Around this special time of year, there is one thing on just about everyone’s minds: pie.
With everyone looking forward to it, if you decide to make a pie, you better not mess it up. And if you don’t decide to make a pie, the people will be disappointed. So basically…make a pie. But make it right!
Delicious though they are, pies require quite a lot of delicate measurements and timing to get them just right. There are plenty of easy mistakes to make. If you’re going to put all this time and effort into one, you better be sure it’s going to come out the way you want it. And even for the baking veterans in the crowd today, you know better than anyone that there’s always room for improvement in the kitchen. So take note: according to three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist Tiffany MacIsaac, these are the 5 steps that can be a pie-maker, or a pie-breaker.
1. Skipping the acid.
“Acid helps add flavor and combat the dough getting tough if you accidentally overwork it a bit. I use buttermilk in place of water or cream, and a splash of vinegar to make my dough a bit lighter. Also, if you choose to make the dough a few days before using it, the vinegar will help prevent the dough from oxidizing.”
2. Over-chilling the dough.
MacIsaac says that she works quickly to make sure the dough stays cool while it’s being made, which allows her to shorten the chilling time. “It does need a bit of time to rest to relax the glutens and for the liquid to distribute evenly, so I like to wrap it in plastic wrap and leave on the counter in a cool spot for one to four hours. It will be nice and soft and easy to roll without a lot of resistance. I find the dough is a lot more tender when I don’t chill the dough to firm before rolling.”
3. Mixing in too much liquid.
A lot of people make the mistake of adding extra liquid to make the dough easier to roll, but MacIsaac says this leads to a “hard and leathery finished product the dough should form a nice ball but barely hold together. As the dough rests, the liquid will re-distribute evenly into the flour, making the dry parts wetter.” Remember, adding more in if needed is always an option – but taking out what’s already in, isn’t.
4. Not pre-cooking the filling.
“Always pre-cook your filling. There is nothing worse than making a beautiful apple pie, only to cut into it and find there’s either too much liquid, the apples are crunchy, it’s overly sweet, or there’s a huge gap between the filling and the top crust. So much can go wrong, and you can’t see it happening. That’s why I like to pre-cook my apples to about 85 to 90 percent done…Then, when it’s time to bake, I pile the apple filling high (they average five to six pounds each) and bake at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time. I get a nice flaky crust and perfectly cooked filling every time.”
5. Underestimating the power of human hands.
“Mixers and food processors are fine, but there is nothing better than getting your hands right in the butter and flour to cut it together. You’ll know exactly when the butter is the perfect size because you’ll be able to feel it. Don’t be scared –– making dough by hand is truly one of the most enjoyable things about baking. Just make sure everything is measured, well chilled, and at arm’s reach before you start.”
And now for the most important step: share, and enjoy!
25 Hotel Hacks That Will Save Your Life
For those who love to travel, we often find that there’s a constant tension between being able to afford a high-end experience and having the cash in order to travel more. These life-saving travel hacks will help you upgrade your vacation.
Catch Up On TV
When you’ve traveled to a foreign country especially you might not find television in your native language, which would take precious catch-up time away from your vacation. However, there’s no need to shell out for on-demand videos when you can just hook up your laptop. From there, you can easily watch Netflix or any of your other favorite streaming shows on the big screen. Just remember to bring the HDMI cable so you can get everything connected.
Humidity is often talked about as a bad thing, but when you’re spending extended periods of time in a climate controlled room, we can end up being far too dry from the lack of moisture in the air. There’s a quick fix for this in any hotel room. Take the suitcase rack and drape it with a damp towel. Place the rack in front of the radiator, and it will help maintain a more human level of humidity to keep you from shriveling like a raisin.
If you find that the city lights shining outside of your room are making it hard to sleep, you can easily change that situation. Most likely, you’re struggling to deal with the gap in your curtains. Whether or not you came prepared for that, you already have everything you need. Just take one of the pants hangers from the closet and use the clips to hold the curtain shut. It’s vacation after all, you should sleep well.
