Sunday, August 21, 2016

Frozen Lime Meringue Pie

As we all know, you can't judge a book by its cover.  It turns out that you can't judge a pie by its title, either.  Frozen lime meringue pie?  I imagined a green popsicle-like concoction, covered in sweet meringue.  Refreshing on a hot day, maybe, but popsicles for dessert?  I was unconvinced.  Then I saw all the cream in the ingredient list, and I became more interested.  As it happens, this pie is not only refreshing, but also luscious, rich, and creamy.  And it bore not even a passing resemblance to popsicles!

The crumb crust was blessedly easy.  Thank you, Rose, for not forcing to make my own homemade vanilla wafers!

After grating all this lime zest, I was pretty sure the pie would have a punchy lime flavor.

Not to mention the half-cup of lime juice.

Egg yolks and sugar turn the lime into a sweet-tart custard.

Sometimes I don't use my sieve, but I had a lot of small pieces of cooked egg in the custard, so it was a very good idea to strain them out.

Then there's a period where you just stand around and wait for the custard to come to room temperature.  You can use an ice bath to speed up the process, or you can use the time to read the recipes for the next few weeks.  (The Coconut Crisps look easy-peasy.  The Heavenly Chocolate Mousse Cake--not so much).

Here's the whipping cream that helped me change my mind about whether I was going to like this dessert.  Cream is one of my top ten favorite ingredients.  I wish it weren't.

How can you go wrong with this mixture?

I think you could stop right here and have a perfectly good pie, although of course it wouldn't be a lime meringue pie.  Just a lime pie, which doesn't sound as fancy, so I proceeded to whip the egg whites.  I needed only one more egg white to get the requisite amount because there were whites left over from the custard--not enough to break out my stash of frozen egg whites.

This time we used powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar.  Mine is not to reason why.....  Besides, Jim gets elated when he gets an action shot.

So pretty.  Even if you don't like meringue, you have to admit it looks impressive.

Even more so after it's browned.  I wavered between using the broiler or the torch, finally deciding on the broiler.  I could have taken it out of the oven one second earlier.

WARNING:  Here comes the obligatory grandchild shot.  I had to coax JJ into trying a piece of pie by telling him it tasted like S'Mores without the chocolate.  He eyed me with suspicion, but one bite made him a believer.  "Yummy!"

Lily tries all food and rejects very little.  She shares my liking for whipped cream.  She also loved the meringue.  And the crust.  And the lime custard.  She never needs to be coaxed into trying something new.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Brilliant!"

Photo by Tony
One Crumb at a Thyme

Tony managed to make these muffins in two entirely different ways--one half the batter (three large muffins) were put together as the recipe specified, but the other three became Bananas Foster Crumb Muffins, inspired by a planning session for an upcoming trip to New Orleans.  The Bananas Foster version had (what else?) caramelized bananas in the center, served with a rum caramel sauce.  Now that you see how these muffins turn into banana muffins, you may be inspired to make them with still another filling.

Catherine, however, will probably not be making these muffins again, even though her tasters "loved them universally."  Too "fiddly diddly" for her, even though she didn't even have to peel the apple by hand because of her beloved "nifty apple peeler."  As Catherine acknowledged, after a long day at work, she was "tired and emotional."  Plus, she overcooked the first tray, undercooked the second, then "relaxed again and burnt the third batch."  But "the last three were perfectly cooked."  Much as Catherine loves crumble, she couldn't quite get over the puttery nature of these muffins.  

Rachel's problem wasn't with the "fiddliness" of the preparation, but with her recent propensity for finding that she's "forgotten an ingredient or misread a point of preparation" even though she's "thoroughly vetted a recipe and [has] all the ingredients/tool" she needs.  This time she forgot sour cream and large muffin papers, so she had yogurt crumb muffins, size regular, instead of sour cream muffins, size large.  But they were wonderful.

