Sunday, January 27, 2008

A ray of sunshine

I loved the DB'rs challenge this month. The lemon meringue tarts were like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise cold and rainy month. They even look like a sunny day!

I have read that many people had trouble with this recipe, but I had a good time with it and thought the pie was great. Instead of making one 10 inch pie I made an 8 inch tart, 2 free form tarts, and 2 mini pies. The pastry recipe for the crust was a little different than any I'd ever tried before. I was a little skeptical but I thought it held up better than most pastry crusts to the lemon filling. I made it the night before making the pie. It was really easy to roll and make into the free form disks.

I thought the crust tasted okay but probably would use another recipe in the future.

I did have a bit of trouble with the filling but it was because I misread the directions. I put a cup of the hot water, sugar, cornstarch mixture into the egg mixture before bringing it back to a boil...oops!!! So I had to start again. At least I only lost the sugar water and eggs. I hadn't put the lemon in yet so no need to juice 3 or 4 more lemons:) The second attempt came out just perfect, nicely set.

Making the meringue was a blast! I haven't made it in a long time and had forgotten how satisfying a process it can be! I love it when the egg whites become pure white and billowy. It's like magic:) I played around with the meringue. I made really tall peaks on the free form
The only problem with lemon meringue is that it doesn't hold up well and needs to be eaten the day(with in hours)it's made. No one wants to eat a soggy crust! After making all my lovely tarts I started calling neighbors to help eat them...I got no complants:)
Thanks Jen for a fun challenge that brought a little sunshine into my January! Check out all the other DB'rs take on lemon meringue pies.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)

Host: Jen (Canadian Baker)

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 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) granulated 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.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Couture cupcake

I have never been the girl with just the right outfit for every occasion. You know the kind of girl the always wears the perfect shoes and has the perfect outfit for every occasion just hanging in her closet. Not me, I give it my best shot but usually just go with black. Black dress, good for most dressy occasions, nice black pants good for most semi dressy occasions and good ole jeans with a nice black sweater, top...well you get my drift. I do wear other colors but I find that my "go to" outfit is your basic black. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but sometimes I just wish I be more like my friend N. She's got a closet full of just the right outfits for anything and the perfect shoe for every one of them.
Instead of reading the fashion magazines, and keeping up with the trends, I read cookbooks and food blogs for fun. I spend my time reading more about cupcakes than I do about couture. I was doing just that recently, reading one of my favorite cupcake blogs Cupcakes take the Cake. The blog features everything cupcake and they often interview or feature cupcake bakeries. I was going down their list of cupcake shops in the U.S. I love seeing what other people are making and how creatively they decorate their cupcakes. I came across the website for Dozen Cupcakes in Pittsburgh PA and was intrigued by their creative flavors and beautiful looking cupcakes. They have a cupcake called "Tiffany". It's aTiffany blue iced vanilla cupcake with white sprinkles. Perfect for my friend N, I thought. Living about 1000 miles from Dozen Cupcakes, I'd have to make my own. *This is the only drawback to surfing all these wonderful sites most times they're too far away to pop in and sample their goodies. So I made some vanilla cupcakes baked in silver cupcake liners and iced with a decadent cream cheese icing and gave them to her. She loved them so much that she asked me to make more for her to give as a gift. We decided to kick them up a notch and fill the cupcakes with a lemon filling. Just like a box from Tiffany' and white on the outside with a surprise on the inside! I may never be the girl with perfect shoe for every occasion, but maybe I have the perfect cupcake for those girls:)
To make these cupcakes, use your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. Martha Stewart's Vanilla Cupcakes is a nice basic vanilla cupcake. I'm aways trying out new recipes looking for the perfect one...kind of like the perfect shoe?!
For the cream cheese frosting, I used my favorite recipe. It's from "The Joy of Cooking" It so easy and it can be made in your food processor!
Cream Cheese Frosting
about 2 cups
Combine in food processor, and pulse until smooth and creamy:
8 oz cold cream cheese
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
If frosting is too thick pulse a few seconds longer. Don't over process or it'll will be too soft and be difficult to decorate with.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Too wet to go out...

"Too wet to go out, too cold to play ball, So we sat in the house and did nothing at all. And all we could do was to Sit! Sit! Sit! and we did not like it, not one little bit."

The Cat in the Hat was my favorite story as a child. I made my mom read it so many times that I could recite word for word. The first part of the book came to mind to day as I sat in the house today because it was pouring rain, very windy, and about 28 degrees outside. I was just sit sit sitting and did not liking it one little bit, and then I got hungry! So to ward off both boredom and hunger I decide to make one of my favorite cold weather dishes, white chicken chili. I'm sure the Cat in the Hat would approve and it doesn't make as big a mess as Thing One and Thing Two.
5 Tbl olive oil
1 med. onion chopped
1 can (4oz.) chopped green chilies
3 Tbl flour
2 tsp ground cumin
2 cans Great Northern or Navy Beans
a few dashes of hot sauce(optional)
14.5 oz of chicken broth
2 large (about 8 oz) chicken breast cut into small pieces
1 Tbl chopped cilantro
sour cream and grated Monetery Jack cheese for optional topping
In a large skillet heat 2 Tbl of olive oil. Add chicken and cook until cooked through 5-8 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and add the remaining 3 Tbl. of olive oil, cook onion in oil for about 4 min. until transparent. Add chilies, flour and cumin; cook 2 min. Add beans and chicken broth, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmmer until thickened about 10 min. Add chicken . Top with cilantro. Garnish with sour cream and cheese, if desired.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I've been adopted

Kristen over at Dine and Dish has come up with a great idea. She has asked veteran food bloggers to "adopt" a newbie blogger. The idea is that the veteran bloggers will help us newbies make our blogs better. I've been adopted by Hilary over at Nosh with me. Check out her blog, it's great. She's currently making Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies that look just fabulous! I'm so excited to be "adopted" by such a terrific blogger!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cure for the winter doldrums?

