Friday, January 09, 2009


Things are never dull here in Mexico. I'm constantly facing challenges because I live here. For example, let me tell you about a few things that have happened in the past 18 hours.

Pie Crusts - Okay, pie crusts are a challenge for me on either side of the border but it is one that I can't buy my way out of here. In the USA I could buy frozen or Pillsbury pie crusts and not have to acquire the skill of making a decent pie crust. I've been working on conquering this one and I was beginning to think I was doing pretty good but last night.....not good. The crust just did not want to roll out. I think it was because I used Mexican butter while I had been using either Danish or Costco butter in my previous more successful attempts at crust making. Mexican butter is different. I don't know why but all the gringo foodies I know here agree the taste and texture is different. I was so unhappy with the crust that after I got it sort of rolled out, I wadded it back into a ball and thought I would make another one. Then I looked at the clock and realized that I didn't have time to do that before guests came so I rolled and patted it back into the pie dish and made my apple pie. This picture doesn't do the crust justice because it doesn't look as bad as the crust was. It did function as a "crust" but not a flaky crust. Embarrassing to say the least.

Plastic wrap - I know that the Mexicans use the plastic wrap made here but I can't get it to unroll or tear smoothly. By the time I get a piece separated from the roll it is wadded up and most of the time unuseable. And by the time I try to wrestle the third or fourth piece off of the roll, the box is coming apart. I haven't found a better local "brand." I could buy the Costco plastic wrap but it comes in a fairly good side box that doesn't fit in my cabinet drawer with the foil, wax paper and freezer bags. Or, I could bring ClingWrap down when we return from trips to Texas. I know, I know this is a small problem but I can get really worked up about trying to tear a piece off to cover a dish.

Ordering on line from HP - HP will not let me order on-line because I have a foreign IP address even though the order will be shipped to an address in the USA. Here I am ready to buy and HP won't take my money. Another aggravation.

Yes, all of these things are small potatoes but lots of these small things add up when you are living in a foreign country. Maybe this is why some people go back "home" after a few years. You either adjust or you look at this whole pile of little things as aggravations. Most of the time, I see them as a challenge and I think I have all of these "fixed" least for today.


Bob Mrotek said...


The big thing about butter is water content. Here are two very good blogs that I am sure you will like if you haven't yet seen them:

Suzanne said...

Wow Billie, three of my favorite complaints too.
But I learned a couple of things that may be useful to you. sorry, this will be a little wordy...

1. the flour here is soft wheat flour
2. the flour in the USA is hard wheat, more gluten and it makes a huge difference in crusts, bread and baked goods

Soft wheat, having less gluten, doesn't allow your mixed goods to congeal together like they do with American flour. The Mexican bread is dry because of this. It's like this in Spain too. You can buy betty crocker flour in Carey's, a ridiculous price, but it works so much better for baked goods.

We bring down bread flour to make our own bread - the only way to get bread that approximates what you can buy or make in the states. Imagine us with suitcases full of flour of all things when we travel.

re: plastic wrap - we finally bought the big roll at costco, which fits sideways in our drawer so we are happy campers with that. But before that, we bought glass dishes with lids because we decided we weren't going to get all balled up over plastic wrap ever again.

But best of all - if you go to, you can buy a VPN/virtual private network, which gives you a US IP address that you can log into. Once logged in, which you can leave on all the time or not, you will be able to buy from US websites.
You can also watch netflix watch now movies, and hulu tv etc. A whole wide world opens up. I think it costs about $35 or $40 for the year.

Billie said...

Wow, Suzanne and Bob, this is terrific information. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

BTW, Suzanne, would you be willing to give me a bread making demo?

Suzanne said...

yes, definitely, and we have just the recipe.

let me talk to John (the expert) and we can figure out a get together.

This recipe is made either in the evening or early am and just sits - no kneading or anything and 12-18 hours later you bake it in a casuela at about 450degrees. it's really yummy, with REAL butter of course.

Carlos Ponce-Melendez said...

Billie, what did you do with the pie? I offer my service to eat the meals that you cook and are not to your expectations, just send them to me.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Billie, I actually read the ingredients on the Mexican butter, it all contains suero , which means serum,but I think really means whey, and emulsifiers. That is why it behaves and tastes the way it does. The butter us gringos grew up with contains cream and nothing else (except salt if it's salted). The suero and emulsifiers keep it from melting too fast. I have found that Aguacalientes brand is just like nob butter in taste and ingredients. The only thing is that usually I can only find it in tubes (like ground turkey or sausage meat comes in). It's cheap compared to the imported stuff and tastes the same to me.
I can't help you with the pie crust except to say that sometimes chilling the dough helps. Pastry flour is low gluten so it probably isn't the flour this time.
I hate the plastic film too, so I sometimes just recycle plastic bags as covers for bowls the don't have lids.

