Pie for Amy

August 28, 2009

silkylemonpie

Tomorrow is a big day for Amy Snider, my friend, colleague and occasional guest blogger on this board.

I love that she and her fiancé Tim have planned a wedding that reflects who they are and what they like do. The wedding is to be outdoors on Amy’s parent’s sheep farm and instead of formality and dancing, there will be Bermuda shorts, lawn bowling and croquet. On the menu is one of her Dad’s lambs and for dessert they’ll have lots and lots of pies. That’s right, despite intense peer pressure from people like me, they’re foregoing cake to have their favourite dessert instead. I like them all the better for it!

So, in honour of this celebration, I offer you a recipe for one of my favourite pies. I hope you’ll make it tomorrow and toast Amy and Tim’s happiness when you take your first bite:

Silky Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust:
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 pkg (250 g) softened brick-style cream cheese
2 tbsp (30 mL) icing sugar
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour

Filling:
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
3/4 cup (175 mL) lemon juice
pinch salt
6 egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) sour cream

Meringue:
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix on low. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined and crumbly. Shape into a ball and knead two or three times or until smooth. Roll thinly and fit 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Poke all over with a fork. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

Filling: Melt the butter in a saucepan set over medium heat. Remove from the stove and whisk the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, until thick and mounding on the spoon. Cover and bring to room temperature with waxed paper touching the surface of the filling. Gently stir in sour cream and scrape into prepared pastry.

Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375F (190C0. Place egg whites in a clean, dry bowl and beat until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating. Add sugar, a spoonful at a time, until eggs are full and glossy. Spoon over top of filling and spread to the edge of the crust. Place in oven. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until golden. Makes 8 servings.

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Let’s celebrate!

July 6, 2009

TracyCupcakeTomorrow is my birthday and for my present, I’d like to hear about your favourite birthday food treat. Do you love chocolate cake or prefer a perfect peach pie? Or, would you rather skip desserts and toast your day with an excellent bottle of champagne or an aged Bordeaux?

As a summer birthday girl, I’ve celebrated many years with light, fluffy cakes filled with whipped cream and berries. Although there are usually still local strawberries around on July 7th, my very fave is a classic Black Forest Cake. I even have a dream to someday sample one just like Heston Blumenthal featured on his BBC television show.

Cupcakes are another favourite of mine and selecting those little yummies for my birthday treat has a benefit for those around me. You see, I find that  eating one cupcake seems to lead to eating another. So, if I have a dozen on hand, my mouth will be full all day. And, since a full mouth is a quiet mouth that can’t complain about wrinkles, spare tires and other disappointments that come with advancing age,  me gorging on cupcakes makes everyone happy!

Now it’s your turn. Tell me what food you enjoy on your birthday.

BTW, photo credit once again goes to the lovely and talented Tracy Cox.


Andrew MacIssac’s Flourless Chocolate Torte

March 7, 2009

Here’s the recipe I talked about last Saturday in my Daring Baker’s post. It was a signature dessert at Pronto Ristorante in Toronto in the late 80’s and early nineties. Although it’s presented here with a mocha whipped cream, Andrew used to frost the top with whipped white chocolate ganache on occasion and that was heavenly, too. Hope you love it as much as I do!

(Sorry I don’t have a picture for you today. I was away for several days this week and didn’t have time to make a cake and take a snap.)

Flourless Chocolate Torte
With Mocha Whipped Cream

Ingredients: for 1 eight inch torte

1 pound of bitter-sweet chocolate
8 whole eggs
1/4 pound sweet butter
1/3 cup sugar

Method:

1. Butter a deep 8 inch cake pan and then line the bottom with silicon paper.
2. Over a bain-marie, in a large stainless steel bowl, melt the chocolate with the butter stirring with a spatula every minute. When all the chocolate is nearly melted, remove from heat and set aside.
3. Whip the eggs and sugar together until it triples in volume.
4. When the chocolate is still warm, add half the whipped eggs and incorporate smoothly. Add the remaining whipped eggs into the chocolate mixture and mix gently along the sides until homogenous. Pour the mixture into the cake pan starting from front to back. Be careful not to shock the mixture or you will loose the volume that is so desirable.
5. With a spatula, gently smooth out the top. Bake in a 125°C convection oven starting from a cold oven for 60 minutes. Be careful when closing the door to the oven!
6. Test the torte by examining the surface for resiliency when tapped and felt. The torte should appear firm when done. Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge of the pan. When cool to the touch, heat the bottom of the pan briefly and turn-out onto flat round surface dusted with cocoa. Repeat and flip the torte over a second time.
7. With a knife heated under hot running water, divide the torte into 10 even pieces.

