Home Cookin'

Harvest time in Iowa is also county and state fair time. Farmers are showing off the best of their crops and herds. Also, various cooking contests are taking place. Cookies, cakes, pies, casseroles, main dishes, and all other manner of food is brought before the judges to be judged on its appearance, texture, taste and quality.

After visiting the state fair, I thought to myself, HMMM, what other award-winning recipes could I find to try for my family. So I gathered together the recipes I could while at the fair. Some of the winners wanted to keep their secret ingredients to themselves for a shot at next year's prize, but most were willing to part with their secrets. One thing I discovered is there is a lot of controversy over piecrusts; some will insist that the best piecrust can only be made with the traditional lard, whereas Martha Stewart insists that a butter crust is best. You can judge for yourself. You can try them with the cherry pie recipes below and see which is flakier.

Two-crust Piecrust (Using Lard)

Two-crust Piecrust (Using Lard)
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. lard
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. ice water

Combine the flour and salt. Cut in the lard. Beat together the vinegar, egg and water. Add just enough to the flour mixture to form a ball.

If the dough's cold, you can roll it right away. Otherwise, roll it into a ball and chill it for a few hours first.

To form the crust, pat the ball into a patty, and then roll it out on a clean, floured dishcloth. Sprinkle flour on the rolling pin and the dough if the pin sticks. You should change rolling directions to keep the dough in a uniform circle. Drape into a pie dish and crimp the edges. Fill and bake according to your pie recipe.

  • Yields: Enough dough for a 2-crust pie
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time, if required

Flaky Butter Pie Crust

The key to a flaky crust is very cold butter and ice water, which keeps the butter separate from the flour. When the crust bakes, the butter melts and the steam released causes air pockets, which gives the crust its flaky texture.
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cake flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 - 4 tbsp. ice water

Stir or pulse together the dry ingredients. Pulse (food processor), paddle (mixer), or cut (by hand) in the butter pieces until the mixture has a sandy appearance, but there are still small chunks of butter throughout. If you're mixing by hand, work fast, because the mixture needs to stay cold -- if the butter starts to melt, refrigerate it for a half an hour to re-chill the butter.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ice water over the dough and combine it well with a fork. The dough is ready when it holds together when you squeeze it. If it crumbles, sprinkle in a bit more water until it holds.

If the dough's still cold, you can roll it right away. Otherwise, roll it into a ball and chill it for a few hours first.

To form the crust, pat the ball into a patty, and then roll it out on a clean, floured dishcloth. Sprinkle flour on the rolling pin and the dough if the pin sticks. You should change rolling directions to keep the dough in a uniform circle. Drape into a pie dish and crimp the edges. Fill and bake according to your pie recipe.

  • Yields: Enough dough for a 2-crust pie
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus chilling time, if required

Chris` Favorite Cherry Pie

  • 2 (1 lb.) cans tart cherries, water packed
  • 4 tbsp. tapioca
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • red food coloring, optional

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Let the mixture stand for 5 minutes, then cook it over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Pour the filling into a pie shell. Add the top crust. Bake for 40-45 minutes at 400 degrees.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Quick and Easy Cherry Pie

  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 pre-made pie shell (I like to make several pie crusts ahead and freeze them until needed.)

Pour the pie filling into crust. You can then top with granola or strips of crust to make a patchwork pie topping. Brush with butter and sprinkle sugar over the top. Bake the pie for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until the crust is done. An As an alternative, you can pre-bake the piecrust, so that it isn't as mushy. Just brush it with egg whites and bake it for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 45 minutes

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