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When Life Gives You Lemons…

17 Apr

So this whole college process has basically been one disappointment after another. While I was lucky enough to get into all the colleges I applied to, I found out that sometimes dreams are near impossible. I have spent most of this year falling head-over-heels in love with Trinity University and all it had to offer. At one point the Dean contacted me on Twitter and we emailed back and forth for a bit. Then I had an interview which went extremely well, and a month or two later I got my acceptance letter and I was over the moon. It’s when we got the financial aid letter that I realized how unattainable this dream of mine was. Basically, the payments we’d be paying on the loans would be more than the mortgage on the house. This made me realize that I had to let Trinity go and pursue the other colleges.

I wasn’t as upset as I would’ve expected when I made this realization. I did not shed a tear, and it took me less than a day to figure out my new dream school: University of Portland. The irony behind this choice is that I applied on a total and complete whim. I got a shorter application sent to me in the mail with the application fee waived, so I decided to apply as a backup. Boy, am I glad I did! If I hadn’t, I would probably be going to Washington State University this Fall, which is definitely not the right school for me. I knew I wanted a small school in an urban setting so I knew private was the way to go. The only problem once again, was cost. With only tuition and academic scholarships factored in, there was a $6,000 per year difference between Uof P and WSU. I set about making a list of extraneous expenses and a pro-con list of each school to help convince my dad. Little did I know I would need none of that!

April 9th, 2011 was the day I first visited the University of Portland. We had a president’s reception, lunch on the quad and presentations from the Social Sciences and Education departments. After all that, my dad and I decided to go off on our own and paid a visit to the financial aid department. Long story short, my dad decided that U of P was going to be a much better school for me and worth the extra $6,000 compared to WSU. I accepted my admission right then and there. We promptly went to the campus store so that I could get a sweatshirt, and my dad could get a sticker for his car. After that we went on our campus and housing tour while I was completely over the moon about the whole thing. I’m a proud member of the University of Portland’s class of 2015!

Knowing that a campus visit might provide my dad with enough evidence to let me go there, I made the decision to save this post until after I found out. I wanted to save it because I realized that life had been chucking lemons at me and I was trying to make lemonade but what I really needed to do was make lemon meringue pie instead. In other words, I didn’t get my first choice and I was being miserable about it (like everyone else who this happened to) when I should’ve seen the brilliant opportunity in front of me.

I got the recipe from my Williams Sonoma (who if you haven’t noticed by now, is one of my favourites)  Essentials of Baking book.

I used some leftover pastry that was in my freezer from the apple tart. (Instructions in the corresponding post) To make the lemon curd I started out by zesting and juicing 2 lemons.

Then I separated 6 eggs, throwing away 1 egg yolk. (6 whites and 5 yolks)

Then I dissolved the cornstarch in water. You know that gross goo that you made in middle school that acted like both liquid and a solid? Yeah, that was made from water and cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan I added the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and remaining water and whisked until combined. I then added the cornstarch mixture whisking constantly until the curd came to a boil (about 8 mins).

I let the mixture boil for about a minute or until it started to thicken and looked clear and shiny. I could definitely tell when it had changed because it suddenly became harder to stir, and began to look different.

I then stirred in the lemon zest until homogenized, poured the mixture into a glass bowl and placed a sheet of plastic wrap over the top touching the top.

I then made the meringue for the top using the bowl of egg whites I had collected, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 6 Tbsp superfine sugar. I beat the eggs and cream of tartar until soft peaks began to form and then added in the sugar and continued beating until stiff, shiny peaks formed. Once the meringue was made, I poured the lemon curd into the pie shell until it reached the top. Note: Mine was lumpy because I refrigerated the curd overnight. If you make yours the same day, it’ll still be hot so you can actually pour it rather than scoop it like I had to.

 I then took heaping spoonfuls of the meringue and scooped it onto the base. I used the back of the spoon to create the peaks. After about 15 minutes in the oven it came out looking like this:

Since lemon meringue is eaten cold, it needs to be refrigerated for at least 5 hours until it’s completely cooled.  Here’s the recipe:

Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking Lemon Meringue Pie

The filling:

6 Tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

5 large egg yolks

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

2 tsp grated lemon zest

for the meringue:

6 large egg whites at room temp

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

6 Tbs superfine sugar

Prepare the flaky crust and refrigerate to chill. Roll out the dough, line a 9-inch pie dish and prebake fully.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

To make the lemon filling, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the water until the starch dissolves. In a saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and the remaining 1 cup of water until well blended. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking constantly (this is very important — so you do not scramble your eggs), about 8 minutes. Boil for 1 minute until the mixture thickens and looks clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the filling to keep it hot and to prevent a skin from forming.

