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Archive for August, 2009

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie

Linda of Tender Crumb made the excellent choice of Dorie’s Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie for this week’s episode of Tuesdays with Dorie and my sweet tooth and love of any recipe featuring curd thank her. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect dessert to accompany a barbecue in the Fields. This pie was perfectly tart, deliciously rich and I can attest that the lime cream was truly the creamiest I’ve ever tasted (Dorie certainly doesn’t lie when it comes to her recipe titles). Coupled with a helping of cake batter ice cream and a trip to admire Audrey and Coco in Coco Avant Chanel, it made for the sweetest summer evening.

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie
(from Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the filling:

1 9-inch Good for Almost Everything Pie Crust, fully baked and cooled (see recipe below)
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 limes
4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 6 limes)
A 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 ½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature

Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or a food processor at hand. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

Put the sugar and zest into a heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest between your fingertips for few minutes, until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lime is strong. Whisk the eggs, then whisk in the juice, ginger and cornstarch.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lime cream until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. As whisk—you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting it to the temperature can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the cream from the heat and strain the cream into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let it cool until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high speed (or turn on the processor) and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. After all the butter is in, continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If you find the machine is getting really hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate the cream for at least 4 hours, or overnight. (The cream can be packed airtight and and frozen for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

Whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the pie shell. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet.

For the meringue:

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup sugar

Working in a clean dry mixer bowl with the clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until opaque. With the mixer running, add the sugar in a slow stream and continue to beat until the whites are glossy and form firm peaks.

Spread the meringue over the lime filling, swirling it if you’d like. Make sure the meringue comes all the way to the edges of the crust, because it will shrink when it bakes.

Brown the meringue with a blowtorch. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough (single crust)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) very cold (frozen is fine) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
2 ½ tablespoons very cold (frozen is even better) vegetable shortening, cut into 2 pieces
About ¼ cup ice water

Put the flour, sugar and salt into a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don’t overdo the mixing — what you’re aiming for is to have some pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley. Pulsing the machine on and off, gradually add about 6 tablespoons of the water if making a double crust, 3 tablespoons if making a singe crust — add a little water and pulse once, add some more water, pulse again and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If, after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn’t look evenly moistened of form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water as necessary, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. Big pieces of butter are fine. Scrape the dough out of the work bowl and onto a work surface.

Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour before rolling. (If your ingredients were very cold and you worked quickly, though, you might be able to roll the dough immediately: the dough should be as cold as if it had just come out of the fridge.)

Have a buttered 9-inch pie plate at hand. Roll the dough out on a floured surface. Turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured.

If you’ve got time, slide the rolled-out dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes to rest and firm up.

Fit the dough into the pie plate and, using a pair of scissors, cut the excess dough to a ¼- to ½-inch overhang. Fold the dough under itself, so that it hangs over the edge just a tad, and flute or pinch the crust to make a decorative edge. Alternatively, you can finish the crust by pressing it with the tines of a fork.

Refrigerate the crust while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil, fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust and fill with dried beans or rice or pie weights. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights and, if the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake until golden brown, about another 10 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

Yield: 8 servings.

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie

Bonus Tuesday Recipe: Cake Batter Ice Cream
(adapted from Recipezaar)

I blame Cold Stone (Stone Cold if you’re B&R) Creamery for my infatuation with cake batter ice cream, which is replicated perfectly in this recipe. One thing to note: I substitute single cream/half and half for milk, because I don’t believe in using anything but cream in my ice cream (calorie counters be damned).

1 cup single cream/half and half, well chilled
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups double/heavy cream, well chilled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup cake mix

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste.

Stir in cake mix, making sure there are no lumps.

Pour mixture into the freezer bowl of an ice cream maker and let mix until it has thickened (about 25-30 minutes).

Remove ice cream from freezer bowl and place into a separate container.

Place freezer bowl and the ice cream into the freezer to further harden.

Yield: 10 or more servings.

