Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

July 3, 2020

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So here we are, just moments away from Independence Day. Certainly not the 4th of July for this year that I imagined last year. Not that the Husband and I have made a habit out of heading off to big fireworks displays on the 4th, but still…Needless to say, we’ll be spending this one right here at home. Where we have been. For oh – months and months. Perhaps years at this point. 2020 has certainly made months seems like they go on for years. Facing the tedium of yet another social distanced holiday, I thought it might be nice to make the Husband a little treat. Now I’ve told you how he absolutely loves any fruit based dessert and of the many fruit desserts out there, lemon bars hold a special place in his heart. So I was absolutely delighted when I saw that Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite blogs – had just shared a recipe for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars. Clearly, it was just meant to be!

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And the whole lemon thing is true. Yup – you actually use a WHOLE lemon in this recipe. Well – you take the seeds out and remove the stem, but otherwise the whole thing – skin and all.

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I was afraid that the whole lemon might have caused the lemon filling to be bitter, so I kind of held my breath a bit when the Husband took his first bite. Hooray! Not bitter at all. I think using the whole lemon actually gave it a much more – well lemony taste. I mean these bars actually tasted perfectly sour and tart and also sweet. But just the right amount of sweet. Sometimes when I’ve gotten lemon bars, they taste very, very cloyingly sweet with only a slight hint of lemon. Like maybe someone had only waved a lemon over the mix. That is certainly not what the Husband is hoping for in a lemon bar. He wants that pucker up sour citrus zing of a real lemon. Let me tell you, these bars definitely delivered in that regard.

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And although I have made lemon bars before, I had never added the meringue layer on top. With these Lemon Meringue Pie Bars the sweet marshmallowy toasted meringue works to perfectly balance the lip puckering intensity of that velvety lemon filling. Both the Husband and I were very well pleased.

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I don’t know what you’ll be getting up to this 4th of July, but I do know that no matter what it is, these Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars will make it better. Make yourself a batch today!

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Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars

  • Servings: 12 - 16 bars depending how you slice them
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe from: Smitten Kitchen who sourced it from Susan Spungen’s Open Kitchen 

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 9 whole graham cracker sheets (1 sleeve), broken into pieces or 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

For the filling:

  • 1 whole (preferably organic) lemon, any variety (see Note below in filling directions), scrubbed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 8 Tablespoons (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
  • Pinch of salt

For the meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

Make the crust:

Heat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line an 8-by-8-inch [20-by-20-cm] baking pan with two pieces of parchment trimmed to fit, going in both directions, with some extra hanging over the edge so that you can easily remove the bars later.

Place the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the fine crumbs form. Add the cold butter and pulse until the cold butter blends into the crumbs. It should look and feel like wet sand. Transfer to the prepared pan and mix it up with your hands to make sure the butter is well distributed. Press into the pan, going up the sides a bit, and bake for 10 minutes, or until just golden. Let cool while you make the filling.

Make the filling:

Note on lemons: Deb Perelmen of Smitten Kitchen advises that you can use any variety of lemon but that you want to stick to a smaller lemon weighing approximately 4 – 4.5 ounces and that you do not want the skin to be too thick. The pith (white bit) should not be over 1/4 inch. If you feel the lemon you have is a bit too thick skinned, simply remove half of the skin from the lemon before proceeding.

Trim the stem end of the whole lemon and cut it into thin slices. Remove any seeds. Add to a food processor or blender jar (preferably a high speed blender) along with the lemon juice, egg yolks, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt and blend until very smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over the crust (it’s ok if it’s still warm) and bake for 30 minutes, or until it is bubbling and browning around the edges. It won’t look at all set, and might even look like a total mess (unevenly browned or bubbly), but it will set up as it cools. Place on a cooling rack. After about 10 minutes, run a small, sharp knife around the edges. Cool completely, then chill until cold (you can speed this up in the freezer). When completely chilled, carefully remove the parchment and, using a spatula, transfer to a small baking sheet.

