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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie...

Lemon Meringue Pie with Mike.  

 Randy, a very good friend of mine said his friend Mike wanted to bake a Lemon Meringue Pie with me.   I personally think this is the most difficult pie to make! 

I sort of felt like the warden in a pie prison!  I know I am very particular when it comes to baking...all ingredients measured and set out (mise en place)  and exact measurements...yes EXACT!!!!  This is not cooking where you can throw in what you want.  Your baking might come out if you substitute helter skelter, but if you want to make sure it does consistently, then you need to suck it up and pay close attention!   And even then you may fail because of humidity, temperature of the air, temperature of your ingredients, temperature of your oven and even temperature of your hands!   This is why I like it...it is a challenge:)  We take basic ingredients and transform them. It is like magic!  
Lemons into Lemon curd; egg whites into a billowy meringue - And then there is the pie crust - a challenge in itself....Mike did great...although I am not sure he will ever bake a pie again..


First is the crust which is something that I'm pretty good at.  I am only saying this because I am very proud that I won for best crust at the Chudleigh Apple Pie contest one year…my claim to fame:) We are making this crust a little different by rolling it out on graham cracker crumbs, which I have never done before.

Second is the lemon filling which we are making from scratch...this is THE BEST!!!! But it can be a little tricky.

And then there is the meringue… oh boy…sometimes I think I have got it down and then it fails on me.  Just a little grease in your bowl that you can’t even see, can get it upset and suddenly you have bubbly foam or just liquid!

So let’s give it a go Mike…and turn these lemons into an absolute incredible Lemon Meringue Pie!

Makes one 9-inch pie

INGREDIENTS


  • The Graham Cracker-Coated Pie Shell


  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached AP Flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
  • 3–4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

  • Lemon Filling


  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar at first
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2cups cold water
  • large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Meringue Topping

  • 1tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar
  • 4large egg whites
  • 1/2teaspoon vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS
Starting with the crust. 

  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. about 4 x 1-second pulses
  2. As you see we use a mixture of shortening (not margarine)  and butter.  Butter adds to the flavour, and shortening, (Crisco)  helps keep it together. 

  3. Start with shortening and toss it in the  flour  ten 1- second pulses.  It should look like a coarse sand or cornmeal.
  4. Scatter very very cold butter pieces on flour  next then cut in with five 1 second pulses. Butter should still be in small pieces…try not to blend it all in. Small pea size butter pieces are what you are trying to get.  


  1. The idea is that when the pie is baking these small pieces will release some steam and this is what adds to the flakiness.  

  2. Turn mixture into medium bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons cold water. 



  1. Using a rubber spatula, fold water into mixture; press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together. If dough will not come together, add up to 1 tablespoon more cold water.
  1. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.  Take it out of the fridge and wait about 10-15 mins to sit so it can be rolled.

America’s Test Kitchen is one of my favourite recipe sites and they rolled out the dough sprinkling graham cracker crumbs on the board…so we will try that!
  1. Generously sprinkle work area with 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs. Place dough on work area. Scatter a few more crumbs over dough.   Roll dough from center to edges, turning it into a 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke and sprinkling additional crumbs underneath and on top as necessary to coat heavily. Continue to roll to form a 13-inch disk slightly less than 1/8-inch thick.

  2. *****Note- This was the first time I have done this and it was a challenge.  The crust kep tearing.  At first I said I wouldn't do that again but everyone seemed to really like the flavour...

  3. Place dough in 9-inch Pyrex pie pan, letting excess dough drape over pan lip. To fit dough to pan, lift edge of dough with one hand and press dougn in pan bottom with other hand; repeat process around circumferences of pan to ensure dough fits properly and is not stretched. Trim all around…you can use a scissors, 1/2-inch past edge of pan. Tuck 1/2 inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with lip of pan; press to seal.
  4. Crimping your piecrust - I think that for this type of pie a simple fluted edge is nice as the Meringue really is the show stopper!

  5. For some interesting fluting techniques, click here.
  1. Refrigerate until firm, about 40 minutes, then move to the freezer for 20 minutes.
  2. Press a doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil into pie shell and add the baking weights.


  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, heat oven to 400 degrees until crust is firmly set, about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake until crust is crisp and rich brown in color, about 15-20 minutes longer.

  2. Next up…the Filling
  3. Mix 3/4 cup of the sugar that is listed in the ingredients, pinch of salt, 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup (2-3 lemons) lemon juice in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat.

