British Pie Week: The Celebration Continues with Lemon Meringue

I know, I know – British Pie week should result in pastry concoctions housing mushrooms, leeks, chicken and other assorted savory goodies.  The way I figure it, if I’m going to eat calorie-laden crusts, I’m not going to bother trying to disguise it as something healthy by adding vegetables and meat.

And with that, I give you: Lemon Meringue!

Pie Crust: use the one from the Cherry Pie recipe.

Roll it out into a circle and plop it into your pie plate.  Make sure the circle is about 2 inches larger than your pie plate so you have lots of crust to flute.

Chill your crust in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Line your pie plate with foil and fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake your crust for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil and contents.  Pop back into the oven for 10-15 minutes and cook until it’s golden.

Filling

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (this really adds some nice zing!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  Add this mixture to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.  Return to the heat and cook over medium heat.  Keep whisking!  The mixture will start to boil and become very thick.  Don’t stop whisking!  Turn off the heat and take about 1 cup of this hot mixture and add it to the beaten egg yolks.  Whisk that until it’s smooth.  Keeping the whisking motif going, add the egg mixture back to the pot and whisk it all together rather vigorously.  Turn the heat back on and bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Then, remove from the heat and stir in the butter.  Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.  Voila!  Lemon filling, yum!

Pour that into the baked crust and move onto the meringue.

Meringue

Meringue can be tricky.  You can overwhip it.  You can add too much sugar too fast and end up with white goop.  Worst of all, the site of a pie crust filled with lemon filling makes it sad and it weeps (not really but I’m trying to avoid a boring paragraph about humidity, sugar and egg whites).  Weeping meringue is yucky.  It makes your pie crust all soft and in my opinion, it just ruins the pie.  To that end, I’ve read a lot about preventing meringue from weeping.

Some advocate that meringue must be applied to a hot filling and popped into the oven as soon as possible.  Others state this step isn’t necessary.  I’ve tried both and had failures and success with both.  Interestingly, I never used to worry about this and I never had a weepy pie.  Then one day something changed and as a result, I’ve adopted the process of adding a cornstarch mixture to my pie meringue.  Oh, and don’t try to use egg whites from a carton.  Trust me on this.  They just don’t whip up the same as a white from a whole egg. I converted this recipe from one that made enough for 2 pies and was all in metric so you’ll have to pull out your scale to weigh the sugar.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 108 ml water
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (approx 5)
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Immediately upon boiling, turn down the heat and add the cornstarch.  Whisk like crazy.  Cook for about one minute, until the mixture is translucent.  Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Whip the egg whites until they’ve tripled in volume.  Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Continue whipping and add the vanilla.  Add the cornstarch mixture, a wee bit at a time and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Put it all together

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Spread the meringue topping over the lemon filling.  Make sure the meringue contacts the entire crust, so as to seal it.  Feel free to make swirls and peaks and whatever you want (use a piping bag or get creative with spoon or fork; they all work).

Pop the pie into the oven and bake for approx 10-20 mins or until the meringue is browned. Note: if your peaks are thin, they may burn before the rest of the meringue browns.

Cool on a rack before serving.

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British Pie Week! To celebrate: Cherry Pie!

I recently discovered it’s British Pie Week. Seriously. Check it out.  The website leads me to believe that it’s a celebration based on pre-made pie dough and fabricated by a company in order to sell more product but hey, who am I to criticize a nation celebrating pie?

I’m fairly certain that British Pie Week is meant to celebrate things like Steak and Kidney Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Fish Pie.  While I won’t deny my Welsh roots, I will deny wanting to eat Fish Pie.  Ewww.  Instead, I give you Cherry Pie.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this pie.  The funny thing is, I hate cherry pie.  Really.  It’s sour.  And cherry flavoured.  My husband on the other hand – he loves cherry pie.  His idea of a perfect birthday cake is my home made cherry pie.  Since I’m no connoisseur but he certainly is, I have it on his opinion that this recipe makes the best.pie.ever.

Go forth – make pie!  Celebrate British Pie Week.  I think we should follow it with Canadian Exercise Week to work off the calories 😉

Crust

I use a food processor.  I’ve had plenty of experience making pie crust by hand.  It’s a very romantic notion.  Practical? Not so much.  I hate how it gets under my finger nails, so I opt for the processor.

Recipe makes enough for a total of 5 single crusts (2 double crust pies and one single, 1 double crust pie and 3 singles – you get the idea).

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks – very cold!
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening – very cold!
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar & salt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse to mix.