Make the meringue:

An hour or so before serving, make the topping. Combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the metal bowl of a stand mixer and set over a pan of simmering water. Keep the mixture moving, using a whisk or the whisk attachment, until the sugar is completely melted and it’s hot to the touch (or 160°F). Transfer to a stand mixer and beat on high speed until glossy and very stiff, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the top of the lemon bars, smooth out, and use a large serving fork to create a pattern in the meringue, or the back of a spoon or offset spatula to make swirls.

Finish the bars:

When you’re ready to finish, use a kitchen torch or your oven’s broiler to brown the meringue. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use a knife dipped into hot water to cut bars into 12 to 16 squares, depending on how large you want them.

Enjoy!

Links for Helpful Kitchen Tools & Ingredients for Whole Lemon Meringue Pie Bars:

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Food Scale

Cuisinart Pro-Classic Food Processor

Thermapen Instant Read Thermometer by Thermoworks

Breville Fresh & Furious Blender

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Sondiko Butane Torch

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook– This recipe is not in this cookbook, however a ton of other great ones are!

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Another awesome cookbook by Deb Perelman

 

 


Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Mousse with Candied Bacon

July 3, 2014

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I know, I know….4th of July desserts are supposed to be all patriotic…all red white and blue and festooned with flags. With all the fresh strawberries and blueberries around this time of year, that is pretty easy. I mean I’ve done some fun some Independence Day classics in years past. There was my Strawberry, Blueberry and White Chocolate Mousse Tart for instance, so fresh and delicious and practically whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy!

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I started to go along that route again. But then I came across this recipe for Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Mousse with Candied Bacon and new I had found the dessert that folks attending my 4th of July festivities would be most excited by. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey is the highest selling American Whiskey in the World and has been distilled in good ole Lynchburg, Tennessee since 1866. Pretty good pedigree I’d say and definitely beloved among my crowd. So what could be better than the combination of the smooth smoky sweetness of that lovely elixer with rich, dark chocolate and heavy cream? But I won’t stop there, I will just continue… whipping it all up until it becomes a silky fluffy mousse which will then be topped with candied bacon! Have mercy!

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Let me tell you, folks will love these decadent little treats! A little bit of this dreamy concoction goes a long way, so I will serve mine in little chocolate dessert cups. I think it would also be fantastic if you were to serve it in rustic mason jars – but not the full pint size…Good Lord! Look more to a small 1/4 pint size or go with the whole whiskey theme and serve it in a shot glass. You can’t go wrong with this luscious indulgence. Get folks in just the right mood to celebrate Independence Day and whip up a tray of these boozy treats today!

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Jack Daniel's Whiskey Mousse with Candied Bacon

  • Servings: 4 Cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

source: Sweet Society

Ingredients:

For the Whiskey Mousse:

  • 4 oz (113g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 Tablespoons (28g) unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons (30g) coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons (28g) Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
  • 2 eggs (100g) separated
  • 4 Tablespoons (50g) granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (120g) heavy whipping cream plus a bit extra to whip up as a topping if you choose
For the Candied Bacon:
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar

For Serving:

Directions:
 Fill a saucepan with an inch or so of water and bring to a simmer.

Use a double boiler, or place a heatproof bowl over the simmering water (making sure the bowl does not touch the water) and melt the chocolate, butter, and coffee together.
Remove from heat and stir in whiskey. Set this bowl aside.In a separate heatproof bowl, whisk the two egg yolks with 2 tbsp of sugar over the pan of simmering water.You will continue to whisk this mixture until it becomes foamy (cooking it just slightly).When foamy, whisk the egg-yolk mixture into the chocolate bowl. Set aside.With a stand mixer, or hand mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, gradually adding 2 tbsp of sugar, until stiff peaks form.Fold the stiff egg whites gently into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture.Lastly, whip up the heavy cream until soft peaks form and then fold this into the chocolate mixture from the previous step.Pipe or spoon whiskey mousse into chocolate dessert cups, 4 oz. mason jars or shot glasses. Place into refrigerator to set while you are preparing candied bacon.
Line a plate with a sheet of parchment paper. In frying pan or on griddle, cook bacon until nearly done. Drain as much bacon grease from the pan as possible. Sprinkle brown sugar over bacon and let it cook until it melts and begins to bubble up. Remove bacon to parchment lined plate and let cool completely. Chop candied bacon into bite sized pieces.
When ready to serve, top whiskey mousse cups with a bit of whipped cream and candied bacon.
Enjoy!
Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Mousse brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 


Lentil Sloppy Joes

July 1, 2014

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Yes indeed, the 4th of July is drawing ever closer and I’m sure you are finalizing the plans for all of your festivities for the day. But when you were planning out your menu, did you have a vegetarian option in mind? If not, perhaps you might be willing to consider these Lentil Sloppy Joes.

