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Key Lime Pie

There’s a lot of complete BS trying to pass itself off as key lime pie out there. Here’s how my family always did it, although to be fair, the eggs used to be raw.

You will need:
A Graham cracker crust, or a decent pastry crust
15 key limes
four eggs
14 oz. condensed milk
⅓ c. dark brown sugar + ½ c. for meringue
¼ ts. cream of tartar

For suggested tools, a spice grinder (not as in mortar and pestle, but the one that looks like a tiny version of a cheese grater) is excellent for grating the key limes. Also, glasses are usually enough for eye protection, but a cheap pair of goggles from Home Depot may help those that don’t wear any.

If using a pastry crust, cook it for about seven minutes at 350° F between two pie pans (for the sake of maintaining its shape).

Separate eggs. If you aren’t used to meringues, try not to get any egg yolk into the white, as it will make it very difficult to beat to stiffness.

Grate the rind of about five key limes into the egg yolk, then begin to juice them into the yolk. You may want eye protection, as while key limes are sweet, they are still very acidic. I usually slice them down the middle and squeeze each half from each side, like into a cocktail; but I’m sure there are many ways of doing it. Afterwards, empty the can of condensed milk and the brown sugar in, and beat on high until homogeneous.

Clean the beaters with running tap water before making the meringue. Add the brown sugar to the egg whites, along with the meringue, and beat on high until stiff peaks form that do not collapse when the beaters are removed. This may take five minutes or more, depending on your beaters.

Pour the lime custard into the pan, and bake it at 350° for about five to seven minutes. Remove from oven, and add the meringue, being careful to seal the custard into the crust with it. I usually make it a point to coat the pie first, then get aesthetic, as the meringue is technically acting as the second crust. Return the pie to the oven for about seven minutes, until the top of the meringue is little crisp and very lightly browned. Remove, and allow to cool. Best served chilled.

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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Recipes

 

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Blackberry Noir

Blackberry Noir

Playful desert combining elements of blackberry, honey, anise, and dark sugar on a Cajun style pastry dough

The other day, I made a mistake, a bad thing, that led to an idea, which ended up being a good thing. There is no innovation without adventure, and what better way to adventure in a kitchen than by messing around with the established ingredients? It began as a recipe for cherry turnovers, which unfortunately bled through the otherwise well-fluted seam and smoked up my kitchen; but the resulting flavor had a sharp and original kind of sweetness to it. I combined it with notes from an older original from years ago, using blackberries instead, and came up with this wonder. It has an accent to its taste not different from a sweeter form of licorice root, and is surprisingly filling without any foul notes of bleached white sugar in it. I’m hoping to return to this after consulting with my sister, to create a gluten-free version (it seems to be prime for it). Serves four to eight, depending on how much of an appetite your guests have saved.

Pastry Cups

Note the pricks along the bottom. If air or grease evaporates and expands beneath the pastry while it cooks, it can contort it. The ventillation prevents that.

Simple Pastry Dough:

  • 2c all-purpose flour
  • ¼ t sea salt
  • ½ c cold unsalted butter
  • ½ c cold whole milk

This pastry dough is derived from one of my favorite pastry recipes, but as any experienced baker knows, there’s more to a good pastry than simply its recipe. If you have a feel for pastry making, feel free to experiment; I intend to return to this after some meditation on it. It’s hard to find anything that this Cajun dough is not good with, but I feel that maybe I can improve on it, even further, in the future. I’ll put up a detailed explanation at some point, but for now, there is a wonderful video tutorial at the link if you are curious. Simply combine flour and salt; pastry-cut in butter until granular and homogeneously distributed, shaped kind of like small marbles. Gradually add milk and fold mixture until combined. Wrap into ball, cover in plastic wrap, refrigerate for at least one hour.

Grease four 10 oz. custard cups (or if unavailable, muffin tins). Heck, even cupcake tins will do if you’re willing to work with much smaller quantities of material per pastry, but it might be a little difficult to separate afterward. (Custard cups are cheap.) I recommend using a little bacon grease or coconut oil, though butter and lard are acceptable in a pinch. Failing that, canola or vegetable oil will also work, but I don’t recommend olive in this instance.

Cut dough into quarters, roll out into four square sheets with a rolling pin and pastry board, and place dough in custard cups. Fold ends of dough over the side, push the center against the bottom (did you remember to grease the cup??). Ventilate the bottom of the pastry with a fork, to prevent deformation in the oven.

Berry Mixture

Combine everything before stirring it together, spices last. Grind the anise stars until you only have coarse chunks of petals left, no need to overdo it. The flavor will seep out on the stove.

Combine:

  • 16 oz blackberries, frozen is fine
  • ½ c dark brown sugar
  • ½ c honey

Grind together in mortar:

Add spices to blackberry mixture, pour into pot or wok and heat, on low, stirring periodically to prevent separation of honey. (If you don’t have the patience or attention for this, find someone who does to help—smoked honey has its uses but this isn’t one of them.) Mixture should begin to bubble slightly before being removed from heat. Using a ladle, pour blackberry mixture evenly into dough cups. Fold hanging edges of dough over the cups.

Heated Berry Mixture

Stir periodically to keep the honey from sinking to the bottom. Heating it creates a more unified filling, you will find that the flavor changes dramatically.

I recommend against trying anything clever like sealing them at the seam. Kudos to you if you accomplish it, but the dough will be slick from the blackberry juice and reluctant to seal; all you are likely to end up making is a mess. You will find that the corners hang fashionably in place over top when left alone, and after a short while in the oven they seem to seal on their own.

Unbaked Blackberry Noir

It’s acceptable for the edges to simply hang over the top like this, they will recline and partially seal as they bake.

Bake for at least ten minutes in a stove at 400° F. The surface of the tart will be visibly darkened, but not burnt. (If you overfill the custard cups with berry, there is a chance that it will boil over, try not to do this. If it does happen, you can usually do a quick clean-up with a spatula and scrape it off of the bottom of the stove before it chars there and smokes up your kitchen. Take precautions not to burn yourself, 400° is a lot cooler when it’s on paper.)

Serve in the custard cups, best with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (The juice seeps through the bottom of the pastry and goes everywhere, and who wants to waste good blackberry juice?) Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2013 in Recipes

 

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