It's been a cold rainy week here in southern AL. I've been running low on cooking inspiration this week. The winter doldrums have set in for me, I think. Hubs has been gone for three months now and cooking for one has become a bit of a challenge. I'm much more creative when I've got to answer Hub's favorite question. So last night I decided to shake the winter doldrums with a nice dinner for one. I had a beef tenderloin steak that I wanted to use but wasn't really in the mood for a large hunk of meat. Crazy, I know some of you are thinking, but I wanted something more along the comfort foods line. I came across an old recipe I had from Fine Cooking for an updated Beef Stroganoff. It uses beef tenderloin and porcini mushrooms. Not exactly your mother's beef stroganoff! My mom's stroganoff was made with ground beef, with five kid's to feed making tenderloin into stroganoff was probably not an option. But for me on this cold wet dreary winter night, I thought, "why not!" It's a bit of a splurge recipe, but the porcini mushrooms give the sauce a nice earthy flavor and the tenderloin, WOW, so good. It definitely elevates this dish to a new level. You could substitute the tenderloin for chicken breast to make it a more practical family meal. I halved this recipe and used sour cream in place of the creme fraiche. I also made some fluffy mashed potatoes and wilted spinach. It was the perfect meal for one (with plenty of leftovers for tomorrow!).

Updated Beef Stroganoff
Serves four.

1-1/2 cups beef broth (low-salt, if canned) or veal stock
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 cup)
3 Tbs. vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 to 10 oz. fresh cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, caps wiped clean and thickly sliced
1 lb. beef tenderloin, cut into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
5 Tbs. crème fraîche

In a small saucepan, combine the broth and dried porcini. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, cover, and let steep for 30 min. With a slotted spoon, lift the porcini out of the broth; chop coarsely and set aside. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and set aside
Heat 1 Tbs. each of the oil and butter in a large sauté pan or skillet (a 12-inch skillet is perfect) over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the cremini mushrooms and sauté, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mushrooms are softened and well browned, 5 to 6 min. Take the pan off the heat and transfer the cremini to a bowl.

Season the beef strips generously with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil. When the oil is very hot, swirl to coat the pan and then add the beef, spreading it in a single layer and stirring with the wooden spoon so that it browns quickly on all sides, 1 to 2 min. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Sauté the beef just long enough so that it browns slightly on all sides; don't overcook it. Transfer the beef to the bowl with the cremini.
Still over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter in the pan and add the onion. Sauté, scraping up the browned bits in the bottom of the pan with the wooden spoon, until the onion just begins to brown, 4 to 5 min. Pour in the reserved porcini soaking broth. Stir in the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and then add the porcini, cremini, and beef, along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer while stirring. Cook just long enough so that the sauce thickens slightly, 1 to 2 min. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the crème fraîche, cooking just until heated through. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What to eat when you've been "crowned"

I got crowned today. No not the kind of crowned that makes you queen of everything or even princess of your own world. No the crowning I got involved needles, drilling and pain. I had a tooth crowned. Calling it a crown is misleading, I feel. Getting crowned is a royal occasion, involving pomp and circumstance, not loud whining drills and six or seven shots to numb your gums. No matter a crown it is, and lucky for me, my dentist is from the old school that still uses the happy gas to take the edge off. My appointment was for first thing in the morning. I was on my way home by 10:00 with a partially numb mouth and a slight happy gas hangover. Dr. H advised me to take a couple of Advil when I got home and to only chew on the left side of my mouth. So after popping a couple Advil, I realized I was HUNGRY! What do you eat with a sore mouth and limited chewing abilities? Well it's definitely an excuse for a milkshake, but I needed some real food. Soup's the only other real option. I scoured the cupboards for anything resembling soup. Of course there was nothing but chicken broth. I was hungry and wanted something to comfort me after my traumatizing morning. I wanted the ultimate comfort meal from my childhood, tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Mom always made a milk based tomato soup that I still love. I love a wonderful tomato basil soup as well, but when it comes to comfort foods a milk based tomato soup is hard to beat. I found this recipe on the Epicurious website. It's based on Fannie Farmer's recipe and is similar to what my mom makes. It was the perfect comfort food especially when paired with a white cheddar melted cheese sandwich!

Cream of Tomato Soup
Fannie Farmer (slightly adapted)
makes 7 cups
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups tomato fresh or canned
4 cups milk

Melt butter in a soup pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring until the onion is softened but not browned. Sprinkle the flour over the butter mixture and continue to stir and cook 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, bay leaf, sugar and salt continue to cook until slightly thickened. Stir the baking soda into the tomatoes. Add the tomatoes to the milk, and bring just to a simmer. remove from heat and strain if you want a very smooth soup. Adjust seasonings.

*I used one 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, because that's what I had on hand. It was perfect for someone that didn't want to chew!
I thought this would be the perfect entry for the comfort food cook-off hosted by Eve at The garden of eating. The winner will receive a copy of Macaroni & Cheese: 52 Recipes from Simple to Sublime by Joan Schwartz. This soup and sandwich combo is comforting on a cold day even when you haven't just come from the dentist.