Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Parmesan Sables (TWD)

I loved that this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe for sables provided us with several flavor options. As my baking time this month is devoted to assorted holiday sweets, I was definitely up for making the savory version of this buttery shortbread cookie.
The crumbly yet tender texture of these gems is what makes them so addictive to eat. Technique is key to getting the right texture - no overmixing of the dry ingredients! I sprinkled the formed logs with ground marcona almonds before slicing, then topped each sable with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
I appreciated how the parmesan cheese flavor was centerstage in these sables. I did yearn for a little cracked pepper and/or herbs to balance out the rich flavor of the butter and cheese (note for next time). These sables were the perfect savory snack to serve along with a nice cabernet sauvignon.

Thanks to Barbara of Bungalow Barbara for a terrific pick this week! You can find the recipe at Barbara's blog or at this NY Times article. The possibilities of this recipe is endless, so make sure to visit the TWD blogroll to see the many delicious versions.

Friday, November 27, 2009

All In One Holiday Bundt (TWD)

So, we had to cope with our derailed Thanksgiving travel plans. The hubs and I went through a momentary (okay, it was a bit more like a few hours) whiny, pity party phase, and now we've moved on. We decided to make the proverbial lemons into lemonade, and are making good use of our new found time.

The hubs has been a whirling dervish as he's already cleaned the garage, dug out the Christmas boxes, and hung the holiday lights. WooHoo hubs!!! I've been organizing paperwork for next year's tax returns, decking the house with holiday stuff, scouring cookbooks for this year's holiday treat boxes, and taking inventory of the gifts that we've been stockpiling throughout the year. I hope I'm not jinxing ourselves by saying this, but I think we're actually ready for the holidays!

BTW, Siena is doing much better. The first 24 hours was tough on the little girl, but she pulled through just fine (and the vet confirmed that she didn't ingest anything poisonous). She's back to her old exuberant self!
With this gift of time, I took the opportunity to catch up on some baking that I've been postponing. This is a late TWD post for All-In-One Holiday Bundt. I almost skipped this recipe due to lack of time, and I am so glad that I didn't pass this recipe.

The list of ingredients is definitely representative of the holidays: pumpkin, apple, cranberry, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
I halved the recipe, which yielded the perfect amount for a six cup bundt pan. The original recipe calls for a cup of chopped pecans, which I decided to omit. Instead, I substituted the nuts with an additional 1/4 cup each of cranberries and apple (I used granny smith). I was too lazy to dice, so I shredded the apple instead (just watch your fingers!).
The baking time for this smaller bundt was approximately 40-45 minutes. The smell of this cake baking in the oven was heavenly!
Once out of the oven and cooled, I opted to drizzle maple icing to finish the cake.
When I first read through the recipe, I thought this could be a case of "too much of a good thing" with all of these ingredients competing with each other. Instead, I was really pleased by the flavors: the tartness of the cranberry and apple was nicely balanced by the sweetness of the pumpkin and maple icing. The spices are definitely present, but doesn't overwhelm the fruit flavors in the cake.
Aside from the delicious flavor, this cake is super moist and will keep for a few days (if it isn't gobbled up before then).
Thank you Britin of The Nitty Britty for this delicious Tuesdays With Dorie selection. For the complete recipe, you can find it either at Dorie Greenspan's column at Serious Eats or at Britin's blog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! When I originally wrote this post, it started something like this: "I'm taking a quick break as it's time for our yearly Thanksgiving sojurn to Vegas". For the past 10+ years, the hubs and I have spent the Thanksgiving holiday week in Vegas with single-minded goal of indulging ourselves silly.

Well, this post has been revised...we've crapped out and our Vegas streak is over.

We were frantically packing and printing our boarding passes for our morning flight when we discovered our dog getting sick in the backyard...then on her bed...then in the hallway (sorry for the gross details)! After a trip to our vet, a viral infection diagnosis, and a $350 vet bill, we saw our Vegas trip circling the proverbial drain.