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This vegetarian rendition of that childhood favourite will have your guests jumping for joy. Hearty, spicy, and somewhat remniscent of baked beans, I’m telling you folks won’t be missing the meat at all. Now your hard core carnivores might disagree, but I’m sure you’ll have them sorted with some ribs, pulled pork, hot dogs or burgers. Meanwhile, the meatless crowd will be delighted while tucking in to these filling and very satisfying, protein packed sandwiches. The fresh avocado is wonderful as a topper adding both great flavour and texture.

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And if you are serving that lovely Carolina Style Pulled Pork I blogged about last week, you might have some coleslaw around, which would likely also be quite tasty perched atop this vegetarian creation. And while these are great in a summer cookout setting, they are so easy to make and delicious to boot, I’m sure we will be seeing them year round in our house!

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Lentil Sloppy Joes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

recipe slightly adapted from: Veggies By Candlelight

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked lentils (brown or green) .. soaked a few hours (or overnight) .. drained & rinsed
  • 4 cups Smithwick’s Ale (** if not using beer .. water,vegetable or beef broth are great options)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 red pepper, diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup (if you prefer a sweeter sauce add one more tablespoon)
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • ½ 
teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ 
teaspoon black pepper (or to taste – we like it peppery so I added 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper as well)
  • Toppings of choice (Tabasco, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, coleslaw, avocado slices, etc .. )

Directions:

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups beer or cooking liquid of your choice. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil, until softened.
Add the garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the cooked lentils, and the the rest of the spices (except the maple syrup & mustard). Stir gently until just combined.
Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.
Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld.
Enjoy!

Lentil Sloppy Joes brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 


Spicy Hush Puppies!

June 27, 2014

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Did someone say Hush Puppies?!! Be still my heart! How I do love those Hush Puppies! And if you’re contemplating making up a big batch of that delicious Carolina Pulled Pork I just told you about for your Independence Day celebrations, these Hush Puppies would be fantastic served right alongside those tasty little sliders. Your party will be the talk of the town! For you folks out there who might not know what a Hush Puppy is, (and I’m not sure where in the world you’ve been hanging out…) a Hush Puppy is basically a ball of cornmeal batter which has been deep-fried. They are often served along side fried seafood dishes or with barbecued foods. Now there are numerous legends about how they got their name. They seem to all involve some group of folks, be they Southern hunters, fisherman, civil war soldiers or cooks, taking a cornmeal mixture which they had been using as battering for whatever food they were cooking, deep-frying it and giving to their barking dogs to get them to quiet down while uttering “Hush Puppy!” as they tossed the tasty little morsels over to them. It actually works too. You will see the truth of it when you serve up a big basket of them at your house. Folks will be so busy chowing down, you won’t hear a peep out of them!

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Hush Puppies are very easy to make. I will mention a couple of pointers that I think will be handy. Make sure you add enough oil to your Dutch Oven. You need to have enough to entirely cover the Hush Puppies as they fry. And take care to get that oil up to 375°F before you start frying and that it returns to that temperature between batches. If the oil is not hot enough when you fry, your puppies will be greasy. I don’t add any sugar into my batter, preferring a savoury, spicy puppy. But if you’re one of those folks that love sweet cornbread, you probably want to add some sugar into this mix. I also like to use the TexMex Grilled Corn (recipe found below) in my Hush Puppies. I think it adds a bit more kick to them.

