I cook from scratch almost every meal at home. The food is fast and not anything brilliant, but it has been fun to get the Bean more involved as he grows. He can dump ingredients into a bowl and crack an egg with the best of them, usually no shells. He loves the carrot peeler, because it has a sharp blade. We have a relatively stable stool that he pulls up to the counter to reach all kinds of things, many of them dangerous or messy, and now there’s yet another unsafe surface in our home where I can’t put something out of his reach.
Recently I walked into the kitchen to find him in his chair at the table playing with the butter dish. For years we did not own a butter dish, and the butter was always hard in the fridge, and then I started bread making, and hard butter just doesn’t cut it on hard bread, which is usually the case with our family’s bread because I keep insisting on substituting whole wheat flour for white flour even though I know it will be dense and not as good.
My mother heard of our plight – the butter plight, not the bread plight – and gifted us a classy, clear glass butter dish. Unfortunately in its minimalism it is absurdly lacking in common sense. We keep the butter dish near the stove because our entire kitchen is near the stove, so the butter is always drippingly soft, and it gets all over the butter dish lid which has no handles, and when you try to pick up that thoroughly greased, slope sided glass item, it becomes an instant projectile. My father, who enjoys mixing up classic phrases, likes to say “Like a knife through hot butter!”, and we have proven it in our house.
So since the butter dish is both messy and potentially dangerous, the Bean was enjoying playing with it. And then I observed him take a giant bite, no hands, out of the dead center of the stick of firmer-than-usual butter. Apparently he really likes butter, as illustrated by the following conversation a few weeks later:
Momma: Would you like some cheese?
Bean: On pancakes.
I’ve recently stopped inflicting my whole wheat loaves on my family and have taken to quiche, which I think is a more balanced meal, though The Hubs would argue that bread and butter is a complete meal in itself, as long as you eat a lot of it and include great quantities of jelly. Quiche is a delight, and the flavor and consistency of the custard generally make up for any faux pas you might have with the crust. I am working hard at a consistent pastry crust because I’d like to offer quiche for brunch at the restaurant, but only if it doesn’t make me cry on Saturday at 11:45pm when I’m baking four of them and cursing my menu choices.
The Serious Eats Food Lab explanation of pie crust – rethinking the common wisdom of crust as fat coated flour, and instead as flour coated fat – has made me appreciate butter. It has also made me appreciate good Play-Doh. J. Kenji, the chef/teacher/scientist/geek who won my heart when he once hardboiled over 1,200 eggs to figure out why some of them stick to the shell when you peel them and some of them don’t*, wrote a meticulously researched pie crust recipe that has been working nicely for quiche. At the very end, he mentions that after chilling for two hours, it should roll out smoothly: “seriously, it rolls like Play-Doh.” Now I am quite familiar with Play-Doh and I think his crust rolls out better than either of the two options we have at our house. One is legit, branded Play-Doh which is slowly solidifying despite our best efforts. It’s currently as easy to roll as a boneless steak and causes great consternation. The other, which I’ll call PlayDuh, is a thirty year old recipe from Bean’s Grammy which would have made a brilliant batch of modeling substance had I not forgotten to buy regular flour and then after all the other ingredients were already mixed together and the child had been promised that something fun would result had to use…can you see where this is going? Whole grain, whole wheat flour. This is the most hippy, wheat germ-y PlayDuh you’ve ever seen. It manages, somehow, to be simultaneously buttery and incredibly gritty.
So, since this is sort of a food blog, here are the aforementioned recipes for pie crust and PlayDuh, but I’ll warn you: I wouldn’t substitute whole wheat flour for either of them.
Cook 3-5 minutes until a ball forms, then let cool. Add food dye if you desire.
*Despite all the research, the conclusion is that nobody really knows.
Megan Lindsey is an owner and founder of Franktuary restaurants in Pittsburgh, PA, a new mother, and, whenever possible, a writer, homemaker, and musician. Follow her adventures as #RestaurantMom at franktuary.com/blog.
Restaurant Mom 8: House of Horrors