Monday, January 30, 2012

Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie

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One of the many exciting things for me about this new house we've moved into is our neighbor's lime tree. I shared this picture in this post about my new home, remember?
At first, when I saw the limes just dropping into our yard, I tried my best to return the limes to my neighbors. I tried throwing them back into their yard, lining up the limes on the wall separating our houses, and even just ignoring the limes. But I found they were not very interested in the limes. The limes on the wall just dried up after a few days, and that's when I realized - I might as well put them to good use!

I had friends over for a lazy lunch one afternoon, and this was a really awesome finish to our meal. I must mention - I love pies. Any kind - fruit, custard, meat, nuts - anything but chocolate. Don't hate me. Chocolate overdose just isn't my thing - except if it is chocolate ice cream. Getting back to pies - I love them. This was my first time making a meringue pie, and I was really excited to try it. It turned out great in terms of taste.
The only thing that I was confused about were these weird golden droplets on the top of my meringue. I was really upset by it at first, till one of my guests, who has had her fair share of lemon meringues, assured me that this was a perfectly normal thing to happen to meringue pies sometimes, and that it doesn't affect the taste. Whew! And honestly, I thought it looked kinda pretty. Right?
But of course, I couldn't just let it go. I googled it. And it turns out that meringues weep for many reasons - undercooking, overbeating, letting the curd cool before slathering on the meringue, or simply because the weather is humid.

I'm going to go with the humidity. When in doubt, blame the weather.

And besides, I think this pie was weeping tears of joy.

You could make this recipe easier by using a pre-baked pie crust. I didn't. Also, if you bake the crust yourself, feel free to substitute some of the butter with some shortening if you prefer that.

Lemon-Lime Meringue Pie
Pie Crust
Ingredients
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold & cut into small pieces
1-3 tbsp ice-cold water
1 egg white (for brushing)

Method
1. If making in a food processor, add all the ingredients except the water into the processor and pulse until you achieve breadcrumb-like texture.
2. Transfer to a bowl or your counter and add a tablespoon of ice cold water and form the dough.
3. If making the crust by hand, mix the flour, salt and sugar together in a large bowl.
4. Add the pieces of butter and the shortening and mix into the flour using only your fingertips, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
5. Add the water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time until the dough just starts to come together. (I needed only 1 1/2 tbsp of water.) Do not over-work the dough.
6. Shape into a thick disc and wrap in clingfilm.
7. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out and lining your pie tin. Once the crust is in the tin, prick all over with a fork.
8. Preheat the oven to 200.
9. Line the pie crust with baking parchment or aluminum foil, fill with baking beans or uncooked rice, and bake for about 20 minutes until set.
10. Take the crust out of the oven, remove the beans and foil, and brush the inside of the crust - bottom and sides - with the egg white.
11. Bake for 10 more minutes until golden.

Lemon-Lime Curd Filling
Ingredients
1.5 cups sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tsp lime zest

Method
1. Combine lime juice, lemon juice, zest & sugar in a saucepan &  boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add butter and stir until the butter has dissolved completely.
3. Take off the stove and let the mixture come to room temperature.
4. Beat the eggs & egg yolks to the lime mixture & mix well.
5. Return to the heat. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. It should now coat the back of a spoon. At this point, you can preheat the oven to 200.
6. Strain & fill into the pie crust. Top with meringue while the mixture is still very hot. Meringue recipe is below.
7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the top of the meringue is golden.
8. Cool on a wire rack and slice when cool.

Meringue 
Ingredients
4 egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar

Method
1. Using an electric or stand mixer (or your whisking arm), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
2. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
3. Spread over the lemon-lime curd layer while the curd is still very hot.
I enjoyed the sweet-tart pie a lot. Though I am not a huge fan of meringue in a pie, this was really delicious. But then again, I am a pushover for any dish with lime in it.

I hope you try this recipe, and let me know how it goes! And I hope your meringue doesn't weep... unless you want it to! :)

P.S. - Thanks to the Gecko and the Mouse for taking the pictures of the whole pie! :)

P.P.S. - Tell me - do you have any tips for me to stop my pie from weeping? Apart from moving to less humid climate, that is.


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No-bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

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In my Christmas Pinwheel Cookies post, I promised that I would share a few recipes, and quite a few people seemed to be interested in these no-bake bars.
In December, I had the wonderful opportunity to conduct a small 2 hour workshop on desserts. It was my first time teaching cooking/baking, and I was really nervous! But by God's grace, it went very well, and the ladies who attended said they had a great time. They were a great group and had a lot of questions and were very interactive and encouraging!

I made two recipes that morning - first, my favorite carrot cupcakes with a coconut milk frosting. Somehow, after fruit cake, I tend to associate carrot cake with Christmas because of the wonderful aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon that fills the house when the cakes are baking. At the workshop, all of us had a lot of fun making and frosting the cupcakes, and then of course, eating the cupcakes. They were yummy!

Next, I thought we would do a no-bake recipe in case there were participants who didn't have ovens at home. So, after scouring the internet and looking at a LOT of recipes, I settled on this one I found on Allrecipes. It was quite a hit - I mean with chocolate and peanut butter, how bad can it be! That being said - I think nothing can beat a baked bar or cookie! I would make these only if I didn't have access to an oven. In that situation, these would be a treat!

