Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie (TWD)

Without Tuesdays With Dorie, my blog would not exist! Back in April 2008, I unexpectedly found TWD from doing a Google search on Dorie Greenspan and her cookbook, Baking: From My Home To Yours. I was only intent on buying the book, but after learning more about TWD, I thought that it would be a fantastic avenue to bake through the recipes.

At that time, I didn't have a blog and the group required one to participate. In fact, I had absolutely no clue what blogging was, so I was in for a quick education. Fast forward 18 months and 70+ TWD recipes, I can't believe that I've been able to keep up my blog and stick with it long enough to select a recipe! One unexpected surprise from this experience is the sense of community that has come with this group and the blogosphere, and I've appreciated getting to know some really terrific, talented bakers and cooks who are passionate about what they do.

One of the great things about this experience was expanding my baking horizons. Prior to joining TWD, if I were asked to select a recipe, I would have (without hesitation) picked a cake or brownie recipe. After completing a wide variety of recipes over the course of this past year, I've learned to really enjoy making things that are out of my comfort zone. For me, pies/tarts and yeasted doughs were definitely in that category.

With my new found love for pies & tart, I couldn't resist picking Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie for this week's TWD.The combination of lime and ginger flavors infused in the luscious, rich cream instantly sold me on this this recipe.
Dorie Greenspan's technique to make this velvety cream is definitely worth taking note. The instructions for the cream starts with a mixture of sugar, eggs, lime, ginger. As the mixture cooks over a bain marie, the liquid mixture thickens and transforms into a curd.

The left photo shows the mixture before heating. The right photo shows the thickened mixture just moments before I took it off the heat.
Now, this is the part where Dorie's recipe sets itself apart from other recipes. The mixture is cooled slightly, then strained into a blender or food processor. With the equipment on, you gradually add butter pieces. Once completed and chilled, you will be rewarded with the most velvety cream imaginable! The flavors of lime and ginger were fantastic, and I actually yearned for more of that zinginess from the ginger (note to self for next time). I slathered some of the leftover cream on a piece of toast and had it for breakfast --- totally decadent!

I prepared four 5 inch tartlet pans with a graham cracker crust. I didn't add any additional sugar to the crust, as I thought that there was enough sweetness in the cream.

For the meringue, I actually heated the egg whites and sugar slightly over a bain marie before whisking. As I was planning to torch the meringue (vs baking in the oven), I wanted to avoid undercooked egg whites.
How did we enjoy this pie? I think Siena expressed it the best:
Lip smacking delicious!!!

Thank you Laurie for all of your dedication and hard work to keep TWD going...I've enjoyed making the 70+ recipes that we've made to date, and look forward to at least that many more!

Please make sure to peruse the TWD blogroll, as I guarantee that you will see many scrumptious pies this week. Thanks everyone for baking along with me!

Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie
From Baking: From My Home To Yours By Dorie Greenspan (pp 337-339)
Makes 8 servings

Dorie's Notes: The look of this pie is sumptuous, its texture silky and its lime-ginger flavor big, bright and sassy. While I’m happy to have a lemon meringue pie any time of the year, I save this pie for summer because, as fresh as lime and ginger taste on their own, when they’re mixed together, they turn uber-zingy and so cool you’d think they’d been in the deep freeze. It may be an illusion, but one you’ll be happy to play along with on a sweltering day.

Serving: The pie is best served chilled and in generous wedges.

Storing: Meringue-topped pies are at their best the day they are made. Kept longer, the risk of weepy meringue gets higher.

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 limes
4 large eggs, preferably at room temp
¾ 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

Getting ready: Have an instant-read thermometer, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or 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 a few minutes, until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lime is strong.

Whisk in 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 F. As you 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 F, 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 to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain the cream into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the rest.
Let it cool until it reaches 140 degrees F, 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 in 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 frozen for up to 2 months; thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

FOR THE CRUST (2 options)

Graham Cracker Crust
makes a 9-inch crust

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Butter a 9-inch pie plate.
Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist. Turn the ingredients into the pan and use your fingers to pay an even layer of crumbs over the bottom of the pan. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
Center a rack in the over, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Set the crust aside to cool on a rack.

Good For Almost Everything Pie Dough
makes one 9-inch crust

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

Put the flour, sugar and salt in 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 3 tablespoons of water—all 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 or 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.

Gather the dough into a ball, flatten the ball into a disk and wrap in plastic. 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.)

To Roll Out the Dough: Have a buttered 9-inch pie plate at hand. You can roll the dough out on a floured surface or between sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap or in a rolling slipcover. (I usually roll this dough out on the floured counter.) If you're working on a counter, turn the dough over frequently and keep the counter floured. If you are rolling between paper, plastic or in a slipcover, make sure to turn the dough over often and to lift the paper, plastic or cover frequently so that it doesn't roll into the dough and form creases. If you've got time, slide the rolled-out dough into the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up.

To Make the Crust: Fit the dough into the pie plate and, using a pair of scissors, but the excess dough to a 1/4- to 1/2 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.

