7/30/16

Hagrid's Birthday Cake: Harry Potter

"Anyway- Harry," said the giant, turning his back on the Dursleys, "A very happy birthday to yeh. Got summat fer yeh here- I mighta sat on it at some point, but it'll taste all right." From an inside pocket of his black overcoat he pulled a slightly squashed box. Harry opened it with trembling fingers. Inside was a large, sticky chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Harry written on it in green icing." - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 

7/25/16

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies


So I might have dropped the ball a little there. But it was not without reason. This week I was moving! So with all of the packing, wrapping, and stuffing everything into a U- Haul, I forgot to post. 

However, meringue week is not completely over! I made these mini lemon meringue pies, and they were so gosh darn good, there was no way I was going to leave them out of all the fun. After my more creative bakes this week, I decided to do something a little more traditional. 


I've never been able to make dainty, uniform pastry shells, so I've accepted these little misshapen beauts. What they lack in looks they make up for in buttery-flakey goodness. Instead of sweet tart shells, I prefer a regular all-butter crust because it has a sturdier structure and balances the sweet filling. However, if you want more uniform shells, I would recommend that you purchase mini store bought tart crusts. That would cut down the hassle and look beautiful.


These lemon tarts are available any time of year, but they always scream summer time to me. The sharp lemon curd with the sweet meringue feels light and refreshing, almost like lemonade in a pastry. 



Total Time: 4 hours
Bake time: 30-35 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick of butter, cold and cubed
1/4 cup tablespoons ice water

For the Lemon Curd:
3/4 stick butter
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated

For the Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup icing sugar

Preparation

Make the Crust:
  • In a large bowl or food processor, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the cubed butter, and pulse or cut with a pastry cutter or fingers until pieces are smaller than peas.
  • Slowly add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture comes together completely. Knead gently once or twice on a floured work surface, then shape into a disk 1-inch thick. Store in the fridge for at least 1 hour for the butter to chill. (Now's a good time to make the lemon curd!)
  • When the dough has chilled, roll out onto a floured surface or parchment paper, until 1/8-inch thin. With a 3-inch wide biscuit cutter (or at least 1/2 inch wider circumference than the muffin tin's molds) cut the dough into circles and carefully fold into each mold. This does take some time!
  • Place in the freezer for another 20 minutes, to set. Preheat the oven to 350 F while doing so.
  • Prick the chilled shells' sides and bottoms with a fork* and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
*I don't mind if the shells pop up a little, however if you want the dough to fit neatly into the corners, fill each shell with parchment paper and baking beans while baking.

Make the Lemon Curd:
  • Place the butter, lemon zest, juice, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.
  • In a separate bowl (big enough to hold all of the ingredients) beat the eggs yolks. Carefully pour the hot lemon mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly to avoid curdling.
  • Place back on the heat, until the mixture just simmers. Pour it through a fine sieve and cover with cling film (touching the surface), place in the fridge till the mixture cools. It will last up to three days in the fridge.
Make the Meringue:
  • In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high until fluffy and pale. Slowly add the sugars, alternatively, and continue to beat until the eggs are glossy and stiff peaks form.
Assemble and Torch:
  • When everything is cooled and whipped, add the lemon curd to the shells, then pipe or spoon the meringue onto the tarts. If you have a blow torch, toast the top of the meringue until golden brown.
  • If you don't have a blow torch, turn the broiler on or heat the oven to 500 F. Place the tarts onto the highest rack in the oven, and broil for 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully until the golden brown.


Allow them to cool slightly, and enjoy!


There you go guys! A super tart tart that's real cute and perfect for the summer.


Happy Baking!

7/19/16

Classic Manhattan Pavlova


And meringue week keeps rolling along! Here we have a pavlova, now my all-time favorite gluten-free dessert. This was a very happy accident, spurred by two pounds of fresh cherries that needed a home. The result was this confection of cream and meringue topped with dark cherries.

You know when you use a word, and you're not sure where you've heard it, but you think you might know what it means? That was me with pavlova. I blame the Great British Bake Off for plopping it into my head. I sort of knew what it was, and I knew it had meringue. Little did I know how perfect (and delicious) it would be.


The pavlova is named after an early 20th-century Russian ballerina, but is culturally significant in New Zealand and Australia. Traditionally it is served around Christmas time, with fresh summer fruits like berries, kiwi, and passion fruit. Cool eh!


Already a stunning dessert, it's not till you drizzle the sauce on top that the magic happens.


Unable to find a solid cherry pavlova recipe, I was more or less going off the top of my head on this one. I tinkered around with the cherry sauce and whipped cream until I got them right.

 

By a huge stroke of luck and/or a nod from the dessert gods, the combination of vanilla bean, angostura orange bitters, and dark cherries made it taste strangely familiar. What was it?

Oh, a Manhattan.

You know, the cocktail?

Find how to make it here.
This made me almost giddy, as it's one of my favorite cocktails (particularly when I wanna feel fancy)!

