From breaking scientific studies, surveys, and special promotional events, to the latest and greatest creations in fast food, drinks, and snacks, we’ve skimmed off the cream of the crop and are serving it up in fun and informative bite-sized pieces that are still enough to chew on.
When it comes to the question of store-bought vs homemade pie crust, for most pros, there’s no question: homemade is superior. But even pastry chefs can concede that sometimes, the convenience of store-bought crust can’t be beat.
“I will always side with tackling homemade pie dough,” says Ann Kirk, head pastry chef at Little Dom’s in Los Angeles. “The flavor and flaky texture is absolutely worth the effort!” Though she says if you’re truly pressed for time, grab one out of the freezer section of your local grocery.
Considering time, cost, and flavor, which is better: store-bought or homemade pie crust?
Speed and ease of use are the key benefits of store-bought pie crust—assuming you’ve got one on hand and ready to go. You can even pick up a frozen pie crust in its own baking pan with little prep involved. Homemade pie crust may require just a few ingredients, but it can take some time and technique to pull together.
“If you haven’t planned ahead and need crust in a hurry, and you have a purchased frozen crust in your freezer, all you need to do is unfold it and go. Easy,” says PJ Hamel, longtime baker and blogger for King Arthur Flour. “However, sometimes it may be easier to simply use the flour, butter, water, and salt you already have at home to make your own crust.”
But you might have more time to make homemade pie crust than you think. It might take you about 15 minutes to pull together pie crust ingredients, then 30 minutes of chill time. While your crust is chilling, you can use the time to work on prepping the filling.
Pastry chef Teresa Shurilla, program coordinator for the culinary arts program at University of Hawai’i Maui College remembers making pie crust with her grandma: “She showed me how easy it was to cut in the shortening and roll the dough. It takes practice, of course, to improve those techniques,” she says. “But it takes just as much time to go to the store, buy the frozen product, place that in the oven, and call it “homemade.”
Think it’s too hard to make pie crust at home? Don’t overthink it. Shurilla encourages home bakers to focus on the key details: Keep the fat cold, don’t over mix, don’t over flour the surface, chill the dough.
You’re likely to save when you opt for homemade, but either option is inexpensive. The flour, butter, salt, and water needed to bring together a homemade crust add up to about $1 to $2 per serving, compared to $2 to $3 for a package of store-bought crust. That dollar or two of savings might not make much of a difference if you only make pies occasionally, but it could add up if you’re a regular pie baker.
If you want to maximize pie crust flavor, homemade pie crust is the superior choice. There’s just no comparison to the taste and versatility you can make at home.
You can choose your fat base to adjust the flavor, whether you prefer butter, lard, or shortening (or a combination of all three). Plus, you can tweak your recipe depending on the filling you’re planning.
“Add a touch of sugar if your filling is on the bitter or tangy side,” suggests Hamel. Making an apple pie? Make it even better by adding cinnamon to the crust.”
Nicole Guini, pastry chef at Blackbird likes to make cookie and graham cracker crusts in large batches, then freeze them. “Most people have cookies stashed away in their pantry. All you need is some butter and salt and you have a quick, homemade pie crust,” she says.
You’re more in control of the ingredients with a homemade pie crust, too. That matters for taste—and your health, too. The typical homemade pie crust is made of flour, salt, water and butter. A store-bought crust is likely to contain partially hydrogenated lard, preservatives and even food dye, which might give you pause.
Store bought vs. homemade pie crust isn’t a permanent team choice. You can of course use one or the other as you prefer. When is one a better choice than the other?
When you’re in a time crunch and you have a store-bought crust ready to go, save yourself the trouble and use what you’ve got. But if you’ve got the time and energy to dial up your pie crust game, homemade is the way to go. And maybe, double your recipe so you’ll have some stashed in the freezer for the next time you need a quick crust.
Latte vs cappuccino: do you know the difference between these two coffee drinks? You probably know which one you like, but what do you know about the one you shun?
Somehow the question of difference between a latte and a cappuccino has become a hot-button topic for coffee people of all types, from the hater to the dilettante to the professional. Why is it so hard to distinguish between these two drinks? A few different reasons leap to mind, including the fact that they have literally the exact same ingredients—espresso, steamed milk, and foam—and the truth that in most cafés, specialty or not, the baristas are wildly inconsistent with their preparation of both beverages, though not necessarily on purpose (or even knowingly).