It would have sucked for Siena to sit at the boarding facility in isolation, and quite frankly we didn't have the heart to leave her alone to recuperate. After swallowing a very big bitter pill, the hubs looked at me and asked "so what are we cooking for Thanksgiving?"

I haven't cooked Thanksgiving dinner in over a decade, so this would be an interesting challenge. Where do I start...how about dessert?
A Thanksgiving feast isn't complete without a slice of delicious pie to end the meal with a sweet note and send dinner guests into food comas. Apple, pecan, pumpkin...everyone has a favorite pie for the holiday weekend.

At the Tender Crumb house, we're partial to pumpkin and sweet potato pies. I know a lot of people tell me that they can't tell the difference between the two. The hubs and I can definitely tell the difference between the two pies.

From my personal experience, the primary difference between the two fillings is flavor. Sweet potato has a natural sweetness and earthiness, and it doesn't need a lot of sugar and spice to enhance its flavor. People also talk about a difference in texture, with pumpkin having a more custardy texture, but that isn't as noticeable to me.

Tell me, do you think there is a difference between the two pies?

This Thanksgiving, I want to share my recipe for sweet potato pie. A post for pumpkin pie will follow in the next day or two --- we're drowning our sorrows in two pies. I love this recipe because it is simple to prepare and oh so tasty and satisfying to eat.

Note: What you're seeing in these pictures is a 4 inch baby pie. If you halve the recipe below, it will make enough for two of these mini-pies and a little extra filling (which you can bake separately in a ramekin and enjoy separately).
Sweet Potato Pie
makes one 9 inch pie

Dorie Greenspan's Good For Almost Everything Pie Dough, partially baked - you can find the recipe here

2 large red-skinned sweet potatoes
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar (if you like a sweeter filling, increase to 1 cup)
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white, beaten to blend

For filling:
Pierce potatoes with fork. Bake in a 375F degrees oven until cooked through (45-60 minutes). Once throughly cooked, cool completely.

Press the cooled sweet potato through a potato ricer (this step is KEY for a smooth filling). Measure enough potato puree to equal 1 1/2 cups.

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400F degrees.

Place pureed sweet potato in large bowl. Whisk in brown sugar and next 7 ingredients.

Brush partially baked crust with beaten egg white. Transfer filling to the crust.

Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges and set in center, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Roasted Veggies with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Cauliflower, brussels sprouts, sweet potato --- the mere mention of these vegetables had my brothers and I groaning with disgust at the dinner table. I'm a big girl now, and my palate has evolved to appreciate and enjoy the flavor of these veggies. Aside from taste, these veggies are packed with nutrition and high in fiber, so you can totally load your plate guilt-free with these gems.

This recipe is a fantastic way to highlight these underappreciated vegetables, and it is super easy to prepare. This is a delicious and nutritious side dish for the Thanksgiving table.

The most time consuming part is cleaning and cutting the veggies:
Roast the prepared veggies until they are cooked through and golden brown:
While the veggies are roasting, you can whip up the vinaigrette. A few months back, the nice people from POM Wonderful sent me a box of their fantastic pomegranate juice, which I put into good use in this recipe. Along with the pomegranate juice, I added just a smidge of pomegranate molasses, which delivers an essential pungent and tart flavor to the vinaigrette. After tossing the still warm veggies with the vinaigrette, top the dish with a generous handful of pomegranate seeds, and...
...enjoy! Easy, isn't it?

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
adapted from Martha Stewart Living - November 2009

For the Roasted Vegetables
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut
1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

For the Vinaigrette
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1 tsp pomegranate molasses (if you can't find this ingredient, you can omit)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.

Toss the vegetables and oil in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. (To avoid washing another dish, I toss and season directly on the baking sheet) Roast for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer veggies to a serving platter.

Make the vinaigrette. In a bowl mix the pomegranate juice and molasses. Pour in oil in a slow steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, drizzle vinaigrette over warm vegetables, and top with pomegranate seeds.

