Grain-Free Pie Crust and Butter Cookie Dough

I have an admission to make – while it is generally accepted that I make one helluva good pie crust, I have freely admitted (when asked) to have been working from another’s recipe. The Silver Pallete cookbook has been a mainstay of our household, since before I was even part of this household. The binding is worn and 3/4 of the pages are falling out, and it is well used.

The Pâté Brissé recipe towards the back – it is not so much a recipe as one of a set of tips – explains the secret: cold, cold, COLD butter, and just enough water to let the dough form.

Making a grain-free version of this crust is a bit tricky, because what tends to make for a very good pie crust – flaky but not crumbly – is gluten. Gluten holds everything else together, and its binding power is hard to replace. We’ll use an egg here, but you can also try – if you’re brave enough – a mixture of tapioca starch, arrowroot powder and ground flax seed (about 1/8 cup each) to try to make things a bit gooey-er. But honestly, a single egg works fine. Scramble it first, before you mix it in with the other ingredients.

The trick here is to use a bit of teff flour. Teff is not a grain – it is the seed of a grass – and teff flour may even qualify as Paleo if it is properly fermented prior to cooking (I don’t do that here.)

As you’ll see in the steps below, the trick is to have ice-cold chopped up butter and to work it into the dry ingredients quickly but without heating it up. A strong set of wrists help, as well as a very solid fork.

Grain-Free Paleoish Pie Crust/Butter Cookies
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 9" Crust 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 Minutes 25 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 9" Crust 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 Minutes 25 Minutes
Grain-Free Paleoish Pie Crust/Butter Cookies
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 9" Crust 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 Minutes 25 Minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 9" Crust 20 Minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
20 Minutes 25 Minutes
Ingredients
Servings: 9" Crust
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Add Teff flour, almond flour, salt and baking powder to a bowl.
  3. Chop the butter, which should already be frozen, into cubes, and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Frozen butter is the secret to every decent pie crust you've ever had, and that's what we're shooting for here.
  4. With a sturdy metal fork or wooden spoon, begin smearing the butter into the dry ingredients. You can do this in a cuisinart blender as well, but you will not get credit for the reps. You'll also need to move more quickly with a blender, because the heat from the blade will melt the butter, and you really don't want that.
  5. Eventually you will have "sheets" of butter encrusted with the dry ingredients. You can stop mixing at this point - you don't want to completely incorporate the butter and the dry ingredients any further.
  6. Scramble the egg throughly, and then add to the dough. Mix until incorporated. There's usually enough water in the egg to form a dough ball, but if not, add up to 1-2 TBSP of water. Stop when a ball forms.
  7. Put the dough in the the freezer for 10-15 minutes. The goal is again to get the butter nice and cold. A good crust can only form if the butter melts as the crust hardens in the oven.
  8. Remove the dough ball from the freezer. Place a sheet of wax paper down on the baking sheet, and put the dough ball on top.
  9. Place another sheet of wax paper on top of the dough ball, and roll it out to approximately 1/4" thickness. Work quickly, you don't want that butter to melt!
  10. Remove the top sheet of wax paper, flip the rolled out dough over into a 9" pie plate, and remove the other piece of wax paper. If the dough is sticking too much to the wax paper as you remove it, put the entire sheet back in the freezer for 10 minutes, and try again.
  11. (Optional) Place a clean sheet of parchment paper onto the pie crust, and cover the pie tin with dried beans or rice. You want to use something that will keep the pie crust weighted down. Note that this tends to not make much of a difference with the Paleo version of this crust, but the gluten-y original will puff up unless weighted down in this way.
  12. Alternatively, if you are making butter cookies, this is where you'll cut the crust into shapes and arrange on a cookie sheet.
  13. Bake in the oven at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  14. Remove and allow to cool.
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Pumpkin Spiced Buttered Popcorn

Back in 1893, Charles D. Cretors introduced the first commercial steam-driven popcorn machine at the Chicago World’s Fair. Hewing to an original commercial recipes that featured clarified butter, lard and salt, these machines were the first to be able to produce a consistently popped popcorn.

We’ve updated the recipe only slightly, adding the now-ubiquitous pumpkin spices adorning everything from bagels to potato chips to lip gloss.