To Partially or Fully Bake the Crust: Refrigerate the crust while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 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 pit plate on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and wights and, if the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. For a partially baked crust, return the pie plate to the oven and bake for about 8 minutes more, or until the crust is very lightly colored. To fully bake the crust, bake until golden brown, about another 10 minutes. Transfer the pie plate to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup sugar

To finish the pie with the meringue: Preheat the broiler.

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

Working in a clean dry mixer bowl with the clean whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, 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.

Run the pie under the broiler until the meringue is golden and the tips are dark brown (Or, if you’ve got a blowtorch, use it to brown the meringue.) Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Playing Around – Gingered Lime and Mango Meringue Pie
Peel a ripe mango, cut it into small cubes and sprinkle with a little lime juice. Spread about one third of the lime cream into the crust, top with the diced mango and cover with the remaining cream. Chill and finish with meringue as directed. Or omit the meringue and top the pie with long, elegant slices of mango and a gloss of quince or apple jelly: boil about ¼ cup jelly with ½ teaspoon water, then brush the glaze over the pie.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Applesauce Spice Bars (TWD)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for Applesauce Spice Bars are technically bar cookies, but as you can see in these photos, mine turned out thick and cake-like.

The reason - I totally misread the pan requirements and used a smaller 8"x8" pan (versus a 9"x13" pan called for in the recipe). Aside from the pan snafu, I did follow the recipe with the following notes (for the full recipe, please visit Something Sweet by Karen):

- increased baking time to 35 minutes
- used a Granny Smith apple
- doubled the amount of cinnamon and allspice
- soaked the dark raisins in rum (it really helped plump and rehydrate them)
- in addition to soaking the raisins in rum, I opted to add 1 tbsp of dark rum into the batter
- doubled the brown sugar glaze recipe. Instead of pouring the hot glaze over the cake, I let the glaze cool. At room temp the glaze was much thicker, and this was spread like frosting over the cake.
I loved how soft and moist this bar turned out, and I'm glad that I added the raisin and pecans, as it gave it some textural interest. I loved the flavors of cinnamon and allspice, and they went wonderfully with the apples.

My only minor issue with this recipe was the sweetness --- it was really too sweet for my personal taste, which I think was contributed by the glaze.
Still, this bar didn't go to waste at my house, as we enjoyed it a la mode with Dorie Greenspan's Vanilla Ice Cream.
There are a lot of things that I liked about this recipe, and I'm definitely going to give it another try with a couple of adjustments (ie. omitting the glaze and using the proper pan).

Thanks Karen of Something Sweet by Karen for a terrific selection this week. Karen is always cooking and baking delicious treats which she shares through her beautiful blog.

I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but next week will be MY turn to host Tuesdays With Dorie. I'm looking forward to baking and visually feasting with all of you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Brownie Buttons (TWD)

Please do not mistake this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Brownie Buttons, for those pre-packaged two-bite brownies. They may look the same, but that's where the similarity ends. Dorie Greenspan's petite treats are oh so moist and chock full of chocolatey goodness --- their flavor and texture puts those two-bite brownies to shame!
Not only was this recipe so easy and quick to prepare, it gave me an excuse to dig out my mini muffin tin.
I wanted to play with the miniature theme, so I decided to have some fun and make mini brownie sundaes. I topped these brownies with a mini scoop of David Lebovitz's scrumptious malted milk ice cream (with stracciatella) and a drizzle of Hershey's syrup. Yum! This treat was the perfect portion to satisfy my nagging sweet tooth.
Thanks Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen for selecting this fun treat! Please visit Jayma's blog for the full recipe and make sure to check out the TWD blogroll for more brownie eye candy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Classic Banana Bundt Cake (TWD)

I think this week's TWD recipe, Classic Banana Bundt Cake, is one the best banana bread/cake recipes that I've ever made. I know, it's a pretty bold statement, isn't it? I have made this recipe numerous times since I've gotten my hands on Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours, and this banana cake has never failed me. To me, what makes this recipe fantastic is the simplicity of the ingredients and instructions. In no time, you are rewarded with a comforting treat that you can have with your morning coffee or as an afternoon snack.

I had originally intended on sharing with you a photo of the full bundt cake, but the top photo was the best I could do. Why, you ask? This was the reason...I had absolutely no patience, and I ended up cutting a generous hunk and devoured it before I had a chance to take pictures. :(
If you've had this cake before, you will understand why I couldn't wait to eat it. The cake is tender and moist, and it is chock full of banana flavor.

This time around, I tried topping the bundt with a glaze mentioned in the book. It didn't do much for taste or presentation, so I ended up frosting the cake with a bittersweet chocolate ganache and then topping it with bittersweet mini-chips. (That's why you see the white glaze drizzled down the sides of the cake along with the chocolate ganache.)

A huge shout out to my homegirl Mary of The Food Librarian for a fantastic pick this week. Mary is a fantastic baker and blogger, fellow Angelino, UCLA Bruin, ...in another word, she ROCKS!
You have to make this cake! For the recipe, you can find it at Mary's blog, or you can find a half-batch version for cupcakes at Dorie Greenspan's blog. I've made this recipe into cupcakes here, which was met with great success.

I know that my fellow TWD bakers were all over this recipe, so make sure to visit the TWD blogroll to see more of this absolutely delicious cake.

Now, you'll have to excuse me as I indulge with another piece of cake...
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