Next week:  Frozen Lime Meringue Pie.  My new favorite summer dessert.  Even if it's not summer, it's still delicious.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Coffee Crumb Cake Muffins

I loved these muffins, and so did everyone else.  I made them way back in January, the month Jim and I invite our neighbors for a coffee and doughnut hour on Saturdays.  I also make something, and the Coffee Crumb muffins seemed like a good idea for Week 2.  My neighbors liked them too.  One person asked me why my muffins were so moist and delicious, and not dry like hers.  "Sour cream," I said, wisely.  "Can you just add sour cream to any recipe?" she asked.  "Hmm.  Well, I don't really know," I said, thus laying to rest any claim I might make to being the neighborhood baking maven.  I should have said, "Don't bother with any other recipe.  Just make these."

I didn't make the Texas-size muffins.  First, I wanted to feed more than 6 people and didn't want to double the recipe.  Second, I have an aversion to "Texas-size" anything.  (I don't have an aversion to Texas, especially San Antonio).  I hoped I'd get a dozen muffins, but I only got 11 and some of them were pretty puny.  I should have just doubled the recipe.

Not having read the recipe in detail, I didn't realize that we were going to have an apple ring in the middle of the muffin.  I thought I'd tuck in some apple slices or chopped applies, but the apple ring was quite charming, and people loved discovering it.  Because I had a large apple and non-Texas sized muffin pans, I had to pare off quite a bit of the apple's perimeter to make it fit, but I ate the scraps, so no harm done.

The butter and sour cream that make these muffins so exceptionally tasty.

And the resulting batter.  Can't you tell from just looking at the rich, smooth batter that the muffin/cupcakes are going to be other-worldly?

My hand gently placing the apple ring on top of the filling.

Then adding more batter and the topping (which is a lot like the filling).  The only other way I veered from the recipe was to use pecans instead of walnuts.  I did that because one of our neighbors stops breathing if he eats anything with walnuts in, and I thought that would cast a pall on the party.

I think I count 11 muffins on that plate, so that must have been all of them.  I repeat:  I should have doubled the recipe.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "Tasty"

Photo by Rachel
Cooking and Thinking

This week's project was billed as a Gooseberry Crisp, but most of us couldn't find gooseberries, so we treated the recipe as one for a basic fruit crisp, and we improvised.  I don't think that any of us used the same fruit combination, but, for the most part, we thought that whatever fruit or fruit combo we used still worked pretty well.

First, the gooseberry purists.  Somewhat to my surprise, one of the two people who managed to find gooseberries was Catherine.  (I say surprise not because Catherine is a slacker--far from it--but because she lives in the wilds of Australia and is sometimes unable to locate odd or particularly American ingredients).  But this time she walked into a local gourmet shop and found an expensive jar of stachelbeeren, which are, indeed, gooseberries.  Taking one for the team, she shelled out $10 for one jar of stachelbeeren, which was enough for a half-recipe of crisp.  She made the full amount of the actual crisp (or crumble) part, sensing that there would not otherwise be enough.  Catherine thought the stachelbeeren were more sweet than tart, probably because of the syrup they'd been preserved in, but she is intrigued enough to try it again with fresh gooseberries from her parents' gooseberry bush.

Of course, Katya, who lives, I believe, in the wilds of Brooklyn and has access to nearly any food item one could think of, found fresh gooseberries and livened them up with fresh currants, a gift from her parents.  Although the photo of her crisp looks brown, bubbly, and delicious, Katya was not satisfied with the final outcome, finding it "oversweet, too buttery, and gooey.  Even though she loves gooseberries and has made some lovely gooseberry custard tarts in her day, she didn't think the gooseberries worked well in a crisp.

Now on to the rest of us who made this gooseberry crisp without the titled gooseberries.

Rachel, whose photo caught Jim's eye, made her crisp with some cranberries that had been in the freezer since November.  Not exactly a summery fruit, as she acknowledged, but since the "heat broke" just before she made it, she just pretended it was a "warm fall day."  Summer or fall, the cranberries withstood their stay in the freezer, and made a tasty dessert, especially with the crumbly topping and a scoop of vanilla ice cream over "the whole shebang."