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However, I have made them in the winter when I wasn’t keen to go out and grill up some corn and have found that canned corn works quite well in a pinch. Believe me, you will find that these little devils are addictive… soft and spicy on the inside with a satisfying crunchy exterior. Try some today and you’ll be hooked!

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Spicy Hush Puppies!

  • Servings: 28-34 puppies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1  cup self-rising flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional – if you prefer a sweeter puppy, add 1 -2 tablespoons to mix. I do not add any sugar to my mix)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon bacon drippings (melted)
  • 2 tablespoons diced jalapeño pepper
  • 1 cup corn (best if you use TexMex Grilled Corn, scroll down for recipe, but regular yellow corn from a tin will work 🙂 )
  • Oil for frying (I prefer peanut oil, but vegetable oil if fine)

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the self-rising cornmeal, self-rising flour, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and sugar if you are using it. In a large glass measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk, egg, grated onion and bacon dripping. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients to the dry. Stir together until the dry ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix. Gently fold the diced jalapeños and grilled corn into the hush puppy batter. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour until mixture has risen.

Place a 6 qt. Dutch oven on the stove. Pour enough oil into it so that it reaches 2″ up the sides. Heat oil until it reaches a temperature of 375°F. Using a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop or two kitchen spoons, drop small rounds of batter into the oil. Do not crowd the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally and flipping halfway through, until golden on the outside and crisp, about 3 -4 minutes. Remove hush puppies from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with tartar sauce, honey, butter, remoulade, etc. or just use them to mop up any extra barbecue sauce that might be lurking about.  Your choice!

TexMex Grilled Corn

Ingredients:

  • 3 -4 ears of fresh corn in husk
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ¾ tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp chili powder

Directions:

Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, brown sugar and chili powder in small bowl and whisk together.
Preheat grill.
Peel back the corn husks, discarding all but a couple inner layers. Remove corn silk, then baste with dressing, and recover corn with remaining husk.
Grill on med-high for 20-25 minutes, turning 3-4 times during cooking time.
Remove the corn from grill and allow to cool a few minutes, then cut off stem end, place the flat cut end on bottom of large bowl, and use a corn zipper to strip the kernels from the cob. Or if you don’t have a zipper, run a small sharp knife down the length of the cob, slicing off kernels.

Enjoy!

Spicy Hush Puppies brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )

 

 


North Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sliders

June 24, 2014

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Oh yes! Summer is here and folks are thinking about cookouts, picnics and all manner of backyard barbecues! Believe me, I am a big fan of simple hot dogs and burgers on the grill. But what really gets me droolin is the thought of a pulled pork sandwich. Now as much as I’d like to tell ya’ll that I was out in the backyard cookin a whole pig; alas that was not the case. The secret here is that the melt in your mouth, delicious pulled pork found in these little sliders that you see here was cooked right in my wee kitchen in a slow cooker and required very little attention from me. There was no slaving over a pit. How great does that sound?

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Now you might be wondering why these pulled pork sliders are “North Carolina Style”. It is all about the sauce. And there are big differences in barbecue sauces in the US depending on what region you find yourself in. I’m no expert on Barbecue sauces, but I will try my best to explain the differences as I understand them. Kansas City style sauce is the one that most folks think of when they think of barbecue sauce. I’m sure you know it well, a sweet yet slightly tart thick tomato based red sauce with a bit of smoky flavour about it. Memphis Barbecue sauce is very similar to the Kansas City style but has a bit more vinegar added in along with some molasses as a sweetener. If you are in Texas the sauce will be thinner and spicy, with the meat drippings added in along with seasonings such as cumin, chili, onion, bell pepper and just a bit of tomato. In Alabama you are likely to encounter a strange white barbecue sauce. Yup…white barbecue sauce! No tomatoes there, just a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar and pepper. In South Carolina the folks love yellow mustard base sauces sweetened with molasses or honey. Again no tomato. And finally we get to North Carolina.  North Carolina sauce is my favourite sauce. And truth be told, it varies within the state depending on how far east or west you travel. The Eastern North Carolina Sauce is a thin, nearly transparent, vinegar base sauce with lots of chili pepper flakes floating about in it.Very little to no sugar is added. It isn’t anywhere near thick enough to sit on top the meat, but rather thoroughly penetrates it. As you travel a bit farther west, you will find that the Carolinians there add just a bit of ketchup to the sauce, making it a bit sweeter and a little thicker. These particular sliders here seem to hail from a more westerly spot in the State.

