And then, there was great joy.

I can't stop watching this, and I can't stop crying. The people of New Orleans are rare.  They have the fortitude to make it through the hard, heartbreaking times and the spirit to anticipate the joyful times that make it all worthwhile.  It's not about Katrina, it's about unabashed hope in spite of endless disappointment. It's always been that way in NOLA, and here is their great reward. Congratulations, New Orleans--the Black and Gold are going to the Superbowl!

How could this happen?

I must admit that, although it is near and dear to the hearts of people I care about, I am not as knowledgeable as I should be about Haiti's cultural wealth and political struggles. But I have lived among the destruction that comes after natural disasters, and right now my heart is breaking for the Haitian people.

Today, they deal with the loss of loved ones, their homes, their security, and likely their own health.  Many who are not dead are injured, and the hospitals are overwhelmed--some broken bones and fractured jaws will never get treated, and more illnesses are likely to develop if fresh water can't get into the country soon.  Next Month, a large portion of an entire country will begin to be bulldozed, as if it were never settled and civilized.  As if no one ever built the market, the streets, hospital, the homes, or the court house and instead dropped millions of soul-sick, grieving people in the middle of nothing and said "Survive, start over, all you have is the dirt under your feet. That's all anyone has." And Next Year, where will the debris go? The ghost cars, crushed and abandoned? They will rise up in huge piles, leaking and polluting and overwhelming those who were able to make themselves something, anything, out of the dirt in search of comfort and security. 

I've seen what 1/100th of the destruction faced by the Haitian people can do to a city and its people here in the Good Ole' US of A, and it is staggering.  For almost a year after Katrina, I walked to school flanked by 15 foot-tall piles of debris and lived amidst fallen-down buildings, and I knew that almost everyone I encountered had been touched by death. I say that to preface this statement: based on personal experience, I don't think I'm being dramatic when I say that our generation will never see the end of the mark that this earthquake has left on Haiti.  The very makeup of the world has changed entirely, and overnight.

I wish I could do more.

In the meantime, I have and will continue to donate money to the American Red Cross, as well as Hurah, a human rights group committed to returning democracy and justice to Haiti and comprised of Haitians living and working in some of the hardest hit areas of the country. Please consider doing the same.  The American Red Cross is having a text campaign, where you can donate $10 by texting "Haiti" to 90999 and the donation will simply be charged to your cell phone bill. (The company responsible for managing the money collection will not take any of their overhead costs from the donations intended for Haiti, so your full $10 will go to the Red Cross relief efforts.)  The Red Cross has collected a record $4 million through their text campaign to date, and I sincerely hope that the momentum continues.

I should also say that there is some controversy regarding musician Wycleff Jean's relief efforts, since he has been linked to oppressive entities in Haiti.  This is not to say that his organization is not helping the Haitian people with the money collected, only that the organization itself, Yele, can't necessarily be counted on to promote justice and democracy if it will challenge its vested interest in politics and maintaining the status quo, so please consider giving to an organization other than Yele if you are so

Giant Homemade Girl Scout Cookies II: Do-Si-Do's, Woot!

I'm sorry, but who doesn't need a giant, dense peanut-butter cookie cake in their baking repertoire? (Peanut-allergy sufferers aside) I know I sure as hell do.

Which is why I came up with one! The cookie is salty, and the perfect blend of chewy and crumbly (and not too sweet).  The filling makes everything moist, and adds a sweetness that would be too cloying if it was present throughout the whole cookie, but is perfect in little bites as you eat each slice.

And so I present to you, darling hedonistic readers, my recipe for a Giant Homemade Do-Si-Do Girl Scout Cookie, with tips and tricks at the bottom.

For the cookie:
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter, room temperature
2 large eggs  and 1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottom with parchment, and coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, with a mixer on medium-high, until combined and fluffy.  Beat in the peanut butter, then the eggs and vanilla. On low, mix in flour mixture until combined.  The batter will be slightly pasty and thick, but pourable.

