Cooking Lessons from Kylie: Basic Meringue

Hello Readers!

I’ve been teaching high school cooking classes lately, and it’s gotten me thinking about basic cooking skills. Specifically, skills that people think are difficult and make a point to stay away from, but are actually super easy.

Number one on this list is meringue. Mostly because I have a ton of egg whites sitting around due to making curds, but hey, it’s as good a starting point as any!

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Oh, how I love meringue – it’s dreamy appearance, melt in the mouth texture, and the overall versatility of the medium all combine to make me smile. And a smile is always a good thing, right?

Simple!

So I decided to share the recipe I use and break it down. Follow along and I bet you’ll fall in love with it too!

First start with egg whites. You want them to be completely free of yolk or the meringue won’t form. Why? Let’s ask my food science background:

When making meringues, the most important part of the egg white is the proteins found in it. Proteins are made of hydrophilic (water loving) and hydrophobic (water fearing) molecules – basically, one attracts water and one repels it. When you start beating air into your egg whites, the hydrophilic molecules jump up and cling to the water present in the egg white (about 90 percent of it!) and the hydrophobic molecules run straight into the waiting arms of the air molecules. This helps form air bubbles and puffs the meringues up. However, if the egg yolk, which contains fat molecules, is included, the fat molecules butt in and stop the bubbles from forming. No bubbles, no meringue.

Add your egg whites to a metal bowl. Don’t use a plastic one, because no matter how well you cleaned it last time you used it, it might still have a couple of fat molecules hanging around. Next, add in cream of tartar or another acid.

Remember those bubbles I was talking about before? Well, as we all know, bubbles eventually pop, which will lead to a deflated and gross meringue. Add an acid, such as cream of tartar, and bam – stable, no pop bubbles.

Look close! Can you see the bubbles?

Look close! Can you see the bubbles?

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together at high speed until foamy. It’ll take a while, but be patient. The wait is well worth the reward.

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Once your meringue has reached a nice foamy stage, start adding sugar. I recommend going one tablespoon at a time. Keep beating until the mixture is thick, glossy, and forms stiff peaks. To determine if your meringue is ready, give it a stir and lift up the whisk or beater. If the resulting folds in on itself but has a nice pointy tip, it’s ready. Don’t over beat!

The picture below isn’t quite there yet.

Not Ready

This is better:
IMG_0249Once your meringues have reached this stage, transfer (gently!) to a pastry bag. I don’t have a pastry bag, so I use a Ziploc with the corner cut out. If you have a pastry tip, you can use that to make it pretty, but it’s not necessary. Pipe your meringues out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake. Don’t peek! Turn the oven off after an hour and a half at 275°F, then leave them in for another hour or so. Meringues are sometimes called “forgotten cookies” because they can be left in the oven for a while after finishing.

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As it says above, this is a recipe for basic meringues. You can add flavoring (ginger, anyone?), mini chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts – It’s an open canvas! This can also be used as a base for Pavlova, Baked Alaska, Meringue Pies, and Eaton Mess, among many tasty others.

Enjoy!

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Basic Meringue

Ingredients

3 Egg Whites

¼ tsp Cream of Tartar

¾ c Sugar

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper,
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until foamy.
  3. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy. Do not under beat.
  4. Transfer meringue into a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. Pipe out as desired.
  5. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Turn off oven and leave door closed 1 hour. Finish cooling outside the oven for 2 hours.
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Freeform Strawberry Blueberry Pie

Hello Readers!

It’s summer, and summer at my house means PIE!

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I love pie – I personally think it’s better than cake. Well, when made the right way with fresh fruits, or in the case of rhubarb, veggies, anyway. I do make an exception for pumpkin pie.

Anyways, blueberries and strawberries have been rolling into the house, and I stumbled upon this delicious recipe in one of the Sunday paper inserts. The original recipe can be found here.

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I like that the pie crust is free form and doesn’t overwhelm the fruits, plus, the crust is made with lemon juice and lemon zest! This recipe could be easily modified to use other types of fruits or zests in the crust – so I predict many variations of it gracing my table this summer. It’s also quite small, so it’ll go fast!

Onward!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Start by making your pie crust. I used a food processor, but you could easily make the dough by hand with a pastry blender or a pair of forks.

In a measuring cup, combine lemon juice with enough ice water to make ¼ of a cup. Keep cold and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine lemon zest, flour, and salt. Add in butter in small chunks and mix with a food processor or pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal with pea sized chunks. Drizzle the lemon water in and pulse or stir until the dough just comes together.

Form the dough into a flattened disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least half an hour.