Fresh Like Flowers
It’s not uncommon to enter into a hotel room only to find that it doesn’t quite smell as good as you’d like it to. There’s an easy way to manage the odor, however. If you’re the kind of person who’s so enthused about air fresheners that you keep them in the car, you can easily just clip the car freshener to the air conditioning vent. Upon your return, your room will smell as fresh as a bunch of daisies.
Making A Phone Pocket
Every now and again we see hotels that inexplicably have no nightstand. Rather than surrendering and leaving your things on the floor, you can make a little pocket for your phone in the fold of the sheets. Since we generally use fitted sheets at home, this is one of the best hotel only tricks, unless you happen to be an expert at folding sheet corners yourself. Either way, it’s a convenient and easy trick to take advantage of.
Wash And Roll
Especially if you’re traveling with kids, needing to do some laundry on vacation can become unavoidable. Hotel laundry charges can be astronomical, but going to an outside laundromat isn’t always an option. However, you can easily use your bathroom to effectively clean your clothes. For just a few small items, use the sink, which can be easily plugged with a piece of plastic and some coins set on top of it in the drain to hold the water in.
Cancel Out The Noise
When you’re staying in a building with multitudes of other people, you may find that your room isn’t quite as quiet as you need it to be, especially depending on when you choose to go to sleep. Because it won’t always be possible to be moved to a different room, there are ways you can deal with the excess noise or light. The easiest thing to do is to simply roll up an extra towel and wedge it into the crack by the door.
Book Through The Hotel
Discount travel sites may seem like the path to the best deal, but sometimes booking through the hotel itself will give you access to secret deals they don’t have published online.
The moment you realize you’ve forgotten your phone charger might be one of horror, but the truth is, just like you’ve left your charger at home, others have left their chargers at the hotel. If you find yourself in this predicament, the best thing to do is not to panic, but to call the front desk and ask if they have a charger for your particular phone model. You’re likely to discover that the answer is yes.
Not every hotel room comes equipped with a mini fridge to keep your extra food and drinks cold. That doesn’t mean you have to throw out all of your leftovers and stick to lukewarm beverages. You can create your own cooler by filling your bathroom sink with ice, which will cool off all of your beverage in no time. Even better, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up a bag of water since the ice will melt straight down the drain.
Order It In
If you find yourself without cooking implements but still hungry, you don’t have to settle for paying for overpriced room service. Just as if you were at home, you can probably order food for delivery from a restaurant of your choice, especially if you’re staying in a major city. Sure, going out to eat can be an attraction while you’re on vacation, but after a long day of seeing the sites, the last thing you might want to do is go out again.
Cool It All Down
Most hotels these days come equipped with air conditioning, at least in modern buildings. However, you may find, especially as you travel in certain areas of Europe that the older hotel buildings don’t have such amenities. If you find yourself in a room that’s just a little too hot with no air conditioning to switch on, you can wet a towel, then roll it up and place it next to the window where the breeze will blow cooler air onto you.
The real butter on offer at hotel buffets usually has one major drawback: it’s way too cold to be spreadable. Rather than waste precious time waiting for your butter packets to soften, you can try this clever hack. While you’re toasting your bread, lay the packets on top of the toaster. By the time your bread is done, the butter will be the perfect consistency for spreading on all of your toast with none of the frustration.
Amplify Your Life
When you’re luggage space is limited, it’s worthwhile to consider which items are truly necessary, and which are just nice. You might feel like a trip devoid of audible music is worthless, but there’s a great hack to help you enjoy your music without having to carry along a speaker. No matter how small they may be, there’s no need to bring the extra gadget along, because you can make your own speakers by playing music from your phone within one of the mugs.
Cook For Yourself
Room service can be a nice treat, but it’s rarely worth the cost. However, if you still want to eat without leaving your hotel room, you can easily hack your amenities in order to cook for yourself. At its most basic, you can use your coffee maker to boil up some water for a cup of instant noodles. However, with a little help from some portable appliances, you can make some high-quality meals without ever leaving your room.