To make the meringue, in a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the superfine sugar (you should be beating at the about medium speed at this point, and adding the sugar should take you at least 5 minutes — go slow) and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form.

Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling and pour it into the prebaked crust (see below). Using the rubber spatula, distribute the meringue evenly over the filling, mounding it towards the center and spreading it to the edge to seal the crust. Use the back of a spoon to form peaks an swirls on the meringue. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned, 12-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. Serve cold.

Spring Break

26 Mar

It’s been 10 days since I last posted which is really inexcusable sine I’ve been on spring break with nothing to do for the past week. I’ve been stuck at home for the whole week with all my friends in places like Hawaii and California, and a couple of roadtrips. Basically I was feeling the cabin fever. Luckily I ended up making a bunch of different goodies to share with you all. 🙂

So I started off the week making this recipe for a basic cookie dough. It’s really versatile and can be used for tart dough in addition to cookies. I got the recipe out of my handy-dandy Williams and Sonoma Weeknight Cook book. We have at least a dozen Williams and Sonoma recipe books because they are so reliably good! 🙂

Here’s a picture of the recipe (click on it to open a larger version in a new window):

It was actually really easy to put together. You start by sifting the fours and salt together in a bowl.

In my awesome KitchenAid mixer I combined the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

Then I just mixed in the dry ingredients until it the dough had come together.

Turn this out onto a piece of plastic wrap, mush it together with your hands to form a disk and store it in the fridge. I only made half the recipe so I made 1 disk instead of 3.

I ended up using this as a base for homemade samoas and some miniature tarts. My mum used them to make Bakewell tarts. A Bakewell tart is  a shortbread crust filled with a layer of jam and a frangipane which is an almond sponge. This is then baked, cooled, and covered with icing and half a cherry for a garnish. They are very cute!

I ended up having a craving for lemon meringue pie and I found a jar of lemon curd from England in our fridge. This craving ended up making me bake a full-sized, completely from scratch version yesterday. It was delicious, but the simplicity of using jarred curd and the individual portion was great.

I buttered the tin and layered in the pastry. I then spooned in the lemon curd, right into the uncooked pastry dough. I baked this in the oven until the pastry was light brown.

I then whipped up 2 egg whites with some white sugar until stiff peaks formed.

I then spooned this into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. I piped little dollops of meringue on top of the tart.

I then put this in the oven until the top was brown and slightly crispy to the touch.

I then stuck the completed tart into the fridge for a few hours to get cold. When it was ready I cut it in half so you can see the layers.

It was definitely delicious, and had me craving the real thing. But that’s another story for another blog post. 🙂

This aint no Pop-Tart pt. 2 (the filling)

6 Mar

I hate pie. There, I said it. Americans seem to love pie, which means I’m surrounded by pumpkin pie, pecan pie (a.k.a. pe-KAWN pie), cherry pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, banana cream pie and millions of other pies year-round. The only pie I’ll go near is lemon meringue and perhaps a high-quality chocolate cream pie. But that’s it.  I feel like I can’t live in America saying I hate apple pie though, so in order to prevent people from picketing around my house I’ll tell you that while I’ll never eat apple pie, I’ll gladly eat an apple tart. Okay, so it isn’t very American, it’s French. Oh well, it’s pastry and apples, that’s enough of a similarity for me! Maybe I should just get to the recipe…

Start with 2-3 Granny Smith Apples. I used 3 and still have a bowl of apple slices in my fridge…

Peel the skin off the apples making sure to only do one at a time to prevent them from browning too fast. You then need to use an apple corer to remove the seed in a nice, clean manner. Too bad I don’t have one. I used a paring knife to make 6 incisions around the core (making a hexagon) making sure the blade went all the way in. I then flipped over the apple and did the same on the other side to be safe. Then, push the core from one side…

until it’s completely out!

I then cut this in half so that I had two half-moons. I then laid one half moon flat on the cutting board with the core running perpendicular to me. I cut off a chunk of the right side and the left side so that all my slices would be the same size. Put the leftover apple to one side and any slices that come out too thin, too thick, of break in half. This will me used later. I also used a fresh lemon to squeeze lemon juice over the cut apples and slices to prevent browning.

You want the slices to be as thin as you can get them. You won’t be cooking them beforehand, so you’ll want them to be thin enough to get soft in the oven. 