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie

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Brownie Buttons

I thought it was high time I quit admiring Dorie Greenspan from afar and get into the action at Tuesdays with Dorie, a community whose contributors aim to bake something from Dorie’s mouthwatering book, Baking: From My Home to Yours, once a week. And so, without further ado, here are Dorie’s Brownie Buttons: bite-sized brownies with a hint of orange, dipped in melted white chocolate. They are heavenly, just like Ms. Greenspan herself (and, it should be noted, FDW, who, after pausing only once to tell me “this cookbook is huge!”, lugged Dorie’s book across the Atlantic without question, all the way from New York to Prague and finally to London, just so I could bake from it). They are also addictive. In fact, I will most assuredly be doubling the recipe next time around and also trying a batch sans the orange, because the English have run me ragged when it comes to chocolate and orange flavoured confectionary. But, for now, here’s to the first of what my tastebuds can only hope are many more sweet Tuesdays to come…

Brownie Buttons

Brownie Buttons
(from Baking: From My Home to Yours)

For the brownies:

grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
1 tsp sugar (optional)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
½ stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter cut into 4 pieces
2 ½ oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Valrhona 64%)
⅓ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla extract (I used tahitian vanilla this time around)
1 large egg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter two miniature muffin pans, each with a dozen cups, and place them on a baking sheet.

If you’re using the orange zest, combine the zest and sugar in a small bowl, rubbing them between your fingertips to blend; set aside. Whisk together the flour and salt.

Melt the butter, chocolate and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula and keeping an eye on the pan so nothing overheats and burns. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and cool for a minute or two.

Stir the vanilla, egg and the zest, if you’re using it, into the chocolate mixture. When the mixture is well blended, add the flour and stir only until it is incorporated. You should have a smooth, glossy batter.

Spoon the batter into 16 of the muffin cups, using about a teaspoon of batter to fill each cup three-quarters full. Put 1 teaspoon of water in each empty cup.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the tops of the buttons spring back when touched. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 3 minutes before carefully releasing the buttons. Cool to room temperature on the racks.

For the optional glaze:

2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped

Melt the chocolate n a small heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir constantly and don’t leave the chocolate for even a minute – white chocolate scorches easily. As soon as the chocolate is smooth, remove from the heat.

One by one, dip the tops of the buttons into the chocolate, twirling the buttons so that you get a little swirl at the center of each one and the excess chocolate drips back into the bowl. Refrigerate the buttons for 15 minutes to set the glaze.

Yield: 16 pretty little buttons.

Brownie Buttons

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Belgium

A guest post from the formidable FDW:

Do you remember those waffles in the college cafeteria?  The ones you lock into an industrial waffle maker and wait to hear the delightful “bing” indicate your waffle is ready so you can cover it in whipped cream, sprinkles and maple syrup? This is not one of those waffles!  These require no compliments…except the ones from your taste buds, that is.

I remember the first time I visited Belgium. I arrived into Bruxelles Midi and began the long walk to my hotel near the Grand-Place, all the while knowing that this town (and I use town, here, to refer to the entire country of Belgium) had four major gustatory treats to offer – frites, mussels, chocolate, and waffles – and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get one as soon as possible, even though I had stuffed myself on the Eurostar on the way in.

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium

The street advertisements didn’t fail to excite my stomach. Everywhere I looked, there were large billboards crying out that THIS particular frites shop was better and less expensive than the one about a half a block away (even though the portion sizes were different and one restaurant was fast-food while the other a sit-down affair), or that these mussels were more fresh than the ones across the street (even though I’m pretty sure they come from the same place) or that this chocolate shop had a higher quality of chocolate (I guess that depends on where the cocoa beans are from, but as far as I could tell this was just an expression). On my left and right were wooden carts with fresh waffles being sold by little old ladies in colorful aprons, and poking out of would-be windows were walk-up chocolatiers. With all of these treats surrounding me, I had to start my day with a healthy sandwich of… frites and cheese in a bun (you know, just to make sure I got my dairy, bread and vegetable servings in that day before dessert).

Belgium

Belgium

When I had scarfed down the last poor frites, I headed for what Merry and Pippin would call “second breakfast” and which was to be my first waffle in Belgium. Not far from where I had the frites sandwich, there was a pretty rickety looking truck with waffles piled up inside. Now I know I just mentioned that there were cute old ladies with push-carts selling waffles, but I have always been of the belief that if something is dressed up and made to seem cute and authentic, then the quality of the food from said source is probably lacking. If you put that much effort into selling your product based on image, then there must be some reason. I have always found that some of the best food I have ever had has been from run-down, old restaurants or simple little nooks that make what they make and do it well and don’t worry about whether or not their patrons are going to be concerned that the tables aren’t the right color or the chairs aren’t all matching, because invariably, if the food is good, people are going to enjoy it and they are going to come back. So, I walked up to the dented and bruised waffle truck, across the street from a group of renaissance-looking musicians and simply asked for a waffle, thinking it to be similar to the ones I had in college, and expecting to lather it in sauces and whipped cream.  Oh, how wrong I was.

