From Scratch

“Originally a sporting term, the phrase ‘from scratch’ means to start from the beginning without any preparation or advantage.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve used the term ‘from scratch’ without really knowing where it came from. I’ve always known that in terms of cooking and baking, it means to cook without any kind of pre-made mix or concentrate and that stuff from scratch is always better- perhaps not easier to make, but whatever- than anything that comes prepared in a box. In my orgy of making things from scratch this Thanksgiving week, my SO finally asked where the saying comes from and I couldn’t tell him. The Phrase Finder had an excellent description of the saying’s origins. In basic terms, a “scratch” usually indicates the beginning of a sporting match of some kind; whether it’s cricket, boxing, or cycling, a line was drawn or scratched onto the ground to serve as a starting point. To start from scratch means that you started at the very beginning; someone with a handicap would start ahead of the line whereas someone without an advantage would start at the line. This makes sense in baking because boxed mixes do give you the benefit of pre-measured dry ingredients; add wet ingredients, pour into dish, and 35 minutes later: baked good-ness! Who can be bothered to take the extra ten minutes to measure flour, sugar, and things like that?

Other than the potato-leek soup I posted on Wednesday, I’ve made two truly from scratch recipes: pumpkin pie and honey wheat bread. My pie was the from-scratchiest pie you can get: I used my homemade pumpkin puree and I made my own pie crust. The only advantage in the pie was the use of my food processor. My bread was very from scratch as well: I kneaded the silly thing by hand for around ten minutes since I don’t have a stand mixer with a dough hook. The advantage with the bread was that I made my oven into a proofer to speed up the rising process: I put the oven on a warming cycle until it warmed up, turned it off, then put a shallow bowl of boiling water in the lower rack to increase the humidity inside. I’ll cover the bread in a post in the next day or so.

From-Scratchiest Pumpkin Pie

I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but it’s the Libby’s brand pumpkin pie recipe. But first, pie crust construction (recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa). My trusty but tiny food processor. I could only do half of the crust at one time which was not terribly convenient and resulted in one half being more wet than the other. I put the butter and shortening in the freezer to make them very, very cold and used ice cubes to chill my water. Every person I’ve ever seen make pie crust emphasizes keeping the dough super cold and I guess it has something to do with keeping the butter cold so it can make steam which results in a flakier crust… :shrugs:

After I chilled my dough for most of the day, I rolled it out and put it in my pie pan. I did have scraps but couldn’t bear the thought of throwing them away, so they’re in the freezer, waiting for the day until they can be useful. I put the pie pan back into the fridge after I put the crust in to keep it cold while I made the filling. You may have noticed that I rolled out the pie crust on my dining room table; that’s because my kitchen counters are made of tile and aren’t conducive to successful pie crust construction. I’d still be scraping pie crust dough out of the grout on my counter tops.

The recipe calls for a 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree, but my freezer package was 2 cups which would technically be 16 ounces, but whatever. I made sure the puree was completely thawed and room temperature, as well as getting my eggs to room temperature (Ina Garten insists on this and I think it’s important, too).

I mixed the pie filling in this old bowl that belonged to my future mother-in-law and was given to my SO when he moved into his college apartment. My mom had a set of them, a red one like this and a bigger orange one. I think the orange one cracked and I was sad, as if I’d lost a member of the family. This bowl is hanging in there, even though it does have a big chip on the rim.

The finished product. It may not have that deep orange-y color that is so characteristic to pumpkin pie, but that’s because my pumpkin puree was not as dark orange, either. The SO was very pleased with it; the only thing that he would change is that the texture was not as smooth as what he was used to. This again is explained by the pumpkin puree; since I don’t have a full-size food processor, I was unable to really get that fine puree consistency that I was looking for. Truth be told, this was the first pumpkin pie I had ever tasted. Ever. As you may know, I have issues with texture and pumpkin pie has a very distinctive custard-like texture that is somewhat unpalatable to those with texture sensitivities (you may laugh, but I’ve gagged from the texture of canned pears and thrown up at canned peaches). I did manage to eat a whole tiny piece of the pie and I do have to say it was very delicious, but I can understand what my SO meant by the texture being somewhat off; it was sort of stringy. He still liked it and is bent on eating the pie by himself.

I heard a Christmas commercial on the radio advertising cookies and other baked goods that help “make the holiday” and those cookies could be found at Walmart in the form of Pillsbury’s pre-made cookie mix, Tollhouse chocolate chips, and Crisco. Now, I enjoy cookies from a tube just like everyone else, but it sends a shiver up my spine to think that holiday cookies have now been dumbed down to pouring a dry cookie mix from a bag into a bowl, adding melted butter and an egg, and *presto* cookies! Everyone is happy as they enjoy their processed cookies in a cozy kitchen as snowflakes fall outside. Whatever happened to a mother teaching her daughter to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch? The finer points of pie crust are lost now that you can simply pick up a pre-made crust at the mega-mart on your way home, or- God forbid- you can just pick up an already-made pie from your mega-mart’s bakery. I know that not everybody has time to wait around for bread to rise, but if your daughter grows up thinking that chocolate chip cookies come from a stranger at the Walmart bakery… maybe you need to take a half day off from work and fix that.

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1 Response to From Scratch

  1. Cath says:

    I thought it was my bowl. I remember those bowls.

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