Pumpkin Spice Butter Coffee
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Pumpkin Spice Butter Coffee
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 cups 5 minutes
Cook Time
5 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the spices in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add unpopped popcorn kernels to the bowl.
  3. Melt 2 TBSP butter in a smal dish in the microwave.
  4. Pour butter over popcorn and spice mixture. Stir to coat.
  5. Heat a heavy pan (cast iron is best) over high heat. You should have a heavy lid to match the pan.
  6. When the pain is HOT (drip a drop of water on the pan; it should sizzle and evaporate immediately), add 1 TBSP of butter to the pan and allow it to melt.
  7. Pour the butter-spice-popcorn mixture into the pan and cover immediately with the lid.
  8. Shake the pan over high heat, keeping it continuously moving. You want the kernels to be rolling around in the pan; if they are still for too long, the popcorn will burn.
  9. You'll hear the kernels begin to sizzle in the pan, and then they'll start to pop. Keep shaking that pan back and forth! All of the kernels should pop within 20-30 seconds, a minute at most.
  10. As soon as there are 1-2 seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat and remove the lid (careful, there'll be a lot of steam).
  11. Pour into a large bowl, sprinkle with salt to taste, and serve immediately!
Recipe Notes

Substitute 1 packet of Pumpkin Spice fatCoffee mix for all of the ingredients except the popcorn. This works best if you are using an air popper or one of these silicone microwave poppers  instead of a the stove method (the powdered milk in the fatCoffee will tend to burn on the stove.) Follow the directions provided by your air popper for adding butter and flavorings.

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A short story about coconuts, in 73 parts

Coconut gets a lot of attention – it’s good for you, it’s bad for you, it cures everything, no one knows anything about what it really does… pretty much the full spectrum of opinion.

I thought it would be useful to try and pull as much of the information together in one place as I could find, for anyone who’s interested in understanding what coconut oil really does, and doesn’t do – and what we know, and don’t know, about it.

Dr. Evil Isn't Sure about Coconut OilTL;DR: Coconut isn’t evil, (as long as you stay away from the chemically altered stuff) but it’s not magic instant-happy powder either.

From drinking coconut milk or water, to baking with coconut flour, to eating, drinking and “pulling” coconut oil, there are a lot of stories about the benefits, drawbacks, and unknowns about coconut products.

For the skeptical among you, it’s reasonable to assume that I have a reason to want to believe that coconut oil is some sort of miracle substance. So let’s start off with a simple truth, one which I’ll repeat throughout this site: there are no panaceas. No single food, activity, lifestyle or medicine is going to solve every single problem with our modern diet.

But there are 63 million tonnes of coconut harvested (as of 2013) every year – and someone is consuming all of it. And if you look at where coconut is traditionally consumed as a dietary staple ingredient, you see rather low levels of cardiovascular disease (until those cultures switch from ghee and coconut oil as their primary sources of fat, to corn, sunflower and safflower oils. That’s typically when obesity and heart disease start to appear in significant numbers.) So something is afoot, even if it’s as simple as “coconut isn’t the big, bad, saturated-fat monster it’s been made out to be.”

That’s a mighty big nut

A diagram of a coconut palm tree and it’s fruit, the coconut.

First, let’s start with what a coconut isn’t: it is not, botanically, a nut. Coconut is a drupe, or stone fruit, the defining characteristic of which is an outer, fleshy portion (b) surrounding the actual seed of the fruit (c). In the case of coconuts, this fleshy layer (the white stuff) is usually surrounded with an outer, fibrous husk (a). When younger, the flesh is tender, and almost the consistency of a very thick gelatin. As the coconut matures, the outer husk and flesh harden, the amount of water inside decreases, and the hard, white flesh can be used to produce oil, flour, and milk.

Coconut is basically an entirely self-contained bread-baking unit. Use coconut water, oil, milk and flour, and some charcoal from the husk; find yourself an egg (optionally) and make an entirely self-baking coconut-based meal. If MacGyver were a plant, he’d be a coconut.

Versatile, for sure. What about it’s utility as a source of nutrition? In other words:

What about me?

South Pacific Islanders have been shown to have remarkably low levels of cardiovascular disease, despite diets rich in saturated fats.