Let’s get right to it:
Fundamentally, these drinks are defined by their texture, which is determined by the ratio of ingredients: A cappuccino has more foam by volume than a latte does. A latte tends to comprise mostly of gently steamed milk with a kiss of foam on top, just enough so that it’s mostly gone after a sip or two, though it informs the overall mouthfeel of the entire delightful drink.
One really easy way to remember this is to translate the word latte from the Italian to the English: It simply means “milk.” (In fact, in lots of smart-alecky Italian bars, if you simply order a latte they will give you a glass of milk; a caffe latte is actually what you want, and will more often produce the correct results.)
The term cappuccino has disputed origins, but many repeat the legend that the drink is named for the Capuchin monks, an order of Catholic brothers who wore brown cowls and shaved their heads bald. If you look down on a properly poured cappuccino, it has a design on it called a “monk’s head,” a ring of brown espresso circling a thick white ball of foam—just like an aerial view of one of these monks, or so it goes. (Just think of a “cap” as a hat, or a topping, of foam—that should help you remember the difference.) Ideally, or traditionally speaking, a cappuccino is meant to be a perfect ratio of the components: 1/3 espresso coffee, 1/3 milk, 1/3 foam.
In many specialty-coffee shops today, however, baristas are trained to add the same amount of texture to their steamed milk by utilizing the same technique regardless of drink. Often the way they compensate for the identical milk is to simply make the drinks different sizes, with a cappuccino running smaller (say, six ounces) and a latte tending a little larger (say, eight, ten, or 12 ounces). The size difference alone changes the perception of texture when there’s any amount of foam involved, but often it’s not enough: If you like foam on your cappuccino (as you should!), you might want to request the barista make it a touch on the “dry” side, which means stretching the milk more to give it an airier, lighter, fluffier texture.
You might like one or the other, or you might like both—here’s how to enjoy either at home.
No matter how you like your espresso mixed with milk and foam, here are a few recipes and tips to bring you to a level of warm-caffeinated-drink nirvana.
Alton Brown is a coffee nerd from way back and he gets almost everything (except the milk, actually) right in this episode of “Good Eats.” Watch this for your espresso basics—but turn it off once he goes into the milk section. Or watch Allie Dancy demonstrate how to pull the perfect espresso shot above, then read up on why you should buy an espresso machine, and where espresso comes from in the first place.
It’s hard, but not impossible to make foamed milk (or “frothed” milk, which is a term that makes me vaguely uncomfortable) at home without an espresso machine. If you have a stove or a microwave, you can whip up some whipped milk in basically no time. See how to froth milk without fancy equipment, including a mason jar method, a French press method, and with a good old-fashioned whisk.
Once you’ve gotten your milk just gently textured, you’re ready to rock and roll with some of the hottest drink trends. A little sprinkle of turmeric into your espresso or strong-brewed coffee will bring you close to the Instagram craze of a golden latte (or, fine, a golden cappuccino—whatever you prefer). PS: Replace the “instant coffee” in this recipe with the real stuff. You’re worth it. Get the Turmeric Latte recipe.
Or go with the perennially trendy PSL, which is easy to make at home, not to mention way cheaper and healthier than the original. Unlike at Starbucks, you can even make it vegan with oat milk if you want to. Maple syrup, a quick DIY pumpkin spice blend, and real pumpkin puree make this something special—and if you don’t have an espresso machine, a Moka Pot is the next best thing. Get our Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.
Splash some chocolate syrup into your hot coffee, mix it with steamed milk, and voila, you’ve got yourself a caffe mocha, one of the most perfect drinks to grace the earth. If you’re feeling cappuccino-y, no worries: In Italy and in Australia, cappuccinos often come with a sprinkle of cocoa powder on top, which is basically an invitation to add chocolate however you see fit. (Also, try steaming chocolate milk and mixing it with hot coffee for a treat—you won’t be sorry.) Get the Mocha recipe.
Technically an “iced cappuccino” doesn’t really exist (who wants to scoop hot foam onto an iced drink?), but iced lattes are so easy and so delicious you won’t even care. Shaken all together, they can even have a fizzy texture that delights without the fuss! Get the Shakerato recipe.
Ask three Australians or New Zealanders what a flat white is and you’ll probably get three different answers. Generally speaking, the drink appears to be a latte-textured beverage (that is, very little foam) served in traditional cappuccino-size proportions (that is, slightly smaller, say five or six ounces total). The name is cute and ordering it makes one feel well-traveled and savvy, so if you like milky coffee drinks and are easy(ish) to please, this little number might be just the ticket for you. Get the Flat White recipe.