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Tips for Better Baking – European Butter (#47)

Tips for Better Baking | www.TheHungryTravelerBlog.com

When I teach baking classes, I always include a small lecture about my favorite ingredient — high quality European-style butter. Many of my students are unfamiliar with European-style butter and are amazed at the difference when they bake with it for the first time.  Here are some of the questions and answers that I usually go over in my baking classes:

What is the difference between regular butter and European-style butter?

European-style butter has a higher butter fat content than regular butter (labeled as ‘sweet cream butter’ in the grocery store). This means there is less water in the butter and more butter fat and milk solids. With European-style butters, the butter fat content is around 83-86% while traditional butter is around 80%.

Why is European-style butter better for baking?

Water creates tough pastry so it makes sense to use a butter than contains less water. With European-style butter, you’ll notice a more tender, flaky pastry. Additionally, water is what causes pie crust to shrink when baking, so you will notice less shrinkage when using a higher quality butter. European-butter also has a luscious texture and full, creamy taste that adds another layer of flavor to baked goods. I also enjoy the rich yellow color of European-style butter.

Do I need to use European-style butter in all of my baking?

European-style butter is more expensive than ordinary butter so you don’t need to use it in everything. If you’re making pie dough, laminated doughs, pastries, caramel candies, or something where butter a main flavor, then consider using European-style butter. When ever I am baking something special or want the best possible result, I spring for the European-style butter.

Where do I find European-style butter?

Most grocery stores carry at least one brand of European-style butter. My favorite brands include Plugra, Kerrygold, and Land O’Lakes European Style Butter.

 

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All Butter Pie Crust – Part 1: Mixing the Dough

All Butter Pie Crust

My absolute favorite thing to bake is pie crust. I’ve always had a love for pie, but making pie dough did not come easily for me.  I can remember several Thanksgiving and Christmas pie baking attempts that resulted in burnt edges, crusts slumped and shrunk in the pan, a broken food processor, a major burn on my arm, and last-minute runs to buy pre-made pie crust from the grocery store. I never gave up, but after the first few meltdowns my neighbor Chris started stocking extra pre-made pie crusts in her freezer to give to me when mine turned into disaster.

I finally decided it was time to get over my pie crust issues and my mom and I took the Pies A Plenty class at Zingerman’s Bake! in Ann Arbor. This class taught me a lot about the science and technique behind pie dough and gave me the confidence to keep trying to make pie crust.

All Butter Pie Crust

While I learned a lot from the class at Zingerman’s, the key to my success has been practice. Since last summer, I’ve made at least 100 pies and stuck to the same basic all butter pie crust recipe each time. I’ve taken the standard pie dough recipe that was given to me at the Zingerman’s class and made it my own. Using the same techniques and ratio of ingredients has allowed me to become familiar with the dough, learn its characteristics and tendencies, and troubleshoot when things get a little messy. I’ve gone from countless crust disasters to becoming a pie baker who is known for her great crust.

Pie crust can evoke fear in even the most experienced bakers and cooks. I’m here to tell you that it is time to get over that fear. Homemade pie crust is just too good and if you like to bake, it should be in your arsenal. I’ve made it my mission to learn about pie crust over the last year and now I want to share my pie dough knowledge and encourage people to make pie dough at home.

Once you start making pie crust from scratch, you will never go back to the store bought stuff. The homemade version has so much more flavor, better ingredients, and a more tender, flakier texture. I won’t lie and tell you that making pie crust is easy. It takes patience, practice, and confidence. But, once you give it a try, you’ll find it’s a fun challenge and your crust-making abilities improve with every single pie.

All Butter Pie Crust

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be sharing quite a few pie recipes on this site. Next month, I am teaching a pie crust class at Cooks’Wares and I am currently getting prepared by developing a few new recipes and fine-tuning some of my favorites. I will be posting them here as I go.

Today, we will start by talking about mixing the dough.  I’ve put together a step-by-step photo tutorial of every step in the dough mixing process and later this week we will go over how to roll out pie dough.

I hope the photos and details help to explain the accompanying recipe and I am always here to answer questions and help troubleshoot via the comments below, Facebook, or email.

All Butter Pie Crust

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Tips for Better Baking – Week Four

Every day in January I am sharing my best Tips for Better Baking. These are tips that have made my kitchen life easier and helped me become a better baker. Follow along on Facebook or check back here each Sunday for a roundup of the week’s tips.

If you’re just joining us, be sure to check out

Tips for Better Baking Week One

Tips for Better Baking Week Two

Tips for Better Baking Week Three

 

Tips for Better Baking #19 – Give Pie Dough 1/8-turns for a Perfect Circle

I learned this trick when I took the ‘Baking Pies A Plenty’ Class at Zingerman’s Bake! in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  To roll pie dough out in a perfect circle, give the dough 1/8-turn after each pass with the rolling pin.  Most recipes say to give the dough a 1/4-turn which often leads to a oblong or more square shape.  With a little practice, the 1/8-turn works.

Tips for Better Baking - Learn how to become a better baker!  | The Hungry Traveler

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Tips for Better Baking – Week One

Every day in January I am sharing some of my best Tips for Better Baking.  These are tips that have made my kitchen life easier and helped me become a better baker.  Follow along on Facebook or check back here each Sunday for a roundup of the week’s tips.

Tips for Better Baking #1 – Use a scale, start weighing your ingredients, and get comfortable working in grams. 

Using a scale and weighing your ingredients is the number one way to improve your baking.  If you’re trying to get 1 cup of flour, the results can vary greatly based on how you fill the measuring cup, but 1 ounce is always 1 ounce and 100 grams is always 100 grams.  It’s a much more accurate way of measuring ingredients and once you get comfortable working with a scale, it’s much easier too.

I have created a handy Cups to Grams Baking Conversion Chart that includes the most common conversions needed in baking. I recommend printing it out and taping it to the back of your kitchen cupboard doors. Click here to download the chart and a free tutorial on how to use it.

I recommend this My Weight Kitchen Scale because it’s easy to use, fast, and lightweight.  It’s also really affordable for such high quality.

Tips for Better Baking - Get comfortable using a scale to weigh your ingredients.  It's more accurate and your baked goods will be better!

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