Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie-A Daring Bakers' Challenge

Lemon Meringue Pie and I go way back to my cooking experiences as a newly-wed eager to show my husband that I was a competent pastry and dessert cook. I spent my days poring over cookbooks, trying all kinds of puddings,pies and cakes. We were eating desserts nearly every night! I was growing in my culinary knowledge, but so was our weight. Desserts then became reserved for special occasions.

Having made many pies over the years, Lemon Meringue wasn't my first one in my early years of baking, but the most memorable one. I remember how easy the crust was to roll out, how easy the filling was to make; in retrospect, too easy! As I pulled this beautiful meringue-topped showpiece out of the oven, my hand hit a hot part of the oven rack and the pie went crashing to the floor. I was inconsolable! Lucky no one was there to see the calamity. The memory has faded now and since that disaster, I have made many pies, but have been very careful in removing them from the oven.

Jen of CanadianBaker chose a very good recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie as the January Daring Bakers' challenge. Every part of the recipe went well. I substituted Meyer lemon juice for the ordinary lemon juice and used caster or superfine sugar for the meringue.Meyer lemons are sweeter than ordinary lemons and work great for desserts and lemonade, but for acidic dishes, stick with regular lemons. If you can't locate caster sugar, whirl granulated sugar in a food processor for a few minutes. Let the dust settle for a minute before removing the sugar from the bowl of the food processor to measure. Other than those substitutions, the recipe remained unchanged. The pie crust recipe was one of the best I've made and the easiest. I couldn't possible give my pie away and even though there are just two of us at home now, we ate the whole thing in two days-even for breakfast!! If the crust got soggy, we didn't notice.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) caster sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002
Tartlet recipe courtesy of Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz, 2003

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding

Kristen of DineandDish has a great idea of helping newbie bloggers by matching them with veteran bloggers-those who have had their blogs a year or more. I came into blogging at the insistence of my sister Martha of crossingstitches who knew of my love for cooking and photography and was my main source of encouragement.

I am happy to introduce you to Ryles of that'smycake...anddog who in her short time as a blogger was nominated for "best food blog" in the Blogger Choice Awards 2007. I have drooled at her yummy cakes, cupcakes and comfort dishes, but my favorite entry is theonewiththedogs1stbirthday, a hilarious account of baking a "dog" cake for Riddick's first birthday. Riddick is her Schnauzer whom she loves dearly. I am excited about having Ryles as a blogger friend. I don't have many cake recipes, but here is a Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding from Eating Well Magazine, Oct-Nov,2006. If you will look at the photo from the Eating Well recipe, you will notice that my photo doesn't look the same. I followed the directions, but the "caramelized pears" were pale and not photogenic, so I flipped the bread pudding over, caramelized some additional pears separately and glazed the bread pudding with apple jelly. Voila! A disaster averted!

Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding

2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups cubed, day-old french bread
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, plus 2 teaspoons additional, divided
2 firm ripe pears, peeled, halved and cored
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming, about 4-6 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs until blended;gradually whisk in 1/4 cup sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot milk until blended. Add vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg.

Add bread and golden raisins to the mixture; gently fold together. Press down lightly to submerge the mixture. Cover and set aside at room temperature. Butter the sides and bottom of a round or oval 2 quart baking dish with 1 teaspoon butter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put a kettle on to boil.

For caramelized pears, cut each pear into half lengthwise into 4 pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with lemon juice. Heat a medium skillet over low heat until hot. Add remaining two tablespoons butter and swirl until foam subsides. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over the butter. Add the pears arranging them on their side in one layer. Increase heat to medium and without stirring, slowly caramelize the pears, letting them brown, about 10 minutes. Carefully turn pears over and brown and additional 4 minutes to let sauce turn golden. Remove from heat. Carefully transfer the pears one at a time to the prepared baking dish, arranging them decoratively. Using a heatproof spatula, scrape remaining sauce over the pears.

Set the baking dish in a shallow baking pan.Spoon the bread pudding mixture into the baking dish. Press down on the bread to submerge it. Place the pan in the oven and slowly pour the hot water into the shallow baking pan until the water reaches halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

Bake until brown on the top and set in the center-about 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the pan form the oven. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and let cool at least 45 minutes. To serve, run a knife around the edges of the pudding. Place a serving platter over it and invert. Serves 8.