Serves 6

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cran-Apple Crisps (TWD)

As a thin-blooded native Californian, I was reaching for my fuzzy slippers and huddling under a flannel blanket last night as the temperature dipped into the 40's. Okay...you can stop laughing at my weather wimpiness, as I get enough mocking at home courtesy of my hubs. As a New Jersey native, he thought last night's temperature was "refreshingly crisp" and sat next to his shivering wife wearing a t-shirt and shorts.

The hubs and I will forever disagree about how we define cold weather, but we both agreed that this warm Cran-Apple Crisp was the perfect sweet ending to our evening meal. With a short and sweet ingredient list, this recipe can be assembled in a flash. I used a combination of winesap and orin apples that came from Ha's Apple Farm.

For those of you who are SoCal based, I highly recommend that you visit Mr. Ha's stand at your local farmers market (I've seen his stands in Hollywood and Santa Monica). He offers a fantastic variety of apples and they are all super delicious - his fujis are da bomb!Don't be shy about piling a generous amount of the cinnamon ginger crisp topping into the ramekins. Once they are baked, the ingredients settle into a sweet mass of warm and spice-scented deliciousness...
A scoop of vanilla ice cream is an absolute must for this dessert...
Overall, I thought this crisp was yummy! As the crisp topping is sweet, I didn't think the fruit base needed too much additional sugar, so will make a note to dial down the sugar quantity in the fruit mixture. As the apples I used were not overly juicy, I halved the amount of flour called for in the recipe, and the crisp didn't get soggy... it was perfect!

I had quite a bit of crisp topping leftover, and used it the next day as a delicious and not-so-heathly mix-in for my morning oatmeal.

Thanks Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef for this delicious TWD selection. Please visit Em's blog for the complete recipe.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies (TWD)

These Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies are a must-bake during this time of year. When these cookies are baking in the oven, the delicious smells of molasses and spices will permeate the house and remind you that the holidays are here.
The spicy kick in these beauties come from ginger, cinnamon, allspice, --- and black pepper. Do not shy away from the black pepper, as they add a really nice heat to these cookies.
These cookies are definitely going to be incorporated into my holiday cookie baskets this year!

Thanks Pamela of Cookies With Boys for this delicious selection! Make sure to visit Pamela's blog for the complete recipe.

This month, the Tuesdays With Dorie bakers have been given license to bake the November line-up out of order, so make sure to peruse the TWD Blogroll to see some fantastic fall baking.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Black Bottom Cupcakes

Instead of venturing out tonight, the hubs and I are spending a comfortable and stress-free evening at home. Maybe I'm a fuddy-duddy, but there is nothing more delightful than kicking back in sweats, reading a good book and enjoying a bottle of good wine on a Saturday night. Besides, I didn't want to miss the entertaining parade of trick-or-treaters canvasing our neighborhood.

In keeping with the comfortable laid-back mood this evening, I wanted to bake something that wouldn't take much effort. David Lebovitz's Black Bottom Cupcakes was the perfect remedy for lazy baking. Seriously, this recipe is unbelievably easy to make! Using only a couple of bowls and mixing spoons, you will be rewarded with these impressive looking cream cheese chocolate cakes. I love how each cupcake has its own unique personality:
In keeping with the holiday theme, I tweaked the recipe slightly to create a pumpkin cream cheese filling. You can find the original recipe here, and I made the following adjustments to the cream cheese filling:
- reduced the cream cheese to 6 oz
- added 3 oz canned pumpkin
- added 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- added 3 drops of orange food coloring
I encourage you to try baking these super easy treats yourself. I promise that these cakes are better than anything that you'll find in a trick-or-treaters bag.
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chocolate Macarons (DB)