  4. While that is heating up and coming to a simmer,
  5. Whisk together your 6 egg yolks, 1/4 cup of the rest of the sugar and 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Add the 1 tbsp of lemon zest.  

  6. Temper the egg mixture by adding a little of the hot water liquid at a time to the egg mixture (so the eggs don’t become an omelette!!)  This slowly brings the eggs to a good temperature to be able to add them to the water mixture in the pan.  Then over medium heat whisk the egg mixture into the pan. 
  7. It will start to come together …now SMELL IT….YUMMY LEMON!  
  8. Now add the 2 tbsp butter



Now don’t let it cool too much because we want it warm when we add the meringue on top! This keeps it from weeping. Cover with plastic wrap right on the surface in the same pan to keep it hot and prevent skin from forming.. Set aside.

Now Don’t be nervous, it is time for the Meringue!

Mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1/3 cup water in small saucepan; bring to simmer, whisking occasionally at beginning and more frequently as mixture thickens. This mixture will help prevent the meringue from weeping on the bottom and beading on top.
When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, remove from heat. It will look like vaseline…ughhh!

Let cool while beating egg whites. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of sugar together.
Using whisk, beat 4 egg whites and vanilla together then add this to a VERY clean bowl. Mix until frothy then start adding sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time  (let each dissolve a little) ; until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks.

Then add cornstarch (vaseline)  mixture, continue to beat meringue to stiff peaks. (stands up on your finger and has structure) 


****Remove plastic from filling and return to very low heat stirring with spatula during last minute or so of beating meringue (to ensure filling is hot).

Fill cooled pie shell.

Now add the meringue by first dolloping around the edge…I don’t know if that is a word, but it is what I mean hahaha.

You want the meringue to attach to the crust on the inside edge.  I have had pies where the meringue just wants to slide right off and escape!!!! 
Keep dolloping all over the top.


Use a spoon to create peaks all over meringue. 

Bake  in preheated 325 degree oven until meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature about 30-45 minutes.....
and the result!


I am a little disappointed in the edge of the crust, so have to practice this new technique with rolling the dough in the graham cracker crumbs...oh well.

I think they liked it...a lot!
Some comments.... " AMAZING pie ...AMAZING meringue and we like the addition of the graham cracker in the crust"

Hope I didn't scare you off baking Mike!

Until we bake again 
Penny





Friday, March 28, 2014

There's a Nougat in Town - The Daring Baker's Challenge March 2014


I am not going to lie, it is sticky and gooey to make....and a little sweet...ok more than a little, but really the nuts cut the sweetness!  Really!  Just eat a little bit at a time...
I think I actually love it.  And my friends do too.  And my colleagues...I saw you sneaking it, Flemming, Nancy and Robert.  And I heard you were sneaking it too Rick when I wasn't home.  Camera Guy told me.
So I was with my friends on our evening out to see Sandra Shamus, and went for dinner at Pi-Tom Thai Restaurant, next door to the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. When I walked in, Pat commented that Leslie had let her have a piece of the nougat I had given her and she loved it.    In fact one day Leslie called me from the car, and told me she had to toss the little bag of nougat pieces to the back of the car because she couldn't stop having a piece or 2....  Well I had a bunch in my purse, and after dinner, pulled out my little baggie of these snow white treasures... and even though it probably wasn't exactly the proper thing to do in a restaurant,  I did pull it out - hey it's just candies - I never said I was a proper girl!  I was able to grab a quick photo before it vanished before my eyes...one for Patrice, one for Jane, one for Leslie, one for Pat and one for Ramona...oh yes, then one for me....then another round....ok and just one more....



The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

A little about Nougat 
Nougat is an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites and nuts. This type of nougat has
been around since the 16th century (according to Larousse Gastronomique). The most well known
nougats are the French Montélimar nougat and the Italian Torrone nougat.  Montélimar nougat
contains at least 30% nuts and includes pistachios as well as almonds. Italian Torrone and Spanish
Turrón are similar, typically containing almonds and sometimes other nuts. The cooking temperature and the quantity of sugar determines the texture of the finished product. Nougat can be chewy, soft and tender to hard and brittle


Here is the recipe: 
I need to emphasize 2 important items - a good candy thermometer and  edible paper (wafer paper) 
I found the edible paper at the bulk barn in a corner...hidden...and it is important because parchment would stick too much.