Take an oven-proof bowl and dump in the apple chunks and reject slices with 1 Tablespoon of butter, a spoonful of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon if you would like.

You’ll then bake these in the oven until browned, about 10-15 minutes. Then, you’ll mash them up with a fork until there’s only small-medium chunks left.

Spread this on the bottom of your tart crust.

Then comes the fun part: arranging the apple slices! Starting on the outside, layer the apples in rings until the whole thing is covered.

Then, sprinkle on a spoonful of sugar, and brush on some melted butter. Start the design again to create a second layer.

Then, sprinkle with a couple more spoonfuls of sugar and a little more butter to help the apples caramelize without them burning. I also made sure to butter the edge of the pastry to prevent burning. Place this in the 400 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the apples are browned. You’ll want to make sure to check on it otherwise your hard work will be all for nothing! 😦

Yeah, no big deal…

You need to let it cool for 15-20 minutes before cutting a slice. I think I lasted 10. Then a piece magically disappeared from the tart…

I topped my still-warm piece with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It was divine!
After my dessert I went off for dinner with friends and then we went to go see Hairspray which was amazing. When I came home there was only half of the tart left. hmmmmm….

This aint no Pop-Tart pt. 1 (the crust)

6 Mar

So it seems like there are certain foods or recipes that just stick with you, and from time to time they plant themselves in the forefront of your mind until you make them. This week it was a tart au pomme (apple tart) and homemade samoas. I decided to let the word decide for me which I should make first, and on Tuesday I had my answer. In a book I had borrowed from one of my teachers for an independent study project was a picture of an authentic tart au pomme. I took this as a sign from the universe, and yesterday I made it. No occasion, no real reason, I just had the urge to make it, and eat it. As for the samoas, I think I’ll wait another week or so to make those, because I have a project for tonight/tomorrow morning which may or may not involve cheddar cheese in snack cracker form… 🙂

Back to the tart! Since it was done on a whim, I didn’t even check to see if I had all the ingredients beforehand, I basically just made it while hoping that I had everything. Luckily I had 3 Granny Smith Apples which proved to be more than necessary for my dessert.

First, I’ll show you how to make a simple tart dough. I decided to make the savory version in my Williams and Sonoma cook book, but I swapped the lemon juice for vanilla extract. The apple tart recipe had enough sugar in it, so I decided the dough should go without.

I started with the butter and the flour. The recipe called for using a food processor, but I decided to use my trusty kitchenaid instead since it’s bigger. You  blend it until the pieces of butter are about the size of peas or small hard candies. I mixed it for 5 minutes, then went through with a knife to cut up the bigger chunks.

Then, add the eggs, water, and vanilla.

It should look like this after a while:

At this point I decided to do the rest by hand.

I just turned it on to a cutting board, split it in half and kneaded it until just combined. I was left with two disks of dough which would be enough for a large tart, and make an individual tart. I wrapped it and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes while I started getting the filling ready. After the half hour, I unwrapped one hunk of the dough and rolled it out with some flour. 

I then buttered a pie dish (note to self: buy a tart pan!) to make sure the dough didn’t stick, and placed the dough over the top. I lightly pressed the dough in the dish so that it was flat on the bottom, and against the edge.

To get rid of the excess I used my rolling-pin to roll over the top of it, and the extra dough just came right off.

Then, because my dish didn’t have the nice fluted edges, I pushed my fingers against the sides to make a pattern. I also stabbed the bottom with a fork to help stop the dough from rising. You’ll also want to puncture the sides (something I forgot to do) to avoid unsightly air bubbles (like me).

I then laid a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pie and filled it with rice. This weighs the dough down to make sure it really doesn’t get bubbles. You could use foil, but you would probably need to butter it to prevent sticking.

You then bake this for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

When you take it out of the oven, you take out the rice and parchment paper and put it back in the oven so that the bottom can cook properly.

See those ugly bubbles? This is why you poke the sides! Don’t let this happen to you. Friends don’t let friends make ugly crusts!

Here’s the recipe for te dough. I got it from Williams and Sonoma’s Weeknight Cook recipe book, and have tweaked it slightly. If you don’t have a kitchenaid like me, you could easily do it in a bowl and mix with your hands!

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Directions:

In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and butter until pea-size crumbs form. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the water, eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet mixture to the dry, and mix until dough forms, adding water as needed. Finish the dough using your hands on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half and flatten into small disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before use.

I’ll do the second post to show you what I filled it with! 🙂