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Meringues at midnight

21 Aug

 

photoAugust 15th marks the annual National Lemon Meringue Day. I usually don’t jump on the bandwagon with these pseudo-holidays but lemon meringue just so happened to be Rey’s favourite desserts and something we’ve both been craving.

I got a late start to the day and didn’t begin until after dinner. Between the dough making, dough chilling, and custard-making, meringue pies take more than several hour to cook.  So although I wanted to make it happen before National Lemon Meringue Pie day was officially over, most of the “meringuing” happened after midnight. Since I was cooking in a man’s kitchen, and therefore without electric beaters, the meringue was the most daunting task. In the end though, meringue happened somehow and I now have a disproportionately strong right arm. I’ve never so badly appreciated simple modern kitchen tools or resented the concept of “medium peaks.” Rey also helped me whisk the egg whites to submission in between games of DoTA. Watching a muscular man beat egg whites to help you bake was one of the most pleasant and oddest things I’ve ever seen.
INGREDIENTS 

Dough 

1 cup + 2 tbsp cake and pastry flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tbsp cold water
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
1 egg white, lightly whisked

Lemon Curd Filling

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Meringue 

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/10 cup sugar
3 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

DIRECTIONS 

Dough

1. Sift the flour, sugar and salt to combine in a bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cut in the butter by hand with a pastry cutter or on low speed until just small pieces of butter are visible and the mixture as a whole just begins to take on a pale yellow colour (indicating that the butter has been worked in sufficiently).

2. Stir the water and lemon juice together and add this to the dough all at once, mixing until the dough just comes together. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap and chill for at least 2 hours before rolling. Alternatively, the dough can be frozen for up to 3 months and thawed in the fridge before rolling.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it is in a circle that is just under ¼ inch thick. Lightly dust a 9” pie plate with flour. Press the dough into the pie plate and trim away any excess dough, pinch the edges to create a fluted pattern and chill for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the chilled pie shell with tin foil and fill the foil with dried beans, raw rice or pie weights. Bake the pie shell for 20 minutes, then carefully remove the foil and weights and bake the crust for 8 to 10 minutes more, until the centre of the pie shell is dry-looking and just starts to brown a little. Immediately after removing the pie shell from the oven, brush the hot crust with a little of the whisked egg white. This will create a barrier to keep the crust crispy once filled. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.

Lemon Curd Filling 

1. For the filling, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepot, then whisk in the cold water. Have the other ingredients measured and nearby. Bring the sugar mixture up to a full simmer over medium-high heat, whisking as it cooks, until the mixture is thick and glossy.

2. Pour about a cup of this thickened filling into the egg yolks while whisking, then return this to the pot and whisk just one minute more. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook until the filling just returns to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter then immediately pour the hot filling into the cooled pie shell (the filling will seem very fluid, but it will set up once chilled). Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap to keep it hot. Immediately prepare the meringue topping.

3. Whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed to high and gradually pour in the granulated sugar and icing sugar and continue whipping just until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.

Meringue

1. Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling, then dollop half of the meringue directly onto the filling (the filling will still be very soft, so work gently). Be sure to spread the meringue so that it completely covers the lemon filling and connects with the outside crust, then use a bamboo skewer or paring knife to swirl the meringue just a touch (this will secure it to the lemon curd). Dollop the remaining meringue onto the pie and use the back of your spatula to lift up the meringue and creates spikes. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes at 325 F, until the meringue is nicely browned. Cool the meringue completely to room temperature before chilling for at least 4 hours.

Recipe adapted from Anna Olson.

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

15 May

I might have over 60 batches of chocolate chip cookies under my belt, assuming an average of one every two months for the past decade or so. One of the best calculations I’ve ever had to do in my head.

But what I must have been chasing all this time has waited until now to finally materialize: the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

I generally have a soft spot for sweet and salty combinations. Ever since I had Momofuku Milk Bar’s pistachio ice cream, I’ve been finding myself sneaking salt into a bunch of different sweets; so you know these cookies never had a chance.

Another thing about me is I find the crunchy type of chocolate chip cookie annoying. They crumble all over my sheets because of course I’m going to consume them  in bed, sometimes horizontally, to complete the gluttonous picture. Why go half way?

On the other hand, a thin crispy outer layer with a soft gooey center is positively dreamy. Finally, a generous chocolate chip-to-cookie ratio is a must.

