Sunday, August 30, 2009

Key Lime Goodness

Apologies for being an absentee baker for some time. I don't know why, but I haven't been in the kitchen too much lately. Well, part of the blame goes to the fact that a week of August was spent in Maine for the wedding of Erik's sister Kelsey and her longtime beau Ross. While we were there we cooked dinner for his family for 3 nights, so we definitely got some practice cooking for a crowd, but things were too busy for blogging about it. And definitely no baking occurred, as it was so very, very hot up there.

However, we're back on Nantucket now and it's been a nasty, rainy weekend, the prefect backdrop for baking. Erik has been eying a key lime pie from
In The Kennedy Kitchen, a cookbook of Kennedy family favorites written by Rose Kennedy's personal chef Neil Connolly. Many of the recipes in the book are fairly basic things, that Neil puts his own twist on, or jazzes up in some way. Of course, key lime pie is something that can be whipped together with a premade crust and some lime juice and condensed milk, but the Kennedys were not served such basic pies, oh no! Neil adds ground pistachio to his graham cracker crust--perhaps to play up the green? It also makes it taste very rich. Instead of thickening with with one easy can of condensed milk, Neil's recipe uses eggs and cornstarch and flour, and of course, the lime juice. I haven't ever done a side by side comparison of an "easy" pie and the Kennedy's pie, so I can't say which is better, although I certainly have no complaints about the one we made :)

Key Lime Pie, as enjoyed by the (mostly late) Kennedy family

*1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 of the celophane wrapped packets in a box of crackers)
*1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios
*1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
*2 cups milk
*1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
*3 egg yolks
*2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
*1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
*1/2 cup key lime juice, fresh or bottled
*Whipped cream to garnish, fresh (the Kennedy way) or out of a can (my way)
*At least 1 lime, sliced into thin rounds for garnish, if you feel so inclined

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together the melted butter, graham cracker crumbs and ground pistachios so that everything is moistened evenly.

2. Pour the mixture into a 10-inch pie pan and spread it evenly over the bottom and sides the pie pan. If you have a second pie pan, it can be pressed on the crumbs to help it form to the pan. Otherwise, use your fingers to compact it as much as possible.

3. Bake the crust for 6-8 minutes until it's golden brown (at least, so says the book. Since graham crackers are golden brown anyway, I found the change hard to distinguish, so I just took it out.) Allow to cool completely.

4. In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, combine the milk with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Bring the milk to a simmer and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to low.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the other 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, flour, and key lime juice. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the milk, whisking all the while. Bring to a boil, whisking until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat.

6. Pour the key lime filling into the pie crust and refrigerate until it's set (plan on at least 3 hours.)

7. Garnish with whipped cream and lime slices, if desired. (Look at the bottom right hand picture on the book cover to see how he does it.) Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Weekend (Baking) Report

Yesterday was a genuinely beautiful day, and yet I had trouble forcing myself to leave the house because of the hoards of tourists swarming the island and hoards of mosquitoes swarming my yard. I couldn't motivate myself to go to the beach because I can't put sunscreen on my own back, and anyway, I was completely engrossed in the final Harry Potter book, which I had to read after seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince last week. I had also been wanting to try a few recipes, so it was a perfect excuse to save my skin from the sun & mosquitoes and get some reading done while things were in the oven.

First recipe up was a mango bread that I found on the food blog Joy The Baker. I had a couple of mangoes kicking around that I had contemplated turning into mango bellinis, but when I saw this recipe it won out. (Baked goods > alcohol, at least in my book). I got the dry ingredients mixed and was about to add the wet ones when I realized that I didn't have enough oil, and I didn't have any apple sauce either to substitute. (I'm very bad at reading through recipes and checking for ingredients before diving in.) Since I had just gotten back from town and dealing with traffic/tourists, I couldn't stomach another trip in, so I put that one aside until Erik could bring home the missing ingredients after work. Fast forward a few hours (2 other baking projects, a trip to the beach, a lot more Harry Potter reading), I finished making the bread, and put it in the oven at 9, just as Erik and I were sitting down to souffle and salad (more on that later). A bottle and a half of wine later (aka an hour and a half and a little bit later) I realized it was time (or really, past time) to pull it out. Slightly overbaked, "caramelized" on top, it was still delicious. I can't take any credit for this recipe at all, but the link to find the recipe is right here:  

Mango Bread

The bread has good texture, lots of rich gingery/spicy flavor, and I bet it would be equally good with peaches, or even with no fruit at all. All in all, two thumbs up!

But rewind a bit. When I realized that I was short some canola oil, I switched over to try some banana oatmeal cookies from Cooking Light that reminded me of my signature banana bread, but in cookie form. I'm entirely too lazy to copy out the recipe, but here's the link: 

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  One great thing about them was how quickly they came together--10 minutes or so and they were ready to go in the oven. Also, since they don't spread much, I could fit lots on the cookie sheet (using my NEW silicone mat, thank you, Liz!!) They were delicious right out of the oven, but I found by today they had dried out a tad too much, and their banana flavor increased a lot overnight, so I would probably make them with the purpose of eating them the same day (ie, when I knew I would have lots of people to feed them too.)

And finally, in between these two projects I made a classic cheese souffle, which sadly turned out to be a flop (in the most literal sense, since we're talking about souffles here). Something was a little off, because my egg whites just never got as stiff as they should have, and I think I rushed the cheese sauce, because it was a lot runnier than I remembered. For once I actually followed the recipe quantities perfectly (other than halving it), but it was just not meant to be. Although it puffed up in the oven it collapsed as soon as I pulled it out. While collapse is inevitable, this one fell with unmatched and previously unseen speed. The texture was more like scrambled eggs and was even a little watery, which was also a first for one of my souffles. Anyway, I'll stop discrediting myself by describing my less-than-stellar souffle, and I promise that when I try it again it will be blog-worthy.

So overall,
Mango Bread: A
Banana Cookies: B
Souffle (texture): C-
(taste): A-

And that's the weekend baking report!