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You might wonder why there are two sauces called for in this recipe. The first sauce is to give that pork some lovely flavour while it is cooking. However, as I’m sure you know, pork can release a lot of grease when cooking. Rather than try to skim off and separate the fat, it is best to just get rid of that first sauce. Once the pork is nearly done, shred it and then return it to the slow cooker with the second nice fresh sauce to finish cooking. As far as the coleslaw goes, I just can’t imagine eating a pulled pork sandwich without it, especially if it is a tangy, spicy Carolina pulled pork. The sweetness of the coleslaw really complements the tart flavour of the pork and adds a nice crunchy texture. However, I’m told some folks think slaw on pulled pork is heresy. Hmmm…to slaw or not to slaw…that is the question.

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The answer? To each his own I suppose. I say serve that coleslaw on the side so folks can indulge or abstain as they wish. Bottom line is you’ve just got to make up a batch of these North Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sliders for your next gathering. (The 4th of July will be here before we know it..) Trust me…folks will go hog-wild!

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North Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sliders

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

Source: slightly adapted from Creme de la Crumb

Ingredients:

  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • ½ white onion, sliced
  • 4-6 pound boston butt, or pork loin roast (boneless)
first sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
second sauce
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (make sure you use a Carolina Style sauce)
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depends on how spicy you like it!)

to serve

  • cole slaw
  • slider or full size buns

Directions:

Place onion slices in the bottom of your slow cooker. Place pork roast on top of onions. Whisk together ingredients for first sauce. Pour first sauce over roast. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.
Whisk together all ingredients for second sauce. 30 minutes before serving, remove pork from slow cooker and shred with two forks. Drain juices and onions from slow cooker. Return shredded pork to slow cooker. Pour second sauce over pork and stir to combine. Cover and cook 30 minutes longer.
To serve place pulled pork on bun and top with slaw.
Enjoy!

 

 


Balsamic Strawberry Galette & the best flaky pie crust ever!

July 3, 2013

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OMG! I think I may have just made the perfect pie crust! I am totally serious. I have been making pie crusts for a while now, and it wasn’t like they were bad. They were just somewhat unremarkable. If quizzed about them I probably would have said that I wished they were a bit more flaky, but hey…I am making them from scratch, so I should get extra points for that right? I had read that adding a bit of shortening along with the butter would possibly correct the situation, but that is where I got a bit weird. I didn’t want to add something like Crisco to my pie crust. I was all about the butter and would often replace shortening with butter in various pie crust recipes. Quite a quandary huh? So I’m happy to report, joy oh joy, I have found an all-butter pie crust recipe which also includes vodka in the list of ingredients. Now I must say I like vodka nearly as much as I like butter. And this crust…well to start off with it rolls out like a dream and bakes up to a tasty, flaky, buttery perfection. I will never stray from this recipe again!

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But let me start from the beginning. This great discovery came about when I read the Inspired Taste blog which talked about their favourite flaky pie crust recipe. You should really take a peek at this blog because it is so interesting. Apparently they had also been making their pie crusts the old-fashioned way. You know, cut the butter into the flour until you get little pea-shaped butter/flour pebbles and then add just enough water to make a dough, keeping in mind,  not to handle that dough very much once the water was added. Why? Well because the water combining with flour caused the formation of evil glutens and the more that dough was worked, the more those glutens multiplied, which would result in you baking up a tough old chewy pie crust. Just as an aside, I never heard of a gluten until a couple of years ago. Apparently those sneaky little varmints have been around all this time, hiding in plain sight. I swear I never heard of a “gluten allergy” when I was a kid, or a peanut allergy for that matter, but there are plenty of folks out there now that have figured out just how much havoc those little devils can reek. But back to the pie crust. Gluten is the enemy of tender, flaky pie crusts. So you don’t want a lot of gluten to form. Apparently several years ago Cooks Illustrated came up with the idea of replacing the ice water you would traditionally have added to your butter/flour mix with vodka. As it turns out, vodka does not encourage gluten formation. Yay Vodka! Now Inspired Taste wasn’t as thrilled with the vodka notion as I was. They agreed there was less gluten formation, but they were concerned with the cost of vodka and that they didn’t really keep it in their house routinely. No such problems around here! I always have a stash of vodka at hand, and resolved right then and there that I would be putting it to good use in my pie crusts!

