You Gonna Eat All That?

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Location: Virginia, United States

(Biscuit Girl)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Baker Challenge - Lemon Meringue Pie

Ta-Da! The unveling of the January Daring Baker's Challenge. Lemon Meringue Pie. Jen from The Canadian Baker came up with this month's challenge and I was happy to have such a sunny, cheerful dish during these cold, cold days of January.

And when I thought about it, I realized that I've never made a Lemon Meringue Pie before. Althgouth I've eaten my fair share.

I made the pie last weekend and nearly had a pie curst malfunction. Thankfully I had extra crust as I was planning to make tartlets as well. The mishap took place when I put foil on the crust before baking it. I didn't have any dried beans to put on the foil (this helps keep the crust from getting puffy and keeps it flat when you bake it) so I put a small saucepan on top of the foil. I guess it was too heavy because the crust stuck to the foil when I took it out of the oven. There was no salvaging it.

So, grumbling under my breath, I scrapped the remaining crust from the pie pan and started over. This time I didn't use anything, instead I poked holes all over the crust and checked it halfway through, pushing down any bubbles that formed. And it worked.

The lemon filling was a breeze to make and it came together just like the recipe said it would. As for taste, it was bright, sunny and delicious. Sophie was pestering me for a sample but I told her it would be too tart for her little doggie tastebuds. She didn't care so I gave her a lick. Those little jowls of hers curled up like I've never seen before, ha!

Using my kitchen aid mixer for the meringue was so easy! I chilled the beater and the bowl beforehand which I've been told helps and it did. Those egg whites just whipped right up in no time flat.

So now that I had all the parts ready it was time to assemble the pie. Th filling was still slightly warm which was a handy piece of advice I picked up from fellow daring bakers. It would help the meringue stick to the pie filling. Once it was smoothed out, I piled on the meringue. Then I used a small offset spatula to make these little fish hook like curls all over the top.

I then popped the pie into the oven to let the meringue get nice and golden brown.

Later on the that night we had some for dessert. I was surprised when I saw how much liquid was in side when we sliced it. My best guess is that it came from the meringue. But as you can see from this slice, it sorta fell apart at the center. Mind you, it still didn't stop us from diving into it.
And as for the taste? Let's just say we were hooked.Lemon Meringue Pie - Makes one 10-inch pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup cold butter; cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
cup ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup butter
¾ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar

For 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 ⅛ 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 ½ 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.

For 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.

For 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.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

French? Oui! Ugly? Oui Oui!

But they tasted great!
I guess I still need to work on my forming technique for these French Baguettes. Ya think?

The recipe was easy enough to put together and the dough felt perfect after it was kneaded. They rose fine.....then it came time to slash them so they would have that nice look French breads have. I have a lame that I've used before to slash dough before baking and it's worked well. Not in this case, the lame dragged through the dough instead of slicing through it like butter. That combined with my poorly formed loaves created the world's ugliest French Baguettes. Where the bread was sliced, it looks twisted and distorted. But like the old saying goes, You can't judge a book by it's cover. And such was the case here. The bread had just the right denseness and chew to it with a slight tang from letting the starter sit at room temperature overnight.

But fear not mon ami, I am not one to give up easily. Someday, after a little more practice. I will make pretty baguettes.

French Baguettes
For the starter:
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3/4 cup cool (room temp) water
1/8 tsp instant yeast

Combine the flour, water and yeast together and mix until well blended. Let it rise, covered in a medium to large container, at room temperature for 12-18 hours. It is ready to use once it forms a nice dome and looks airy and bubbly. It will also have a slightly sour smell to it (which is good).

For the dough:
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
the starter
3/4 cup cool water

Place the flour, yeast ans salt in the bowl of your mixer. Pour about half of the water around the edge of the starter to loosen it from it's container. Pour the starter and the water into the mixer bowl. Use the flat paddle of the mixer to slowly mix the dough until it comes together and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes. If needed, add a little flour or water to help the dough form. Stop the mixer and switch out the flat paddle with the dough hook. Knead the dough on medium speed for 4 minutes. Stop the mixer halfway through to clean off the dough hook.

Let the dough rise. You can keep it in the mixer bowl or use a lightly oiled dough rising bucket, but either way, cover it. Leave it for 2 hours, checking after the first hour to fold over the dough onto itself.

Once risen, divide the dough into three equal pieces and shape into logs. Let them rest, covered, for 20 minutes then shape them into baguettes (slightly tapered at the ends). Proof the baguettes for 30-40 minutes in a baguette pan, if you have one. If you don't, placed rolled up kitchen towels in between the loaves and on the outer edges to help them keep their shape.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Once the dough is ready to bake, slash the tops several times with a bread lame or sharp knife. Spritz the bread with water. If you aren't using baguette pan, place the loaves on a cookie sheet. Place the loaves in teh oven and reduce the heat to 475. Bake the loaves for 18-24 minutes or until they are golden brown. Cool on a baking rack.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

100,000 hits!

