July 15, 2013

Lemon Meringue with Shortbread Crust

This is by far the best lemon meringue pie I've ever made or tasted for that matter. I found the original recipe here but substituted my own crust and made a few minor tweaks with the rest of the ingredients. I think the secret to this one is the use of Caster sugar (see below). The recipe below yields one large pie, however I've doubled the recipe each time I've made it because who can eat only one pie.

1. In terms of consistency, Caster Sugar is somewhere between granulated and confection sugar. You can make your own by adding granulated sugar to a food processor and pulsing, however I found C&H sells it at any local grocery store, not even a specialized one. And, a large box like the one pictured below (which would make about 4 pies) is under $5.

2. Be careful when heating the curd mixture. It becomes thick very quickly around the 14 min mark.
3. It is impossible to over-beat the meringue so feel free to keep it going for upwards of 5 minutes to ensure that it doesn't lost it's firmness once you start the blow torch.
4. Feel free to make the crust and fill it with the curd then refrigerate up to a day before, however don't make the meringue until at most a few hours before serving, then refrigerate until serving.

Shortbread Crust
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour

Lemon Curd
6 Egg Yolks
1 1/2 Cups Caster Sugar
9 Tbs Lemon Juice
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/3 cup butter

6 Egg Whites
1 1/3 Cups Caster Sugar

Shortbread Crust
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Blend cream cheese and butter.

3. Stir in flour just until blended.

4. Chill about 1 hour.

5. Spread into tart pan and bake for 12-15 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

6. Let cool completely before removing from tart pan.

Lemon Curd
1. On low heat, add sugar and egg yolks to a saucepan and continuously whisk.

2. Once warm, very slowly add the lemon juice, whisking continuously.

3. Leave on low heat for 15 minutes until thick, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the butter and rind and mix until combined.
5. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

1. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer on high.
2. Slowly add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Beat the mixture until you get stiff peaks.

1. Place the lemon curd into the pastry shell.

2. Dollop the meringue on top of the curd using a fork to either swirl the mixture or to create tall peaks.

3. Using a butane torch on the highest setting, use a circular motion to brown the meringue.


June 20, 2013

Crostini Trio

"Crostini" in Italian literally means "little crusts" or "little toasts." The idea for these three crostini recipes comes from this website. I made slight variations to one, using orange marmalade instead of fig jam and Romano instead of Pecorino cheese. These are great appetizers and are very easy to make. I really like the idea of making all three as the tastes are so varied and unique, yet they really compliment each other. And the best part, you can make as many as you want! I usually do at least 36 at a time. Enjoy!

Baguette, cut into 1/2" pieces
Olive Oil
Cherry Jam
Orange Marmalade
Fuji Apple Slices
Blue Cheese Crumbles
Pecan Pieces

1. Place baguette pieces on cookie sheet.
2. Drizzle with olive oil.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
4. Place blue cheese crumbles and pecans on 1/3 of the pieces, then place back in the oven to broil for an additional minute.
5. Before serving, drizzle honey on those pieces.

6. On another 1/3 of the pieces, add cherry jam, brie and a piece of arugula.

7. On the last 1/3 of the pieces, add marmalade, apple slices and romano.

8. Serve immediately.

May 1, 2013

Atlantic Beach Pie

Crunchy, buttery, smooth, sweet, salty, citrusy. I have no idea how else to explain this amazing pie. While visiting my friends Jason and Kelly Wescott in Seattle recently, Jason made this dessert that he had heard about on NPR called Atlantic Beach Pie which comes from Bill Smith's Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It starts with a saltine cracker crust topped with a sweetened condensed milk, egg yolk and lemon juice mixture and then crowned with slightly sweetened whipped cream and sprinkled coarse sea salt. I promised myself I would make it when I returned home and I have now done so, twice. Somehow all these combinations of textures and tastes makes this a dessert you will crave, again and again. The recipe below yields one pie, about 6-8 servings.

1. You may think that you've made too much crust. Abandon the thought. You'll want all that crunchy saltiness at the end. Just pack it in.
2. The dessert can rest in the refrigerator overnight and it tastes delicious the next day. I wouldn't keep it longer than that.

1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 Tbs sugar

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a combination of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust with a food processor or your hands.

3. Add the sugar.

4. Knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough.
5. Press into an 8 inch pie pan.

6. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
7. While the crust is cooling, beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice until completely combined.

8. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set.

9. Cool out of the oven for 15 minutes then place in refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

10. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

March 2, 2013


The legendary Sachertorte was invented in the 19th century by the Viennese chef Franz Sacher. The cake became famous when his son opened the luxury Hotel Sacher and this cake was served. A sachertorte is a dark, dense cake which does not use leavening, relying instead on finely ground almonds and whipped egg whites for its lightness. The cake is traditionally glazed with both an apricot jam glaze and a smooth chocolate glaze that gives it it's characteristic shine. I grew up eating European treats and cakes and I vaguely remember eating this, perhaps when we visited Austria when I was in 5th grade. This recipe is adapted from the Williams-Sonoma "Essentials of Baking" Book that I got for Christmas. It has become one of my favorites. The recipe below yields one large cake, serving approximately 12. Enjoy!

1. The cake tastes even better the following day as the flavors set, so I always make this a day ahead and let it sit overnight.
2. I learned a wonderful cutting technique which uses toothpicks and a ruler. Simply use the toothpicks to mark halfway up the cake all around and let those be your guide when cutting.
3. When spreading the chocolate glaze, keep the cake on the rack and move everything around in a circular motion. This will help the glaze to coat the sides evenly while retaining a shiny top.

6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Apricot Glaze
1 cup apricot jam
2 Tbs water

Chocolate Glaze
12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter
2 Tbs corn syrup

1. Preheat oven to 325F.
2. Butter an 8 inch springform pan, then line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit.

3. Place the chocolate in the top of a double broiler over barely simmering water.
4. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts.

5. Remove and set aside to cool slightly.
6. Stir together the flour and salt into a bowl, then stir in the ground almonds. Set aside.
7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar.
8. Using the whip attachment, beat on medium speed until the cream of tartar dissolves and the whites begin to thicken.
9. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form.
10. Slowly add 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form.

11. Transfer beaten eggs to a clean bowl.
12. In bowl of clean stand mixer, combine the butter and 1/2 cup sugar.

13. Using a wire whisk, beat vigorously until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
14. Whisk in the egg yolks, 2 at a time, beating well after each addition.

15. Whisk in the chocolate until blended, then whisk in the vanilla.

16. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the batter.
17. Fold in one half of the egg white mixture, then the remaining egg white mixture.

18. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about an hour.

19. Immediately run a small, thin knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake., then let the cake cool  in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
20. Release pan sides then carefully remove the pan bottom and parchment.
21. Return the cake to the rack and cool completely.

Apricot Glaze
1. In small saucepan over medium heat, combine jam and water and heat until jam melts.
2. Remove from heat and press though a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl, then set aside.

Chocolate Glaze
1. Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup in the top of a double broiler placed over barely simmering water.
2. Heat until the chocolate and butter melt, stirring often.
3. Remove from the heat and pour the glaze through a fine mesh sieve.
4. Cool to 92F before using.

1. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form 2 layers.

2. Using a pastry brush, coat one layer with the apricot glaze.
3. Place the remaining cake layer on top and brush the top and sides of the cake with the remaining apricot glaze.

4. Cover the cake with the chocolate glaze.

5. Serve at room temperature.