Islagringo said...

LOL! You are so right. It is these little things that add up. I transfer everything to a plastic bag or Tupperware. Won't touch that clingy stuff.

Anonymous said...

well, at least plastic wrap works for you in the USA. I can't get it to do its job in Texas or Mexico.

Isla Deb said...

Despite everything, the pie looks great...and even the photo of the plastic wrap looks great! There's always next time.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

It just takes longer to do so many things here. That is not complaint just a way of life.

Cynthia said...

Now you probably already know this, but I couldn't help but notice that you don't have the tabs pushed in on the side of the plastic wrap box. If I don't push in those tabs (to hold the wrap in place), I constantly pull the wrap or foil out of the box as I yank and yank.

It won't fix the problem, but it helps. I always do it NOB as well.

Alfredo said...


Your pay looks great. I know that altitude has to do with baking and cooking. Using lard makes very flaky crusts or a combination of butter and lard. I know also that if you place your wrapping plastic in the cooler, it does wonders. My mother and grandmother used to place food in bowls and covered them with a plate. We did not have plastic wrap nor plastic topperware. Did you look for a crust recipe in a mexican book at all? Maybe there is a little trick to it. Can you make a quince (membrillo) pay?


Heather said...

I have a hard time even with American plastic wrap. Mexican plastic wrap would probably be completely useless to me, LOL!

Paul said...

I love reading this blog. There are such wonderful insights to living outside of the country. Certainly not for the meek or pampered. :-) It would take some getting used to.

Some years ago, I stayed in Brazil for almost a month. Not the well-known places of Rio or San Paulo, but in Salvador, Bahia. My wife's birth place. One month without air conditioning, sleeping under mosquito nets, couldn't drink water from the tap, etc. It was a challenge and I knew that I was getting to come home very quickly!

As a point of interest, for me, I didn't know that you had to have special US IP addresses to have access to certain things! Wow!

Suzanne said...

My daughter Zoe who is a pastry chef at the Hotel Majestic in San Francisco is coming the 15th Feb - she's also lived here before and baked... maybe we can have a baking party and get some advice!

Billie said...

Carlos, the pie has been consumed....even if the crust wasn't good. Maybe next time I'll have a piece to send to you.

And I'm glad that so many of you understand that I'm not really complaining but these little things do add up on some days.

Alfredo, looking for a pie crust recipe in a Mexican cookbook is a great idea.

Suzanne, I'm going to send you an email or call. I'd love to get together with you.

Cynthia, I did know about the tabs but I was trying to show how the box is already coming apart. LOL

Thanks to all of you for the good suggestions and the "sympathy" for poor me, who is living my Mexican Dream. LOL

Brenda said...

GRRRR I hate the plastic wrap and use plastic bags instead. Just can't get it to work for me.
Butter does taste different here for sure. My pie crust recipe calls for lard not butter and it is always flaky, even with the flour here; but then there is also the altitude difference, not sure about that. Easy recipe too.

glorv1 said...

That pie looks pretty good to me. I'll take it. :)

mcm said...

Hi Billie
Re, plastic wrap -- how true. But, I've found that Reynolds brand plastic wrap (periodically available in a Walmart here in Merida) is pretty good (at least it can be unrolled).

Pie crust -- I've found best results (both here and NOB) if EVERYTHING is well-chilled -- the flour, fat (I usually use shortening, because it gives a flakier crust -- sometimes I use half butter, for the flavor), and water (of course I live in hot Yucatan, so this is really important).
Another key is not to handle the dough too much -- don't work in the fat too much (the pieces of fat will produce the flakey texture. Barely work in the water. When you roll it out, use a light hand. Also, let the dough "rest" for at least ten minutes before rolling out -- this gives the gluten a chance to work, and keeps the dough from falling apart.

Thanks, as always, for sharing your excellent blog with the world.

Billie said...

mcm, I do use cold ingredients so that wasn't the problem. But sometimes I just have a difficult time rolling out the dough. I can't always recognize the time when the dough is ready to be rolled after you take it out of the fridge. I was laughing at Alton Brown on the cooking network the other night. He had his grandmother with him making bisquits. He was measuring each ingredient on the digital scale and she was just throwing in flour and butter and buttermilk. That was my Mother and pie crusts. She just threw it all in and the crust was wonderful. Up until now I never tried to make crusts. I'll never be able to just throw things in but I do plan to become more proficient. Thank you so much for your advice.

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