While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 450°F. Prepare an eight inch round baking pan by greasing and lining with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine strawberries and blueberries with 2 Tbsp each of flour and sugar. Toss to combine and set aside. You could also add in some additional lemon zest here.

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Once dough has chilled, roll it out into a twelve inch round. Place the dough gently into the baking pan, with edges going over the sides. Pour the berry mixture into the center of the soon-to-be crust, making sure to keep a two inch border around the edges.

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Fold the dough over the berries, pleating the edges to keep them inside. Brush dough with egg white, and sprinkle the entire pie with turbinado sugar.

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Place baking dish on a cookie sheet to prevent any leaks into the oven, and bake at 450° for 15 – 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Add ice cream if you’d like and enjoy!

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Freeform Strawberry and Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:
For the Crust:

Juice and Zest of one Lemon

1 ½ c All Purpose Flour

½ tsp Salt

½ c (1 stick) Butter

For the Filling:

1 lb Strawberries, hulled and sliced into fourths

1 ½ pints Blueberries

2 Tbsp Sugar

2 Tbsp Flour

1 ½ Tbsp Turbinado Sugar

1 large Egg White

 

Procedure:

  1. Combine the lemon juice with enough ice water to make ¼ cup lemon water.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and lemon zest. Add in butter in small chunks and mix until pea sized lumps remain.
  3. Drizzle in lemon water and mix until dough just comes together.
  4. Scrape dough onto your work surface, form into a flattened disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least a half hour.
  5. Prepare an 8” round baking pan by greasing and lining with parchment paper. Set aside.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining 2 Tbsp flour, 2 Tbsp Sugar, and fruit. Toss to combine.
  7. Place chilled dough on a floured surface and roll out into a 12” round. Transfer to baking pan.
  8. Pour berry mixture onto the pie dough, leaving a two inch border around the edges. Fold crust over berries, pleating to make sure the berries stay inside.
  9. Brush dough with egg white. Sprinkle turbinado sugar over dough and fruit.
  10. Place baking pan on a cookie sheet and bake at 450°F for 15 – 25 minutes, or until crust is golden.
  11. Serve hot or at room temperature, and enjoy!

 

Cherry Couscous Salad

Hello readers!

Due to my sweet tooth, I’ve been posting all sweet dishes. I think it’s time for a change, so I’m going to write about my favorite summer salad.

Cherry Couscous Salad.

It sounds a bit strange, but bear with me – it’s delicious!

The salad takes advantage of the abundance of cherries available right now, and turns them from a snack or dessert into a full-blown side dish (or main dish, depending on how you serve it) to delight your fellow tablemates.

I found this dish last year while searching for a salad that I would actually like (dressings are not my thing. Ick), and found this salad with a dressing that actually sounded appetizing. So I gave it a try and loved it! I hope you’ll love it too. I found the recipe on a blog called “A Cozy Kitchen” – check it out!

Onward!

Start by preparing your ingredients. I had no chickpeas on hand while preparing this, so I left them out.

Couscous is simple to prepare – for this recipe, bring 2 ½ cups water to boil in a medium sized saucepan. Add in your couscous, allow to boil, then cover and remove from the heat. Allow to stand five minutes, then uncover, fluff with a fork, and set aside. The Kitchn has a handy tutorial for preparing couscous here.

Pit the cherries and cut into fourths. This might take a while, but be patient – it’s worth it!

Bright red and delicious!

Bright red and delicious!

Lay your about six or seven spinach leaves on top of one another and roll them up. Slice into strips – this is called a chiffonade, and makes slicing up greens super easy.

Chop the onions – they don’t need to be exactly the same size, but should be fairly even.

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Toast the almonds either on a baking sheet in the oven for seven to ten minutes or in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring every so often until you can smell them. Remove from heat and stir a few times to keep them from burning.

The almonds should turn a nice golden brown when done.

The almonds should turn a nice golden brown when done.

In a large bowl, toss together the chopped spinach, onion, cherries, chickpeas, and almonds. Set aside.

Color!

Color!

In another mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, minced garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Toss with the cherry mixture.

Stir in cooled couscous, making sure the salad is thoroughly combined.

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Chill for half an hour and enjoy!

 

Cherry Couscous Salad

 Ingredients:

½ c Sliced Almonds, toasted

2 ½ c Couscous, uncooked

2 c Spinach Leaves, sliced into strips

2 c Cherries, pitted and sliced into fourths

1 15 oz can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ of a small Red Onion, chopped

¼ c Plain Yogurt

3 Tbsp Olive Oil

2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice

3 cloves Garlic, minced

 

Procedure:

  1. In a saucepan, prepare couscous according to package directions – usually a 1:1 ratio of couscous to water. Once cooked, set aside and allow to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together almonds, cherries, spinach, onion, and chickpeas. Set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic until smooth.
  4. Pour yogurt mixture over cherry mix and toss to combine. Add in couscous, stir to combine.
  5. Refrigerate for half an hour and serve.
  6. Enjoy!

