Friday, August 17, 2012

Mocha Meringues

P.S. The pretty ones are from the first batch. The weird flat one is from the second batch, after the meringue slightly deflated. Eh, such is life.

I ate about twelve of these today.

But hey, they're basically fat-free. Just egg whites and sugar, couldn't be easier.


A low oven temp for a long time is easy on the electric bill and doesn't heat up the house too bad.
And screw whoever said you can't make meringue when it's humid. You totally can, just so long as you manage those expectations about how light and crispy they'll be. They'll be chewy and unctous, but also light. Probably not crispy, especially after a day or two.

Air pumped into egg whites that have been sweetened.
Let's not do the styrofoam-y chalky supermarket-y junk.


I decided on mocha flavorings because there was a recipe for espresso meringues and one for chocolate chip meringues, and coffee totally makes things extra chocolate-y.

I'm totally not a chocolate mint girl. Or a chocolate orange girl. Or a chocolate raspberry, or a chocolate almond, or a chocolate anything.
Except chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate and coffee.


So, taste preferences being what they were, espresso powder it was! And chopped up chocolate chips. And the 6 egg whites that were left over from the yolk-deliciousness that is peach tart.

Mocha Meringues
Yield: 36 cookies

Ingredients:

6 egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons espresso powder
3 ounces chocolate, chopped finely

(alternately, and what is given in the cookbook, you could do 4 egg whites, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 3/4 teaspoon vanilla, 2 teaspoons espresso, and 2 ounces chocolate to yield about 2 dozen)


Method:

  1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 225 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment (very important in terms of how the cookie "grabs" the pan).
  2. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and espresso in small bowl.
  3. In stand mixer with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, vanilla, and salt on high speed until very soft peaks form, 30-45 seconds. Reduce speed to medium and add in the sugar mixture gradually, scrape bowl, then bump up the speed to high again until glossy and stiff peaks form, 30-45 seconds.
  4. Fold in the chopped chocolate and put meringue into pastry bag or zip-loc bag (snip corner to make a make-shift pastry bag) and pipe mounds onto baking sheets.
  5. Bake 1 hour, switching/rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cool in oven (turn it off and leave them in) for at least 1 hour (We skipped this step. They were moist and chewy inside, delicious, not at all crisp, though). Keep in airtight container

From The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Peach Tart

I made pastry cream! Bucket list, check.


Pastry cream is a homemade custard (just like you would make for ice cream or pudding), and at the end you add in butter.

It's flavored with vanilla.
It's divine.
You'll want to lick the spatula ad infinitum.


We got the peaches for this tart at the farmers market. They're like candy: sweet, soft, trickle-down-your-face juicy. So amazing.

I love how at farmers markets you can talk to the people who made the food you're buying. It's more meaningful than buying from your grocery cashier (which is also totally wonderful and I don't doubt that you could have a fantastic relationship with your local grocery store and get fabulous produce there too).

But I betcha don't get free samples! Farmer's market samples are the best. And the guy always throws in an extra peach or tomato, which is so nice.


Oh, goodness, and the crust. It's a super flaky, rich, buttery shortbread cookie crust. Yumyumyum.

We had extra dough. I made cookies out of it. They were gone within 15 minutes of coming out of the oven. Plain, no decorations, just straight-up good.

And then the tart is finished off with a glaze that includes the leftover peach juice! Leave no flavoring unused!


Peach Tart

Note: the original recipe suggests berries, and I do think they would make for a neater tart, since a blueberry/raspberry/blackberry doesn't gush juice everywhere. If you're subbing in berries, skip the maceration step!

