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5 No-Fail Secrets to Perfect Pie Crust

5 No-Fail Secrets to Perfect Pie Crust

A summer fruit pie is always impressive, especially when you know how to make your own perfect pie crust. As a bonus, they can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer for nearly on-demand fresh pie whenever the mood strikes or you’ve had a successful trip to the farmers market.

If you’re on a quest to eat more real food, you should cast a skeptical eye towards “convenience” foods. Supermarket shelves are full of items that can be made at home easily, and where only you choose the ingredients. For example, a typical store-bought pie crust can contain as many as a dozen ingredients, including preservatives and artificial colors. Gross. Don’t buy it, make it!

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The simplest and best homemade pie crusts contain flour, a little sugar and salt, fat of some kind, and a liquid to hold it all together. Many recipes are out there that use these ingredients in different proportions: some use butter for the fat, which I prefer, while others use lard or shortening. Sometimes water is used as the liquid and sometimes it’s milk or buttermilk. The best success I’ve had comes from using a recipe from Deb Perelman, and it uses the following ingredients to make enough for one double-crusted pie.

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 oz (or two sticks) unsalted butter

Use any recipe you like as long as you incorporate these secrets of success.

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1.  Keep everything cold.

First, cut the butter up into small cubes, place them on a plate, and stick them in your freezer while you prepare the other ingredients. Then, fill a measuring cup with about a cup of water and a few ice cubes, and put it in the fridge.

2.  Use only real butter.

Not only will butter give you the right flakiness, it imparts a wonderful flavor that’s far superior to shortening.

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3.  Use a large, wide bowl for easier mixing.

Measure and combine the dry ingredients, whisking them together.

4.  Don’t overdo the mixing.

Add the very cold butter cubes to your dry ingredients and begin to work them in using either a pastry blender or your hands. I use my hands because I don’t own a pastry blender and don’t care to buy one. Just squeeze the cubes between your fingers while incorporating the ingredients and stop as soon as you have a coarse mixture with visible pieces of butter that are about the size of peas.

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5.  Use liquid sparingly.

Begin to drizzle in the cold water while stirring with a rubber spatula. You’ll probably need somewhere between 3/4 cup and a full cup to successfully hold the flour and butter together. This is another opportunity to get your hands in there and incorporate any stray globs of flour and butter. Again, don’t over-mix—just work the dough just until it holds together and you can pick it up out of the bowl.

Now, form the dough into a ball, cut it in half, and form a disk from each half. Wrap in plastic and put them in the refrigerator for at least an hour before use. If you’d like to store the dough in the freezer instead, wrap the dough disks tightly with a double layer of plastic which will protect them from freezer burn and prevent any lingering odors from getting into your dough.

Remember that making more of something takes no more effort than making less. Consider making at least a double batch of pie crust dough so your freezer is always stocked: you can pull them out and defrost them in the refrigerator overnight for a delicious pie the next day.

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12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

12 Best Brain Foods that Improve Memory

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and black tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here:

11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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