Spread 1/3 of the batter into the pan, and bake for 20-30 minutes, until browned on the edges and barely set up in the middle.  Remove from oven and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan to continue cooling on a rack. Prepare the pan once again with the cooking spray and parchment paper, and pour the remaining 2/3 of the batter into the pan.  Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes, until browned and barely set.  Remove from the oven and use a small water glass to cut a circular hole in the top of the cookie, Girl Scout Cookie styles. Let cool.

To construct:

First, run a knife around the edge of the cookies to smooth and round them and remove any extra crispy bits.

Beat all of your filling ingredients until blended, and place in a piping bag with a large star tip.

Take the thinner cookie (the one you made with 1/3 of the batter) and put it on your display plate. Using the piping bag, run a thick bead of filling around the edge, and then "stack" another bead of filling on top of that. Use the piping bag to add a single layer of filling to the rest of the top of the cookie, reserving approximately 1 cup of the filling in the piping bag. Place the thicker cookie on the top of the filling on the thinner cookie, "sandwich" style. Pipe a decorative swirl into the whole you cut out of the top, and serve.

Tips and Tricks:
  • Don't over-bake the cookie.  It will firm up as it cools and sets.
  • You could also probably use two cake pans to do this, and make both cookies at the same time, but then put parchment paper around the rim as well as on the bottom.
  • Try to get the top cookie in the oven as soon as you can...if you dawdle, the baking powder will eventually lose its potency.

Giant Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie and BaCon's Blogoversary!

I love the beginning of January. When else can you tell perfect strangers that you hope their next 365 days are happy ones? And I'm very excited about 2010, ya'll. I'm hoping that this year I: finally screw Chase Bank over by paying off all of my credit card debt and never looking back, successfully hike Glacier National Park's backcountry for 10 days without whining myself to death, and eat at Chef DeBarr's Green Goddess restaurant in NOLA at least 10 times.

The beginning of January marks a new year but it also marks the end of a year of BaCon. That's's my Blogoversary! (Note: Though I hate "foodie" and "gastrosexual," I'm not above a little neologistic fun every now and then. Say Fun, right?)

I started BaCon one year ago this week, and it's been distracting me from my day job and my sex life ever since...wait. Forget I said that. Honestly, this past year I've learned that to love cooking is to love pleasure and companionship, and BaCon has brought me both by the buckets.

My Inaugural Post detailed "How To Make a Croquembouche," the item I brought to my work's annual holiday baking contest.  So it's only fitting that my Blogoversary post be my 2009 entry for the baking contest (or entries, as it were).  The baking contest is one part tasting competition, one part spectacle, which is why I chose to make giant dinner-plate sized versions of my favorite Girl Scout Cookies.

I figured that you can't go wrong with making a 100x to scale version of everyone's favorite unique yet familiar treats. (And I am obsessed with teeny tiny versions of everyday things, or giant versions of things that are typically diminutive. If I ever see an airdale terrier wearing something like a teeny tiny doll's wide-brimmed feathered hat, my head might explode.)

And so without further ado, the first of 3 Giant Girl Scout Cookie recipe with tips and tricks at the bottom:

Giant Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookie Recipe

For cookie:
1 cup crunchy chocolate cookies, ground into rice-crispy sized pieces
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract

For chocolate glaze:
10 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used fancy chocolate chips with good results)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 Tbs. peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Whisk together the dry ingredients except for the cookie crumbs. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed. Beat in the liquid ingredients and the egg on low speed. Gradually add in the dry ingredients (flour mix and cookie crumbs) on medium/medium-low speed.

Prepare a large (10 inch) tart pan for scalloped edges or 10 inch round pie pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan, making sure to spread the batter evenly. 

Bake for 17-20 minutes, until the edge of the cookie is firm and the center is moist and soft but not raw. Remove from oven, run a sharp knife around the edge of the cookie, and let cool completely before gently removing it from the pan (I put a plate on top of the pan, flipped it upside down until it released, and then carefully flipped it back over onto a cooling rack for glazing.)

For the chocolate glaze:
Melt the butter.  Bring 2  inches of water in deep, small pan.  Add the chocolate to another pan that you can place on top of the water-pan to create a double boiler. When the water boils, place the pan with the chocolate over and inside the water pan but don't let the boiling water touch the bottom of the chocolate pan. (Why? I don't know.  It's just one of those things you hear that sounds important). 