Recipe

yield 1.5 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp sea salt 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1 cup packed brown sugar 
1/2 cup white granulated sugar 
1 tbsp vanilla extract 
1 egg 
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips 
 
Directions: 
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. 
2. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt
3. Mix together melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and egg.
4. Combine dry and wet ingredients until just blended.
5. Stir in chocolate chips until well-distributed 
6. Drop dough 1/4 at a time on ungreased, unlined cookie sheet, slightly help mould dough into circular discs but not over-compacting. 
7. Bake for 15 minutes in oven until edges are lightly toasted. 
 

Candy Apples

21 Oct

I must confess, the idea of covering a perfectly good piece of fruit in pure sugar syrup is very strange. But I have a weakness for all things festive, and these glossy–red beauties make me so pleased to be in the autumn season.

I tried this candy coating recipe in a much smaller batch at first. But candy–coating is a bitch to work with, especially if you’re stopping to wipe it off the tables, floors, walls, or your own person every couple of minutes. It can also harden on you in less than 5 minutes so I found that making it in a greater quantity than you actually require to coat the apples will buy you more time to work with it, since the syrup hardens faster in smaller amounts. And this way, coating is easier too because you can fully cover those apples in one go.

Ingredients

6 Granny Smiths (small to medium sized)

5 cups white sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 1/2 cups water

Red food colouring

Other: popsicle sticks, candy thermometer

Directions

Place popsicle sticks into each apple at the stem end.

In a saucepan on medium high heat, combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until mixture reaches 300-310 F. Approximately 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 4-6 drops of red food colouring. Dip apples, holding them by the stick and let cool on parchment paper.

The trickiest part of the process is probably gauging when your syrup concoction is ready to come off the burner. Most recipes will suggest using a candy thermometer and waiting until the syrup reaches 300-310 F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer on hand, try a simple test: drip a bit of the mixture into a bowl of cold water, if it hardens immediately into a brittle glob, it’s good. Mine took about 25 minutes to become ready.  And when it begins to smell fragrantly of caramel, start doing the test every couple of minutes.

Now for the best part—digging in. I didn’t cut mine, didn’t think it was possible in fact. I like to begin with a part of the apple that isn’t coated (a point of weakness, if you will) and go to town.

Valentine’s Day V :: Jay Z and Beyonce’s Baby Blue Valentine Cookies

15 Feb



  • 1/2 c. butter, room, unsalted
  • 1 egg
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • ½  tsp. baking powder
  • ½  tsp. salt
  • blue jolly ranchers or other blue hard candy, crushed.
  • Optional ingredients: icing, sprinklesfor decoration
Quick royal icing recipe: beat 2 large egg whites with 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice with electric mixer until combined. Gradually add 3 cups of confectioners sugar until desired consistency.
Directions: cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and egg. Combine with flour, baking powder, and salt. Chill dough overnight or for at least 45 min. before baking, crush blue jolly ranchers with a sharp knife or smash while wrapped in tea towel with hammer. Preheat oven to 400 F, roll out onto floured surface to a quarter inch thickness. Cut out heart shapes with cookie cutter and place 1 inch apart on ungreased parchment paper on cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes. Take out cookies and immediately cut out desired shape into the cookies while still soft. Place enough crushed jolly ranchers in the cutouts to cover the area and pop cookies back in oven at 200F for approximately 5 minutes. Surface of candy should come out glossy and cookies should now be completely done, with golden edges. Let sit for 15 minutes, or until candy surface is hard to the touch, carefully peel off from parchment paper and decorate if desired .

Valentine’s Day IV :: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s Mexican Spiced Lava Cake

14 Feb
I think this gooey lava cake is just Frida and Diego’s love/hate relationship personified. Full bodied, rich and contradictorily sweet and spicy, this grown-up version of the classic lava cake is just sexy.  



Ingredients:
  • 1.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
  • 6 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1½ tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder or cayenne powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Icing sugar for dusting
Serves 2
Direction: preheat oven to 400 F. Butter 2 ramekins or standard muffing tins and dust with granulated sugar; shake out extra. Cream butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat in flour and salt until just combined, do not over beat to foaminess. Melt chocolate in microwave for 40 seconds. Mix in chocolate until no streaks are left. Pour in prepared ramekins or muffin tins and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Turn cakes upside down on serving plate and dust with sifted icing sugar. Decorating tip: place cutout of paper heart on top of cake before dusting with sugar, this will leave a heart shaped impression.

