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What would you like to learn to make from scratch but are intimidated by the thought of trying?

For me, it's hand-made spring roll (popiah) skins. I think this is definitely a skill to master!


Another is pastry, but I think that's just because I haven't tried it yet.

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  1. I'd love to try making cured sausage....salami-type sausage. I'm intimidated by the thought of messing up the curing process, and killing us with some sort of exotic food poisoning. I've ordered the Ruhlman book though, and I'm hoping that it will inspire me with some confidence.

    Aside from that, I'm more or less fearless. (Well, okay, puff pastry. I've made it, but it sucked. Feh. I buy it now, like a philistine.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: SherBel

      Ooh yes, that's a good one - I agree, I'd be too scared to try and cure anything. I bought Darina Allen's "Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why" which I just love, and really enjoyed the chapters on making ham and bacon from scratch, but I can't see myself giving it a go.


      1. re: steve h.

        I've made a few dim sum dishes on occasion. It's rather time consuming cause obviously you have to have more than one dish and more than one filling. After making xiao long bao earlier this year, I'm inspired to do more "wrappers." Those were a real snap to make. Even the pleating went well. I've made har gow but they looked not so lovely. XLB photo attached.
        PS: I do know that XLB is not technically dim sum. I mention that because of the wrapper.

        1. Re: Dim Sum, there are hundreds (at least) kinds of dim sum, and some are really easy to make. I've made sui mai (or "shumai", spellings vary!) with shrimp and pork a few times, although I purchased the wrappers. They are a bit fussy, but not really difficult.

          . Steamed buns with sweet red bean paste are also easy and delicious.

          1 Reply
          1. re: SherBel

            I made won ton skins for the first time a couple of weeks ago. Not as difficult as I thought they would be :)

          2. There are things I would love to do but am foiled by facilities - I'd like to try making sausages and smoked meats, but I live in an apartment with minimal storage space. I'd also like to try things like puff pasty from scratch, but live in a hot humid climate.

            I'd love to get into beer brewing, but unfortunately making alcohol at home is illegal.

            Of things I would like to try but haven't gotten around to are gnocci and consumme. For the latter, it's partially the thought of wasting food in the clarifying process.

            6 Replies
            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

              If you ever moved to Australia or New Zealand, you'd be able to do home brewing. One of my friends loves it, does all sorts of experiments!

              Gnocchi is on my "want to make" list too.

              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                Home brew is legal in many places, as is home made wine, depending on local laws. As far as I know the only thing that's totally illegal to make at home is actual distilled spirits. I had relatives who used to make apple cider, then set it out in winter and let it freeze - scrape the ice off the top, do it again. They got "concentrated" apple cider this way without actually distilling anything. It was like a poor man's apple brandy. I'm sure that was technically illegal as well, but how would they ever catch you? There's no paraphernalia, no mash, no muss no fuss no bother. As long as you weren't selling it, this type of home made spirits would be invisible to the revenooers.

                1. re: ZenSojourner

                  Both #1 & #2 sons make their own brewski, legally here. This Fall's experimental "Let's just see what happens" beer was pumpkin-raisin beer, recipe and concept courtesy of Daniel (#2 son.) Now he wants to try fig beer, with figs from my tree.
                  The pumpkin-raisin, by the way, was quite unsuccessful. Darling Daughter said, "It tastes and smells like a pumpkin does after some prankster throws it in the street and it's been there about three weeks." Pretty apt description, if you ask me. Ugh.

                  1. re: mamachef

                    I'm pretty sure I would not be able to get that close enough to my face to actually drink it, LOL!

                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                      My dad made root beer once upon a time, and first while it was curing, we kids got into it and it had turned alcoholic and it was nasty but for some reason we kept drinking it anyway. Then dad tightened the caps before they were fully ready, and kaboom!! Ever tried cleaning up spilt, congealed, beery soda and 6 dozen bottles worth of glass?

                      1. re: mamachef

                        LOL! One of those things that is definitely not funny at the time but (hopefully) seems much funnier the more time passes.

                        Fermentation is controlled rotting (or at least we HOPE it's controlled). It smells pretty much the same as uncontrolled rotting, so I imagine it smelled pretty awful.

              2. I conquered the fear and made something pastry-ish yesterday. I think it turned out ok but it was a bit tough. Maybe I overworked it - will have to do some research.

