recipe. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for no more than 2 to 3 days.
If you are making the crème fraîche in wintry, dry weather, it can take almost
2 days to sour compared with under 24 hours on a hot, humid summer day. The key is to not stir in the liquid that naturally separates—this way you’ll have
a thick, rich crème fraîche after it has chilled. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until the best-before date of the whipping cream.
Salmon and Spinach Wellingtons
Classic beef Wellington is a dish made by wrapping a portion of beef tenderloin in puff pastry with a mushroom filling in between. With this salmon and spinach version, the assembly process is simplified and each diner will have their own individual pastry.
Makes: 4 pastries
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cook time: 20 minutes
1 tbsp (15 g) butter
1½ lb (675 g) fresh whole spinach leaves or 1 lb (450 g) frozen and thawed chopped spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
20 oz (600 g) Puff Pastry Dough (p. 162 or 164) or 4 sheets (900 g) store-bought all-butter puff pastry
4 (5 oz/150 g) skinless salmon fillets Medium egg wash (see below)
- Prepare the spinach. Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the spinach. Sauté until wilted (if using fresh) and any excess liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the spinach cool completely, then chill before assembling the Wellingtons. If you use fresh spinach, choose a large-leaf variety, which has a little more structure and flavour, instead of baby spinach.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Assemble the Wellingtons. If using homemade puff pastry, divide the dough into four portions and roll out each one into an 8-inch (20 cm) square. If using store-bought sheets of prerolled pastry, trim each piece to an 8-inch (20 cm) square. Divide half of the spinach among the pastry squares, mounding it in the middle. Lightly season the ﬁsh and place a ﬁllet on top of the spinach. Spoon the remaining spinach on top of the ﬁsh. Bring the corners of the pastry together, pinch the seams to seal the parcels and place, seam side down, on the baking tray. You can assemble the Wellingtons up to 6 hours ahead and chill before baking.
- Finish the Wellingtons. Brush each Wellington with the egg wash. Use the back of a paring knife to mark a pattern on top of each parcel, but do not cut through the pastry.
- Bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is a rich golden brown. Serve immediately. The Wellingtons are best hot from the oven right after baking. Leftovers can be reheated for 15 minutes in a 325 F (160 C) oven.
Puff Pastry Dough (Quick Method)
The first part of this technique for making puff pastry will remind you of making pie pastry, but with more butter. Because the butter is worked right into the dough sooner, it shortens the rolling and folding process and allows you to double up on the folds at each stage after resting. But don’t let the word “quick” fool you — you still need to leave at least an hour between each set of folds to allow the dough to relax.
Makes: just over 2.2 lb (1 kg) puff pastry dough
Prep time: 30 minutes, plus chilling
3 cups (450 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp fine salt
2 tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil 2 cups (450 g) unsalted high-fat butter (ideally 82% to 84%), cold, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
¾ cup (175 ml) cool water
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white vinegar or lemon juice
- Combine the dry ingredients and oil. Mix the ﬂour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil. Using a pastry cutter, electric beaters or a mixer ﬁtted with the paddle attachment, blend until the ﬂour looks evenly crumbly.
Just like my Classic Pie Dough recipe, I coat the flour with oil before adding the butter and liquids. This protects the flour from overhydrating and toughening up when the water is added.
- Add the butter and cut in until the dough is rough and crumbly, yet pieces of butter are still visible. Because this dough goes through repeated foldings, having plainly visible pieces of butter is acceptable before adding the liquids. The folding (laminating) process will flatten the butter pieces into thin sheets, ensuring a flaky pastry.
- Add the liquid. Mix the water and vinegar (or lemon juice) together, then add all at once to the ﬂour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Shape into a rectangle (the dough will seem rough and shaggy), wrap well and chill for an hour before rolling (1).
- Laminate the layers for the ﬁrst time. Dust a work surface and a heavy rolling pin well with ﬂour. Roll the dough into a 10 × 20-inch (25 × 50 cm) rectangle, brush off excess ﬂour (2) and fold into thirds (3, 4). Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat rolling the dough to a 10 × 20-inch (25 × 50 cm) rectangle. Brush off any ﬂour, then fold into a book fold. Wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour (and up to a day).