Belgium

When he handed me this heavy, golden waffle, I was surprised to see that it was slightly sticky and pulled apart like a doughy treat, like a Grands croissant. But the appearance and feel of this waffle were nothing in comparison to how it tasted. Little bits of sugar inside the yeast dough carmelized in the waffle iron, giving a distinct taste that I can only refer to as perfectly Liege. No matter where I went, the smell of those waffles was enough to get me to avoid a full meal, perhaps even moules et frites, in favor of that golden delicacy. Never, in my memory, had something so normal, something I had eaten since childhood and loved, been turned on it’s head.

Belgium

It’s funny, because eating that Liege waffle sort of ruined normal waffles for me. I can honestly say that I haven’t had a single, normal Belgian waffle (at a diner, for brunch, as a dessert…) since that fateful day. I haven’t again enjoyed that dimpled dish because, well, there’s almost nothing left to enjoy! How can I justify the time making, or the money spent to buy, a waffle like that when it just won’t, can’t satisfy me?

So what does one do when he can’t find a waffle worth squat, but craves the golden ridges more with each passing day? I knew that I could maybe go to the waffle truck that I had heard so much about in Manhattan, but realistically, who wants to go to a makeshift version of the real thing?  “Oh, how wonderful this little truck is! Thank you sir for selling me something that you market as original and different and chic because you don’t have an actual storefront, but realistically you and I know you simply visited Belgium and stole their idea, truck and all.”  I wanted to go directly to the source and get the waffle I deserved (over a year of waiting had put me in a bit of a mood).

Belgium

Liege Waffles
(From Waffle-Recipes.com)

2 cups flour
1 cup pearl sugar*
1 cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 (¼ ounce) package yeast
⅓ cup lukewarm water
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt

Take the lukewarm water and mix in yeast, 1 ½ tablespoon sugar and salt. Let the yeast develop for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile you can melt the butter, but be careful – do not burn it.

Now take a large bowl and put in the flour, make a hole in the middle, pour in the yeast that you made in step one. Also add eggs and melted butter and knead until you get nice and even dough. Then let it rest so the yeast does its magic and the dough doubles.

Now take pearl sugar and gently mix it in.

Again, let it rest for 15 minutes, in the meanwhile you can turn on the waffle maker so its nice and hot.

All there is left is to pour the waffle dough into the waffle maker and bake for 3-5 minutes. Because we mixed in the sugar late in the process it will melt and caramelize and give that special Liege waffle taste. Just be careful when you take them out of the waffle maker, caramelized sugar can make them sticky.

*Note from B&R: on my most recent trip to Bruges, my very favourite waffle maker in Belgium assured me that the secret to her success was in the pearl sugar, which can be obtained from most Belgian grocery stores.  FDW, however, can attest to the fact that those of us poor souls who don’t have regular access to a Belgian grocery store/pearl sugar can get by just fine with the plain old granulated variety.

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Strawberry Cupcakes

There are few things finer in life than spending a Friday night in the company of friends who appreciate food as much as I do. And so it was that we gathered together at Kai, drawn in to its Mayfair doors not so much by the Michelin star (well, at least some of us) or the £1 million Bugatti sitting outside, but by the delicious memory of their wasabi prawns, an appetizer that captivated each one of us at the Taste of London earlier in the summer. Suffice it to say, we were not disappointed: not only were the wasabi prawns as perfect as we remembered them, but, coupled with the ostrich and the pork and the sea bass and the soft shell crab and the lobster essence noodles and the mandarin fondant and the mango cake, it was a true feast. A feast bookended by strawberry cupcakes (as both an appetizer in The Promenade at The Dorchester beforehand, where the presence of a plastic cupcake carrier and three folks munching away while sipping gin and tonics and listening to a fancy jazz band was, I’d imagine, a first and a post-dessert dessert), made to satisfy two of my favourite food critics. These cupcakes were simple enough to put together after a long day of work, which was why they initially made the cut over a more time consuming recipe, and yet light and sweet, a perfect summer treat.  I can say, without hesitation, that I’ll be re-visiting this recipe again and again.  I can also say that I hope to be re-visiting Kai again and again, cupcake carrier in hand and the perfect culinary accomplices seated next to me.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes
(adapted from the Sprinkles recipe, courtesy of Martha Stewart)

For the cupcakes:

⅔ cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour and ½ cup self-rising/raising flour*), sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ cup whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg whites, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about ⅓ cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

Yield: one dozen cupcakes.

