Everyday Cooking

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie-January Daring Bakers Challenge

Lemon Meringue Pie (LMP) IS my favourite dessert. I will have it anytime, everytime if its on the menu. So when Jen, the Canadian Baker announced this month's Daring Baker challenge, I had to haul myself out of blogging semi-retirement and bake myself one of my beloved pie.

Weird how I have never attempted to make this myself. I guess I've been of the mind that if a good one could be had very easily, then why bother. LMPs are a staple at Sydney coffee shops and I am very easily pleased. If it's tangy and the meringue has a hint of a crunch, I would be appreciative.

Unfortunately, with all that's going on at home, I didn't get the chance to plan making my LMP out too well. I made it for a little get-together with friends for the Australia Day weekend. I was hoping to make tartlets and pipe the meringue on but I had to resort to just making a large pie and slather the meringue on top hoping this 'free-styling' would at least make the grade.

This pie was a bit tricky as I couldn't make it the night before the barbecue for fear of ending up with a soggy crust. As things panned out the morning of the party, I was still stirring the curd as my guests stood at the door. Oh well. Pile the curd on to the base. Have a little drink and nibbles with guests while waiting for filling to cool down. Whip up the meringue. With another glass of Chardy on hand, chat over the whirring of the stand mixer. Slap the meringue onto the crust with a palette knife (while trying to look competent in front of friends). Bung that pie into the oven. Have another drink and wish for the best....

A sad meringue. That's what I ended up with. It was so sad that it wept.
A few other Daring Bakers seemed to have had this problem. Despite following the suggestion of spreading the meringue right to the crust edge, I didn't escape the little pool of syrup that's been the bane of my fellow Daring Bakers. As for the taste? The crust was OK. It was biscuity but it would have been nice to have something a little bit more buttery, almost short-bread like. The filling was deliciously tart. The balance of sweet and sour was to my liking but there was something wrong with the consistency. It didn't cut smooth when I sliced the pie. Perhaps the 1.5 hours it sat in the fridge after baking just wasn't enough to set it properly. The meringue was well... meringue. I didn't get the crunch on the edges which I love from the LMP coffee-shop versions but my meringue top browned a little too quickly.

All in all, this pie was OK and I enjoyed the experience (albeit hurried and distracted) of making it. I would be trying other recipes, though, and try and get a better consistency for the filling.

Sorry for the lack of photos and for the poor quality of the only one I have. I had guests to entertain and by the time for dessert came around, my hands were already a little bit shaky from one glass of wine too many ;-)

Go and enjoy all the other LMPs out there by the Daring Bakers...


Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Waving not Drowning

Despite the lull in posts, I am still here. Dear Sweet Margot of Coffee and Vanilla noticed my absence and I have been amiss in failing to warn my lovely bloggy friends of the (unintended) break.Here I am popping my head up to say a quick hi. All is well, though I have been very emotional about trying to cope with the new routine the new year has brought in.

After 13 months of spending almost all of my waking hours with my two angels, we are preparing for my return to full time work. The kids are now at daycare a few hours each day, five days a week to get them used to it. After a week and a half, there are still tears from the little boy at drop- off and of course, I am a mess by the time I get back to the car.While they are out of the house, I am busy with speaking to resource agencies trying to line up a suitable contract for myself. We are also busy preparing for my in-laws' arrival. Hubby has been busy renovating our guest accomodation and I am looking around for things to fit the flat out with.

I am still cooking! Just have even less time now to take photos and write about it. I am terribly missing my favourite blogs and seeing what everyone is up to. Rest assured, I will be back to see what you wonderful foodies have been up to. I will also be scouring your sites for quick and easy meals for my family.
Keep on cooking!


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sweet Potato and Raisin Muffins

More healthy stuff. You have been warned. And this is the worst kind - eggless, butterless and no cow's milk. Shock, horror with an extra gasp for good measure!

There was a time when I used to chide a friend whenever she ordered a 'decaf-lite-soymilk cappucino'. A 'triple-no-fun' I used to refer to her beverage of choice. My, how my tune has changed. Well, when it comes to the matter of health (especially of my kids), I would like to think that I have reasonably learned to compromise, but not on taste. Decaf coffee (there are some good blends out there) I've had to accept since I started getting heart palpitations even when David Beckham is not on the television screen. Then my gorgeous little boy was found to be allergic to eggs and dairy. My heart went out to the poor little mite, envisioning his lifetime deprived of calorie-laden, rich and creamy treats. But that's just me and my tendency for drama. Firstly, he is expected to grow out of his allergies. And in the meantime, I can try and be creative with the 'treats' I make at home so he can also enjoy them.

Enter my 'triple-no-fun' muffins. Made with mashed sweet potatoes,part-wholemeal flour, olive oil and soymilk, these are good for everday guilt-free munching. They turned out absolutely moist but light and springy to the touch. The texture turned out better than my normal muffins which have a tendency to fall into crumbs when eaten. These are not overly sweet, with minimum sugar enhanced by the natural sweetness of the raisins and sweet potato.
As the ads say, 'Try them and you might be pleasantly surprised' :-)

I am sending this over to this week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Vani of Batasari. It was fun finding another use for sweet potato, which I normally only use roasted in salads. Varieties of this humble root crop has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years and is now popular in most parst of the world especially south east Asia and Polynesia.
Being a reliable and relatively easy crop to grow, it has become a staple in many cultures. Nutritionally, it is high in fiber, vitamins (Vit A specifically), minerals and is low in sodium.

Sweet Potato and Raisin Muffins
makes 12

1 c wholemeal flour
3/4 c self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c castor sugar
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 c raisins/ sultanas
3/4 c pureed sweet potato (steam potato pieces and then whizz in a food processor)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 c soy milk

Preheat oven to 180deg Celsius.