 Ingredients
4 sheets edible wafer paper, 8x11 inches (20x28 cm)  It is optional but I think VERY necessary
 

For the Meringue:

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (3 gm) cream of tartar
 

For the Syrup:
1½ cups (360 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) honey (preferably light in color and flavor)
3 cups (720 ml) ( 600 gm) (21 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) light corn syrup
½ cup (120 ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped 
(Thank you Carl for the vanilla you brought me from Tahiti!)


Add -ins:
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cocoa butter, melted (see Recipe Notes)
5 cups (1.2 litre) (680 gm) (24 oz)  mixture of  toasted whole unblanched almonds and pistachio nuts (don't toast the pistachio nuts)
 

Recipe Notes:
Edible wafer paper is nice to have if you’re giving nougat as gifts as it helps with the stickiness issue.
However, it’s not essential. If you can’t find it, grease the pan and then line it with parchment paper.
Grease the parchment as well.



Fat (cocoa butter in this case) is added to nougat to give it a shorter texture and cleaner bite.  The recipe will still be good without it- just chewier. Any fat added to nougat should be one that is solid at room temperature. 
Directions
Place the toasted almonds and pistachios in a heat safe bowl and put in an oven at 250°F until needed.
Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch (23x33 cm) pan with wafer paper, cutting it to fit. You can put
plastic wrap or parchment under the wafer paper just for extra insurance  to get the nougat out of the pan.   You won't be putting this pan in the oven...

Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar for the meringue in a 4.5 or 5 quart
(about 5 litre) mixer bowl fitted with a whip attachment but do not begin whipping.
Heat the honey in a small saucepan or in the microwave until nearly boiling
Combine the remaining ingredients for the syrup (sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla bean)
in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan.
Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and boil for 3 minutes, covered.
Remove the lid and attach the candy thermometer. Continue to cook uncovered on high heat without stirring until the syrup reaches 290°F
 When the sugar mixture reaches 290°F , start whipping the egg whites on high speed and move the sugar mixture off the heat.
Slowly pour the heated honey into the sugar mixture. The mixture will foam up initially.
Put the pan back on the heat and continue cooking until the mixture again reaches 290°F

Remove from the heat and use tongs to take out the vanilla bean pods.
Slowly pour the hot syrup into the whipping whites by letting it run down the inside of the
mixer bowl. Don’t pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse.
Add the cocoa butter and whip JUST until the mixture is smooth again. Do not over mix. If
you have a 4.5 quart (4.5 litre) mixer like I do, you may need to initially lower the speed of the mixer while pouring in the cocoa butter as it will try to slop out. 
Remove the bowl from the mixer and dump in the hot nuts from the oven. Mix quickly with a
heat- safe spatula until the almonds are evenly distributed

Immediately pour the hot nougat into the prepared pan, on top of the wafer paper. 


Cover the top of the nougat with more wafer paper and press to smooth and even out the nougat.


Let the nougat cool at room temperature until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Don’t let it go too long or it will be very difficult to get out of the pan and difficult to cut. You
want it to still be a little flexible when you remove it but not so soft that it loses its shape.
Pry the nougat out of the pan with a spatula and dump it out onto a cutting board. Trim the
edges and cut the nougat with an oiled knife into the size pieces you want. 
Wrap the nougat individually or store at room temperature in an airtight container. The
texture of the nougat will soften a bit after a few days, especially if you have added dried fruits in with the nuts.
There is one person who may not have loved it...but that's ok....Camera Guy... 
xxx
Until we bake again
Penny

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy National Pie/Pi Day!






Since today is officially National Pie /Pi Day,  I thought I would highlight some of the best pies on my blog.
When I was at my son's house recently I asked what the password was for the wireless and they told me it was Pi. ...ok I remembered part of it, but not a lot 3.141..oh well...he is in physics - not me:)
Happy Pi day Elliot and all the math fans out there on your special day.  I prefer the food version...let's dig in!

My pride and joy and winner of the Chudleigh Farm's Pie contest is my apple pie!  I won for best crust, which for me was one of the highlights of my baking life...I was soooo excited.  Camera Guy thought I won the lottery!



My pumpkin pie is really good and has quite a funny story associated with it.



And I can't forget the Cherry Pie.  It was sensational, especially when the cherries are in season....beautiful and so flavourful.


When is this winter going to end and the beautiful berries are colouring the market tables????

Hopefully soon!  So to celebrate this special day, either try baking one of mine or just go buy yourself a slice and dream of summer!