As I mentioned in my other post, I don't have very good pictures for these posts. I was so busy with planning, packing and preparing for the workshop that I just didn't have the time to make an effort to get good pictures!
No-bake Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Ingredients
1 scant cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oatmeal
3/4 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/3 cup peanut butter
A large pinch of salt

Method

1. Grease a 9x9 inch square pan.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat.
3. Stir in the sugar, golden syrup and vanilla. Mix in the oats & cinnamon.
4. Cook over low heat 2 to 3 minutes, or until ingredients are well blended.
5. Press half of mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Reserve the other half for topping.
6. Meanwhile, melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Add in the pinch of salt and stir well to combine.
7. Pour the chocolate mixture over the crust in the pan, and spread evenly with a knife or the back of a spoon.
8. Crumble the remaining oat mixture over the chocolate layer, pressing in gently.
9. Cover, and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
10. Bring to room temperature before cutting into bars.

The only 'tip' I would have in terms of this recipe is, don't add a tightly packed cup of butter. This can make the oatmeal layers really greasy. It happened to one of the batches I made, and it is not pleasant. The next time around, I used one scant cup of cubed butter, and it turned out great.
On a different note -  thanks to all those who wrote to me welcoming me back to the blogosphere! :) My wonderful food blogger friends and community sure know how to make me feel good! :) Thanks, all!

I am so glad to be back and blogging again! I've missed it so much, and I have SO loved catching up on all my favorite blogs over these last few days. If I still haven't gotten around to visiting you and dropping you a note, I promise I will soon! Have a wonderful week! :)
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rocky Road Cupcakes

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I know I promised you some other recipes in my last recipe post, and yes, they will be coming soon, but I had to share this recipe first. I mean - just look at this beauty!
We had a few friends over for a barbecue last month, and we had such a blast! Hot dogs, burgers, BBQ chicken, grilled vegetables... there was just SO much food. It was really a lovely evening. Apart from the chicken and a few sides, I was also in charge of dessert. And I decided I would make cupcakes. I went with one of my favorite chefs - Alton Brown - for the cupcake recipe. He didn't fail to deliver. And the frosting is one I've been dying to try for a while. And I am so glad I did! Turned out to be such a fun recipe to make. And I was really pleased with how the cupcakes looked!
At the spur of the moment, I decided I would try browning the marshmallow frosting on one of the cupcakes to see how it works out. See, I didn't have a blowtorch. (I do now! Yay!!!) So I torched mine using bamboo skewers set on fire. Lol. It was a very technical process requiring a high level of skill. Not. Haha. But when people tasted how amazing the 'toasted frosting' tasted, suddenly everyone wanted their cupcakes toasted. In the end, even dessert had that smoky barbecue flavor. It was a real hit, and a lot of fun! I wish I had got pictures of the cupcakes post-toasting. I was so busy eating, I forgot!

I know these cupcakes don't look very 'rocky' but I named it because of the chocolate-marshmallow-walnut combination.

Devil's Food Cupcakes
Cake recipe adapted from Alton Brown
Ingredients
1 cup boiling water
4 oz/112 grams cocoa powder
10.5 oz/300 grams sugar
8.5 oz/240 grams all-purpose flour
1 oz/28 grams corn starch
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable oil
4.5 oz/128 grams thick buttermilk or sour cream
2 eggs + 2 yolks (at room temperature)
Toasted walnuts (for garnish)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Grease and line your cupcake tray with cupcake liners. I got 12 cupcakes from this recipe.
3. Combine the boiling water with the cocoa powder, and whisk till combined. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt. Mix well to combine.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, and yolks. Whisk well to combine.
6. Add the cocoa mixture to the oil mixture and stir well to combine.
7. With the mixer running on low speed, pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Continue on low speed for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating on low speed for a further 30 seconds.
8. Spoon the batter into the prepared cupcake tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the cupcake springs back when pressed.
9. Allow the cupcakes to rest in the tin for 5 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack to cook completely.
10. Make sure your cupcakes have completely cooled before you frosting them.
7 Minute Frosting
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp liquid glucose (or corn syrup)
3 large egg whites
Cream of tartar, a pinch
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Method
1. In a heavy bottom saucepan, on low heat, heat the 3/4 cup sugar, water and liquid glucose. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, and cook until the soft-ball stage (235 degrees on your sugar thermometer). Take care to brush down the sides of the pan so that the syrup doesn't crystallize.
3. While the sugar is boiling, starting to whisk your egg whites with the cream of tartar until they reach soft peaks.
4. When your syrup is at 235 degrees, while continuously beating your egg whites on a low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup in a steady stream until all the syrup is added and incorporated.
5. Increase the speed of the mixer to a medium speed and beat for approximately 7 minutes. The frosting should be in stiff peaks and completely cooled by now.
6. Beat in the vanilla.
7. Use this frosting immediately or it starts to set.

Once your cupcakes are frosted, top with mini-marshmallows (I used chocolate and vanilla mini-marshmallows) and toasted walnuts and set them aside. Then all you have to do before serving them is to slightly torch the frosting for that toasty marshmallow flavor. Mmmmmm... just divine!
A little late, I know, but - Happy New Year! I hope you liked my first recipe for 2012. I hope that this year is a great year for all of us and that we all get to know each other a little better! 
God bless you! :)
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