Michele's crisp was extra crispy since she doubled up on the topping (if there's one running theme throughout the blogs, it was that more topping made it better!), but there were "no geese" in her berries.  She used a combination of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, which "smelled like summertime" when they were baking.  The resulting crisp was "simply delicious," although the filling didn't thicken quite as much as she would have liked--next time, she won't reduce the amount of cornstarch.  But still, how nice to have this "easy, delicious" dessert in your repertoire.

Even if you miss gooseberry season, as Jen did.  In that case, you just make it with "counter fruit," i.e., fruit that you already have sitting on your counter.  In Jen's case, that was peaches and "big Chester blackberries."  Plus some small bits of candied ginger, because Jen knows from past experience that ginger is a good fit with peaches and berries.  The "blackberries stayed whole and juicy," and the family ate this for dessert, breakfast, and snacks.  Next time:  "double the topping!"

Aimee "would double the crisp" if she makes this again.  (See, I told you there was a pattern).  And she probably will, because her yummy-sounding combo of cherries, rhubarb, and strawberries was a pretty big hit.  Aimee got lots of juice from the fruit, and the first time she served it, it was "good but runny."  The second night, she added a dollop of whipped cream, and it was less runny--probably not because of the whipped cream but because it had aged another 24 hours.  I like the idea of whipped cream as a miracle fix, though.

Tony made his crisp with blackberries and blueberries, after discovering that gooseberry season in his zone is in April!  (The season for gooseberries in Minnesota, and probably much of Canada, is late July and August, which just goes to show that it's hard to make the right call on a seasonal item).  Tony stuck to the recipe this time, but decided he'd add toasted almonds and almond extract to the topping next time.  He served his berry crisp with raspberry sorbetto for a colorful summer presentation.

Next week:  Coffee Crumb Cake Muffins--delectable muffins with an apple surprise in the middle.  Don't miss these!  I made them in January for a coffee party, and people loved them, especially when they bit into the apple slice.

Countdown:  Just 18 weeks of Alpha baking left!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

(Not) Gooseberry Crisp

Last summer, I searched all over for gooseberries because I decided I wanted to make this crisp.  I finally found some, but I don't think they were the right kind.  They were very small, about like currants, and very, very sour.  I halved the amount of berries--because after I took the husk off, I had less than two cups.  I didn't bother to take pictures, and it honestly wasn't very good.

This year I decided I wasn't going to bother to look, and would just use what I could pick up at the grocery store.  I bought blueberries and raspberries, and also some frozen rhubarb to add extra tartness.

Of course, the raspberries didn't hold their shape, but they did make the sauce an attractive bright pinkish red.  I used about a cup of rhubarb, a cup of raspberries, and two cups of blueberries.  Really, any fruit would do.  If I'd been sure of the peaches, I'd have tried a combination of peaches, blueberries, and rhubarb.

All the fruit must have been very juicy because I had a lot of liquid.

I could have used a little more cornstarch, or a little less liquid, because the fruit had a lot of sauce.  The relatively large amount of lemon juice, plus the zest, made the fruit taste so fresh and flavorful.

The crisp was quite easy to mix up in a food processor, and easier still to sprinkle on top of the juicy berries.

I brought the crisp to our annual block party for National Night Out.  This is very big in Minnesota; I don't know if other states love their block parties the way we do.  I didn't actually get to taste this crisp, although I did get a few bites of the fruit left at the bottom of the bowl, along with a little whipped cream I brought to serve it with.  That's how I know that the fruit tasted so good.  The crisp part didn't look like it got very crisp, but since I didn't taste it, I don't know for sure.  The people at the block party were very enthusiastic, as in, "Who brought that blueberry thing?  It's really good."  I should have asked them to save a bite for me.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Midweek Roundup: "They're delicious"

Photo by Catherine
Phyllis Caroline blog

Although you couldn't tell it by looking at Catherine's lovely photo of these ice cream sandwiches, she says she doesn't "really get the bother of an ice cream sandwich."  More of a "thing" in the U.S., she suspects (and I suspect she's right), she doesn't see what's wrong with just serving a bowl of ice cream accompanied by biscuits (cookies).  You have a point, Catherine.  But Americans do love food they can eat out of hand (or, even better, on a stick.  And, as you say, they're delicious.  With this point of view, you can see why Catherine was more impressed with the biscuit than with the ice cream.  These are her "favourite black cocoa-y type of chocolate biscuits."  If anything, they may be a tad too sweet, but Catherine admits that may be due to the fact that she chose an ice cream labelled "Chocolate Obsession."

