Every good cook needs recipes for basics such as stocks, dressings, pastry, etc. that work as building blocks for a better finished product. Of course you can use pre-made options such as frozen pastry or canned stock but making your own allows you the opportunity to control ingredients (packaged stocks can be loaded with sodium, for example). Plus, homemade always tastes better than packaged!
This is an evolving project so please be patient – I will be adding more recipes over time.
- Basic Pastry Crust
- Béchamel Sauce
Basic Pastry Crust – for sweet or savoury pies
Makes 2 pastry crusts to fit a 10″ to 12″ pie plate
The secret to good pastry is to handle it as little as possible and keep ingredients cold. The measures for ice water are not exact – add what you need to get the dough to stick together without being too wet.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1/3 cup butter
- Approximately 16 to 18 Tablespoons of ice water – Prepare a bowl of ice water and use more or less as needed
- In a large mixing bowl, add flour, baking powder and salt. Stir together to combine.
- Cut shortening and butter into small pieces and add to dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut into flour until it resembles coarse crumbs.
- Spoon ice water into mix, adding it a little at a time. Stir pastry dough every few tablespoons and stop adding water once the pastry can form a ball.
- Cut ball of pastry in half. Sprinkle a clean countertop with about 1/8 cup flour and place half of the dough on the counter. Press on dough ball until it is a flattened disk. Sprinkle a spoonful of flour over pastry disk.
- Working from the centre of the pastry disk, moving outward toward the edges, roll out pastry until it is thin. It will be larger in diameter than you need but can be trimmed to fit.
- Carefully move the pastry to your pie plate (fold pastry circle in half and then in half again so it is folded into quarters). Press into pie plate. Repeat rolling process with top crust. If making pastry in advance, cover loosely with a damp paper towel and plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes about 2-1/2 cups sauce
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2-1/2 cups milk (2% or whole)
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- Salt, to taste
- In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium heat until just melted. Whisk in flour, making sure it is fully incorporated into the butter. Cook flour/butter mixture for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Add 1/2 cup milk, whisking briskly as you pour it. Mix well into the flour and butter, ensuring it makes a smooth sauce with no lumps. Continue to add the rest of the milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly.
- Cook sauce for about 5 to 7 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Do not let the milk boil or burn. Add nutmeg and season with salt to taste.
Selecting Your Ingredients
Acid: There are many types of acid you can use such as lemon juice, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, white vinegar, white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, raspberry vinegar, red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, sherry vinegar, fig vinegar, balsamic vinegar…. The list goes on. Let your imagination run wild!
Oil: Use a neutral tasting oil as your main oil. Olive oil can work as long as it’s mild – you don’t want the dressing to taste overwhelmingly like olives. Other neutral oils such as canola, sunflower or safflower work very well and have a lighter taste (but unfortunately they are not lighter in calories). More ‘exotic’ oils such as avocado, walnut or sesame oil can be added in small quantities for flavouring to make a dressing that is unique and different.
Mustard: Dijon style mustards usually work best. Avoid using bright yellow ‘hot dog’ mustard – it’s a bit too harsh tasting for a vinaigrette. I generally prefer a smooth mustard over a grainy style.
Additions: While optional, adding a bit of minced garlic, diced shallot or finely chopped onion can give your dressing depth. Likewise, herbs and spices can help customize your dressing and make it more interesting. Add fruit juices such as orange or apple for a touch of sweetness.
Basic Vinaigrette – Proportions to Follow to Make a Custom Dressing
- 3 to 4 parts OIL
- 1 part ACID
- 1/6 part MUSTARD
- A pinch of SALT, to taste
- Optional ADDITIONS: Suggestions include finely minced fresh garlic, finely diced shallots, finely chopped herbs, a splash of fruit juice, 1/3 part honey or maple syrup, etc.
Add ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until combined.