                1. Not really in the category of making something from scratch but I am intimidated by canning/preserving. I have a large vegetable garden every year and would love to can some of my veggies but the process seems overwhelming and full of pitfalls.

                  I am planning on researching the whole process over this winter and hopefully getting going next summer.

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: baseballfan

                    Just started ourselves and it is super duper easy. The Ball complete book (not the blue book) is a great starter title, although many of the recipes seem unnecessarily high in sugar. Just make sure you get all the right basic equipment and it actually seems harder to mess up than to get right.

                    1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                      I'm wondering whether the high sugar content might help with the preserving? I've heard people say things like "it'll be ok, it's got so much sugar, nothing will grow in that" (meaning bacteria, etc)

                      Not speaking authoritatively, I really don't know.

                      1. re: ursy_ten

                        Lots of sugar does impede bacterial bloom, but it doesn't do much to stop the growth of mold.

                        We canned and made jelly every year and at one point had a jelly backlog of several years. If there was mold where a paraffin seal was less than perfect, we scooped the mold off and ate it anyway. I wouldn't do that anymore, but it was pretty normal for the times when my parents grew up, before refrigeration and during the depression.

                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                          Ah. *nods* Thanks for the input, ZenSojourner.

                          Why would you not do it anymore? (scoop the mold off and eat it anyway) I mean, it sounds as though it didn't do anybody any harm, right?

                          1. re: ursy_ten

                            I'm not convinced that it did no harm. We had an awful lot of "flu" when I was a kid. Somehow that stopped when I moved away from home.

                        2. re: ursy_ten

                          I dunno. I mentioned the proportions to a friend who happens to be a professional baker and an experienced home preserver and her jaw dropped.

                          My guess is that you may be right (although I would think dissolved sugar would be a highly desirable food for little bad guys), and a book published by a large corporation is going to err on the side of an overabundance of caution---in the same way appliance cookbooks often steer clear of raw egg, raw fish, rare meat, etc. Or maybe the folks at Ball just favor sweeter products.

                        1. re: baseballfan

                          Same for me, I'm most intimidated by home-canned and preserved foods. I'm afraid I will mess it up and kill all of my closest friends and family with botulism or some other nasties. ;) My grandma still does some jams and pickles. I'm going to ask her to guide me through it the first time and get over my can phobia next summer!

                          1. re: elysabeth

                            Definitely ask Grandma. My grandmother also canned and preserved tons of stuff. Unfortunately, I was not interested at the time...young and stupid! I could kick myself now as she passed away about 12 years ago and all the knowledge went with her.

                            I may try and take a class if I can find one one. I am also trying to avoid killing any loved ones.

                            1. re: elysabeth

                              I still remember a t.v show from when I was about 7 in which people got botulism from home canned jam at a state fair. I don't think that I knew what canning or botulism were, but I knew it wasn't good! Oddly, that's left me leery of canning to this day, though I am the happy (eager) recipient of other people's canned goodies.

                              1. re: janeh

                                Botulism from jam would be pretty weird (because jam is EASY). Botulism from green beans, though . . . I was so nervous about home canned green beans that I have never actually eaten any of my own home canned green beans to this day. OTHER people ate them and no one ever died, but I wouldn't touch them.

                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                  I preserve a lot, but I do have bad dreams of killing everyone around me. I haven't come remotely close after hundreds of jars over the years. I think one of the reasons is the abundant caution that I use. I only make high sugar/high acid preserves -- pickles and jams. To be fair, though, I add a lot less sugar to my fruit preserves than what traditional recipes call for, mostly out of taste reasons and health reasons. But they still have plenty of sugar to be perfectly safe. And, after I have made the jam, I always process them in a hot water bath longer than what the cookbook calls for because I want to be very sure to get a very tight seal on the lid and processing them longer means that the jam is returned to a high termperature once again, thereby killing any bacteria. If you take reasonable precautions, then I don't think you have anything to fear. And if you're still freaked out, then just make small portions of jam and pickles and store them in the fridge, ready to be eaten within a few weeks. That way, you can skip the whole long-term storage issue.

                                2. re: janeh

                                  That's funny, I saw something similar on a TV show when I was a kid around the same age, I think it was home-canned baked beans or something and the whole family ended up paralyzed, some killed from botulism. Yikes, it still freaks me out!

                            2. Pie crust. I know it should be a simple thing, but pie crust is my big bugaboo, even more than bread. Comes of years of being told my pie crust was worthless and horrible. I don't actually know whether or not it was truly all that bad, but the message is so deeply ingrained that I have been unable to bring myself to try again in over 35 years.