Once a bit of the chocolate has melted, stir until everything has melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the melted butter and peppermint extract. Working quickly, paint a thin layer of the chocolate glaze on the top and the sides of the cookie. Let sit at room temperature until it has hardened.

Tips and Tricks:
  • The cookie crumbles add that signature Thin Mint crunchy cookie texture to a cookie/cake-like recipe. I found some plain crunchy organic cookies at my local grocery store and they worked perfectly.
  • It sounds like alot of peppermint extract, which can sometimes taste medicinal when added to baked goods, but the richness of the chocolate really counteracts that, and blends well with the mint flavors in this recipe. 
  • Err on the side of undercooking vs. overcooking. A more cakey cookie is much preferred to a chocolate glazed hockey puck. Trust me on this.
  • Resist the urge to freeze this to have the chocolate harden.  It's too big to really freeze and bring back to room temp. before serving, and freezing will harden the cookie so that it's hard to cut. Be patient, it'll set.

The Best Apple Pie Recipe in the World! (And Mr.Luz blogs)

Introducing my favorite friend, lover, and Lady Gaga impersonator and now BaCon Concentrate's first Guest Blogger, Mr. Luz!

How To Make The Best Apple Pie In The World (With A Lot of Help from The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten)

Long before he became the portly, overly smug judge you love to hate on Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef, Jeffrey Steingarten (JS) was (and still is) Vogue magazine’s food critic (which I imagine must be like writing a sex column for the Wall Street Journal, but I digress). And even longer before that, he was a lawyer (double-Harvard, no less -  perhaps there is still hope for Miss E. Lee after all…) Somewhere along the way he wrote what I believe to be the funniest, wittiest, and most engrossing collection of food-related essays in existence, The Man Who Ate Everything.  True to form, I bought our copy at a thrift store for a dollar (but I've given it as a gift countless times since it was published in 1997 - my brother is a chef, after all...)  The last chapter is a veritable dissertation on the art of baking perfect pies.  JS tested every single pie recipe ever written over the past 73 years, so believe me when I tell you that he is nothing if not obsessive about getting it right.

Why, you might ask, am I making my blogging debut writing about apple pie?  A little pedestrian, no?  Not very stunty, or haute cuisine, after all.  Certainly not up to the very high standard set by Miss E. Lee in her stratospheric debut nary one year ago today...  Well, this is a blog in part about comfort food, and apple pie is as comforting as it gets when it comes to desserts.  I happen to believe that if you don't like apple pie, it's probably not your fault - most apple pie truly sucks.  It has drifted so far from its roots that it has become unrecognizable - the slimy, overly-sweet, gelatinous, cinnamon-infested filling and soggy cardboard crust served up at your local diner with a glorp of generic vanilla ice cream on top is not what inspired itinerant hobos to risk arrest slinking into your great-grandmother's backyard on a summer afternoon to pilfer a piping handful... It is my hope here to re-introduce you to the myth that inspired the saying, As American as Mom and Apple Pie.

What You Will Need
- a 9-inch glass pie plate (seriously, is there any other type of pie plate?)
- a big mixing bowl (for crust-making)
- a second big mixing bowl (for storing your apple filling while you wrestle with the crust)
- a rolling pin (for crust rolling)
- a fork (for peforming the fork death spiral)
- measuring cup and measuring spoons (for measuring things)

For the crust (and don't even think about not making your own crust!): 
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (JS prefers King Arthur)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted COLD BUTTER (JS provides us with a dissertation on the glory of pure lard and/or Crisco, but butter works just fine, and will kill you more slowly)
- 3/4 cup ICE COLD water (I prefer BlingH20, The Most Expensive Bottled Water In The World, but tap water will work just fine)

For the apple filling:
- 3 1/2 lbs of apples (which amounts to 7 or 8 large apples, JS prefers "early" Gravensteins, then Pippins, then Granny Smiths, although I have used Fujis and Galas - but your safest bet are Granny Smiths - the key is to not use soft, mealy apples - they need to hold up to baking, not to being eating raw)
-1/2 a lemon (this won't end up in the actual pie, but is necessary to prevent oxidation of the apples - we prefer our apples rust-free)
-1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 tbsps flour
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt

