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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Going Bananas

Do you ever have a day when everything just seems great. Everyone smiles at you. The sun is brighter and your life train is running tickity-boo?

When my children were little, grocery shopping was an adventure. It was like climbing a mountain; you were never sure that you were going to make it to the peak without casualties.

The children had a sticker addiction which was easily satisfied by removing a sticker off a bunch of bananas and putting it on their hand or forehead. This distraction gave me about 30 seconds of uninterrupted time to shift focus to the apples.

My daughter chose that time to develop generosity and thoughtfulness by lovingly placing a banana sticker on my distracted forehead. It was a great day. Not only was I handling grocery shopping and my child was developing positive thoughtful character traits but everyone in the store was smiling at us all the time.

There is nothing like the feeling that you are getting a little recognition for a well behaved child... cuz' that must have been why everyone was smiling at us. Then I met an acquaintance who pointed out that my forehead was cute.

Cute? What was she talking about?

Aha, the sticker. I had completely forgotten about it. Embarrassed I made an executive decision. That sticker wasn't going anywhere, this was the best shopping trip I've had in a long time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Have lemons? Make Pie!

Last month, I was so pleased with the results of the Yule Log that I wanted to play with marzipan for the rest of the month. To all the amazing Daring Bakers, I owed the success of my butter cream icing. Without the benefit of your experience, success would have blown me a wet raspberry.

This month our lovely hostess Jen at Canadian Baker chose a fantastic Lemon Meringue Pie recipe from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002. The full recipes for the pie and tarts are posted on Canadian Baker.

I was so determined to make this work since nothing works better than experience… and I desperately wanted to give back to the group. So in that spirit, here are my mistakes lovingly offered to all the Daring Baker’s.

I stuck to the recipe faithfully but I forgot the little instruction to leave a ½ inch overhang for the pie shell. When I looked into the oven, to my horror the crust was creeping down the sides of the pie pan. But, an artistic rustic crust is so much more appealing than mass produced clones, don't ya' think?
My pie looked so gorgeous that I rushed it outside to photograph in the snow. Hot meringue does not like cold snow. It wrinkled… and when I brought it inside - it wept in frustration.

For the first time both my daughter and I enjoyed the pastry, something we usually discretely push to the side, over the lip and into the garbage can. The filling set beautifully and had a tarty, fresh lemon taste. The meringue was fantastic. It was my fault that the meringue wept because of being slightly undercooked and put in the snow.

What did I learn?
1) Do not put pie in snow; it wrinkles. Do not refrigerate. If your pie is going to have a weepy taciturn attitude, this just aggravates it even more.
2) Cook meringue for full 20 minutes..
3) If you have decided to put meringue on hot filling. Pipe it around the edges first so that the filling does not overflow the edges.
This recipe is a definite keeper.

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

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour ¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt ⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water 1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch 5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter ¾ 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 ½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt ½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

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 counter top) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ 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 ½ 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.

For 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.

For 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

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pear Tart

This is a variation on the Apple Bavarian Torte. The lemon zest adds a subtle note to the filling but doesn't overpower.

½ cup salted butter, 250 mL
1/3 cup sugar, 80 mL
½ tsp vanilla, 3 mL
1 cup flour, 250 mL

1 package cream cheese, softened, 8 ounces 250 g
¼ cup sugar, 60 mL
1 large egg at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla, 3 mL
Finely grated zest of one lemon

1/3 cup sugar, 80 mL
½ tsp cinnamon, 3 mL
Thinly sliced wedges of under ripe pears, approximately two pears depending on their size.

Line the spring form pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla until well combined. Blend in flour. The crust will look crumbly. Press the dough onto the bottom and 1 inch, 2.5 cm up the sides of a spring form pan.

Beat cream cheese with sugar and lemon zest. Add egg and beat until well combined. Spread the filling evenly over the crust.

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Toss pear wedges in the sugar mixture. Place in a pinwheel pattern over the cream cheese layer.

Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes. Lower heat to 375 degrees and continue cooking for 25 minutes. Chill three hours before serving.

Serves 8.

This can be frozen and defrosted at room temperature.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Curing Bacon

This blog author is a god among mere mortals.

The Musable cures bacon. I can only dream.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Baking Party

I often accuse my husband of hoarding. Socks with more holiness than the Dalai Lama, pictures of old girlfriends, etc. There's a lot of detritus that can pile up in the corners of our life.

But I have a secret, I'm a hoarder too. I never realised that I was painted with the same brush until it was pointed out to me. After purchasing groceries my husband was helping me put them away. He looked at the groceries and asked in disbelief.

More bacon? We must have ten pounds of bacon in the freezer!

No way ...

I have a very strong sense of denial and I only buy bacon when a great brand is on sale. It turns out that I was right. We didn't have ten pounds of bacon in the freezer, we had thirteen.

We can eat this bacon detritus to avoid it's accumulation. But we don't eat that much bacon. This is a problem. I believe in tackling any problems without hesitation, so I turned to my friends for advice.

I think I'm going to have a bacon party. ...

My friends are always up for some fun.

A baking party? Hey that sounds like fun.

Bay-CON not bay-KING.



Bacon Update

My bacon count is down to 10. We ate one and gave two to a friend who needed bacon. Can you believe it? I'm truly blessed with great friends.

While working through this bacon issue I discovered that my problem is hereditary. My parents can't resist butter. You can't fight genes.

Pass the butter.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Holiday Painting

I've not been blogging but I've been busy. This is my painting of "Zo", my daughter, decorating the Christmas tree.