Perfect pastry

How do I make perfect pastry?

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Whiter whites and brighter yolks

How do I cook hard-boiled eggs?

The correct term for hard-boiled eggs is really hard-cooked. Eggs should never be boiled. The high heat overcooks proteins, resulting in tough rubbery egg whites and greyish-yellow yolks. Instead, cook them in simmering water. Gently lower eggs into a saucepan of simmering water. They should be covered with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of water. Once the water returns to a simmer, cook for 3 to 5 minutes for a soft centre or 12 to 15 minutes for firm yolks. You can also place eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 20 to 25 minutes for a firm yolk.

Try our Basic devilled eggs.

Perfect pastry

How do I make perfect pastry?

Perfect pastry is flaky and tender and the secret is in the dough. Whether you use butter, shortening or lard, it’s important to coarsely cut or blend the fat into the flour, leaving it in pea-sized pieces. Use a pastry blender (available at cooking stores and some grocery stores) or two knives. Be careful not to overblend the fat or the pastry will be mealy and dense. The small pieces of fat melt during baking, which create pockets that fill with steam. This expands the pastry, causing it to puff up into layers of flaky goodness.

Once the fat is cut into the flour, add very cold water to make the dough stick together. The trick is adding just enough water, and that amount depends on many things: the moisture content of the flour, the type of fat you’ve used – even the weather. Slowly add enough water to moisten the dough, then blend it in just until the dough starts to stick together, forming a ball. Gently press the dough together using your fingers. Make sure you don’t overwork the dough or it will be tough. Finally, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Try your hand at pastry making and then enjoy our Creamy rhubarb custard pie.

Ham it up

I’m cooking a ham for Easter. Are all hams precooked? Do I need to cook it again?

Most supermarket hams are either partially or fully cooked. Fully cooked hams are available boneless or bone-in. The boneless ones are molded into a football-like shape – look for Black Forest or smoked. They can be eaten as is, or if you want the traditional roast ham with a glaze, reheated. Place the ham in a roasting pan and bake in a preheated 325F (160C) oven until a thermometer inserted in thickest part reads 140F (60C). Need a good glaze? Try our Maple-glazed Ham Bone-in fully cooked hams are cured and smoked. These can also be eaten as is or reheated. Ontario Pork recommends baking fully cooked hams in a preheated 325F (160C) oven, about 10 minutes per pound (500 g). For a treat, try a Smithfield ham. This premium ham is dry-cured, smoked and aged in Smithfield, Va. Dry-curing produces a salty product, so before reheating, soak the ham in water for 12 to 24 hours to remove excess salt. Need to feed a large crowd on Easter? Try our Dijon-crusted Ham.

Partially cooked hams are also cured and smoked, but must be cooked before eating. Bake 10 to 15 minutes per pound (500 g) in a preheated 325F (160C) oven. For ease of carving, I like spiral cut (pre-sliced) ham.

Jennifer’s shopping tip: when deciding how much ham you need, estimate about 1/4 lb (125 g) per person for a boneless ham; 1/2lb (250 g) for a small-boned ham and 1 lb (500 g) for a large-boned ham.

All about fennel

What is fennel and where can I buy it?

Fennel is a vegetable native to the Mediterranean. It looks like a plump bunch of celery with a greenish-white bulb that sprouts pale-green stalks topped with feathery fronds. It has a mild, sweet licorice flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s available year-round in most grocery stores – look for it in the produce aisles. To prepare, remove the core, then slice the base and stalks. Toss raw into salads or cook with your favourite pasta, soup, stew or stir-fry. Use the fronds as an edible garnish.

Liven up a salad with fresh fennel. Try our Rustic tomato and salami salad.

All about fennel

What is fennel and where can I buy it?

Fennel is a vegetable native to the Mediterranean. It looks like a plump bunch of celery with a greenish-white bulb that sprouts pale-green stalks topped with feathery fronds. It has a mild, sweet licorice flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s available year-round in most grocery stores – look for it in the produce aisles. To prepare, remove the core, then slice the base and stalks. Toss raw into salads or cook with your favourite pasta, soup, stew or stir-fry. Use the fronds as an edible garnish.

Liven up a salad with fresh fennel. Try our Rustic tomato and salami salad.

All about fennel

What is fennel and where can I buy it?

Fennel is a vegetable native to the Mediterranean. It looks like a plump bunch of celery with a greenish-white bulb that sprouts pale-green stalks topped with feathery fronds. It has a mild, sweet licorice flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s available year-round in most grocery stores – look for it in the produce aisles. To prepare, remove the core, then slice the base and stalks. Toss raw into salads or cook with your favourite pasta, soup, stew or stir-fry. Use the fronds as an edible garnish.

Liven up a salad with fresh fennel. Try our Rustic tomato and salami salad.

Come back next Monday for another food dilemma solved!