Rachel took a different approach to filling these sandwiches with ice cream.  Instead of just one flavor, she bought "Banana Siplit" ice cream, so she made Strawberry Pineapple, Chocolate Walnut, AND Fudge Ripple Ice Cream Sandwiches.  As Catherine also noted, the texture of these cookies may change according to the thickness of the cookie dough, as well as how much flour clings to the dough.  "The flour-coated batch, which [was] cut slightly thicker and baked a little less, produced [a] crispy-edged, chewy-center cookie....  The other batch was more like a chocolate snap, excellent in its own way, but more of a standalone than a sandwich cookie."

And that's it for this week.  I hope that some of you who didn't make these this week get a chance to try them sometime during the rest of the summer.  They really are lovely, and so nice to have on hand for an impromptu treat.

Next week:  The Gooseberry Crisp with the elusive gooseberry.  My thought is to treat the "gooseberry" part of the crisp as a suggestion, and, if you can't find the berries, make the crisp anyway.  I used blueberries, raspberries, and rhubarb, which yielded a sweet-tart flavor with a beautiful red sauce.  It'll be nice to know about this recipe if gooseberries ever come your way, but a shame not to make it just because they don't.  

Countdown:  19 more recipes to try!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fudgy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I'll admit that the first time I saw this recipe, I wasn't that thrilled with it.  After all, I can buy perfectly good ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store or at Costco, if I want a huge box of them.  And anyway, an ice cream sandwich is all about the ice cream, right?  So how much trouble do I want to go to in order to make my own.  As it turns out, though, they're not that much trouble, and they offer the distinct advantage of tasting good on their own, being storable in the freezer for months, and allowing you to use whatever kind of ice cream you've been wanting to try.  (This is chocolate-chocolate chip; I also made mine with a good store-bought vanilla, and it was better than the big box of sandwiches from the big box store.

First you melt some chocolate.  A ridiculously small amount of chocolate, as you can see.  So small that I thought the gram measurement must be wrong, but it was the same as the ounce measurement, and the volume measurement was so small it wasn't even given.  Well, that's not going to be very chocolatey, I said to myself, because I was still a naysayer as far as these cookies were concerned.

Mix (and sift) the dry ingredients.  I'm not much of a sifter, but even I could see that the lumps of cocoa needed some help.

Also a small amount of butter and sugar.  Why am I going to all this trouble to make a few tiny cookies?  I grumbled to myself throughout most of the cookie making.  It wasn't serious grumbling, just feeling a little put upon.

Anyway, I couldn't grumble that much because it didn't take very long to mix up the butter, flour and cocoa, egg, and chocolate.  It took even less time to shape a thin rectangle and put it in the refrigerator to chill while I went to the aquarium with the grandchildren.

By the time I came back, the dough was thoroughly chilled and ready to shape into cylinders.

Then force the dough into cardboard paper towel holders to make rounder, more even cylinders.  These go in the freezer.  At this point, all you need is ice cream.  Any time you want to make a few ice cream sandwiches, you just remove a cylinder from the freezer, slice it into 12 little pieces, and bake them for a total of 8 minutes.

 It takes even less time than going to the grocery store to buy them.  I think this may have been the point where I started to become a believer.

The last question was how they'd go over with the under-four set.

JJ:  "Sooooo good!"  He added a lot of extra o's.

Lily:  Words failed her.

My dream is to have a freezer full of baked treats so that I can just pull them out at the appropriate moment.  Cream puffs.  Cookies.  Cakes.  Pastries.  Once Jim discovered that the freezer was my secret hiding place, my stash dwindled to nothing.  I think these are safe, though, because they're still in unbaked form.  And, by the way, even without ice cream, they make perfectly lovely little chocolate cookies.  I'm a naysayer no more.