It may not be much to some of the big-time bloggers out there but for me it's way cool. Somone from East Setauket, NY visited the blog a few minutes ago and was my 100,000th visitor!
Not bad for my four year blogiversary.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mexican Braised Pork Shoulder

While flipping through this month's Cuisine at Home magazine, a recipe caught my eye. Mexican Braised Pork Shoulder. Ever since our cruise in November, anything Mexican has been catching our eyes lately. I read through the ingredients and sent Jim to the market this morning to get what we needed.

The only real time consuming part of the prep work was trimming up the pork shoulder. The rest of the prep was much quicker. In less than an hour, it was all wrapped in banana leaves and popped in the oven. Three hours later this is what it looked like:How did it taste? It was delicious! Not spicy at all and the seasoning was so well balanced. The salsa recipe that accompanies this recipe really added a nice flavor as well. And it was my first time using tomatillas too. Yes, the person who has eaten beef tongue tacos and jellyfish has never had tomatillas before yet alone cooked with them. But trust me, I will use them again.

Mexican Braised Pork Shoulder with Salsa Verde
as adapted from Cuisine at Home
2 tbsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. ground coriander seeds

2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 pork shoulder, trimmed (about 4-6 lbs)
1 package frozen banana leaves, thawed

1 lb. tomatillas, husks removed, halved
1 cup chopped shallots

2 poblano peppers, chopped
4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped

1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 340 degrees. Combine the cumin, coriander, salt, cinnamon, pepper and cayenne; rub all over the pork shoulder. Sear the pork in oil in a Dutch oven over high heat (about 3 minutes per side) until browned on all sides. Remove the pork, pour off the remaining oil and wipe out the Dutch oven.

Line the Dutch oven with a banana leaf leaving the ends hanging over the sides. Place a second leaf crosswise on top of it. Add the tomatillas, onions, poblanos, garlic, and jalapeno, then place the seared pork shoulder on top. Pour in the chicken stockand fold the leaves over the meat and cover the pan tightly. (The handle on the lid to my Dutch oven isn't oven proof so I used foil to cover it) Braise the pork for about 3 hours or until tender.

Remove the pork from the oven and preheat the broiler to high with the rack about 8 inches from the element. Transfer the pork to a baking sheet and broil until the surface is crispy, turning to get both sides. This will take less than 10 minutes. Let the pork stand while you make the salsa.
To serve, pull the pork from the bone and shred it. Serve with the salsa verde, flour tortillas and any other topping you choose.

Salsa Verde
Braised vegetables from the pork shoulder

3 tomatillas, husks removed, chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 cup pan juices, degreased

1 tbsp. lime juice

Strain the vegetables from the Dutch oven. Place them and the remaining ingredients into a food processor and pulse until chunky.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Dog Biscuits

A few months ago I bought some things online at the Baker's Catalogue including a pre-packaged dog biscuit mix. Sophie has been very patient with me for taking my sweet time in making them.

But with the opportunity to share them with her Tennessee cousins (KC, Walker and Frazier) since my mom could carry some back with her tomorrow I knew the time had come to make them. Sophie agreed.
For KC and Walker......some larger cookies were made.

For Frazierand Sophie, I made smaller ones.

And what did Sophie think of them?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Challah Bread

Feeling better from the disc problem in my neck, I'd been anxious to get back into the kitchen and bake. The only major obstacle I had was not being able to move my Kitchen Aid mixer from the cabinet up to the counter top as my doc won't let me lift more than 10 pounds. And that mixer is a heavy beast.

Mom is still here helping us out while I'm healing up or should I say she's trying to keep me from over doing things. I'm not a good patient and have been keeping her and Jim on their toes. But today I had Jim hoist the mixer onto the counter and they turned me loose in the kitchen......whee!

I had three recipes in mind. One was the challah bread, another was a burnt sugar pound cake using some of my newly acquired vanilla beans and the last one was some dog biscuits for Miss Sophie and her Tennessee cousins that would be safely transported home via mom.

The challah bread was so easy to put together. I was only worried about how well I'd braid the dough. But not to fear....with mom holding one end of the dough, I braided with ease.We haven't had any yet and how we've managed not to tear into it is still a mystery. But have no doubt, there will be some French toast made with it tomorrow or Monday.
Challah Bread Recipe
4 cups unbleached bread flour

2 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/3 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp. vegetable or canola oil

2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. water

2 egg whites, whisked until frothy
Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Stir together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your mixer. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, and yolks, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until all ingredients gather together and form a ball. Add more flour or water if needed.