Yield: 1 tart

Ingredients:

For the pastry cream:

2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the tart shell:

1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Putting it together:
Berries, peaches (peeled/sliced, macerate in a couple of tablespoons of sugar to get some moisture out), other fruit--we used 4 peaches
1/3 cup red currant or apple jelly




Method:

Prepare the pastry cream first:

  1. Heat the half-and-half; 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk-in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
  3. When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half- and-half into the yolk mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. If mixture looks curdled, whisk like your life depends on it, then strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
Then, prepare the tart shell while the cream cools:
  1. Whisk together the yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl; set aside. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about fifteen 1-second pulses. With the machine running, add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.
  2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator (if refrigerated longer than 1 hour, let stand at room temperature until malleable). Unwrap and roll out between 2 lightly floured large sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 13-inch round, fixing cracks by pushing the dough back together. (If the dough is soft and sticky, slip it onto a baking sheet and refrigerate until workable, 20 to 30 minutes.) Transfer the dough to a tart pan and ease the into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge with one hand while pressing it into the corners with the other hand. Run the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to remove the excess dough. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a large plate and freeze 30 minutes. 
  3. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Set the dough-lined tart pan on a baking sheet, press a 12-inch square of foil into the frozen tart shell and over the edge, and fill with old beans or metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights by gathering the edges of the foil and pulling up and out. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes longer. Set the baking sheet with the tart shell on a wire rack to cool to room temp.
It's assembly time!
  1. Spread the cold pastry cream over the bottom of the tart shell, using an offset spatula or large spoon.  Arrange the fruit on top of the pastry cream, draining peaches from whatever liquid ran off when they were macerating.
  2. Microwave the jelly and the leftover peach juice (if using peaches) together until boiling/thick, then dab, flick, and brush over the fruit.
  3. Slice and serve!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Brown Butter Double Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookie

Holy moley.

Hi, I'm Catherine and I'll be your server tonight.
Would you like a cookie with your cookie?

Yes please!

No problem, I'll have that for you straightaway.


So, I usually shy away from recipes like this...cakes with filling, frosting, garnishes, pastry bag involvement (that's the worst part!!), etc. It seems like so much work because there are too many parts, too many bowls to deal with, blah blah blah.

This cookie is not one of those recipes. You make the butter/sugar/egg/vanila mixture, split it in half, add some of the flour mixture to one of the bowls, add some cocoa to the other half of the flour mixture and add that to the other egg/butter/sugar mixture, and add chocolate chips to both.

You bake both trays at the same time.

One batch. Two bowls. Okay, maybe three. It depends on how vigilant you are. Easy as cookies.

Whenever I see the word vigilant, I always say villigant in my head. Like militant and vigil flipped around and mushed together.
...that's a stretch.


And the brown butter. Ooh. la. la. It's the kind of thing I would make just to smell. It's not that scary, and you can go slow (much less scary than caramel!). Basically you're caramelizing the milk solids in the butter.

I think I might have over-browned my butter, because the cookies were a little gritty. In any case, I've also reduced the baking time in this recipe to help them keep a bit of chew, and though Jessica swears you must let the browned butter cool to room temp, I think it would help the grittiness to dissolve the sugars in the butter when it's still warm (but not hot) , so that's reflected in the recipe as well.

Get into your kitchen and get baking! Easy not hard.


Brown Butter Double Fudge Chocolate Chip Cookie
Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 pinches salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature (let the eggs sit in a bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes to take the chill off)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Method:



  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add butter. Whisk constantly until brown bits appear on the bottom (about 10 minutes, but take visual cues over time cues), then remove and let cool until warm. Add butter to a large bowl with sugars and whisk until completely smooth. Add in egg and egg yolk, whisking until combined, then add in vanilla.
  3. Separate the dough into two doughs: Place an empty bowl on a kitchen scale measuring in grams, then pour the sugar mixture into the bowl, scraping all of it out. Note the weight in grams. Remove the full bowl from the scale, and place the bowl that previously held the butter/sugar mixture on the scale (taring it to 0). Add half of the butter/sugar mixture into the bowl – so each bowl has an equal amount of dough.
  4. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt to combine in another bowl.
  5. In one of the dough bowls, add in a cup of the flour mixture, fold to combine, then fold in half of the chocolate chips. Set aside.
  6. Add the cocoa powder to remaining flour mixture. Add it to the second dough bowl, mixing until a dough forms. Fold in the rest of the chocolate chips.
  7. Roll each dough into 12 balls (about an inch thick) so you end up with 24. As demonstrated here, pull each ball apart. Take one chocolate chip half and one double fudge half, placing the round ends together with the rough edges out. Place dough rough-side down on a non-stick baking sheet about 1 1/2-2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are soft in the middle and golden on the edges. Let cool completely.
Note: usually it works really well to reduce the oven temp by 25 degrees and bake on convection for the same amount of time. With these cookies, it meant the tops fell off the bottoms on a few of the cookies. They still tasted delicious, but might have stayed together better had I not put them in front of a fan spewing hot air.