For the frosting:

½ cup whole frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of coarse salt
3 ½ cups confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree (save any remaining strawberry puree for another use); mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.

Yield: enough frosting for one dozen cupcakes.

* I admit the unthinkable happened in my kitchen at 10:30pm on Thursday night: I ran out of AP flour, an ingredient I usually have in endless supply. I did, however, have a stockpile of self-rising/raising flour, which immediately made me think of that other cupcake giant, Magnolia, who swears by it. Out of both necessity and a fierce love for the east coast, I ended up using about a half cup of self-rising flour and a cup of AP flour and, I have to say, was thrilled with the result. In fact, I’d probably do it this way again, even when fully stocked with AP flour and, if you’re not a Sprinkles purist, would recommend you do so, too.

Strawberry Cupcakes

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Madeira

Once upon a time, a twenty-something pseudo-lawyer packed up her belongings (admittedly mostly kitchen supplies and records) and left the comfort of her home in New York to experience life in a land where people drive on the opposite side of the road.  And have funny accents.  And love digestives and Fawlty Towers (preferably when taken together). And use words like “queue” and “courgette”.  And put periods outside of quotation marks.  But, a funny thing happened to her when she got there: she realized that it wasn’t just London that she loved (though she loved it more than she could describe, particularly when she rode out her front door on her bicycle each morning headed to work, past the parks and the Victorian houses and the occasional irate taxi driver), but all the places she could so easily reach from there.  She soon discovered that there were far too many places to see and far too many foods to try (her stomach emphatically concurs).  The downside of this was that planning a weekend could often be a more daunting task than whatever she did at work all week.  The upside was, aside from the beauty and the people and the life-changing experiences, of course, all the new and wonderful things that she ate.

There are so many new culinary discoveries I want to document and share here, but let’s focus for once, Miss Rose, and begin at the beginning: a bank holiday weekend in Madeira, the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”, a true jewel of an island off the coast of Africa. Aside from the smell of tropical flowers following you wherever you walked, and the hikes up and down the beautiful levadas, it was the food that captivated us. From the fresh fish we ate each night, most memorably the scabbard that are found only in the water surrounding the island (a terrifying black fish that reminded me of Flotsam and Jetsam in The Little Mermaid, but which, once scrubbed diligently by the hard-working men in the Mercado dos Lavradores in the center of town each day, was a treat to have at the dinner table), to the fresh fruit that awaited us in the Mercado each morning, I would have to argue that the most memorable part of our trip was the discovery of some of the freshest, most delicious food we could have imagined. Not to mention, some of the largest quantities we could have imagined – Madeirans are nothing if not generous, and provide unlimited amounts of vegetables and fried maize, an island specialty, with each meal.

Madeira

Madeira

Madeira

Madeira

I left Madeira with a belly full of scabbard, annona and the most ripe and delicious passion fruit I’d ever tasted. And to this day, whenever I eat a passion fruit (interestingly enough, they are incredibly easy to find in London, though I am deeply saddened that the same can’t be said for my beloved annonas), I’m reminded of all the free samples I inhaled in the Mercado and, most especially, the banana-flavoured variety that FDW cut open for us all on the beach after a long afternoon of trekking.  I’m afraid they’ll never taste as sweet as they did on those unforgettable days in Madeira, but I believe they’re worth it for the memories alone.

Madeira

Passion Fruit Melting Moments
(From The Guardian Weekend, 5 July 2008)

These passion fruit cookies are deliciously light and summery and were serendipitously found in The Guardian Weekend magazine shortly after my return from Madeira, when my longing for fresh passion fruit was at its peak.

Passion Fruit Melting Moments

3 large passion fruit
200g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
75g cornflour or custard powder
50ml double cream

Cut two of the passion fruit in half and scrape out all the pulp. Pour the pulp into a bowl, seeds and all. Beat together the passion fruit, butter, 100g of the icing sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, add the flours and work everything to a soft, smooth dough.

Preheat the oven to very low – 150C (130C fan-assisted)/300F/ gas mark 2. Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Take spoonfuls of the dough and mould them into balls the size of a quail’s egg, then place on the tray spaced 2-3cm apart. Lightly flour each top, press the balls gently with the back of a fork and bake for 30-40 minutes, until crisp and lightly coloured.

Beat the remaining 150g icing sugar with the cream and the pulp from the third passion fruit. Sandwich the biscuits together when cold.

Madeira

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