Switch out the paddle attachment for the dough hook and knead the dough on medium speed for about 6 minutes, sprinkling in more if needed to make a supple , but not sticky dough. (it may feel slightly tacky to the touch)

Lightly oil a large bowl (I use a rising bucket with a lid that seals). Form the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Roll it around a little to coat it with the oil. Cover and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form the dough into a ball and place it back into the bowl, cover and let sit again at room temperature for another hour. It should grow to 1 and 1/2 times it size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into three equal parts. Form each into a ball, cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Roll out all three pieces into equal length strands, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered at the ends. Braid them, tucking in the ends underneath. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and transfer the bread to the pan. Brush the loaf with the egg whites then mist it with spray oil. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap.

Proof the bread at room temperature for 60-75 minutes or until the dough grows to 1 and 1/2 its original size.
Preheat the oven to 350 with the oven rack placed on the middle shelf of the oven. Brush the loaf again with the egg whites and sprinkle on the sesame or poppy seeds if you are using them.

Bake the loaf for 20 minutes then rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes. When done the bread will have a rich golden color and when probed with a thermometer will read to 190 degrees in the center. Transfer the bread to a cooling rack for at least one hour before serving.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Eve 2007 - Paella

Happy New Year everyone! We celebrated the event with a Spanish Paella last night. It was my first attempt at one and I was quite pleased with the way it turned out. Setting up everything before I began cooking took some time, about 20 minutes. In all it took just over an hour to prepare from the prep work until the paella was done.
I was again inspired by the saffron I received with my package of vanilla beans. I looked through my cookbooks and searched online and finally found this recipe which I have modified a bit. I don't have a paella pan so I used a large sautee pan instead and it seemed to work out just fine.

We thought we'd have a lot left over but between me, Jim and my mom (who's visiting from TN), we ate half of it! We kept getting little spoonfuls of it and finally had to stop ourselves. It was very moist without being wet and soggy (does that make sense?). The chorizo was incredibly delicious. We bought it at Cheesetique in Alexandria. It was a hard spicy chorizo called Salametto Piccante from Framani. I'd highly recommend it if you like hard chorizos.
Here's the recipe:

Spanish Paella

3 cups Arborio rice
8 cups chicken stock
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium shallot, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
1/2 (4 oz) can tomato paste
15 large shrimp
2-3 lbs chicken
4 links chorizo sausages, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 pinch saffron
3 lemons, quartered (Limes can be substituted)

For the chicken, if using a whole chicken, cut the legs off then dice the rest of the meat into chunks. Set aside. Peel the shrimp, leaving only the tail and then salt them.

Pour the chicken stock into a pot. Heat it up to a low simmer. You will be using it later and will need it to be hot.

Coat the bottom of the paella pan with olive oil (I actually used grapeseed oil). Brown the chorizo over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Do not fully cook, just get the outside well browned. Set aside.

Brown the chicken for 2-3 minutes. It should not be fully cooked. Set aside.

Brown garlic, onion and shallot until they're softened, adding the sun-dried tomatoes shortly before the mixture is finished. Push the vegetables to one side of the pan and on the other side add the tomato paste. Caramelize it, flipping it and spreading it until it begins to loosen (1-2 min over high heat). Mix all of the vegetables and meats together with the caramelized tomato paste also adding the paprika, parsley and thyme.

Add rice, mixing together and stirring as the rice browns (1-1½) minutes. As the rice browns mix in the saffron. Make sure to break it between your fingers and stir it in to release the oils. When the rice is slightly translucent add enough chicken stock to cover the whole mixture. If it's been kept warm, it will begin to boil almost immediately. Lower to a medium heat but keep it at a steady boil.

These next steps are crucial to the paella making process. Stir the paella a few times in the first 5-10 minutes, adding broth as necessary to keep the rice fully covered. After this you must let the paella sit, do not touch it! Let it cook another 20 minutes, adding broth bit by bit to keep the rice covered until the rice on the top is al dente. Don't worry about rice burning to the bottom, this part is considered by some to be the best part.

Once you have about 8 minutes left to cook, stir the paella for the last time. Lay the shrimp on top, turning over after 2-4 minutes to cook the other side.

When the 20 minutes are up (the rice on top will still be quite al dente), take paella off of the heat and cover. You must let it sit for 15-20 minutes without touching it. If you lift the lid early, the rice will not finish cooking properly and will be crunchy.

Once you're sure it's ready uncover it and garnish with lemon wedges and serve.