For the flair:
- 4 tbsps of additional butter to grease the pie plate (1 tbsp) and to add to the filling (3 tbsp)
- a dash of milk to brush on the crust (dash=1 tbsp)

- 1 tbsp regular old sugar (to sprinkle on the crust)

The Process
Start by making your apple pie filling - that way you will gain the necessary confidence to make your own crust, which is really the entire battle here.  I mean, how hard is it to fill a large mixing bowl halfway with cold water, squeezing in the juice of half a lemon (making sure not to squeeze in the lemon seeds), and then peeling and coring your apples, slicing them into 16ths (cutting each cored apple in half, then cutting each half into 4 slices, then cutting each slice in half across the middle of the slice),  and then submerging them in the cold water?  See - you are already one third of the way there!

The Crust Massage
Ok, brace yourself. When I first read JS's crust-making technique, I felt as if I had just attended a Yoga for The Mind seminar...I mean, how many times was I supposed to gently roll the olive-sized butter pats lightly through my fingers as I contemplated the molecular substructures I was attempting to synthesize?  How many foot-pounds of pressure was I not supposed to apply as I plunged my fingers in a perfectly vertical manner along the sides of the mixing bowl (and only the sides)?  I'll admit that the first three times I made this recipe, I stressed over every single word on all thirty pages of the chapter, worrying that a single missed conjunction would ruin the end result.  But it really is a very simple recipe: butter, flour, salt, sugar, and apples.  The idea behind the crust is to not overmix, to not overcombine, to leave things relatively separate, and above all else, to not melt the butter so that it becomes liquid and incorporate itself into the flour.  You want to achieve an uncomfortable (dare I say it) Butter-Flour Apartheid - with cool pieces of butter of all shapes and sizes living right on top of, and among, and around an oblivious strata of Flour.  If you could interrogate the Flour, asking,"What is Butter?"  The Flour wouldn't be able to tell you, for Flour is not allowed to speak to Butter, only to coat it, and support it in the Butter-Flour socio-political hierarchy.  If you asked the same question of the Butter, the Butter would reply, "I know not what Flour is, except that it is everywhere around me, although I have never touched it."  Butter and Flour, uncomfortably co-existing, but never knowing the other's essence.

Back to the recipe.  

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (you do have an oven, don't you? Forgot to mention that).  Mix the flour, sugar and salt with your dry fingers in your large bowl.  Cut your COLD butter into 1 tbsp chunks, and drop them, emphatically, onto the flour mixture.  Allow them to become coated in flour, and then proceed to break each tbsp-sized chunk into randomly smaller pieces, each time coating the pieces in flour, without squeezing or pressing the pieces into the flour (remember, you're going for separate-but-equal, not melting-pot-friendly here).
We are now going to learn how to perform the Crust Massage.  Once each large chunk of butter has been broken up into randomly smaller pieces and coated with flour, plunge your hands to the bottom of the bowl, and grab a small handful of flour/butter in each hand, palms facing up (unlike in the picture below, where my Irish Potato Farmer hands are obscuring the massage technique).  With your thumb and forefingers, gently rolling the butter/flour through your fingers three times, allowing the butter/flour to fall back into the bowl (what you are doing here is breaking up the larger butter pieces into even smaller morsels while coating them with flour). Do not smear or mash, gently roll.  Do this five or six more times, plunging your hands in, grabbing small handfuls and rolling the flour/butter three times through your fingers.
In the next phase, keep plunging your hands into the bottom of the bowl, but roll the small handfuls of flour/butter only ONCE through your fingers, allowing everything to drop back into the bowl.  Do this approximately 25 times, or until your mixture looks like a shattered, floury asteroid field):