These days, many hotels require a key card to be inserted into a slot near the door in order to keep the power on in the room. Rather than turning everything on and off every single time you leave, you can stay plugged in by asking for an extra key card when you check in. However, if you forgot, you don’t need to suffer while waiting for the AC to kick in once again. You can throw any card into that slot.
Check The Front Desk
Most people who prefer to stay in hotels when they travel are very likely to be overzealous about their packing list. However, good hotels often have much more on offer than some free soap. You can find almost any toiletry imaginable at the front desk, but that’s not all. Many hotels also have basic appliances like hair straighteners available, while some even go so far as to have gaming consoles on hand for when kids stay over.
Keep The Caps
Though many of us may not use shower caps on a regular basis, the ones offered by hotels have more uses than keep your hair dry when you bathe. If you happened to forget to bring some extra plastic bags, they can be used to keep dirty shoes separated from the rest of your luggage. They can also be used to cover the TV remote if you feel like it hasn’t been disinfected well enough prior to your stay.
For those who are traveling with kids who need to eat before you can head out to go sightseeing, there’s an easier way to keep them from making a mess. While there might not be enough chair space to seat them all at the desk, most hotel rooms come with an ironing board. You can set the board up in front of the bed with a towel laid over top in order to create a makeshift table for messier eaters.
Slide Them A $20 Bill
This might not be the most popular approach when trying to save a little bit of cash while you’re traveling, but trust us, this works. Every time you check in to a hotel, you are asked for some form of identification. According to scores of internet testimonials, if you ask for an upgrade as you slide a $20 bill along with your driver’s license, more often than not you are given an upgrade. Worst case scenario they return your money, best case scenario they upgrade you and return your money.
Let Them Know It’s An Occasion
There’s usually some reason to have to travel. Are you on your honeymoon? Niece’s christening? Nephew’s bar mitzvah? Let the hotel know. Besides telling you congratulations, they will often comp you with something free. They might give you a huge discount, or even upgrade you to the honeymoon suite free of charge. There’s no reason to be shy. Just getting personal with them and talking with the hotel employees candidly and respectfully goes a long way.
Hotels don’t often give you a special cup to put your toothbrush in, and that can be quite a bummer. Even if hotel rooms are cleaned all the time, you never really know how much bacteria is festering on a surface at any given time. All you need to do it take a paper cup, cut a hole in the middle, and place your toothbrush. Now you won’t have to worry about the bristles touching a yucky surface before you put the brush in your mouth.
It’s your last day and there’s no hot water? Did the front desk not give you a wake-up call when you asked for it and you missed your flight back home? Don’t be afraid to complain. As long as you are respectful, there is no reason for the hotel manager to not give you some sort of benefit, even if that means offering you a discount or a voucher the next time you come stay with them.
Ask To See Other Rooms
If you’re too timid to ask for a hotel upgrade up front by “bribing” them at the desk, you can always ask to see other available rooms. Hotels will try to get rid of the worst rooms first, simply because it makes more sense. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and often you can find a room with an amazing view or something else that’s awesome instead of having to stay in a room facing the dumpster or parking lot.
See Through The Fog
This hack can also be used at home for all you fellows taking a shave in the morning. Instead of waiting for the fog to clear or wiping the mirror again and again with a towel, rub a section of the mirror very well with a bar of soap. After this, buff the mirror with a dry washcloth. The soap will make sure the condensation doesn’t collect on the mirror. What’s great is you only need to do it once every few days.
The conditioner they give you for free at the hotel is likely just as good as whatever you buy in the supermarket, so use it to your advantage. It will certainly make your hair silky-smooth, but that’s not all it’s good for. It can double as many other things, such as shaving cream, make-up remover, or cuticle cream. Sounds crazy but it’s true! You can also use it to wash delicate clothing by hand, not to mention protect your leather accessories, like your shoes.
Do Not Disturb
Is the hotel a bit shady and seedy? Accidentally get into an argument with the cleaning staff? In short, are you afraid that your things might get robbed? Just put on the “do not disturb” sign and you won’t have to worry about the cleaners coming in and taking your valuables. The sign also implies that you’re in the room at the moment, so any thief will likely be deterred by your presence in the room.