Mocha whipped cream

Ingredients:

1 double expresso
1/2 liter 35% cream
1/3 cup sugar

Method;
Combine all the ingredients and whip until set.


How to decorate a cupcake

March 5, 2009

cupcakes

While I certainly agree that any mish-mash of frosting and cake can have tasty merits, there’s no doubt that presentation is a big part of what makes cupcakes so popular.

If your cupcakes struggle with ugly duckling syndrome you may need an intervention since, unlike the fabled “duckling” that grew into an elegant swan, ugly cupcakes won’t transform into graceful three-tiered wedding cakes. They’ll just get stale and need to be thrown out.

The good news is that the path to pretty cupcakes is easily navigated! Recently I stumbled across this article that outlines cupcake decorating basics very well. And for those of you looking for advanced inspiration that will take your cupcakes from fair to fabulous, I can recommend Hello Cupcake! — a terrifically imaginative book that features dozens of clever ideas for cupcake makeovers.

Do you have any cupcake decorating tips you’d like to share?


A heart of darkness

February 28, 2009

db-feb1
When I saw the February Daring Baker’s challenge was to make a Chocolate Valentino cake using a recipe by Chef Wan, I was stoked since my mother’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day! What perfect luck to have a heart shaped cake as our challenge when I needed to bake something special on that day anyhow!

I used Amadei’s Tuscano 66% cocoa chocolate to make my cake and I paired it with a simple but super rich caramel sauce (see recipe below). Since one of the reasons this recipe was chosen as a DB challenge was that it used just three simple ingredients, I thought making a sauce using just three ingredients (water, sugar and cream) was the perfect accompaniment. And besides, chocolate and caramel are a match made in heaven, right?

Now, I don’t like to be a naysayer (actually, that’s not true, I do sort of like to whine and complain, just not right this second), but I have to say that I didn’t like this recipe and I won’t make it again. I made flourless chocolate cake literally hundreds of times as an apprentice to the now late (and much missed) pastry chef Andrew MacIssac. His recipe calls for 8 eggs and some sugar that is used to make a sabayon with egg yolks before they are added to the melted chocolate. The result is a cake that is simultaneously fudgier and lighter than the cake recipe we used for this month’s challenge. (If you’d like Andrew’s recipe, drop me a line and I’ll dig it out of my back up drive and send it to you).

That said, although I didn’t fall in love with this Valentine’s Day cake, I do want to thank the hosts for doing a great job! The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.

Dana’s Easy Caramel Sauce

11/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
3/4 cup (175 mL) 35% whipping cream

Combine the sugar and water in a heavy saucepan set over high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil sugar, brushing down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped into water to dissolve any crystals that start to form, until the mixture is the colour of amber. Remove from heat.

Shield your hands with oven mitts or clean dish towels and whisk in the cream until the mixture quits boiling. Makes about 11/2 cups (375 mL) caramel sauce.

Tip: Add a gourmet touch by sprinkling large flake sea salt over the sauce once it has been poured over the cake.


Justifying cake for breakfast

September 24, 2008

Last night O and I watched Monday’s Heroes season 3 debut on our PVR and all I could think about during the episode was sweets – the craving still hasn’t subsided. In fact, all I wanted for breakfast this morning was cake. And not just a small piece but a big honking wedge.

Call them muffins, tea loaves or quick breads, cake for breakfast isn’t really all that unusual. In fact, I think that Bill Cosby was completely correct when he pointed out that chocolate cake contains eggs, milk and flour – the very same ingredients in many other balanced breakfast favourites.

And, depending on your sleep habits, having cake for breakfast could be considered just a very, very late dessert.

Excluding muffins and other permissible breakfast cakes, have you ever tucked into a wedge of black forest cake or a square of cream cheese frosted carrot cake for breakfast?

I’ll admit that in my 42 years I‘ve raised a cake-laden fork to my lips on more than a few morning occasions. I don’t indulge in early day cake often, but when I do, it’s always a good day.


The bastard offspring of gourmet cupcakes and frosting shots

September 11, 2008

Image by Evans Caglage, published in the Dallas Morning News

Do you ever wonder what bakers do with the damaged cupcakes and the leftover frosting in the bottom of the bowl? If you thought they threw scraps away, guess again. They turn them into profits.

Don’t believe me? Check out this story about cake balls. Apparently cake balls are big as wedding favours and at Neiman Marcus.

I totally understand craving a one or two bite indulgence but may I suggest a a fresh and fabulous mini cupcake instead?