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But that wasn’t the only great tip Inspired Taste was able to impart to me. They went on to say that they had decided that the old cutting-the-butter-into-the-flour method could stand a bit of improvement. They recommended taking half of the flour mixture and whizzing it up with the butter in a food processor to make a butter/flour paste. By doing so, all of that flour would be coated with the butter which would keep moisture out and thus result in less gluten formation. Once this paste was complete you could add the rest of the flour and the liquid. Some glutens would thus be able to form, but just enough, not so little that your crust fell to bits, but not so many that your crust would be tough. So there you have it. A new method for making the perfect pie crust every time! I decided to use a hybrid of Cooks Illustrated and Inspired Taste for my crusts. I used the vodka/water liquid and I also used the improved Inspired taste method and came up with the best pie crust I have ever made.

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Now this recipe makes enough for two crusts, and I’m only revealing what I did with one of them in this post. You’ll have to check back in to hear about flaky pie crust number two. But anyway, on the first day I made this Balsamic Strawberry Galette. I love galettes. They are so rustic and easy! Strawberries are one of my favourite fruits, taking a backseat only to apples. But unlike apples, strawberries are in season now and I just couldn’t resist them when I went to the market.

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This galette recipe really lets the fresh strawberry flavour shine. You just add a bit of honey and a little balsamic vinegar to those juicy sweet fresh berries. Once that amazing pie crust is ready to go you just roll it out, which it does like a breeze. Drain those macerated strawberries, reserving the liquid for later drizzling, mound them in the center of the dough and then fold those edges over. Don’t forget to sprinkle the crust with Demerara sugar which will give it a lovely sweet crunch. I served this Strawberry Galette drizzled with strawberry juice and topped with vanilla ice cream. It was just the perfect summer dessert! If you add in a fresh blueberry or two you would have the oh so patriotic red, white a blue colour scheme for your 4th of July celebrations, which would be the perfect time to show off your newly acquired mad pie making skills!

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Balsamic Strawberry Galette

recipe adapted from: the busty baker (strawberry filling) and inspired taste (flaky pie crust)

Ingredients:

For the flaky pie crust:

  • 2 1/2 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (227 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (2 sticks)
  • 6 tablespoons vodka (chilled)
  • 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Demerara sugar for sprinkling over pie crust

Directions:

For the flaky pie crust:

Mix 6 tablespoons of vodka and 2 tablespoons of water. Put in fridge or freezer (don’t forget it) to chill.

Add 1 1/2 cups flour, salt to a food processor. Pulse 2 to 3 times until combined.

Scatter butter cubes over flour and process until a dough or paste begins to form, about 15 seconds. (There should be no uncoated flour).

Scrape bowl, redistribute the flour-butter mixture then add remaining 1 cup of flour. Pulse 4 to 5 times until flour is evenly distributed. (Dough should look broken up and a little crumbly).

Transfer to a medium bowl then sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water/vodka over mixture. Using a rubber spatula, press the dough into itself. The crumbs should begin to form larger clusters. If you pinch some of the dough and it holds together, it’s ready. If the dough falls apart, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra water/vodka and continue to press until dough comes together.

Remove dough from bowl and place in a mound on a clean surface. Work the dough just enough to form a ball. Cut ball in half then form each half into discs. Wrap each disc with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months (just thaw it overnight in the fridge before using).