Competition Never Hurt
Another great hack is booking a room for the refundable amount, and then speaking to some other hotels in the area to see if they can offer you better rates. It’s generally more expensive to book hotels this way… but hey, you can always cancel before checking in and get your money back. To take things even further, if it becomes apparent that no one else wants to give you a cheaper rate just go back and take the hotel up on the non-refundable quote.
Cover The Remote
Are you a germaphobe? Then traveling and staying at a hotel might actually be your idea of a real nightmare. You definitely don’t want to think about all the people who have slept in your hotel bed, showered in the same shower, or even touched the remote. There’s not much you can do about a lot of these problems without seeming like a crazy person, but you can do something about that remote. Cover it with a plastic bag, or even a freshly opened shower cap from the bathroom.
Hotel buffet got you down? Nowhere good to eat in the area? Head to the local convenience store to pick up some ramen noodles and have yourself a feast! Using the hot water from that dingy coffee machine in your room, you can make something much better tasting than the gross coffee they provide. Just add hot water to a cup of noodles, let it sit a few minutes, and tah-dah! It’s almost as good as room service.
Don’t Forget Anything
When you’re on vacation, sometimes your mind isn’t so sharp. You’ve let yourself relax and forget all your normal everyday worries – but sometimes that means you forget other things too – like your phone or the keys. To make sure you don’t leave the room without them for the day, and even to make sure you don’t forget your charger when you pack to go home, loop your charging chord through your keychain and you’ve got a foolproof hack.
Hold The Door
When you first check in to a hotel, it can take a while to get yourself organized, especially if you have your family with you or are an over-packer (guilty!). When you’re trying to lug all your things from the lobby, up the elevator, down the hall, and into your room, you wish you had a personal assistant. Well, this hack is almost as good. If the closet is right behind the door, as most are, just hook a hang around the door lock and it’ll stay open for you.
You may have noticed that the hotel buffet has much smaller cups stocked next to the juice machine than the coffee machine. If you’re big on juice in the morning, there’s no need to stick around in time for multiple refills. Just grab one of the larger coffee cups and fill it with as much juice as your heart desires. Some places even have lids available so you can take your juice on the go.
Divide The Bed
Travel with your kids can be a great experience, but sometimes having so many people cramped in one hotel room can easily become a nightmare. While splitting up the kids as best you can is always a good thing, adding in an extra cot can take up even more of that precious space. That’s why you can use the extra pillows to create two separate sleeping spaces on one larger bed, both separating the kids while also giving them their own space.
Ditch The Iron
While some hotels offer irons in the room or at the very least through the front desks, others have no such option, requiring guests to pay out hefty sums in order to make their clothes look presentable. However, there is another option. Forget ironing your clothes at all and kill two birds with one stone by hanging your garments in the bathroom while you shower. The steam from the shower will help release any wrinkles that may have built up.
The Power Of Television
When traveling to other countries, one of the hardest things to remember is that your home country may not use the same kind of outlet, meaning you need to bring along or buy a converter. However, there are a few workarounds if you forgot. One of the easiest things to do is simply plug your phone charger into the USB port on the back of the TV. With modern TV’s in almost every hotel these days, it’s a fairly failproof method.
From Desk To Diaper Station
Parents know that almost any surface can be made into a diaper changing station, however, some surfaces work better than others. Rather than having to crouch down onto the floor while trying to wrestle with your squirming kid, you can change diapers at your own level by using the desk provided in the hotel room. The surface is much more like a changing table you have at home without the risk of getting the bed dirty.
No Water? No Problem
Remembering to bring water with you on a trip can be a problem, especially if you’re only traveling with a carry on bag. A good way around that, however, is to bring an empty water bottle with you. No, you won’t be stuck drinking from the sink. As long as your hotel has a fitness center, you’ll very likely find a water cooler there, which you can use to keep you hydrated throughout your whole stay.