Valentine’s Day II :: Barbie and Ken’s Pink Velvet Souffle

14 Feb
Yes, these two are dolls, plus I’m rather suspicious of their immaculately leggy proportions but they’ve made my couples-inspired recipe collection nonetheless because I’m a huge fan of the colour-palette. This naturally flavoured and food colouring-less souffle is as pretty as their pastel dreamhouse and as airy as Barbie’s noggin. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. fresh or frozen raspberries, thawed 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter for greasing ramekins or muffin tins
Directions: Puree raspberries until smooth, strain out seeds with fine mesh strainer if necessary. Preheat oven to 400 F, butter the insides of 2 ramekins, and do not allow for any unbuttered spots or areas with clumps of butter to help soufflés rise well. Coat inside with sugar, and shake out excess.  In a clean and cool metal bowl, beat the egg whites with pinch of salt until foamy. Gradually incorporate the sugar while beating on high until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks. Add half of the egg whites to the raspberry puree and gently fold in. continue with the rest of the egg whites until uniformly coloured. Spoon batter into ramekins or muffin tins, fill almost to the top. Bake for 10 minutes until tops have begun to turn golden brown.  Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately, very immediately.

Valentine’s Day I :: Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Cupcakes

13 Feb
Valentine’s Day has always been a difficult holiday to enjoy; not that I’m one of those sour types to spit on all the red and white garland displays at the dollar stores. I guess If I were, I’d know exactly what to do.  No, Valentine’s Day to me is neither offensive nor a reason to crap my pants with joy—just difficult to relate with, even speaking as one half of a couple myself. This year however, I’ve put my finger on the one thing it’s been missing all along. Every other holiday of the year invites all kinds of indulging, baking, and marathon meals. Valentine’s Day just lacks that same amount of good food; and I’m not talking plastic sprinkles and boxed chocolate here, but food made from the heart . So with these series of carefully chosen recipes inspired by some of Cupid’s best handiwork, I wish you a loving and delicious February 14th.
Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Strawberry Fields Cupcakes


I know Yoko Ono gets a bad rap for being a controversial person and for breaking up the Beatles and all but hardly a person could deny her relationship with John Lennon was an ardent and sexy one. I love these cupcakes for their fragrant strawberry scent, my kitchen smells just like a strawberry field I’ve not yet witnessed. I also imagine these should be shared in the nude, at various points of the day whilst loafing in bed.  


Cupcakes:
  • ½ c. butter, unsalted
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2/3 c. fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
  • ¼ c. milk, preferably at least 2%
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. lemon zest
  • ¼ tsp. salt
Frosting:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, chilled
  • 2 c. icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp. strawberry puree
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp. butter, room temperature
Cupcake directions: preheat oven to 350 F. In food processor, puree strawberries until consistency is smooth. Cream butter with sugar until fluffy and combine egg and egg white, vanilla, lemon zest, until smooth. In separate bowl, combine milk and 1/3 cup of the strawberry puree, save rest for frosting. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat with hand mixer flour mixture, milk mixture and butter mixture all together until a uniform consistency is achieved. Divide equally into lined muffin tins or mini-cupcake tins and bake for 15-18 minutes until tops are dry but bouncy. Cool completely before icing.
Icing directions: cream the cream cheese and butter by hand or with mixer until softened and fluffy. Slowly incorporate icing sugar and vanilla extract. Add strawberry puree last and combine until no more streaks. Use immediately or store ahead of time in refrigerator.
more coming very soon…

Megan’s Pineapple Upside Down Cake

2 Jan



Bowl #1

  • 2 c. all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 4 tsp baking powder (sifted)
  • 1 tsp salt (sifted) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (sifted)
  • 8 egg yolks 
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice/syrup (from 1 can sliced pineapples) 

Bowl #2
  • 8 egg white 
  • 1 cup sugar (sifted) 
  • 1 can sliced pineapple in syrup for garnish 

Method
Mix contents of Bowl #1 with electric hand mixer until all clumps are gone. Setting this aside, pre-heat oven to 350 F. Beat contents of Bowl #2 with clean electric hand mixer on high on until beautiful stiff peaks are formed* and gently fold the meringue into Bowl #1 with the cut and fold technique. Grease pan with butter and line with slices of pineapple. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 45 minutes. Try not to peek until at most 5 minutes before the 45 minute mark, opening the oven door in the middle of the baking process can deflate your cake. Allow to cool and turn upside down, dust with icing sugar. 