- Roll and fold the layers a second time. On the ﬂoured work surface, roll the dough into a 10 × 20-inch (25 × 50 cm) rectangle, brush off excess ﬂour and fold into thirds. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, repeat the rolling and then fold into a book fold (p. 165). Wrap and chill the dough for at least an hour (and up to a day).
- Do a ﬁnal fold. On a lightly ﬂoured work surface, roll, brush and fold the dough into thirds, then rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll, brush and fold into a book fold a ﬁnal time (5, 6, 7). Wrap the dough again and chill for at least 2 hours (up to a day) before using.
The puff pastry dough can keep, well wrapped in plastic, in the fridge for up to 4 days. Alternatively, portion and freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
Puff Pastry Dough (Inverted Method)
This non-traditional technique for making classic French puff pastry ensures a remarkably flaky and tender puff pastry that rises evenly and rolls out easily. Whereas a traditional puff pastry is made by wrapping a block of butter (beurrage) with a flour/water dough (détrempe) and then folding them together, this recipe does the reverse. It is no more challenging than the traditional way but yields more consistent results. This recipe makes enough for an assortment of baked items. If you have more than you need, freeze the excess dough for later use. Simply thaw it in the fridge before rolling and using.
Makes: about 3 lb (1.4 kg) dough
Prep Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling
4 cups (600 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) cool water
½ cup + 1 tbsp (130 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice or white vinegar
3 cups (675 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (150 g) all-purpose flour
- Prepare the détrempe. Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and blend all of the ingredients together on low speed. Once blended, increase the speed one level and mix for 4 minutes. Shape the dough into an 8-inch (20 cm) square, wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Prepare the beurrage. Beat the butter with the flour in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with plastic and scrape the butter into the pan, spreading it to level (it will be soft). Chill until it is the same consistency as the détrempe—this could take 30 to 90 minutes. If the beurrage sets firmly or you are making it well ahead, let it soften to just cooler than room temperature. Butter in Canada is 80% milk fat (butter fat), with the remaining 20% being milk solids and water. In Europe, butter is often 82% or 84% butter fat, making for richer, flakier pastries. You can find this higher-fat butter in Canada, or you can create your own 84% blend.
- Laminate the layers for the first time. (1) Dust a work surface and a heavy rolling pin well with flour. Place the beurrage onto the work surface. Using the rolling pin, roll the beurrage into a rectangle about 9 × 16 inches (23 × 41 cm). Lift the beurrage occasionally to ensure it isn’t sticking to the work surface (after the first roll, it does not stick at all). Place the détrempe in the centre of the beurrage (2) and fold the beurrage over to completely envelop the détrempe (3, 4). Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 × 20 inches (25 × 50 cm), dusting the dough and the work surface with flour as needed. Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour, then fold the pastry into thirds (5, 6). Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat rolling the dough to a 10 × 20-inch (25 × 50 cm) rectangle, brushing it off and folding into thirds again. Wrap the dough and chill for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 1 day.
- Laminate the layers a second time. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough again into a 10 × 20-inch (25 × 50 cm) rectangle, brush off any excess flour and fold into thirds. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, repeat
- Do a final fold. On a lightly floured work surface, roll, brush and fold the dough into thirds, then rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll, brush and fold into thirds a final time (7, 8, 9). Wrap the dough again and chill for at least 2 hours before using.
The puff pastry dough can keep, well wrapped in plastic, in the fridge for up to 4 days. Alternatively, portion and freeze the dough for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before using.
How to Make & Use Egg Wash
An egg wash is a combination of egg and water or cream that’s brushed on an unbaked pastry to add shine and promote an even browning during baking. The type of egg wash will determine the level of browning you get. Crispness is rarely a factor when adding an egg wash — it is about colour and shine only. Refrigerate unused egg wash in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Type of Egg Wash
Light egg wash (used for adding shine without extra browning):
Whisk one large egg with 2 tbsp (30 ml) cold water.
Medium (the most commonly used):
Whisk one large egg with 1 tbsp (15 ml) cold water.
Dark (typically used only for puff pastry and croissants when a dark and intense shine is desired):
Whisk one large egg with 1 tbsp (15 ml) whipping cream, or whisk two egg yolks with 1 tbsp (15 ml) whipping cream.
Bacon, Beer & Mushroom Quiche
While a quiche is known as a savoury tart made up of an egg filling with added ingredients, this version is more like a lot of tasty fillings bound with a little egg. The bacon, mushrooms and cheese are bolstered by adding onions and carrots, and the wheat beer brings all the flavours together without being overly rich or heavy.