Blueberry Breakfast Bake

Happy Independence Day!

Here in the Northland we celebrate the 4th of July with parades, fireworks, and good food – pretty typical, right? As I’m a bit too old for the children’s parade in my hometown and haven’t quite mustered up the desire to participate in the fun run, I decided to make a breakfast bake to celebrate. Now, at my house, breakfast bakes are usually savory. However, it’s blueberry season!

I found this lovely recipe from Whole Foods, tweaked it a bit to make it my own and work with the ingredients I had on hand, and my new favorite breakfast was born.

Simple and Delicious!

Simple and Delicious!

Onward!

First, grease a 9X13” baking dish. Cut your baguette into ½ inch cubes. The original recipe calls for a day old baguette, but I used one I had stashed in the freezer and it turned out just fine. Make sure to let it thaw a bit before slicing.

The y don't have to be identical, but should be fairly even in size.

The y don’t have to be identical, but should be fairly even in size.

Place half of the bread cubes into the baking dish and add in half the blueberries. Try to make sure that the berries are evenly distributed. Set aside.

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In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add in your sour cream, vanilla, spices, and milk until smooth. Scrape the sides several times to ensure even mixing.

Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the bread and blueberries, then top with the remaining bread and berries. Pour the rest of the mixture over the top.

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Cover and chill overnight.

In the morning, take your unbaked breakfast bake out of the fridge and let sit for a half hour to warm up.

The bread should have soaked up plenty of the custard mixture.

The bread should have soaked up plenty of the custard mixture.

Bake at 350°F for 30 – 45 minutes, or until golden brown and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Let stand a few minutes before serving and enjoy!

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Ingredients:
1 8 oz Baguette, preferably day old

1 ½ pints Blueberries

8 oz Cream Cheese, at room temperature

6 Tbsp Turbinado Sugar

6 Eggs

¾ c Sour Cream

1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

¼ tsp Cinnamon

¼ tsp Ginger

¼ tsp Cardamom

1/8 tsp Star Anise

1/8 tsp Allspice

½ c Milk

 

Procedure:

  1. Cut Baguette into ½ cubes. Place half the cubes in a greased 9X13” baking dish. Set the other cubes aside for now. Sprinkle half of the blueberries across the baking dish.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in eggs, sour cream, spices, vanilla extract, and milk until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.
  3. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture across the bread and blueberries. Top with reserved blueberries and bread. Pour remaining cream cheese mixture across the top.
  4. Cover and chill overnight. Remove and let sit for thirty minutes before baking.
  5. Bake a t 350°F for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the bread topping is golden brown. Garnish with additional blueberries.
  6. Enjoy!

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Hello Dear Readers!

Do you ever get a craving for sweets? I know I certainly do, especially after working a shift in the pool. Something about the chlorine and the kiddos might be triggering a need for sugar. Maybe? Probably not. I do have a sweet tooth, though. So, to combat these sugar cravings, I decided to make cookies! Counterproductive? Maybe. Delicious? Totally.

Yum!

Yum!

The recipe I used is by Amy McCoy of Tiny Farmhouse. I found the recipe in her gorgeous cookbook “Poor Girl Gourmet”, but more on that later. Definitely give her a look! I like her recipe because it makes a small but delicious batch of cookies – just what I was looking for.

I’ve made a few modifications to the recipe, including adding cloves and whole wheat flour. Oh, and more chocolate, too!

Lots of chocolate!

Lots of chocolate!

Start by combining your flours in a medium sized bowls. I substituted whole wheat flour for the last two tablespoons of all purpose flour in this recipe because I like whole wheat, but you can use just all purpose if you want.  Add in baking soda, salt, and cloves and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your butter and sugars. Turbinado sugar has a larger grain than regular granulated sugar, so the texture of the dough will be slightly grainer. Don’t worry though – the graininess disappears during baking and the flavor is amazing!

I cut the butter into tablespoons for easier integration.

I cut the butter into tablespoons for easier integration.

Turbinado Sugar

Turbinado Sugar

After the butter and sugars have become light and fluffy, add in your egg and vanilla. I find that vanilla is pretty forgiving, so you could add more in if you’d like.