Thanks to this month's Daring Baker's Challenge, this was my first attempt at making macarons. I've assumed that these delicate European cookies were difficult and time consuming, so I never bothered to try making them at home. Besides, I'm fortunate to have Paulette Macarons within a short driving distance from mi casa. Paulette's macarons are works of art, and they are almost too pretty to eat (still, that hasn't stopped me from inhaling a box or two).
Confession time - I tried THREE times to make macarons using the recipe selected by our hostess Ami, and every attempt was a huge failure - ARGHHHH!!!! I had trouble getting the little "feet" on my cookies, and when cooled, they were as hard as rocks and pretty sad looking. I'm pretty sure that these failures were attributable to me and not the recipe, as the other DB'ers were sharing their picture perfect macarons using Claudia Fleming's recipe (which is included at the end of this post).

After taking a few minutes to swear like a sailor, I took a deep breath and decided to work with a different recipe. If this attempt didn't work, I vowed never to make macarons again. I went with a chocolate macaron recipe from David Lebovitz - the man has yet to fail me in the ice cream deparment, so I had faith in his recipe. The link to his recipe is here.

Voila - Macaron success!!!! The cookies had a nice crunchy exterior which gave into a nice chewy interior. The filling for these cookies is a simple bittersweet chocolate ganache.

I kicked back and relished in my macaron success with a plate of these sugary gems and a cup of tea.
from The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern by Claudia Fleming

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.

2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.

3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.

4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.

5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).

6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.

7. Cool on a rack before filling.
Yield: 10 dozen.
The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte (TWD)

Chocolate, cherries, and mascarpone mousse - what's not to love about this Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte? This inspired recipe takes the flavors of a black forest cake to a decadent new level with a ultra rich brownie studded with kirsch soaked cherries and a light and creamy mascapone mousse. The flavor quotient is punched up with a healthy grinding of black pepper in the brownie base.
There has been a lot of baking happening in the Tender Crumb kitchen, so there was no way I was going to make a full sized torte. I halved the recipe, which was more than plenty for a 7 inch torte and a 4 inch mini-torte (pictured here).
Rich and flavorful, you only need a couple of bites to satisfy you sweet tooth. The punch of the black pepper and the not-too-sweet mascarpone mousse helps to balance out the richness of the chocolate brownie base.
Please visit April's blog, Short + Rose, for the recipe, and make sure to make the rounds with the TWD blogroll to see some inspired baking!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake (TCS)

After a year of baking some really delicious and TALL cakes from Sky High: Irresistable Triple Layer Cakes, The Cake Slice group has switched gears and has moved on to a new cake baking book. After a vote (we're so democratic, aren't we?), the group has chosen to bake recipes from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott. In the introduction of the book, Nancie shares the following:

"I invite you to take a little journey through this collection of Southern cakes. Perhaps you will come across some old friends and meet some new neighbors, since the South, like all the world, grows and changes every day, while still remaining essentially its same old self. I hope that while sampling these pages you will remember something about a cake you once ate or a person who taught you something about cooking and eating and the sacred nature of food."

I couldn't have said it any better.

Cinnamon-Pecan Coffee Cake is the first recipe selected from the book, and it's a perfect recipe to bid summer adieu and welcome fall. Mind you, we have yet to cool down in Southern California, so I'll have to imagine the crisp, cool autumn weather as I enjoy this cake.

Cinnamony and buttery (3 1/2 sticks of buttery goodness --- this is not a typo), this decadent breakfast cake is total comfort food. I didn't have any raisins in the house, so I opted for mini bittersweet chocolate chips. I would recommend not shortchanging on the nuts, as it really provided and nice crunch and flavor to the cake.

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake
from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

For the Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Filling
1½ cups light brown sugar
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp cinnamon
1½ cups raisins
1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth.

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Allspice Crumb Muffins (TWD)

I treasure the early morning hours, especially on the weekends. Most people I know do whatever they can to squeeze in a extra hour or two of zzzzz's. I happily buck that trend, looking forward to the quiet pre-dawn hours on Saturday and Sunday. Once I get a humongous pot of coffee going, I dive into the pile magazines and books that accumulate on my my nightstand and leisurely read the morning paper (which is a rare treat for me).