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, toss sliced strawberries with honey and balsamic vinegar to coat. Let stand for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Right before assembling the galette, drain the liquid from the strawberries and reserve.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one disc of dough from refrigerator. Roll out dough to 1/8-inches thick, about 14 inches around. Gently transfer crust to the center of the prepared baking sheet. Mound strawberries in the center of the dough, spreading about 2 inches from the edge. Fold edges of dough over strawberries, overlapping where necessary. Brush the top of the dough with egg and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake until dough is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before serving. Top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with reserved strawberry liquid.

Enjoy!


Root Beer Float Cupcakes

July 10, 2011

Have Mercy! My kitchen is in shambles, every dish is dirty, it is a true, honest to goodness mess. But do you know what I have now? Root Beer Float Cupcakes! Wait…let me say it slower…root beer…float…cupcakes! Yup…you heard me. I mean, I love root beer all on its lonesome. I love root beer floats even more. And well, anyone who knows me knows I have a BIG thing for cupcakes. I’ve got all three awesome things wrapped into just one in these little dickens. They even have home-made hot fudge sauce on top. Good Lord! Now, I must admit, these little guys were not easy to make. There were a bunch of steps, and as I mentioned, LOTS of dirty dishes. Oh well, no pain, no gain – hopefully I’m not talking about weight here, though these little gems are amazingly decadent!  It didn’t help matters that I doubled the recipe. I thought Root Beer Float Cupcakes would be perfect for a 4th of July cookout I was attending and wanted to make sure there were enough to go around.

Root Beer seems pretty “American” to me and the “Float” part is quite nostalgic. Everyone loves cupcakes, a very portable and picnic-friendly dessert. So I got to work on these. and I worked…and I worked…In all honesty, I must admit, there is nothing really hard here. Just a bit time-consuming. But it paid off in the end. The cupcakes looked fantastic and got rave reviews at the cookout. So, when you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, and a hankering for a root beer flavoured delectible…I’ve got just the thing for you!

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

makes 12 cupcakes

recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons root beer concentrate
  • 1/3 cup root beer
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4-5 Root Beer Barrel hard candies

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, whisk egg and sugar until smooth and no lumps remain. Add cream, butter and vanilla, and mix until combined. Stir in sour cream. Sift dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture. Add root beer concentrate and root beer. Mix until batter is smooth. Line a muffin tin with liners and using a heaping 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool before frosting.

Place root beer barrel candies in food processor and pulse until the candies are finely ground. Set aside.

Vanilla and Root Beer Frosting

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon root beer extract

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. On low-speed, add powdered sugar one tablespoon at a time. I know, I know, this is tedious but will result in a frosty that is smooth and creamy, not grainy and you will likely not need all 4 cups of the powdered sugar to reach appropriate frosting consistency, if you add the sugar in slowly like this. Increase speed to bring the frosting together. Add milk and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth. Remove almost all of the vanilla frosting, leaving behind about 1/3-1/2 cup in the mixer. Set vanilla frosting aside. Add root beer extract to remaining frosting in the bowl and beat until it comes together.

Prep two pastry bags (or you can simply use spoons) and fill one with vanilla frosting and the other with root beer frosting. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, using your 1″ round cookie cutter or apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes, cutting down 2/3 of the way through the cakes. Pipe the root beer frosting into the holes, filling each cupcake to the top. Then use the vanilla frosting filled pastry bag to finish frosting the cupcakes. Sprinkle pulverized root beer barrel candy over the top of each cupcake.

Hot Fudge Sauce

ingredients:

  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 Cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Cup scalding milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine sugar, cocoa, salt and flour in a bowl over a double boiler. Bring milk to a boil. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture. Stir constantly until mixture thickens.

Once it has reached your desired thickness – I like mine pretty fudgy, so I probably cooked it for about 15 -20 minutes or so – remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Store in refrigerator.

*This recipe makes a good deal of sauce, which will keep well in the fridge.You will have lots left over for ice cream topping, or actual root beer floats in the future!

Fill another pastry bag with hot fudge sauce, which has reached room temperature,  and pipe a large dollop of fudge on the very top center of each cupcake. The fudge will flow down the sides a bit. Place maraschino cherry on top of each cake.

Enjoy!