Makes: one 9-inch (23 cm) quiche
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
3 strips thick-cut bacon (about 4 oz/120 g)
1 cup (125 g) finely diced onions (1 medium onion)
1 cup (100 g) coarsely grated carrots (1 medium carrot)
4 oz (125 g) sliced cremini or button mushrooms
¾ cup (175 ml) wheat beer
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
¹/³ cup (80 ml) half-&-half cream
½ recipe Classic Pie Dough, rolled to 9 inches (23 cm), then partially blind-baked (see below) and cooled
1 cup (110 g) grated Emmenthal or Gruyere cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Line a plate with paper towel.
- Prepare the filling. Slice the bacon into lardons (narrow strips). In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, stirring often. Transfer the bacon to the lined plate to drain. Reserve 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the bacon fat from the pan and discard the rest. Add the onions, carrots and mushrooms and sauté over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions appear translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the beer, salt, pepper and nutmeg and simmer the vegetables until all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the eggs well and then whisk in the whipping and half-&-half creams. Whisk your eggs very well before adding any liquids to ensure the eggs are well blended. This is an all-around good habit, even when making something as simple as scrambled eggs.
- Assemble the quiche. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the partially blind-baked pastry shell on top (still in its pan). Sprinkle the cooled vegetables over the bottom of the pie, then sprinkle with the bacon, followed by the cheese. Carefully pour the eggs into the pastry, giving them time to cascade and fill in between the vegetables, bacon and cheese. The quiche will not be filled to the top of the pan, but the eggs will expand as the quiche bakes.
- Bake the quiche for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C) and continue to bake for about 20 minutes more, until the quiche is set and golden brown.
- Cool the quiche in its pan on a rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing to serve warm.
The quiche can also be baked a day ahead and chilled, then rewarmed for 20 minutes in a 350 F (180 C) oven.
Spinach, Chevre, Olive & Lemon Quiche:
For a lighter, summery quiche: Replace the bacon, onion, carrot, mushrooms and cheese with 1 lb (450 g) frozen spinach, thawed, drained and excess water squeezed out. Stir one clove of finely minced garlic and the zest of one lemon into the spinach and arrange on the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle ½ cup (90 g) pitted kalamata olives and 4 oz (120 g) crumbled fresh goat cheese overtop, then pour over the egg mixture and bake as above.
Classic Pie Dough
An all-butter pie dough delivers a rich taste and a tender flakiness to any pie, savoury or sweet. This is my staple pie dough that I have been using for at least 10 years, ever since I discovered that adding a little oil before the butter protects the flour and that the butter does not have to be ice cold, contrary to popular belief.
Makes: enough for one 9-inch (23 cm) double-crust pie
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus chilling
2½ cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
1 tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt
3 tbsp (45 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (225 g) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces (does not have to be ice cold)
¼ cup (60 ml ) cool water
2 tsp white vinegar or fresh lemon juice
- Combine the dry ingredients by stirring the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil. Using a pastry cutter, electric beaters or a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend until the flour looks evenly crumbly. Adding a little vegetable oil to the flour before adding the butter is another secret for tender and flaky pie dough. The oil coats the flour so that it won’t overhydrate when the water is added. Too much water develops the protein in the flour, which is why a crust becomes tough or shrinks when it bakes.
- Add the butter and cut in until the dough is rough and crumbly but small pieces of butter are still visible. I have found that working with cool — but not ice-cold — butter is easiest. Pull your butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before making your dough and it will cut into the flour quickly and more evenly.
- Add the liquids. Place the water and vinegar (or lemon juice) in a small bowl, stir together and then add all at once to the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together. Shape it into two discs, wrap well and chill until firm, at least 1 hour. While butter is ideal, if you prefer to use vegetable shortening, omit the oil and increase the added water to 7 tbsp (105 ml). This balances the fat-to-water ratio, since butter is 80% fat and shortening is 100% fat.
- If you are not making a pie immediately, refrigerate the dough, well wrapped, for up to 2 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before rolling.
Excerpted from Anna Olson’s Baking Wisdom: The Complete Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Make You a Better Baker (with 150+ Recipes) by Anna Olson. Copyright © 2023 Olson Food Concepts Inc. Photography by Janis Nicolay. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
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