*tricks to beating a good meringue: 

At the risk of sounding a bit deranged, I must stress the importance of keeping our egg white-sugar mixture absolutely free of fat! The minutest spot contamination of fat can prevent the whites from inflating to full potential; so make sure beaters and mixing bowl are spotless. Using a ceramic, glass or stainless steel mixing bowl as opposed to plastic (which can hold on to grease particles) is going to help you with that. There’s also no looking back once you start beating (stopping will allow the whites to deflate) so keep going until you’re fairly certain stiff peaks are going to form. Good luck!



recipe and photos by megan cui

Recipe test: Jamie Oliver’s Mincemeat Pie

26 Dec

Make no mistake, this does not look like a traditional minced meat pie. I gravitated towards this recipe partly due to incredible confusion upon realizing this is not a dessert; mind you minced meat pie is by no means ‘traditional’ for me though now it will be! This recipe is also great for the person who loves contrasting textures; you’ll be really happy with the crunchiness of the phyllo dough working with the flaky puff pastry. the pinwheels are a delight to make and the flavours can only be described as ‘christmas’ wrapped in a neat little spiral package. I found the recipe very true to life except for the philo pastry, which turned a bit more tanned than I would have liked but you’ll just have to be sure sparing with the egg wash and it should be fine. Happy Holidays!

Ingredients

  • 100g/3½ oz good-quality mincemeat
  • 25g/¾ oz dried cranberries or blueberries, chopped
  • zest of 2 clementines
  • a splash of sherry or brandy
  • flour, to dust
  • 250g/8oz good puff pastry
  • 1 pack filo pastry
  • 50g/1¾ oz melted butter
  • 1 free-range or organic egg, beaten
  • 50g/1¾ oz flaked almonds
  • icing sugar, to dust 

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/gas 6. Scoop the mincemeat into a mixing bowl and mix in the dried berries, the clementine zest and the sherry or brandy.
Dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the puff pastry into a big rectangle about 20x40cm/8×16 inch and the thickness of a pound coin. Thinly spread the mincemeat over the pastry, leaving a 1cm/½ inch gap around the edges. Tightly roll up the pastry, lengthways, like a Swiss roll, place it on a floured tray, and pop in the fridge to firm up.
Take two cupcake trays (for 12 cupcakes each) and butter each one lightly with the melted butter. Place one layer of filo pastry over the tray (you may need more than one sheet to cover each tray depending on the size of the sheets) and ease the pastry into each hole. Brush with the melted butter, then cover with a second layer of filo pastry. Brush with butter again.

Take the puff pastry roll out of the fridge and, with a sharp knife, cut it into 24 slices. Place each slice, flat-side down, into a filo-lined hole. Brush with the egg and sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top of each little pie, then pop both trays in the oven for about 25 minutes, until cooked and golden brown.
Leave to cool, then crack the individual pies out of the trays. Dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

P.S. You can freeze the cooked, cooled mince pies in their trays (just wrap the lot in cling film) or in a plastic container. Just reheat them in a hot oven straight from the freezer.

Recipe: jamieoliver.com
Photos: Megan Cui

Recipe Test: Paula Deen’s Savanna Cheesecake Cookies

25 Dec

I needed something quick and guaranteed to please for my parent’s pre-christmas dinner party and these amazing cheesecake cookies were a total time saver and a huge hit. I made these overnight, which meant less work the day of. The fridge could not hold another morself of food so I had to improvise and cover the finished product (uncut and still in the pan) with a shoe box and leave it on top of the trash can in our garage. A bit of snow and frost overnight made for a perfectly chilled dish cake the next morning.

I rarely follow recipes to a tee but since this was a Paula Deen creation, I figured the woman knew her cheesecake. I do have one caveat: I don’t usually cut the fat content of any recipe for health reasons but I did reduce the 1 stick of butter that this recipe called for down to a mere half stick, and the results were just fine–a prudent choice I think, for a recipe coming from a woman’s whose smallest unit of measurement when it comes to butter is by the stick.



Photo by Megan Cui 

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Filling:

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
  • Fresh berries and mint leaves, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans, and butter in bowl. Press dough into an ungreased 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
For filling, beat cream cheese and granulated sugar together in a bowl until smooth, using a handheld electric mixer; add eggs and extract; beat well. Pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into squares before serving. Decorate tops with berries and mint leaves.
Recipe courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com 
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