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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Cranberry Curd

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Winter has arrived in Minnesota! Well, more slammed into us then arrived – I got back from Seattle late Sunday and woke up to snow on Monday. That’s what we get in exchange for such a beautiful fall. Oh well – winter has its perks too. And I missed most of last winter while I was in South Korea, so I’m excited for this one.

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Like cranberries!

I love cranberries – their color, their taste, everything about them. Did you know that they actually get less sweet as they ripen? Or that a good cranberry bounces if you drop it? Cool stuff, right?

Now, the first thing that pops into my head when I think cranberry is, well, cranberry sauce. But it isn’t Thanksgiving yet, and I wanted something different. Then I stumbled across it – cranberry curd! Simple, Delicious, and beautiful – Maybe I’ll make a big batch for the holidays!

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Curds are some of my favorite things to make – easy, fast, and delicious! This recipe is one I found on Kitchen Confidante. I’m classifying this as an “in progress recipe” for me, so expect an update later this winter.

Onward!

First prepare the cranberries. Combine them with water in a large saucepan over medium heat and allow to cook until the cranberries have popped.

While the cranberries are cooking, combine your eggs and sugar and whisk until light yellow. Set aside.

After the cranberries have popped, you’ll need to strain them. I used an old fashioned apple sauce strainer and a wooden pestle, but you could use a conventional strainer with small holes or cheese cloth if you’re really patient. Make sure to scrape the outside of the strainer to get as much of the puree off as possible.

Transfer the puree back into your saucepan and place over medium heat. Once it starts bubbling, use a spoon to transfer a small amount to the egg mixture and whisk quickly to combine. Keep whisking so the eggs don’t cook – this is called tempering. Repeat until the eggs are warm.

Combine the egg mixture with the cranberry puree and whisk quickly together. Keep whisking until the curd starts to thicken. It’s ready for the next step when it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Once the curd has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the butter. Transfer to whatever container you want to store it in and enjoy!

Cranberry Curd 2

Cranberry Curd
Ingredients:
3 c Fresh or Frozen Cranberries (about one bag)
¾ c Water
4 Egg yolks
2 Whole Eggs
1 c Sugar
2 Tbsp Turbinado Sugar
6 Tbsp Butter

Procedure:
1.Combine water and cranberries in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover and let cook until cranberries pop.
2.While cranberries are cooking, combine egg yolks, eggs, and sugars. Whisk until pale yellow.
3.Once cranberries have popped, pour them into a strainer over a large bowl. Use a rubber scraper or a pestle to push as much of the cranberry puree through the strainer as possible. Discard leftover skins and seeds and transfer puree back to saucepan.
4.Bring cranberry puree back up to temperature.
5.Add a spoonful of hot cranberry puree to egg mixture and whisk vigorously to prevent the eggs from cooking. Repeat until eggs are tempered and add the mixture to the saucepan.
6.Cook over medium heat until the curd coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and stir in butter.
7.Pour into jars and refrigerate, freeze, or can.
8.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!