Yes, those are large pieces of Butter-Barely-in-Flour disguise.  That's intentional.  We don't want any homogenous assimilation round these parts.  We want rough around the edges, disorderly chaos.  This is America, after all, not some centrally-planned commune.  Don't be alarmed if you have a large amount of raw-looking flour in the bottom of your bowl - that's what your water is for.  (After having performed the Crust Massage numerous times over the past 12 years, the Nerd in me wants to make this a lot easier for you.  But first I wanted to give you a little taste of the Steingarten Insanity - if you think my instructions are oppressive, buy his book.  What I really think you ought to do is to cut each COLD tbsp-sized pat of butter according to the Fibonacci Sequence, then dump all the pieces into the flour, and then do the 25 gentle finger-rolling flour-coating Crust Massage repetitions.  But I also realize that adding the Golden Ratio into the mix is a tad bit mystical for something so essential to our national ethos as apple pie.  But it would make a perfect crust, I am sure....)

Next, gently sprinkle 1/2 cup of your ICE COLD water over the entirety of you Butter/Flour Asteroid Field.  Wielding your Fork in a perfectly vertical orientation, slowly circle the fork in a perfect spiral (oh yes, my Friends of Fibonnaci, I went there) beginning along the outer edge of the bowl and ending in the exact center of your Butter/Flour Galaxy.  Do this twice or three times, or until your Butter-Flour mixture starts to begin to form into a proto-Asteroid field (what the Asteroid Field looked like before it got blasted apart - you can still see the beginnings of each individual asteroid and all the asteroid dust, but it is now glommed into a large mass, and is still somewhat floury and dry-looking).

DO NOT OVERWATER - water is a solvent, and we don't want anything to dissolve, only to stick or to glom.  We aren't making dough here, we are making flaky, light crust.  Water drowns.  You may be tempted to use more than 3/4 of a cup, but believe me, don't go north of a cup and a quarter, or you risk taking all of the air out, and turning your crust into a hard, thick shell.  The flakiness is accomplished by trapping pockets of steam between the layers of butter and flour, and if the water is completely dissolved into the flour and butter, you end up with culinary concrete (that's why after they pour concrete, they go through it with a Giant Vibrator Thingy to get out all the air bubbles - no one likes flaky concrete, apparently).

Once you've completed your Proto-Asteroid Field, divide the Mass in half, and gently press each half into a ball shape.  Again, don't overdo it - your hands are hot, and will melt the butter.  Don't pack it like a snowball - apply enough light pressure so that the ball stays together.  Coat your rolling surface and rolling pin with a dusting of flour.  Take the first ball and drop it onto your rolling area, and put the bowl with the other ball into the refrigerator to keep it cool.  Press the first ball into a one-inch high disc with your palm, and then begin rolling it out, until you have a crust that is approximately 1/8 inch thick.  Depending on how good you are at rolling, you probably won't end up with a perfectly round disc.  As long as you've got 12-13 inches in diameter of crust somewhere in the middle of your amorphous blob, you should be fine.
Now, fold the crust in half, then in half again, and then put it in the refrigerator to keep it cool.   This makes it a lot easier to apply to the pie plate (and to the top of your pie later on).

Repeat this process with the other ball of pie dough (I hate calling it that, because it isn't really dough, it's an Uncomfortable Un-Assimilated Arrangement of Pie Crust Elements, or to paraphrase Monty Python, an Anarcho-Syndicalist Pie Crust Commune.  What, afraid of a few bolsheviks in your washroom, are you?).

Take a break, you've earned it.  Have a snog of bourbon to calm your nerves (a snog is a kiss, bee-tee-dubs, and someone once told me that nothing is sexier than a bourbon-soaked kiss, although Miss E. Lee strongly disagrees).

Complete the Pie Filling
Pour all the water out of your apple pieces, and pat each piece dry with a paper towel.  No, I'm not kidding.  Too much water in your filling and you'll end up with molten apple pie soup under your crust.  Add your sugar, salt, and vanilla, and mix with a spoon until all of the apple pieces are coated in sugary, vanilline glory. Salt is obligatory. 