Particularly in tropical regions from the Philippines to Mexico, Malaysia, Polynesia and Indonesia, coconut is a major food stock sometimes accounting for up to 80% of fat intake. What does the scientific community think of it as a food source?

Coconut Oil’s Effects on Alzheimer’s and Brain Function

Bruce Fife, certified nutritionist and naturopathic physician, author of more than 20 books including The Coconut Oil Miracle, and the Director of the Coconut Research Centre says, “Coconut oil is the healthiest oil on earth.” He goes on to state a plethora of health benefits of it. While there is some research to support each of his claims, the evidence is far from certain. While the Alzheimer’s Association acknowledges anecdotal support for the effectiveness of coconut oil, they note that there has “never been any clinical testing of coconut oil for Alzheimer’s.

Which is not to say that no one is trying to figure it out:

  • Coconut oil appears to help protect neurons against degeneration, when tested in vitro (in a petri dish, basically.) To vastly oversimplify their findings: coconut oil might, by being converted into ketones, provide an alternative energy source for the brain. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, the brain begins to lose the ability to use glucose as an energy source, but maintains its ability to use ketone bodies to function. So intuitively, this makes some sense: starved for one kind of fuel, the brain makes use of another source that it is in increased supply.
  • Researchers in Florida and Canada are looking into how coconut oil might help to alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and they are conducting their studies in actual patients, rather than using cell cultures in a dish. This is important, because we want to know what the demonstrable effects of a treatment are, not just the biochemical reactions that are occurring (though those are important, too.)

 

Antibacterial Properties of Coconut Oil

Who has antibacterial properties? Lauric acid? Who? Coconuts.

There are a number of studies looking at the ability of various individual components of coconut oil, specifically lauric acid, to interfere with bacterial activity.

  • Lauric acid appears to have anti-microbial effects. Again, this is an in vitro study: researchers put bacteria in a dish, and applied different concentrations of virgin coconut oil as well as its individual components, and looked at what happened to the bacterium. Spoiler alert: most of the bacteria died.
  • The same effect has been confirmed when researchers tested monolaurin (which is made from lauric acid, which is highly concentrated in coconut oil), in some cases by interfering with bacterium’s signaling abilities.
  • In might also have anti-fungal properties, and appears in this study to be as effective as flucanazole (a widely used anti-fungal medication) in combating various species of Candida.

 

Coconut Oil and Blood Glucose

It appears that medium-chain saturated fatty acids (SFAs, of which coconut has a high concentration) are helpful in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. One study found an increased insulin response following a meal high in medium chain SFAs produced “a tendency toward higher insulin response” in patients with Type-2 Diabetes and their relatives (of Type-2 diabetes, not the people who had it.)

 

Cardiovascular Health and Coconut Oil

What about cardiovascular health in particular? Most of the arguments against using coconut oil focus on it’s saturated fat content, and are based on the now-discredited fat myth. If you’re accustomed to or exploring a Primal/Paleo/Ketogenic diet, you’re comfortable with the idea of consuming a fairly large amount of fat (and protein, and veggies, ‘natch.) But it’s not necessarily well-known (yet) that the now-well-trodden idea that “fat makes you fat” has been, more or less thoroughly, discredited.

Alternatively, some commentators have focused on the negative effects of trans-fats in coconut oil. The problem there is that the proportion of naturally-occurring trans fats in coconut oil is minuscule, if detectable at all; only when coconut oil is hydrogenated do trans fats appear in significant proportions.

  • Coconut milk seems to have a positive effect on blood lipid profiles, raising HDL and lower LDL.
  • MCT Oil (which is usually derived from coconut oil, but is comprised entirely of the Medium Chain Triglycerides, hence it’s name) seems to have beneficial effects on arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) due to aging – at least in rats.
  • “Intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease), stroke, or CVD (cardiovascular disease).”

 

Stress Relief

I’m not sure, but I’m willing to bet that coconuts obtain some of their stress-relieving qualities as a result of having evolved in some of the most mellow places on earth.