Add butter and pulse 2-3 times.  Add shortening (it warms up faster than the butter, hence I add it after I’ve pulsed the butter a few times but you could add it at the same time) and pulse just until the fat is dispersed throughout the flour.  The pieces of fat resemble small peas.  If you’re not sure, it’s better to stop when the pieces are bigger rather than smaller.

Mix the egg into a bowl; add the lemon juice and the water.  I find this works best in a pyrex measuring cup.  Make sure these ingredients are cold in order to maintain the consistency of the butter and shortening.

Remove the lid of your food processor (make sure it’s turned off!).  Pour the water/lemon juice/egg mixture over the flour mixture.  Replace the cover and pulse just enough times that you’ve made a rough mass of dough.

Unplug your food processor; remove the lid and dump onto a lightly floured counter top.

Shape the mass into a log and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour (can be left for up to 3 days; can be tightly wrapped and sealed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 3 months).  I shape the dough into a log because then I can score 5 equal sections to make my pie crusts.  For this pie, you’ll need 2 crusts: a top and a bottom.

I like to make the pie crust a day in advance.  Once your pie crust is firm and you’ve got a section, roll out your dough to fit a 9 inch pie pan.  Stick it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Pie Filling

Whoa.  This is going to take all of 5 minutes to make.  Better get that oven preheated.  Crank it up to 425 F.

  • 5-6 cups of sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen – note that if you use frozen, you must defrost and allow enough time for most of the juices to be extracted or you’ll end up with a soggy mess)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • milk for glazing

In a large bowl, toss the cherries, cornstarch, flour, sugar and lemon juice together.  That’s it.

Put it all together

Pour the filling into the previously prepared pie crust.  Stick it in the fridge.  Roll out another pie crust (the top).  You can get fancy and cut it into lattice or whatever you want.  Remove the pie from the fridge.  Dip a pastry brush (or your finger) in the milk and run it around the edge of the bottom pie crust, where the top will sit.  You want to seal the seams.  Place the top crust on the pie.  Pinch the edges to seal the crust.  Trim the edges and flute or whatever you want.  Prick a few slits in the top with a sharp knife.  Using that pastry brush and the milk, glaze the top of the pie.  Sprinkle with fancy coarse sugar if you have any or just leave as is.

Bake the pie for 20 mins then reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake until juices begin to bubble, about 35-45 mins.  I like to keep a cookie sheet handy and slip it onto the rack  below the pie if the pie starts to bubble over.  Keep in mind that a cookie sheet will increase your cooking time as it absorbs some of the heat and blocks it from the pie.

Remove pie from the oven and allow to cool before eating otherwise those cherries are going to burn your mouth.  Badly.

Serves 6-8.  Or 2-4 if you’re my husband.  What can I say?  He likes his pie.

Smoothie Recipe: Don’t try this at home.

I’ve been experimenting with smoothies recipes lately.  The key word there is “experimenting”.

Today I thought I would try to re-create the flavor of my Blueberry Banana Blaster muffins. How hard could it be? Blueberries, bananas, and bran were the easy part.  I opted to use orange juice for liquid.  I had All Bran Buds so I used them.

The result? It was really thick. The first few mouthfuls were intriguing enough that I thought I liked it.  It was mildly flavoured with just a little sweetness.  I proceeded to drink half of it and then it hit me:  Ew.  Not good!  I tidied up my mess and when I went to dispose of the remains down the drain, the leftovers plopped into the sink in a congealed mass that had the imprint of the cup in it (like really thick yogurt).  My guess is that the bran swelled which caused the consistency to change.  The thought of that made my gut swell, I swear!  Here’s the recipe below, just so you know what not to make!
1/4 cup all bran buds
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup orange juice
1 banana

Looks pretty good eh?  Yeah, just remember: looks can be deceiving!

Recipe: Post-Run Smoothie (Robcoat)

I was cold this morning when I returned from my run.  I was also hungry and sweaty.  I felt an urgent need to eat/shower/get warm simultaneously.  My solution?  Make a smoothie and drink most of it on my way up to the shower.  This one hit the spot  so I thought I would share.

Robcoat smoothie

(get it? Rasberries, Orange juice, Banana, Cranberry, OATmeal.  Lame, I know.  But trust me, you’ll remember it!)

1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 banana
1/4 cup oatmeal (uncooked!)

I tossed it all into the container that came with my Braun hand mixer, gave it a few pulses and voila: breakfast in a jiffy.

For all the nutrient-oriented readers out there, here’s the scoop on this:

Total Calories: 307

  • Fat = 3 g
  • Protein= 8 g
  • Carbohydrates = 63 g
  • Fibre = 9 g
  • Sugar = 3 g
  • Calcium = 55 mg
  • Iron = 3 mg
  • Sodium = 6 mg

Nutrient analysis performed using AccuChef Software

Brie, again.