And the Manhattan Pavlova was born, minimalist color palette and all. Next time I make this, I will absolutely attempt a whiskey meringue and throw in some sweet vermouth to the sauce. In the meantime, here's what I did:



Total time: 2 hours
Bake time: 1 hour

Ingredients

For the Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sugar
For the Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the Topping:
1 pound cherries, pitted
1/4 cup sugar
Angostura Orange bitters, to taste


Preparation:

  1. Pit the cherries, and divide them into two groups. In the first, slice in half, saving a few for garnish, if desired. Place the rest of the cherries in a bowl with 1/4 cup sugar. Toss and let sit.
  2. Preheat the oven to 280 F. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks, then slowly add the sugars until the meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form.
  3.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. In pencil, trace a 6'' wide bowl to create a circular outline. Flip the parchment sheet over so the pencil is facing down.
  4. Pour the meringue into the drawn circle, and make into a disk about 2 inches high, with a dip in the center.
  5. Bake for 1 hour, until crispy on the outside but still malleable.* Leave to cool in the oven.  *My oven is very humid, so the meringue turned brown (despite my best efforts). However, it can be pale or even white when complete.
Whip the cream:
  1. With an electronic mixer, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla on a medium-high speed. Watch it carefully. It will only take a few minutes to become thick and fluffy. I looked away for a minute and ended up with some freshly churned vanilla butter.
Make the sauce:
  1. Place the macerated cherries into a food processor or blender. Whirl for a few seconds, until thoroughly crushed. If you don't have either, place the cherries in a gallon-sized zip lock bag and crush with a meat cleaver or rolling pin. Strain the fruit, and collect the sauce.
  2. Add a dash or two of orange bitters, to taste.
Assemble the pavlova:
  1. When the meringue has completely cooled, pour the whipped cream into the dipped center. Pile on the halved cherries. 
  2. When ready to serve, pour the sauce over the top with abandon. Devour immediately. 

Tada! Simple, decadent, and easy to make. This would be perfect for parties, and you could top it with whatever fruit your heart desires. It lasts about 2-3 days in the fridge, loosely covered (the meringue holds up surprisingly well).



Happy Baking!

7/18/16

Grapefruit & Black Pepper Meringue Pie


Today begins a spontaneous meringue week! 
You know those weeks when you accidentally, somehow ended up with too many eggs in your fridge? Just me? Welp, I need to use them, and I always can practice my meringue skills.


I wanted to create a meringue pie that was luxurious, enormous, and also a little unusual. Hence the delightful flavor combination of this grapefruit and black pepper pie. The fresh ground black pepper adds a surprising kick to the bitterness of the grapefruit, and the entire pie is lightened by the sweetness and airiness of the meringue. 

I wanted a break from the usual lemon meringue, and I've always liked savory and sweet combos. But I was entirely surprised and ecstatic when the pie in my head actually existed in the world, and was gorgeous to boot. I used the recipe from an interview with the owners of Sister Pie, a bakery in Detroit. 



Ingredients

Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cold and cubed

Grapefruit Filling:
1/2 sugar
Zest of 1 grapefruit
1 stick of butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs whole
2 eggs yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Meringue:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
black pepper, for garnish



Preparation

Make the pie:
  1. With a food processor or a pastry cutter, mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cubes of butter and pulse/mix until there are no pieces larger than peas.
  3. Gradually add the water (you will not need to use it all) until the dough just comes together. Drop onto a floured surface and gently pat together. Separate the dough into two disks about 1 inch thick. Wrap with cling film and store in the fridge for at least an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the pie dough and fit into an 11'' tart tin. Poke holes in the crust and place in the freezer for 20 minutes
  5. After the pie crust is set, blind bake it for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and bake 5 minutes on its own. While this is going on, you can make the filling:
Make the filling:
  1. Place the sugar and zest in a bowl, and massage with your fingers until it is the consistency of wet sand.
  2. Add melted butter, cornmeal, honey, and salt, then whisk till combined. Gently whisk in the eggs, yolk, cream, black pepper, or citrus juices.
  3. When the pie crust has baked, carefully brush with eggs whites lightly on the inside. Then add the filling. Turn down the oven to 325 F, and place the pie carefully back in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, till the center is set and jiggly. While it's baking make the meringue:

Make the meringue:
  1. In a large bowl, whip the eggs and salt until soft peaks form. Add the sugar slowly, continue to beat until the sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. 
  2. When the pie has baked, place the meringue directly onto the hot filling. Turn the oven up to 450 F, and bake the pie for another 5-10 minutes, until the meringue is a golden brown. 
  3. Allow the pie to cool completely. Sprinkle with black pepper as desired, and enjoy!

And there you go! Fluffy, crusty, peppery goodness! 
I've always liked grapefruit, so I was pleased as punch about this pie. It was just weird enough, sweet, enough, and it's quite the looker.



What a cutie.


Happy Baking!