Coconut oil could have antistress and antioxidant properties as well, at least in mice. (For reasons of biology and evolutionary similarity, mice are good proxies for many human biological responses. Plus, humans generally don’t like it when you intentionally injure them in order to see if coconut oil makes them feel better. Neither do the mice, I imagine.) From that study:

“Virgin coconut oil (VCO) has been consumed worldwide for various health-related reasons and some of its benefits have been scientifically evaluated… Furthermore, mice treated with VCO were found to exhibit higher levels of brain antioxidants, lower levels of brain 5-hydroxytryptamine [serotonin] and reduced weight of the adrenal glands.”

 

Weight Loss and Metabolic Profile of Coconut Oil

Weight management, and the relationship of dietary fat to those efforts, is obviously a complex subject. MCT oil, which is derived from coconut oil (and sometimes palm kernel oil) is generally understood to be thermogenic: as a result, when added to a diet where other factors are kept constant, the result is generally some degree of weight loss. An outstanding summation of what is known about coconut oil, including the effects on weight as a result of incorporating it into your diet, is covered on Dr. Weil’s website.

Generally, the ability of any food to aid in weight loss or maintenance is going to come down to two things: how does it get digested, and does it satisfy you for a significant period of time. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, and “Some studies have shown that MCTs can help in the process of excess calorie burning, thus weight loss.”

 

Now We’re Cooking with Gas

A traditional method of grinding raw coconut in preparation for extracting the oil through the “wet process” method.

Much has been made of the fact that oils consumed in their “natural” state may or may not behave the same once they are heated, and there’s certainly plenty of evidence that oils break down and start turning rancid at high temperatures. So, two things worth considering:

  • Manufacturing process: “Virgin” coconut oil is generally made in one of two ways: a “dry” method involves drying the coconut meat in a kiln, oven or in the sun and then pressing the meat until the oil is extracted. Alternatively, the “wet” method involves pressing coconuts before they are dried, then using a centrifuge to mechanically separate coconut oil from the water. But there’s no industry-standard definition for “virgin” or “extra virgin” coconut oil (as there is for olive oil), so methods and labels vary. But generally, a “virgin” coconut oil is one where the coconut has not been chemically refined.
  • Heating during cooking: Once you’ve got coconut oil in hand, what you do with it in the kitchen will have a significant effect on how much of its original nutritive value remains. Coconut oil has a high smoke point (about 350˚F). Up until that point, the oil retains most of its original Omega-3-to-omega-6 ratios, and doesn’t break down.

If you’re going to go through the expense and trouble of obtaining a high quality, wet-milled coconut oil, you’ll probably want to enjoy the full benefits of that by not heating it past its smoking point.

 

More Reading

The Ultimate Guide to the Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

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11 Questions About Butter Coffee, Answered

Whether you’ve been putting butter in your coffee for years, or you’re just hearing about it, chances are that you’ve come across at least some of these questions. While I’ve obviously got an interest in the answer, it’s still a great idea to critically examine as many viewpoints as possible, so that you can draw your own conclusions.

1) What’s this new fad about?

Rich, Buttery CoffeeIt’s actually not very new. As Dr. Weil explains: “adding butter to hot drinks is a longstanding tradition in many parts of the world. Mixing spiced butter into coffee is common in Ethiopia, for example. Similarly, hot tea with yak butter…”

 

2) Isn’t all that fat a bad idea?

Of the many debunked nutrition myths many people still cling to, the Lipid Hypothesis is among the most stubborn. There are ample reasons to doubt the assertion that fat intake leads directly to heart disease, but the story is far more complicated than a simplistic “eating A causes B” simplification. Among those which I find most compelling, this is an excellent place to start.

Also take a look at Why a High-Fat Diet is Healthy and Safe, paying particular attention to the fact that the types of fat are essential.

 

3) But fat is fat, right? What’s the difference?

It’s tempting to think that what we call “fat” is basically all the same thing. Again, start with some basic definitions, paying careful attention to the differences between monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, essential fatty acids and saturated fats. And keep an open mind, because much of what you may think you know about these (“they’re all bad”; “avoid fat entirely”; etc.) deserves a much closer look.