I found these fantastic little dishes called “Brie Bakers” at a recent sale.  It’s basically a ceramic dish with a lid, that you bake brie in. I thought they were so brilliant that I scooped up a few of them to give as gifts.  Since that time, I’ve seen ads for them everywhere.

I love brie.  I rarely have it.  Having said that, I’ve served it twice in the past 3 weeks.  The first was the Brie with Caramelized Apples.  The second was a recipe that came with this handy little Brie Baker.  It called for slivered almonds, dried cranberries and a splash of maple syrup.  Pop it into the oven (the directions state “hot oven”; I set the temp for 275 F) and voila – 15 mins later you’ve got another delicious (artery-clogging, cholesterol-raising) appetizer.

If you’re interested in picking up one of these marvels, check out the following retail links:

Kitchen Stuff Plus
Cayne’s
Golda’s Kitchen
Amazon.com

Holiday entertaining idea: Brie with caramelized apples

With all of the holiday entertaining publications that have recently been distributed, I’ve received several ideas for serving brie.  Since I quite like brie, I’ve decided we should try a few out.  Tonight’s experiment: Brie with caramelized apples, brown sugar and pecans.  It was absolutely delicious!  Excuse the poor picture quality.

 

Bried with Caramlized Apples, Brown Sugar and Pecans

Okay, so what do you do to make this?

Freeze your brie for at least an hour.  We used a small round.  If you use a larger one, you may need to freeze it for longer.

While it’s in the freezer, peel and slice up an apple (small brie) or two (large brie).  Note: use apples that will stand up to cooking ie. Gala.  Don’t use an apple that turns to mush and is more suitable to making apple sauce.

Put apples into a frying pan with 1 tbspn butter (small brie) or two (large brie, 2 apples) and cook until apples turn brown.  I used medium to medium-low heat for this.

After the brie has been frozen, remove it from the freezer and cut the top off it.  I used a cheese slicer for this so that I wouldn’t remove too much of the cheese and could focus on removing the rind.  Arrange the apple slices on top of the brie.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.  The recipe that I based this off of called for 3 tablespoons of brown sugar.  I used just less than 1 tablespoon so adjust to your taste.  Sprinkle with nuts of your choice.  I crushed a few pecans.  Zap in the microwave anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes.  Watch your cheese.  Ours started to get gooey and melt at the 1:45 mark.

Remove from the microwave and serve with bread slices or crackers.  We used both and found both to be equally enjoyable.

The brie was initially nice and runny and easily scoopable with the crackers.  I would suggest having a spreader or two on hand though as those were also helpful.

Why do I run?  Because I like brie. 😉

Chicken for dinner? Again? Hooray!

We eat a fair amount of chicken in our house. We mainly eat skinless boneless chicken breasts and it feels like I am forever searching out new ways to cook them that will appeal to all of us. Most times I announce we’re having chicken and get some not too subtle grumbles.

I stumbled upon a recipe and altered it a wee bit and voila: we all LOVE it. Now “What’s for dinner?”, “Chicken!” is met with “Good!” instead of “Can I have something else?”. Here’s hoping you like this too.

Ingredients:
olive oil
lemon juice
ginger, grated
garlic, really finely minced
oregano (optional)

Mix equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice together. I start with 1/4 cup of each and then add a little more lemon juice. If I have a lot of chicken breasts to marinate, I up the quantity to 1/2 cup of each and then add another 1/4 cup of lemon juice. As you can probably tell, this is pretty scientific.

I add anywhere from 1 teaspoon each of the ginger and garlic and see how that looks. If I’ve got 6 chicken breasts then I’m probably using the following:
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup lemon juice
3 teaspoons each of garlic and ginger

Add the chicken breasts to the marinade. Mix them around to make sure they’re coated. Then I go and prep my veggies and whatever else I’m making for dinner. About half way through the rest of the meal prep, I add a liberal amount of oregano to the mixture. Again, I move the chicken around to make sure everything is nice and covered in ginger, garlic and oregano. I have found that the chicken can sit for as little as 10 minutes and the marinade imparts flavour. I think the most I’ve left them is 20-30 minutes.

Fire up your BBQ and you are set to go. I like to cook these over indirect heat (fire up both burners to get the grill nice and hot then, turn off the side you’re going to cook on and drop the heat on the other side to medium) and they are the tastiest, juiciest chicken breasts I’ve ever had.

Be sure to make extra so you can use the meat on sandwiches and salads!

PS – Great gardening season so far. I’ve harvested a huge bunch of kale (with more just waiting for me) and we’ve already eaten a nice sized head of romaine. If this summer holds, we’ll have a fabulous bounty.

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