Assemble The Mothership 
Grease your pie plate with a pat of butter, and then place the center point of your crust centerfold into the center of the pie plate. Unfurl your freaky crust flag, and let it drape over the edges of the pie plate, gently pushing the crust into the bottom reaches and sides of the plate.  Use some scissors to cut off any excess crust that extends beyond the edges of the pie plate.  Now, add your filling, and drop your flair butter on top of the apple filling.  If your apples were quite large, you may not need to use all of the filling - add enough so that the filling fills the entire plate, and then a little more so that the apples form a raised, smoothish dome in the center of the pie.  Too few apples, and you'll end up with a depressed-looking pie; too many, and you'll have a revolution on your hands, with tons of molten apple pie overflowing your crust borders and smoking out your kitchen.
Now, to top it all off.  Take your second pie crust centerfold out of the fridge, and placing the center point on the center of the apple filling mountain, unfold crust flag numero deux.  You should have enough crust extending over the edges of the bottom crust layer that you can again use scissors to trim.  Working your way around the plate, lift the bottom crust layer up and tuck the top layer underneath, gently pressing the two sides together to seal the puppy up.  You don't want to press too hard, or the crust will end up tough, but you also don't want to let all the juicy apple goodness boil out the sides and onto the 450-degree surface of your oven (guaranteed to set off your smoke alarm).  Feel free to scallop the edges, or to use a fork to make a decorative pattern in the edge of the crust.  It matters not to me (I didn't say this was the Most Beautiful Apple Pie In the World Recipe, just the Best Tasting.)  Depending on how large your apples were, you should end up with something that resembles this:
You may end up with small holes or tears in your crust - just use some of the excess to patch things up.  Now brush the milk over the top of the crust, making sure to not let milk puddles form in the nooks and crannies - dab the extra milk out of there with a paper towel (JS insists, not me).  Finally, sprinkle your flair sugar all over the top, depending on how sugary you like your crust to be on top.  It's really just for show, because the apple filling is sweet enough as it is.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and put in your pre-heated oven for approximately 25 to 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown all around.  Rotate the pie a half-turn, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until the pie has been in the oven for a total of one whole hour (35 minutes if the browning-all-around only took 25 minutes, and 20 minutes if the browning took 40 minutes.)  If the edges of the crust start to get very dark much sooner than the rest of the crust, you can cover the outer edges with tinfoil to slow things down. It's almost impossible to prevent the pie filling from boiling over and out of the crust, and that's ok.  Just as long as things don't get out of hand.  The glory of a glass pie plate allows you to see how well the bottom crust is cooked.

To Vent Or Not To Vent?  A lot of people like to cut cutesy vent patterns or holes in the top of their crusts, but JS says that Marion Cunningham doesn't believe in them.  And if Mrs. C was savvy enough to act as the Fonz's surrogate mom, well then I wouldn't doubt her pie-making abilities.  I only vent when my pie looks as if it's about to explode - sometimes, so much steam builds up that the upper crust begins to rise up away from the apple filling.  This looks cool, but once the pie has cooled down, and you cut into it to serve, you end up with a big gap between the apples and the crust.  So vent if you want to make sure the crust doesn't lift away from the filling, but not just to make it look cute.  You can vent after the pie has begun baking if you start to feel uneasy about the occurrence of a molten apple pie filling revolution (venting, like television, eases societal tensions by providing a release valve for the resentment caused by the perception of class differences, but I digress).

Before you eat the pie, let it cool for as long as you can stand it (usually long enough for your significant other to run to the grocery store for some vanilla ice cream, because Mr. Luz forgot to tell you that it is one of the essential ingredients for this recipe).

Once you've mastered the Crust Massage, you can make virtually any kind of pie.  Try Strawberry Rhubarb next, and remember, keep those filling ingredients as dry as possible, and keep your Butter Cold.  For extra extra flaky (but less tasty) crust, use 1 1/2 cups of Crisco or pure lard (the kind only your local butcher will sell you, not the stuff you find in a supermarket).  Under no circumstances shall you use any medieval spices in your fruit filling mixture, particularly not any cinnamon or nutmeg or mace or cloves.  Apple with cinnamon is like Apple in Blackface - it's not funny, artful or ironic at all, despite what Australians, Spike Lee, or Ted Danson might think.  It's just plain offensive.


Mr. Luz