Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

I must admit, I have been working on this post for quite a while. It took quite a few iterations to get to this point.

I've been looking for a coconut oil pie crust recipe all over. I think I have finally found one that's just as good, or better, than one made with shortening.

For those of you who don't know, the coconut oil I'm talking about is solid at room temperature, but has a completely different texture and taste as vegetable shortening. I use organic coconut oil, and I love it. It has a very mild flavor, and is barely noticeable. 

You may ask why coconut oil? Well, I think it's very nutritious, and a good addition to a balanced diet. And, since I'm always looking for ways to eat healthier without feeling deprived, I thought I would give it a try.

Now, it's not as easy as substituting coconut oil for your favorite fat. It has a much different texture, and reacts much differently than shortening, oil, or even butter. So, it does take some adjusting to your favorite recipe. One of the things you learn quickly is a little goes a long way!

I've discovered the best way to incorporate coconut oil into a pie crust is to adjust the ingredients as well as modify the technique a bit. As coconut oil gets colder, it can be a bit difficult to work with. What I've found is to start with the coconut oil room temperature, incorporate that into the dry ingredients, and then go from there.

If you use frozen, grated butter as well as ice water, the butter doesn't get warm enough to compromise your pie dough. The addition of baking powder and sugar help maintain flakiness.

And, finally, I recommend rolling this pie crust a bit thinner than you normally would. It does produce a tender crust, but can be a bit less tender than a pie crust made with butter and shortening.

For a .pdf of the recipe, click here. Hope you enjoy the crust!

Coconut Oil Pie Crust

1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
6 oz frozen butter, shredded
1/4 c. coconut oil, at room temperature (which means it will be solid, and not liquid)
1/2 c. ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, cake flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Stir until well combined. Add coconut oil, and mix with your hands until mixture resembles fine sand. It’s important the coconut oil is fully combined with the flour mixture to avoid oily spots in the dough.

Add frozen shredded butter to the flour mixture, and incorporate the butter into the mixture. Since the butter is shredded, just toss the two items together to make sure the butter is evenly distributed throughout the flour.

Sprinkle about ½ of the ice water over the flour, then gently start folding the mixture together. Continue adding a bit of water at a time, and stirring until dough is formed. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight. Shape as desired, and use as normal pie crust.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strawberry Cookies with Orange Glaze

With this post, you are probably thinking I may have gone overboard (already) on strawberries, and it's only the start of the season...While I don't think you can really go overboard on fresh fruit coming into season, I may be pushing the envelope a little.

But, I couldn't help myself. I'm trying to eat lighter and healthier, but strawberries always call my name - just when I'm limiting my sweet stuff intake, they are much louder...and, of course, they are fruit, so they are healthy, right???

This year, for Easter, instead of my perfect coconut cake, I decided to make a tray of cookies for dessert. It just seemed to me the traditional ham, potatoes au gratin, roast asparagus, green salad, and Hawaiian Rolls was a bit of a heavy dinner. So, I wanted a dessert on the lighter side. My family is a bunch of cookie monsters, so they didn't complain. Well, that, and they could sneak cookies off the tray when I wasn't looking before dinner...can't do that with a cake!

So, this was the perfect opportunity to try incorporating some fresh fruit into cookies and see how it turned out. I've been thinking of this since I posted my Pineapple-Mango Oatmeal Cookies, and really wanting to try these out.

This is pictures of my first batch. I don't have pictures of my second batch - they were devoured too quickly. The addition of the orange glaze, suggested by my SIL, were the clincher that made these go from good to have to eat all of them now status.

I did want to mention my use of orange here. I'm surprised I don't see more strawberry items mixed with orange. Maybe it's just an old flavor combination, but it's a combination I really like. If you are looking for something to compliment your strawberry flavor, I suggest you use orange. I used fresh juice for my cookies, but you can use orange liqueur if you have it around. I added strawberry jam in the cookies to boost up the strawberry flavor. I like fruit desserts that have the fruit in different states of cooked - gently heated, cooked well (the jam), etc. It gives you more of a strawberry experience...Can't wait for raspberry season so I can try raspberry cookies like this...maybe with chocolate in the batter...may have to try that now, though!

For a .pdf of the recipe, click here. Enjoy the fresh strawberries while you can!

Fresh Strawberry Orange Cookies with Orange Glaze

Makes 24-36

For the cookies:

1/3 c. low sugar strawberry jam

½ c. sugar

½ c. butter, softened

1 egg

1 T. orange juice

½ t. fresh orange zest

2 c. flour

½ t. baking powder

2/3 c. diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium size bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add strawberry jam, egg, orange juice, orange zest, and any liquid from the strawberries. Stir in flour and baking powder, then fold in the strawberries. Dough may appear a bit dry, but that’s OK, the strawberries will add a bit more moisture.

Drop by tablespoon full on a cookie sheet, spacing about 1” apart. The cookies will spread a little, but not a great deal. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just lightly brown. Let cool on cookie sheet. Glaze with orange glaze, if desired.

For the glaze:

1 T. orange juice

1 c. powdered sugar

Stir orange juice and sugar together. If mixture isn’t thin enough to drizzle, add water, 1 drop at a time until you can easily glaze cookies.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Strawberry Kisses

It's strawberry season! Yay! I know it's quite early for that, but this winter has been so...wintery...that I was looking forward to fresh fruits and vegetables for such a long time. I've had these mini cupcakes in my head for quite a long time. Last year, I experimented with adding fruit butters to cupcake batter, and that turned out well, but tasted to me a little too cooked. But, keep in mind, I prefer freezer jams and all fruit preserves to heavy sugar jams and jellies. Well, unless it's ginger jam, then the sugar is nice...but that is another story.

This frosting was quite a challenge for me, too. My first attempt was an Italian Buttercream - but that fell apart when I added strawberry puree to it. My second attempt was another Italian Buttercream that boiled the strawberries with the sugar, but I couldn't get the proper temperature on the sugar mixture without burning the strawberries, so that didn't get very far.

I finally settled on an easy Buttercream that I had perfected last year, when I was experimenting with different fruit butters. Turns out, the orange liqueur adds the perfect compliment to the American Buttercream. The strawberries were flavorful enough to provide enough flavor for the frosting. This is very similar to the frosting I use fruit butters in, if you want to be daring and try an apple frosting, or a pumpkin frosting. Using fruit butters was perfect, since most of the moisture had been cooked out.

For a printable copy of the recipe, click here. Have a Blessed Easter!

Mini strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream AKA Strawberry kisses

For the cupcake (makes about 48-50):

½ cup sugar

½ cup mashed strawberries

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup milk

1 ½ c. flour

¾ t. vanilla or 1 t. orange liqueur

1 egg

½ t. salt

1 t. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini cupcake tins lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium size bowl, whisk sugar, strawberries, milk, and vegetable oil together until well combined. Add egg, salt, baking powder, and vanilla or orange liqueur. Whisk until well combined. Add flour, and stir until just incorporated. Don’t overmix, but make sure you have a nice batter.

Fill tins about 2/3 full. For my tins, this is about 1 Tablespoon of batter. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly brown on top. Cool and remove from pan.

For the frosting:

2 cups powdered sugar

½ t. orange liqueur or vanilla extract

1/3 c. strawberry preserves (I use all-fruit preserves with no sugar added, but any strawberry jam or preserves work)

½ c. butter, softened

1-2 t. milk

Combine butter and powdered sugar and mix until combined. Add strawberry preserves and extract, and whip until well combined and frosting takes on a pink tinge. Add enough milk for desired consistency, a few drops at a time (I only used about 3-4 drops of milk). Frost mini cupcakes and serve.