7/14/16

Cherry Lavender Clafoutis : Snow White


"Once upon a time in the middle of winter, when the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky, a queen sat at a window sewing, and the frame of the window was made of black ebony..." - Snow White, The Grimm Brothers




Unintentionally, this light custard tart reminded me of, not a particular literary work, but of a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm: Snow White.
There was just something about the crown of dark cherries, the delicate lavender, the bright powdering of sugar that reminded me of dark forests and fresh snow. Also, pitting fresh cherries looks like a blood-splattered crime scene, making me think of the woodman's morbid task of cutting out Snow White's heart and delivering it to the queen. 

Sinister thoughts aside, this is a very yummy dessert! The filling is creamy and sweet, with juicy, sharp cherries nestled within as pops of tartness.

I know that lavender can be a very polarizing flavor in baking, but it is not crucial to the loveliness of this dish. A clafoutis is a traditional French dessert, made with cream, cherries, and powdered sugar; a winning combination in its own right. You can nix the lavender if flowers aren't your jam, however, it adds a lovely complexity to the dish that I highly recommend.



I used the clafoutis recipe from Pie It Foward, my favorite pun-tastic cookbook. If I were to make this again (which I probably will), I would use a deeper pie dish. My stylish tart pan was simply not deep enough to hold the filling plus all the pie crust I wanted (which is a lot). Much like a princess, this dish is a little high maintenance. I find all good custards are. But if you're up for the challenge, this is a delicious and dare I say fancy treat. 


Bake Time 50-60 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours

Ingredients

Pie Crust:
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/4 cup ice water
Filling:
  • 1 pound of cherries
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean 
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • icing sugar, for decoration

Preparation

To make the crust:
  1. With a food processor or a pastry cutter, mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Add the cubes of butter and pulse/mix until there are no pieces larger than peas.
  3. Gradually add the water (you will not need to use it all) until the dough just comes together. Drop onto a floured surface and gently pat together. Separate the dough into two disks about 1 inch thick. Wrap with cling film and store in the fridge for at least an hour.
To make the pie:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Roll out the pie dough and fit into an 11'' tart tin. Poke holes in the crust and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, stem and pit half of the cherries, leaving some of the prettier ones for decoration. You can use a cherry pitter, or a chopstick works really well. Slice the pitted cherries in half.
  2. After the pie crust is set, blind bake it for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and bake 5 minutes on its own. While this is going on, you can make the filling:
  3. In a large bowl (with a pouring spout if you have it), whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and vanilla together until combined. Add the eggs and continue to whisk until a smooth paste.
  4. In a medium saucepan, simmer the milk, cream, and lavender on medium heat. After 5 minutes, remove from the heat and let the lavender steep for 2-3 minutes, then strain out the lavender. Chuck the milk-cream mixture back onto the heat for another minute or two till simmering.
  5. Slowly pour the hot cream mixture into flour paste, whisking continuously.
  6. When the crust has baked to a golden brown, pull it out with the oven rack. Arrange the cherry halves onto the bottom of the crust while it sits on the rack, sliced sides facing down. Gently pour the filling over the cherries and slide the rack gently back into the oven. This will prevent spilling the custard filling all over while moving the pie from counter to oven.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the custard has set completely and turned a golden brown on top.
  8. Allow to cool completely before arranging the cherries on top and generously sprinkling with icing sugar.

And bam, you've got a yummy tart that would please any mono-gendered family of dwarves. And no apples in sight! Real quick, some life lessons I learned from Snow White:
  • Baking and cleaning are life-saving skills.
  • Never take food from strangers.
  • If you sleep long enough, shit will work itself out.


Happy Baking!

7/7/16

Thai, Crepes, and Eggplant Galore

This one, I've been stalling to write. It's gonna be long. Because Paris has always been this mysterious and wonderful dream city for me. So when I was studying abroad in England, and we had a single free weekend to travel, there was no question in my mind where I was going. From Julia Child's My Life in France, to Rachel Khoo's adventures in her tiny kitchen, to my straight up obsession with croissants, Paris has held a magic for me. Stereotypical, maybe (probably), but I really don't care.
 I was worried that it wouldn't be what I expected, that it would lose some of the magic with the stark reality of it. After all, any big city in the world is going to be smelly, tourist-y, and expensive, with a native population usually ready to bite you're head off.
So I was surprised and astounded that Paris was what I'd pictured. There was an energy in the summer nights and hot days, and the buildings, parks, churches, and markets were simply beautiful. Even the Parisiens were kind to us American tourists.
And the food. I can't stress enough about how much I loved the food. Everything I tried was superb, and I wasn't going to any fancy restaurants and patisseries.
Napoleon's Apartment in the Lourve


After a brief four hour trip to the Louvre, where I became slightly manic with the Mona Lisa, my group found a Thai restaurant for lunch. It was fresh, delicious, and filling.



This was by far one of my favorite things I've seen in Paris. Actually, it may be one of the most beautiful things I've seen in the world. This is the Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel within the Palais de la Cite. Even under construction, the stained glass was stunning.

 
Crepes and hazelnut paste. 
Then we found another church! But the line to get in was insane. 

Bite-size appetizers I did not order. I remember it was delicious, but that is all.
A Pork Chop and Eggplant Three Ways
A modern twist on the Mille-Fueille. 
Bon nuit Paris!

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