Dorie Greenspan's Allspice Crumb Muffin was a delicious bonus to my early morning ritual. The prep work for this recipe was mercifully easy (I didn't even need to bring out a knife!), and for that minimal effort, I was rewarded with this yummy breakfast treat. To top it off, the house was filled that wonderful smell of something delicious baking in the oven.
This was the first time that I've made a recipe that calls for allspice to be front and center. I think I've been missing out, I loved the complex cinnamon-clove flavor of this spice. The muffin itself is very moist, and the streusel topping provides nice slightly crunchy texture contrast. The addition of lemon zest is an optional ingredient in the recipe, but I thought it provided essential flavor to complement the spice.

I used large muffin liners for this recipe, and the recipe yielded 8 jumbo muffins.
Thanks Kayte of Grandma's KitchenTable for this week's TWD selection. Please visit Kayte's blog for this recipe, or better yet go get yourself a copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Split Level Pudding (TWD)

I'm back... after a month long haitus, I ready to get my blogging mojo on! September was an action-packed month for me, with various mini-vacations, classes and time with friends and family. Where do I begin...

- The hubs and I decided to do a series of mini-trips instead of one long vacation. The hubs attended a week long conference in Vegas at the Bellagio, so of course I had to tag along. Pool, spa, gambling, shopping, and tasty dining was on the agenda --- this girl definitely enjoys her time in Vegas, baby! We then trekked down south to San Diego to visit friends (thanks Lisa & Howie for your oustanding hospitality), then finished the road trip at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point.

- The SIL and her boyfriend were kind enough fly in from Jersey to house and puppy sit for us, and we were fortunate to spend time together before and after the trip...thanks Mel & Tom...you guys are welcome anytime!!!

- I started a 10 week digital photography course at UCLA. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I DON'T about using my camera! My classmates are great and our instructor, George, has great passion for his art and his enthusiasm is infectious. I'm not sure that you'll see an improvement in my photos, but at least I'll know how the camera gear works!

- We capped the month with a trip up to Pismo Beach for the wedding of our dear friends, Teresa & Jim. I've been really gun-shy about sharing this... I had the priviledge of making their wedding cake and cupcakes. This was the first time I baked at this scale, and the experience was fun, exciting, and anxiety-filled! Once I get my hands on some pictures, I'll definitely share them with you.

Anyways, I'm happy to get back in the rhythm of blogging...

This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Split Level Pudding, was a perfect way to ease back into my baking routine. Simple and comforting, this recipe consists of a chocolate ganache base topped with a rich vanilla pudding. To be just a little decadent, I used vanilla bean paste instead of extract. I love seeing those beautiful vanilla specks in the pudding:

Dorie's recipe calls for the use of a food processor. Although it can get messy tranferring the mixture back and forth from the saucepan to the processor, you are rewarded with a pudding that has a wonderfully silky smooth texture. This technique was previously used with her chocolate pudding recipe, and I was blown away by the results.

Once you dig into the silky smooth vanilla pudding, you get a wonderful chocolate surprise:

The base is a soft chocolate ganache, and I ended up using a delicious Baileys chocolate ganache leftover from the wedding cake/cupcakes.

You can find the complete recipe at Garrett's blog, Flavor of Vanilla. Also make sure to visit the TWD blogroll to see more delicious versions of this pudding.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taking A Break In September

I am very overdue in posting this, but I am taking a little hiatus this month to take care of assorted personal stuff.

I'm not going to have time to visit all of your terrific blogs, so please forgive my lack of commenting --- I feel like I'm missing out!

I am bummed about missing out on all of the great baking with TWD, The Cake Slice and Daring Bakers, but I think this little break will reinvigorate me as I look forward to all of the great holiday baking.

See you in October!


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.
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