Crust-ophobic no more

apple pie

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook has eliminated my fear of pie crusts.

Before Martha, I was crust-ophobic after only a couple of attempts at making pie crusts, partly because of inferior recipes and partly because I refused to use a food processor (I didn’t want to clean it!). I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I hadn’t been so lazy.

With the holidays coming up, I had decided to get over my fear of crust. After all, how silly is it to be afraid of pie crust? Pretty dumb, of course. But how important is the “perfect crust”? Ask the 10 or so women who showed up for a recent “technique class” on pie crusts at Williams-Sonoma in Little Rock. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a big deal.

With Martha’s pate brisee (the French version of classic pie or tart pastry), making a pie is a piece of cake! Using the food processor and following the recipe exactly made for a delicious crust with a nice, light texture. (In September, I made a blueberry pie for my husband’s birthday. Today it was apple [still working on my crimping skills — see photo]. Next time it will be coconut cream or banana cream. All from Martha’s handbook.)

The baking handbook has solved many of my recipe dilemmas, not just crust-ophobia. Say what you want about Martha Stewart, but when she puts her name on a recipe, you can rest assured that it will be foolproof.

Last week, my former co-worker paid me to make a cheesecake. Thinking of fall flavors, I told her I had recipes for pumpkin cheesecake, cheesecake with cranberry topping, and chocolate marble cheesecake (a flavor for every season!), but she said her husband wanted “plain cheesecake.” Again, Martha to the rescue. This time I turned to her Web site. My friend declared the cheesecake “awesome.”

Also last week, I made Martha’s ricotta cheesecake (from the book), and it was a big hit at Girls’ Night Out at church. My husband loved it, too.

The good thing about the baking handbook is that it contains more than just recipes and beautiful photographs. It explains techniques, equipment and terminology. (Perhaps it’s something only a devoted baker would appreciate.)

On her TV show recently, Martha talked to a caller who was “baking her way through” the baking handbook, determined to make every one of its 200-plus recipes.

What a great idea!

Stay tuned …

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