Strawberry, Blueberry & White Chocolate Mousse Tart

July 4, 2011

It’s hot outside. Yup…lower 90’s. Oh and don’t forget humid. We got lots of that going on here as well. It’s a typical 4th of July in Virginia. In fact, this year’s Independence Day weather isn’t as bad as some of the sweltering holidays I remember in the not too distant past where the mercury shot up to somewhere slightly above 100! That sultry temperature is more the norm this time of year. Funny that most Americans seem to mark the 4th of July holiday by holding picnics and barbeques…outside…in the heat. Seems to me, our Founding Father’s might have taken the average temperature in July under consideration when the Continental Congress adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence back on that momentous day in 1776. I’m not suggesting that they should have waited to sign such an important document until milder temperatures arrived. But perhaps they could’ve indicated that a date in late September would be much more desirable for its future commemoration.  I think they might have been lulled into a false sense of meteorological security by the unseasonably mild weather they were experiencing in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. Thomas Jefferson recorded in his journal a low temperature of 68° F and a high of  a mere 76°F. The average in hot and humid Philadelphia at that time of year is more like 85°F. I would love a 76 degree 4th…but enough about that. I’ll just turn my attention from the weather outside (oh yes, I am most definitely inside, loving my new AC unit) to all things red, white and blue for Independence Day. I’ve been chomping at the bit to make a Strawberry and White Chocolate Mousse Tart that I saw over at the Galley Gourmet way back in April. I thought I could add some lovely fresh blueberries to the recipe and have a wonderfully patriotic looking dessert to bring to my friend Jeff’s 4th of July cook-out/pool party.

This dish was very easy to make. One thing you do want to keep in mind though, is that with this dessert, you need to start preparing it at least 1 day ahead of time to allow the mousse to set and perhaps even two days ahead if you would like your tart dough to rest in the refrigerator overnight. But with a little planning, you get great results. The dish looked incredibly yummy, held with the red, white and blue, star-spangled, Yankee Doodle theme of the day and needless to say, a chilled tart was certainly a refreshing dessert on a steamy summer evening. I know I will be making this one again soon. The summer has only just begun…(sigh)

Strawberry, Blueberry & White Chocolate Mousse Tart

Recipe very slightly adapted (I added blueberries) from The Galley Gourmet

Serves 8

Ingredients:

For the Tart Dough:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 9 Tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 extra large egg
For the White Chocolate Mousse:
  • 6 ounces good quality white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 cups chilled whipping cream, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 extra large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup seedless strawberry jam
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Directions:
For the Tart Dough:
In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar, and salt.  Pulse until combined.  Scatter the butter pieces over the flour.   Process in short bursts until the butter is the size of peas.  Add the egg and process in long pulses, about 5-7 seconds until the dough has started to clump.  Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and dump the dough onto the surface.  Using the plastic wrap and the back of your hands, gently press the dough into a disk.  Wrap tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375º F.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  If refrigerated overnight, let it rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle, flouring the dough and surface as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.  Roll up the dough around the rolling pin and gently unroll it over an 9 1/2-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.  Fit the dough into the edge of the pan.  Place the tart onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Line the tart pan with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Place on a rack to cool completely.
For the White Chocolate Mousse:
Combine the white chocolate and 1/4 cup whipping cream in a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water) and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl and allow the mixture to cool until lukewarm, about 15 minutes. (I actually melted my chocolate in the microwave, stirring after each 10 seconds until it was completely melted.)  In small bowl, combine the gelatin and water.  Allow the mixture to bloom for 5 minutes.  Place the gelatin mixture in the microwave and cook until melted, about 5 seconds.  In a large bowl, beat the remaining cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.  Add the gelatin mixture and beat until combined.  Using clean dry beaters or a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the whipped cream.  Transfer the mixture into the cooled crust and smooth the top with an offset spatula.  Chill overnight.
In a small saucepan, combine the jam and lemon juice over medium heat; stirring until the jam melts. Remove from the heat.  Arrange the sliced strawberries in concentric circles on top of the set mousse.  Add blueberries around the edges and in center of tart. Gently brush the berries with the melted jam mixture.  Serve immediately or chill the tart for up to 2 hours.  Enjoy!

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