Egg and vanilla

Egg and vanilla

Add in the flour mixture about a fourth cup at a time until well combined. I found that the dough was a little dry here, so I added in about a tablespoon of water to help it stick together. You could also use milk if you wanted to.

Now for the fun part! Add in the chocolate chips! I used half a bag of mini chocolate chips and half a bag of regular semi sweet chocolate chips, because that’s what I had laying around. You can use whatever type you want.

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Delicious!

Spoon onto your cookie sheets and bake at 350°F until golden brown. Mine took about 12 minutes.

If you are using two cookie sheets, make sure to rotate your pans halfway through.

About a Tablespoon's worth of dough

About a Tablespoon’s worth of dough

Allow to cool on cooling racks and enjoy!

 

Share and enjoy!

Share and enjoy!

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c All Purpose Flour

2 Tbsp Whole Wheat Flour

½ tsp Baking Soda

½ tsp Salt

½ tsp Ground Cloves

8 Tbsp (1 Stick) Butter

½ c Turbinado Sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw)

½ c Brown Sugar, packed

1 large Egg

1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

½ bag Mini Chocolate Chips

½ bag Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

 

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt, and cloves. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract to butter mixture, beat until well combined.
  1. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture ¼ cup at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl in between until all the flour is mixed in. If necessary, add a small amount of water or milk if the dough is too dry.
  2. Add in the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  3. Spoon the dough out onto two cookie sheets. Dough balls should contain about ¾ of a tablespoon of dough.
  4. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, switching the top sheet to the bottom and the bottom sheet to the top halfway through. Cookies are done when golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.
  6. Enjoy!

Rhubarb Cranberry Crisp

Hello Readers! Summer has finally arrived in the Northland and has brought at least four and a half inches of rain in the past week. Our dock is underwater and there are fish swimming in the grass. Yes, in the grass. Fortunately for me, the arrival of summer also signals the arrival of one of my favorite vegetables – Rhubarb! (yes, rhubarb is a vegetable).

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Rhubarb is delicious, but I have to wonder – who decided that this random vegetable would be good smothered in sugar?

Now, for those of you who grew up with rhubarb, you know that pies – strawberry rhubarb, raspberry rhubarb, blueberry rhubarb, any berry, really – are popular. Now, I like pie, but most of the time, there is too much crust. I prefer making crisps – lots of fruity/vegetable goodness with a crunchy topping. And you know what the best part is? Having it for breakfast! So, having an abundance of rhubarb, I set out to make a crisp. I also had some frozen cranberries sitting around (cranberries – my fall weakness!), so I decided to combine the two. What resulted was wonderful, tangy Rhubarb Cranberry Crisp. Let’s see how it’s done, shall we? First, make the filling. Chop up your rhubarb into bite sized chunks. They don’t have to be entirely even, just enough so you can get several chunks in every bite of the crisp.

Rhubarb 1

This is about half of the day’s yield. We used the rest for rhubarb soup.

Toss the rhubarb, cranberries, sugar, and cinnamon.

Cranberries left over from fall aren't really seasonal, but they taste good!

Cranberries left over from fall aren’t really seasonal, but they taste good!

Stir in ¼ cup of flour and pour into your baking dish. I used an 11X7” glass baking dish, but you could also use a 9X9” pan. Don’t grease the pan.

I have to stop myself from eating it at this stage. Yum!

I have to stop myself from eating it at this stage. Yum!

Now we can move onto the topping. Stir together ¾ cup of flour, the oats, and the brown sugar, and then cut the butter in. I used a pastry blender, but you could use a pair of forks or your fingers if you need to. Aim for pea sized lumps.

This is pretty tasty, too.

This is pretty tasty, too.

Pour your topping over the filling and spread evenly.

Almost ready!

Almost ready!

Bake for 35 minutes at 350°F and enjoy!

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Perfect for dessert! (Or Breakfast)

Rhubarb Cranberry Crisp For the Filling: 4 c Rhubarb, chopped into bite sized pieces 1c Cranberries 1 ¼ c Sugar 1 tsp Cinnamon ¼ c All Purpose Flour   For the Topping: ¾ c All Purpose Flour 3/8 c Oats ¾ c Brown Sugar 6 Tbsp Butter   Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together rhubarb, cranberries, cinnamon, and sugar.
  3. Stir in ¼ c flour.
  4. Pour filling into an ungreased 9X9” or 11X7” baking dish. Set aside.
  5. In another large mixing bowl, stir together ¾ c flour, oats, and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pair of forks or a pastry blender until the mixture is in pea sized lumps.
  6. Spread topping evenly across the top of the filling.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until topping is browned and filling is bubbling.
  8. Enjoy!