Recipe from How Sweet It Is.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Three Berry Pie


It was (is...) summer. And although, out of all the dessert categories, pie and ice cream are my least favorite (as in, I don't crave them hardly ever), I had a craving to make a pie.


Let's be clear here. Although I did eat lots of pie, and loved it...

I had a craving to craft pie dough by hand, roll it out, buy enormous quantities of berries at costco, and bake a pie.

Before, and

...after!
What a great experience! Granted, I definitely "screwed up" the crust by overmixing it or adding too much water or something. I'm still not sure what I did wrong. I'm no experienced pie baker. But it was beautiful and tasty.
In fact, the crust was sort of shortbread-y in a delectable way! It was also thick, stood up to the filling, and the bottom didn't get soggy.

Celebrate the wins in life. You are a champion.


The filling was out. of. this. world.

Blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries playing off each other in a simple filling, which by the way stayed together to make lovely slices on the second day, after what was left was refrigerated.


Enjoy, guys! Use whatever berries that are sort of like the ones I did, in whatever combo you have, just make sure you have 5 1/2 - 6 cups of berries.

Common Scents: Eat some of this with lightly sweetened (with honey) greek yogurt for breakfast. Carbs from the crust, fruit in the pie, and protein from the yogurt. Complete breakfast? Check.

Three Berry Pie
Yield: 1 pie

Make crust 1 hour ahead and refrigerate:


Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup cold water

Method:

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Toss well, by hand, to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and toss to mix. 
  2. Using a pastry blender, 2 knives, or your fingertips (or toss this whole shooting match into a food processor), cut or rub the butter into the flour until it is broken into pieces the size of small peas. Add the shortening and continue to cut until all of the fat is cut into small pieces. 
  3. Sprinkle half of the water over the mixture. Toss well with a fork to dampen the mixture. Add the remaining water, l 1/2 to 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue to toss and mix, pulling the mixture up from the bottom of the bowl on the upstroke and gently pressing down on the downstroke. 
  4. Form into two disks, one slightly larger (this will be the bottom crust) than the other. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
Then, assemble the pie:

Ingredients:
1 recipe pie dough (see above)
5 1/2 to 6 cups berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries all work well, wash if fresh and thaw partially if frozen. Drain if canned)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Heavy cream (or half and half or milk if you don't have cream)
sugar

Method:
  1. On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper or a silpat, roll the larger portion of the pastry into a 12-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9-inch standard pie pan, center, and peel off the paper or silpat. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and let the overhang drape over the edge. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the berries in a large bowl. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl, then stir the mixture into the fruit. Stir in the nutmeg, salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set aside for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  3. Roll the other half of the pastry into a 10-inch circle on a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper. Turn the filling into the chilled pie shell, smoothing the fruit with a spoon. Moisten the outer edge of the pie shell with water with a pastry brush. Invert the top pastry over the filling, center, and peel off the paper. Press the top and bottom pastries together along the dampened edge. Trim the edge to an even 1/2 inch all around, then sculpt the overhang into a pretty ripple, folding under as you go to make a thick ridge. Poke or cut several steam vents in the top of the pie with a fork, paring knife, or cookie cutter. Brush the top of the pie generously with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and rotate the pie 180 degrees, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. Just in case, slide a large aluminum foil—lined baking sheet onto the rack below to catch any spills. Continue to bake until the juices, most likely visible at the steam vents, bubble thickly, 25-30 minutes. If the top pastry starts to get too brown, cover with loosely tented aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving with vanilla ice cream.
From Pie (thanks, library!).