Saturated fat has received a bad reputation, but it's what 1/2 of our cells' membranes are made of, and it's essential for good health
A saturated fat molecule. Saturated fat has received a bad reputation, but it’s what 1/2 of our cells’ membranes are made of, and it’s essential for good health

Because of what we’ve chosen to make fatCoffee from, it bears taking a moment to learn a bit about saturated fat, which many people assume is another phrase for “pure, concentrated evil.” It’s not. Saturated fat is an essential dietary element, as it comprises about 1/2 of our cell membranes. And “saturated animal fats, like butter or fatty organ meats, contain huge amounts of essential fat-soluble vitamins (K2, A, D, among others).” (Read more…)

 

4) Great, so butter is awesome. Any butter, though, right?

Grass-fed butter has a different nutritional profile than butter from grain-fed cowsIf only it were that simple! There are an abundance of differences between butter from grass-fed cows and butter from cows which eat grains. Your best bet for obtaining excellent, high-quality butter is your local farmer’s market. fatCoffee® is made with ghee that comes from 100% grass-fed cows, pastured in Lancaster County, PA (about 20 miles from where we make it.)

 

5) Why would I actually put butter in my coffee? It tastes fine on this piece of toast.

To each her own, but you might want to think again about that toast. Apart from the awesome nutritional profile of grass-fed butter, adding it to your coffee, and shaking it vigorously or using a blender, makes an incredible, latte-like beverage. And unlike these concoctions, none of that amazing taste comes from refined sugars.

If you’re a coffee drinker, adding grass-fed butter has some potential benefits.

 

6) But why ghee? And what is ghee?

One of the essential reasons I began looking for an alternative to butter was that I wanted to make butter coffee when I traveled. And although some folks don’t mind packing a Nutribullet and a stick of butter with them, I found that TSA officials tend to be suspicious of big oily stains seeping through your carry-on luggage.

Plus, butter needs to be refrigerated, and do you really want rancid, spoiled butter in your coffee? Of course not.

ghee is clarified butter. and amazing.Ghee, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be refrigerated. And the reason is simple: ghee is simply butter, with the water and milk solids taken out. Take a pound of butter, put it in a pot over medium heat for about 15 minutes, then strain the resulting goodness through a bit of cheesecloth. What comes out on the other side is ghee.

 

7) How does this actually taste? 

Well, if you ask me, it tastes amazing. But it would, right? It’s butter, and most people don’t complain that “this food is just too buttery. I mean, it’s just so succulent and mouth watering and satisfying, I can’t stand it.”

But truth be told, there’s definitely a trick to it: you need to mix it up good. Because butter floating on top of coffee tastes like… well, a mouthful of butter, followed by a cup of coffee.

When you mix it up, the fat in the butter emulsifies into the coffee, and the result is a very creamy, smooth, latte-like beverage.

Think of it this way: on a scale of 1-10, where “1” is the limp, pasty complexion of coffee with skim milk, and 10 is the rich, creamy succulence of coffee with heavy cream, butter ranks around 12.

 

8) So, it’s high calorie, yeah?

Yes, not that that’s a bad thing. Again, look at the structure of what’s going into your coffee. Grass-fed butter has a vastly different nutritional profile than conventional whole milk – and, heaven-forbid, CoffeeMate (whoa, those are certainly some… ingredients.)

 

9) Coffee + Butter = Breakfast?

Satiating, certainly. And some people do find that they’ll skip breakfast when they have butter coffee, but we don’t recommend it. (Besides, why would you skip bacon?) Many people who drink butter coffee find that it helps them stay focused and energized through the morning.

But I tend to view butter coffee in general, and fatCoffee in particular, as a supplement to a breakfast that is high in the nutrients which butter and coconut oil aren’t. (Which are plenty, and important.)

 

10) This all sounds complicated

There are a number of recipes you can follow for making butter coffee, but I obviously have my favorite:

  • Add 1 packet of fatCoffee to a small, sealable water bottle
  • Add 8 oz of fresh-brewed, hot coffee
  • Shake for 30 seconds; open carefully
  • Drink (or, optionally, pour it into a mug first)

Here’s a source of  15 Bulletproof Coffee Recipes That Will Get Your Body and Mind FIRING you can check out – I think a good number of them work quite well with fatCoffee.

 

11) Does it matter what kind of coffee I use?

There are definitely people who think it does, as well as some considerable number of people who’ll tell you that most single-source, fresh-roasted beans are equally fine to use. We have sourced some excellent single-source coffee which I’m including in our Private Beta Taste Release 1, if you’re lucky enough to get a pack.