                              18 Replies
                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                I had a similar experience in the early 70's and finally took a pastry class 2 years ago.

                                I now feel comfortable making a crust and I now understand it's all about extremely cold ingredients and having a food processor/KA mixer for a beginner. They say you can do it with a pastry cutter, but to me it would slow down the whole process and the dough wouldn't stay cold enough.

                                I have a simple no fail recipe if you want me to post it, it came from this board and it's very forgiving too.

                                1. re: mcel215

                                  Go for it! I've been working up the nerve to try again. I even bought a bag of apples to make a pie. I've eaten most of them, but there are always more apples . . .

                                  1. re: ZenSojourner

                                    This recipe is for a one crust pie, and perfect for those few apples you have left. I make a galette/tart/crostada with it. Peel, core and slice your apples. Place them in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice on them. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar, stir and let them sit for about 15 minutes.
                                    Place apples in the center of rolled out dough, leaving a 2 inche border all around. Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Starting on the outside, in a circular pattern, shingle apple slices. Fold up pie crust, pleating as you go. Dot with tiny specks of cold butter and brush folded crust with egg wash. Bake for about 30-40 minutes.

                                    Here's the recipe for the crust.

                                    From Pikawicca :

                                    For 1 crust, double for 2

                                    1 1/2 C. a-p flour
                                    1/4 tsp. salt, I use less
                                    1/8th tsp, baking powder
                                    1 stick cold unsalted butter cut into Tbs. slices
                                    3 Tbs. ice water

                                    Put flour, baking powder and salt in work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Whizz it a few times. Add butter and pulse until combined. Add water by the Tbs. pulsing. After the third Tbs. let it run until it forms a ball on the blade. Remove from processor and flatten into a disc. wrap in wax paper, Saran or what ever and refrigerate for at least an hour. Then roll out and put into your pie dish. If Blind baking prick well and refrigerate until well chilled before baking. This helps prevent it from shrinking.

                                    And here is a picture of the last one I made:

                                    1. re: mcel215

                                      Errr, I don't have access to a food processor right now? Are there alternate directions?

                                      Sorry . . .

                                      Also, any reason I couldn't put a streusel topping on this?

                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                        Well, do you have a KA mixer? I do the FP now, but used to do it with my standmixer.

                                        You can put anything you want on the top of the galette, I used a little apricot perserves when it came out of the oven to brush over the fruit.

                                        Good luck with the dough, you could always do it by hand too. Just remember to have cold hands. And no one gave me any tips about how to keep them cold. ;)

                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                          You can use the tines of a fork or rub the fat and flour between your fingers until you have a dry mixture. You should be able to squeeze the mixture into a ball that will still crumble. It is important that the fat be cold. A streusel top sounds great!

                                    2. re: mcel215

                                      And btw, when I was making this as a kid, I not only didn't have a food processor or a KA mixer, I didn't even have a pastry blender! I was blending the flour and shortening with TWO KNIVES! LOL!

                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                        In the 70's, I had no equipment either.

                                        Through the years, I have purchased a few things. Not many...

                                        1. re: ZenSojourner

                                          done it that way often enough. comes out fine, once you get used to it. just, it works like bread... don't be afraid to crumble back to bits and add more water/flour. my pie crust takes three times. but it's always crispy three days later!

                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                            I have made excellent crust for the last 28 years and have never used anything but 2 knives.

                                            I use my grandma's old crust recipe and it's probably from the side of a can of Crisco, ha. You don't need leavening, or vinegar, or booze, or food processers to make excellent crust. I have never understood why so many people have a problem w/ it, but it's different when you've done something since you were a kid. I have no clue how to do so many of the things I read about on here! I suppose we all have our talents : )

                                        2. re: ZenSojourner

                                          Me too..I hate to say this, but I've been married almost 22 years and have never made my husband a pie.

                                          1. re: vafarmwife

                                            I'm 63 and have never made a pie for anyone. Big deal. I don't like pie; why should I cook one?

                                          2. re: ZenSojourner

                                            Oo, I meant to reply earlier but got distracted by the mold discussion.
                                            It made me so sad to read about your pie crust experience - that someone would be so harsh and critical.

                                            I can only hope that you never experience it again.

                                            1. re: ursy_ten

                                              I had that reaction as well. Jerk.