Monday, January 14, 2008

California Walnut Rolls With Walnut Cranberry Spread

My tattered and torn book "Baking Bread, Old and New Tradition" by Beth Hensperger has a great section called American Country Breads, rustic breads such as Farmhouse White Bread with Cardamom, Squaw Bread, Dakota Bread with Ancient Grains, evocative words which conjure up a cozy, homelike atmosphere. The California Walnut roll seemed a perfect picnic bread or a good roll to serve with soup, but what caught my eye was the chunky walnut spread and fresh pears recommended as an accompaniment to the rolls. This recipe is my entry into the Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Rinku of Cooking In Westchester.

California walnuts account for 99% of the commercial US supply and two-thirds of the world supply. The walnut is the only member of the nut family that has a significant amount of the heart-healthy Omega-3's. Considered a superfood, walnuts are high in antioxidants, elements which help offset the effects pollution, over-exposure to sunlight, etc have on our bodies. In other words, walnuts are just plain good for you!

California Walnut Bread


2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 cups unbleached bread flour-I use King Arthur Artisan Flour
3 tablespoons honey
2 cups milk, room temperature


1 1/2 cups walnuts
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 tablespoon salt
About 3 cups unbleached bread flour

For the sponge: In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, water, 2 cups flour, honey and milk. Beat until creamy. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature until bubbly, about an hour.

Chop walnuts and lightly toast in a preheated 350 degree oven. Check after 5 minutes to ensure that you don't burn the nuts. Let cool and set aside.

For the dough: add the oil, salt, and 1 cup of flour to the sponge. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Add walnuts and remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until a shaggy dough is formed and clears the side of the bowl, but remains somewhat soft. A heavy-duty electric mixer will make this job easier.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, about 3 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. The dough should hold its shape, but should still be moist and soft. Too much flour can make the finished bread dry. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 -2 hours

For the rolls:

When dough has risen, divide into 4 equal pieces. Divide each portion into 5portions and roll each into a ball. Place the balls one inch apart on a parchment lined baking pan. Press each to flatten. Using a clean pair of kitchen shears dipped in flour,make four cuts around the roll, evenly spaced taking care to leave the center free. Cover loosely and let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Snip again with the shears make an X. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Serve warm with fresh pears and walnut dried cranberry spread.

Walnut Dried Cranberry Spread

1/4 cup toasted walnuts
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur

Combine dried cranberries and raspberry liqueur, let stand a few minutes until cranberries plump up some. In a small bowl, mash the cream cheese, add dried cranberries and liqueur, mix together. Add walnuts and combine. Let stand overnight covered in a refrigerator for flavors to meld. Makes about a half cup.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Creole Bloody Mary

The original Bloody Mary invented in the 1920's by Pete Petiot, an American bartender at Harry's New York Bar in Paris, consisted of tomato juice and vodka. Today there are many versions of the drink, but no version has just tomato juice and vodka. In later versions of the drink, touted as a hangover cure by Petiot, lemon juice, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and horseradish were added to boost and embellish the flavors of the Bloody Mary.

Today, Bloody Mary's can have a myriad of ingredients, such as gin, tequila as the traditional vodka. Garnishes can range from the ubiquitous celery stick to seafood. A basic blank canvas, the only necessary ingredient is tomato juice. For more on the Bloody Mary's history, read this article from Bon Appetit magazine.

This is also my entry into Click, created by jugalbandi. Click is a great challenge with a specific theme every month. This month's theme is Liquid Comforts.

Creole Bloody Mary

2 1/2 ounces vodka
2 dashes Zatarain's Creole seasoning
2 dashes Tabasco Hot Sauce- For a bolder taste, substitute Tabasco's Habanero Sauce
2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 dash celery salt
A good Bloody Mary mix-I used Zing Zang-recommended by Chile Pepper magazine.
To garnish-pickled okra, lemon or lime wedge or boiled shrimp.

In a tall glass half-filled with crushed ice, combine all ingredients to fill the glass. Give the mix a little stir. Garnish. Serves One. Recipe from Chile Pepper Magazine.

Some interesting posts on the Bloody Mary:

The Greasy Spoon's version of the Bloody Mary.

Zorro of 1x umrühren bitte has a great Bloody Mary Soup

A yummy Bloody Mary Dipping Sauce from Sig at Live to Eat.

A rocking Bloody Mary Salsa from Cathy at noteatoutinny.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true. Lord Tennyson