Sift together the wholemeal flour, self-raising flour and baking powder. Add the sugar and cinnamon, mixing to combine ingredients well. Add the raisins and mix to ensure that the fruit pieces are dredged in flour.

In a bowl, mix together the sweet potato puree, olive oil and soy milk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix but do not overdo it.

Spoon the mixture onto muffin trays lined with muffin paper cups. Bake for 20 mins or until an inserted skewer comes off clean.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Pan Fried Snapper and Asian Slaw

The Holiday Season has finally sneaked out the back door, leaving lots of fun memories of great company and indulgent eating. Unfortunately, as it does every year, it has managed to leave some memento, most of it evident around my midriff.

New Year's resolutions? I won't even go there but as the new year brought warm days, it's been a lot easier to eat light and fresh.

I love this cabbage salad for the colour and the crispy tang of the dressing.

Pan Fried Snapper and Asian Slaw
serves 2

2x 150g red snapper fillets
1Tbsp plain flour
1/2 Tbsp corn flour
salt and pepper

1 c shredded Wong Bok (Napa cabbage)
1 c shredded red cabbage
1/2 c julienned crunchy vegetables (I used carrots and red beets)
1 Tbsp finely chopped spring onions
handful of fried noodles , or use nuts for crunch instead of the noodles
1 Tsp toasted sesame seeds

salad dressing

1/2 c olive oil
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
juice from 1/2 lime
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Make the salad dressing ahead by combining the olive oil, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and sesame oil and mix well.

To prepare fish, lightly dredge the fillets with the combined plain flour, corn flour, salt and pepper. Fry in olive oil until cooked through, approx 5 mins on each side.

Toss all the salad vegetables together in a bowl. Add the dressing and mix well. Just before serving, top with the fried noodles and sprinkle some sesame seeds.
Serve with the fish.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Arroz a la Valenciana

Filipinos love rice. My husband still marvels at the mounds of white rice consumed every time the family gets together for a meal. There really is nothing more filling and satisfying than steamed white rice with a sauced meat dish and some patis on the side.

Apart from the daily steamed staple, rice is also enjoyed in various conconctions, whether it be savoury or sweet. One of my favourite rice dishes is Arroz a la Valenciana or Valenciana, for short. There are also various Latin American versions of this Spanish dish of rice, meat, a tomato base and vegetables but the Filipino interpretation is very much Asian-style with the use of sticky rice, coconut milk and fish sauce.

Valenciana is a dish usuallly made for fiestas in the Philippines- it is truly a special occassion dish, being colourful, rich and very filling. I made this for New Year's Day dinner. I actually hesitated trying to make this as my childhood memories of Valencianas were of perfect creations. Chewy sticky rice, tender meat redolent of rich tomatoes and bay leaves. Those were either made by a great aunt (who used to cook for rich families in Manila) or my late grandfather. Having made this now, the process, I feel is not that complicated but I still have to make this a few times before I get the consistency exactly right. Valencianas are supposed to be crusty on the sides (I remember aunts fighting over the tutong, the blackened, crunchy overcooked bits) and beautifully chewy but moist in the middle.

To further get a Filipino flavour, I searched for banana leaves to line the pots with. The authentic process involves cooking the rice in broth and coconut milk in one pot, stirring until the liquid is absorbed (as in making risotto) and then finishing off the cooking in the pot lined with banana leaves. The fragrance as the rice was steaming in the leaves was beautiful. I also experimented with wrapping individual serves, finished off in the oven instead of the stove top. This is an easier option and the parcels are easier to transport as baon for picnics and can even be thrown on a barbecue for re-heating.

The end result was quite tasty but the rice turned out too soft. I gave in to the temptation to add more water than what was required after seeing that the rice was already quite sticky but still raw in the middle. I did not realise that there was more than enough moisture in the banana leaves to cook the grains to perfection. I have noted this for next time.

I am sharing this at the Lasang Pinoy December edition. The theme being 'Rice to the Challenge', I'm sure Filipino food bloggers worldwide would be in their element. Be sure to check out the round-up by JMom from Cooked from the Heart.

Filipino Style 'Arroz a la Valenciana'
serves 12

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 c sliced chorizo
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped finely
3 medium very ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
6 bay leaves
1.5 kg chicken pieces
2 Tbsp fish sauce
4 potatoes, cut into chunks
2.5 c sticky rice (soaked in water for a couple of hours)
1x400g can coconut milk
1c chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 large red pepper, sliced
1 c green peas
boiled egg for garnish (optional)
Banana leaves

Line a pot or deep pan with banana leaves and set aside

Heat oil in a pot and fry the chorizo until brown. Drain on kitchen paper and set aside.
In the same oil, sautée garlic and onion until browned slightly. Add the chopped tomatoes paprika and bay leaves. Mix around and simmer with the lid on until you get a thick sauce, around 5 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and fish sauce. Mix around until the chicken pieces are slightly cooked. Add the potato, stir and cover to simmer for around 10 minutes.

Drain the sticky rice and add into the pot. Stir until the grains are well coated in the sauce. Add the coconut milk and stock.
On medium heat, keep on stirring until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, approximately 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cooked chorizo, red pepper and peas then transfer the mix into the banana leaf-lined pot. Further cook on low heat for 30-40minutes until the rice is cooked and very sticky.

If making individual serves, spoon some of the rice onto banana leaves, wrap then tie with twine. Place in a baking tray and cook in a 150deg C oven for 30 minutes.

To serve, garnish with sliced boiled eggs.