                                            2. re: ZenSojourner

                                              Oh. Oh no. So easy - not "for a moderately trained cook" - just EASY. And you deserve to get over whatever jerk told you your crust wasn't good.

                                              I know the vodka or all butter crust is de rigueur, but here's my method/recipe (which I routinely am "convinced" will be horrible/failed/very not good - but ALWAYS turns out perfect):

                                              For a double crust:
                                              2 cups AP flour (I always use cheap flour for crust)
                                              1/4 tsp salt
                                              2/3 C lard
                                              5-6 T ice water

                                              Mix flour and salt. Cut in lard (I know, but you'll be a lard purist too after a hundred perfect crusts) with a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands (if you use this method, just sort of lightly toss/do that "get crumbs off of your fingers" movement, moving fairly quickly) until the lard is mostly incorporated into the flour - don't worry about "pea size" or "crumbs" - you just don't want big chunks of lard or big areas of, well, "un-larded" flour.

                                              A tablespoon at a time, add your ice water. I sprinkle a T, give the moist area a light toss with a fork toward the side of the bowl and sprinkle another. What you're looking for is almost a PlayDoh level of moisture. You don't want a big mass of "workable, breadlike" dough - just a few moist crumbles off to the side.

                                              This is the *only* tricky thing about pie dough, IMO - you want to be able to pat the dough together and have it stick in a ball - but not where it sticks to your fingers. And you do have to play it by feel - dough varies w/the humidity in the air. So aim for something that's overall a bit moister than PlayDoh, but drier than, say, sugar cookie dough.

                                              Depending on time (I never have enough!) you can pat it into a big ball or two and chill, or just get to work...

                                              When you roll it out, a "lightly floured surface" means to sprinkle flour on your counter (or wax paper) so that it is lightly covered but you can see the counter - not a solid cover. Then run your fingers through it in an S pattern - leaving the counter showing completely where your S was drawn.

                                              Form a rough ball in the center of your floured surface and flour your rolling pin (I just grab a scant handful of flour, rub in on the pin, and let the rest fall on the top of the dough). Roll out from the center, changing direction of the pin frequently. (ie, middle to north, middle to nw, ne, sw, se, and so on) until it's the size you want - about 1/4"? 1/8th? It'll be about 12", all told.

                                              Starting from an edge, use a pastry scraper to quickly "slice" the dough away from your counter if it sticks at all and sort of flip it over and roll it onto the rolling pin, then transfer to the pie pan.

                                              I generally make a lattice crust apple pie these days (can't get away from it - mutiny would ensue!) so I repeat the rolling, then take a pastry wheel and cut strips a bit more than an inch thick from that. (Let me know if you need lattice help from there.)

                                              As I mentioned, it's not sexy, in fact it's the oldest of old-fashioned recipes, but it has never failed me - even when I've been convinced it was "too dry, too wet, too crumbly, too ____." It just turns out perfectly every time, and takes about 45 minutes from start to in-the-oven.

                                              ETA: If you truly really completely don't trust your pie crust skills, make a pot pie at your next attempt - they are SO forgiving, and so amazingly comfort-food-good (turkey or chicken needs sherry, fwiw)... and if for some reason you don't like the looks of your crust... melt some great cheddar or a nice dilled havarti on top.

                                              1. re: shanagain

                                                Thanks for the encouragement. I had posted an answer to ursy_ten above but apparently it was deleted by the moderators. I'll just say the jerk in question was my mother, who was a very sad and unhappy woman. I did all the cooking for the family from age 6, so whenever a pie was required (my mother set the menus) I would, with great dread in my heart, break out the sifter, the wax paper, the big measuring bowl, the flour, and all the other stuff and dutiful do my best to follow the recipe instructions for pie dough. No one ever showed me how to make pie dough, I just had the directions to follow. I suspect that in my increasing anxiety to avoid criticism for my awful pie dough I was actually over-handling the dough - because I had to roll it out perfectly, right? I baked a lot of pies over the years but this is one time where practice doesn't make perfect, at least not when you keep making the same mistake over and over again because no one shows you where your mistake is.

                                                So I'm working up the nerve to try again. Thanks again for the recipes and the encouragement. Youtube is a wonderful thing - it lets me go and see how other people do things. That's how I finally figured out how to make a proper dosai too. Recipes are great but they can't really teach you hands-on techniques.

                                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                  Big hugs to you.