Happy Pie day!
Until we bake again...
Penny
xxx

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Empire Cookies




I live in the Beach (or Beaches) area in Toronto - People who live in the beach call it the beach and those who don't usually call it the Beaches...it doesn't matter to me...I love it.  I often go to Meat on the Beach, a local grocery store/butcher.  They have a great variety of delicious things and they always have a tray of Empire Cookies that look so pretty.  So I decided to make them!  
I think mine look pretty too.  They are a bit sweet and I think next time I would make them a little smaller because of that. What is an Empire biscuit you ask?  It is a sweet biscuit popular in the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland, and other Commonwealth countries and is typically considered a traditional Scottish snack (according to Wikipedia).





Here is the recipe for those who would like to give it a go from Anna Olson.

Tender Tart Dough
½ cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup + 2 Tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1 hard-boiled large egg yolk
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups cake and pastry flour, sifted
¼ teaspoon salt

Icing and Assembly
cup raspberry jam
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1-2 Tbsp warm water
¼ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
6-8 glacée (candied) cherries, each chopped into 6 bits

Tender Heart Dough Instructions

1. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until smooth.
2. Push the hard-boiled egg yolk through a sieve and stir the raw egg yolk and vanilla into it. Add this to the butter mixture and stir until blended.
3. Add the flour and salt to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Shape the dough into a disc (it will be very soft), wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Icing and Assembly

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead the dough just to soften it slightly. Roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thick and cut out cookies using a 2-inch fluted cookie cutter, placing the cookies on the baking trays, leaving ½-inch between them.
3. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool completely on the baking trays before assembling.
4. Stir the raspberry jam to soften and spread a little on a cookie bottom and sandwich a second cookie on top, pressing gently to secure. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
5. For the icing, whisk the icing sugar with 1 Tbsp of water and the almond or vanilla extract and add the remaining water if needed, until it is a thin icing consistency. 
6. Spread a thin layer of icing on top of each cookie.  Top with a piece of glacée cherry and set on a rack to dry. Let the cookies dry for about 3 hours before storing in an airtight container.
7. The cookies will keep, stored in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.


Enjoy!
Until we bake again...
Penny

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Leslie's Delicate Florentines - perfect for Easter!



I intended to post this at Christmas ....then Valentine's day...oh well...aren't Florentines perfect for Easter?
This is my friend Leslie and she really wanted to make Florentines for the cookie exchange at Christmas and asked me to help her.  I have wanted to make them for a while so I was thrilled at the idea and they turned out amazing!

Florentines are very delicate wafer thin cookies and are not that easy to make.  Leslie told me to emphasize how you need to be very very precise in the measurements.  I think she was surprised at the importance I placed on measuring carefully.



Makes 24 Cookies - this recipe is from America's test kitchen...
We started with the ingredients:

INGREDIENTS
2 cups slivered almonds
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
INSTRUCTIONS


1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Use the flattest baking sheets you have and make sure that your parchment paper lies flat. Process almonds in food processor until they resemble coarse sand, about 30 seconds.

2. Bring cream, butter, and sugar to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture begins to thicken, 5 to 6 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to brown at edges and is thick enough to leave trail that doesn’t immediately fill in when spatula is scraped along pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes longer (it’s OK if some darker speckles appear in mixture). Undercooking will result in a dough that is too runny to portion. Remove pan from heat and stir in almonds, marmalade, flour, vanilla, orange zest, and salt until combined.


3. Drop 6 level tablespoons dough at least 3½ inches apart on each prepared sheet. When cool enough to handle, use damp fingers to press each portion into 2 1/2-inch circle.


Transfer cookies, still on parchment, to wire racks and let cool. Let baking sheets cool for 10 minutes, line with fresh parchment, and repeat portioning and baking remaining dough.



4. Bake until deep brown from edge to edge, 15 to 17 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Check them after 10 minutes then every couple of minutes.  They can burn quickly

5. Microwave 3 ounces chocolate in bowl at 50 percent power, stirring frequently, until about two-thirds melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave, add remaining 1 ounce chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. When melting the chocolate, pause the microwave and stir the chocolate often to ensure that it doesn’t get much warmer than body temperature. Transfer chocolate to small zipper-lock bag and snip off corner, making hole no larger than 1/16 inch.

6. Transfer cooled cookies directly to wire racks. 


Pipe zigzag of chocolate over each cookie, distributing chocolate evenly among all cookies. 

Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes, before serving. 

They really were spectacular Leslie!  Let's do it again sometime:)  and remember you need to teach me how to make your delicious perogies!

Until we bake again...
Penny
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