                                                  I am the official "Thanksgiving dressing maker" in my family... but my mother refuses to believe I am capable of making cornbread for said dressing (granted, I generally get a baggie of cornbread from her, but this year I refuse - hear me, Mom? REFUSE! to take that baggie of cornbread - and so will produce my first non-Mom dressing for T-giving this year... at the tender age of 40. lol) But... you know that point where I recommended a pot pie? That's because I am a firm believer in trial runs. I'm happy to report that cornbread - like pie crust - is not actually rocket science. (Mine was AWESOME.)

                                                  It also *still* won't be "as good as last year." But you know... Moms. What can you do, really? (If you're the type, you can have your own kids and torture them in new and different ways later.)

                                                  psst, I suspect that your Mom, or maybe her mom, just didn't like that she handed the chore off to you, and therefore had to compensate by criticism. But yk, this is a cooking board, not a "UGH, MOMS!" board. ;)

                                                  I agree, btw, YouTube is awesome, particularly for things you never thought to look for!

                                                  1. re: shanagain

                                                    You know the "jerk" in the equation was really her father. Fortunately he wasn't around us much.

                                                    I've seen these round plastic things that you sort of zip the dough into - are those actually any help? I do have a pastry blender now - it's my preferred instrument for the smashing of potatoes and mincing (or possibly re-mincing) of cooked ground meat.

                                            3. caramel. praline. anything in the "bah, it's too finicky" category.

                                              1. I've always wanted to make my own cheese and wine. With fermentables, I did, however, used to make my own yogurt.

                                                1. Croissants. It seems like it requires particular techniques and lots of time, so i tend to just say that I'll buy them from experts. But if I turned out a good croissant, my wife would be over the moon happy...

                                                  3 Replies
                                                    1. re: glutton

                                                      It takes time but most of it is resting time. I took a class and it made a big difference having someone over my shoulder giving me hints. One batch makes a lot so you can freeze it and bake when you want. Make your wife happy any time!

                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                        I've made good croissants and pain au chocolat using a recipe from Baking WIth Julia. The directions are very detailed and the first time I made them I found an on line source (don't remember which) that had good step by step photos of the process. It's more a matter of time and courage and certainly worth a try - kind of amazing to do it yourself. That said, they're not something that I make often....now that I have the courage, making the time and contemplating the calories can be real deterrents!

                                                    2. I really want to try curing my own bacon, but I'm afraid, so very afraid!! And then there's the phyllo dough: I wish I wasn't lazy, because I'd really like to attempt that, but I am, so I guess it's not going to happen. At least anytime soon.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: mamachef

                                                        For you mama, bacon would be easy! 7 days of curing in the fridge, and some time on a smoker. One of the simplest things I make. And the results are not to be dismissed easily.

                                                        1. re: smtucker

                                                          smtucker, can you point me to a link or recipe? I'm a firm believer in the tried-and-true, so I'd appreciate it so much!

                                                      2. Have y'all seen those damned precious pies-in-a-jar? No, not mixes - they're adorable little pies baked in short canning jars, even straight from the freezer?

                                                        For some reason I refuse to believe they're not going to shatter in the oven. But they are SOFA KING CUTE.

                                                        Gah, even cuter: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_KvhQGVWdDdk...

                                                        But for some reason, they scare me.

                                                        5 Replies
                                                        1. re: shanagain

                                                          Wow, they are cute - lol @ sofa king, I've never seen that before!
                                                          Do they scare you because they are in glass, maybe?

                                                          1. re: ursy_ten

                                                            Yep. On all counts. LOL

                                                            The irony is that almost everything I bake is baked in Pyrex - which is, yk, glass. (And I've even had Pyrex shatter into a zillion pieces while it was cooling after coming out of the oven.)

                                                            But for some reason, I haven't made those ridiculously adorable pies yet.

                                                            1. re: shanagain

                                                              They are super cute, that's for sure. I think I'd be worried because pyrex is special glass... it's tempered or something, to withstand the heat. Even with that extra treatment, they do shatter sometimes - as you've already experienced.

                                                              Hmmm, nonetheless, I'm gonna have to find out more about this pie-in-a-jar business!
                                                              My daughter would flip over these babies!

                                                          2. re: shanagain

                                                            Would baking them in ramekins spoil the effect for you? I did that with the excess pumpkin pie filling the other day. They looked pretty cute, IMHO. ;)

                                                            1. re: manderv

                                                              I bet they did - I have to get me some super-cute ramekins!