Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Upside Down Chocolate Meringue Pie




I'm thrilled to present -- on Pi Day, yet -- the most unusual pie I've ever encountered.  Unlike every other chocolate meringue pie, where the custard is chocolate, this one turns convention upside down. The custard is vanilla and the meringue is chocolate. Search as I may, I could not find one other example of this.  The recipe is vintage, probably c. 1940s. If not for the housewife recording (and possibly inventing) this gem, this recipe would be lost to history. Which would be a shame, because it is soooo delicious.

This upside down chocolate meringue pie is light, airy, rather addicting and pretty easy to make.
Below are most of the ingredients you need.


Start the crust by making graham cracker crumbs in a food processor or by placing the grahams in a plastic bag and crushing them with a rolling pin (or wine bottle). Add the melted butter.


Combine the mixture and place in a nine-inch pie plate.


Press the mixture into the pan.


Next, separate the eggs. Because the egg whites (for the meringue) are not cooked, I recommend using non-factory eggs, like those from the farmer's market.


Start the vanilla custard.  The lumps of flour will disappear as the cooking proceeds.


If you're not sure your custard is silky smooth, then push it through a strainer for extra insurance.


The cooked custard, below. Not sure why it looks so yellow in this photo.


Fill the cooled pie shell with the custard, and begin the chocolate meringue.


Whip the egg whites until stiff and gradually add the confectioner's sugar.


Fold in the melted chocolate carefully and spread over the custard. Be sure to reach the edges.


Tada! One indication that this is a vintage recipe is that proportions are modest.  Neither the filling nor meringue are "supersized."


The pie kept well in the refrigerator for two days!



Production notes for the crust: I used butter, but Nucoa is a margarine that first appeared in the 1930s, and is still available but with a different formulation. There's even a Facebook page called Bring Back Original Nucoa (which was dairy and lactose-free). I had to bake the crust about seven minutes, instead of five.


Production notes for filling: To achieve success, you need to beat the egg yolks slightly and temper them. This simply means that you place a small amount of the hot custard into the eggs while stirring to warm them before to the very hot custard. If you just added them, you'd have scrambled egg yolks. Although the instruction wasn't there, I stirred the vanilla into the custard at the very end.


Production notes for filling: I always use cream of tartar when beating egg whites, which prevents overbeating. I think salt serves the same purpose, though. Fold the melted chocolate very carefully into the egg whites to prevent them from deflating. I used a plastic spatula for this.


This pie was enjoyed with some of the fine people renovating my house, like Zeke, a musician and cabinetmaker who worked on my beautiful new closet, designed by Robert Kalka.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Hamantashen


It's Purim and time to make the hamantashen, filled cookies designed to symbolize the defeat of Haman, an enemy of the Jewish people. They appear in bakery cases all over NYC this time of year, and are beloved by tribe members and others. And homemade ones abound -- people who rarely bake the rest of the year are known for making these triangular treats.

So I made them, using a c. 1960s recipe in the Temple Israel (of Akron) Synagogue Sisterhood Cook Book. 

Dear readers, I will probably never make them again. The dough was difficult to work with and the process was rather tedious. Everyone who tried them loved the cookies, though, so there was that. And the dough is rich and delicious.

So for those of you interested, hang on to your three-pointed hats and let's get started. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl. I misread the instructions and did not beat the egg yolks with the sour cream first, but it didn't seem to matter in the end. And I saved a step.


Mix until it forms a dough.


Form the dough into a couple of spheres and refrigerate until firm, usually an hour or two.


Roll out on parchment paper or a lightly floured surface. I sandwiched the dough between to sheets of parchment. Using a 2.5 or 3-inch cookie cutter, make the circles.  At this point, I refrigerated the sheets of cutouts to firm up again.



There are many fillings for these cookies. I used prune lekvar because I happened to see it while shopping at Pomegranate, an upscale Kosher restaurant in Brooklyn.


Place a teaspoon, or less, of filling in the center of each cookie.


There are many ways to create the triangle shape. At first, I used the old-fashioned one, below, of pinching the sides together.



Brush the formed cookies with egg white before baking.


But my first batch was a fail. See how many opened up?


But then I discovered a webpage on how to make them perfect. You can see it here. In the tutorial, Tori Avery demonstrates a folding technique. You can see how much better my second batch looked following those instructions.  (There was no third batch, as I ate the dough raw for dinner!)


Production notes: I halved this recipe, using only butter and not Crisco, and followed it exactly save for mixing the sour cream and egg yolks together first. I brushed the tops with egg white before baking. Each batch took about 12 to 15 minutes. (Eleanor Applebaum was the rabbi's wife at Temple Israel, and an editor of this cookbook.)


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies



Sometimes I bake recipes with intriguing names, other times -- like this -- I select a recipe because of the paper it's written on.  Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies is handwritten on a sheet of office stationery of one Roger Lindoo, general manager of PCA of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. I'm surmising that his wife, or other relative, wrote this recipe. (As I never fail to marvel at the interweb, I learned that Roger, who was born in 1914 died just last year at age 101, was active in the community and a great outdoors man. Based on his time of employment, I'd date this recipe from the 1950s.

Now, about this recipe. Not being an oatmeal cookie fan, I couldn't judge -- however, my work colleagues (and the workmen renovating my house) raved about them. And who could argue that Grandmother's cookies aren't delicious?

They are very easy to mix and bake, and call for cooking the raisins first. A good thing, especially if your DH failed to close the bag of raisins, leaving hard little nuggets in place of plump dried fruit.

The raisins cooking below in water.


The first mixture, of butter, sugar and eggs.


The cooked raisins are added, along with the cooking water.


After the dry ingredients are added, fold in the nuts and oatmeal.


The dough is a bit moist, and I found it easier and faster to use a small ice cream scoop to portion out the cookies.  I baked on parchment sheets, which can be reused, as evidenced below. After the first batch, and because the cookies didn't spread, I pressed down the dough balls before baking as they didn't flatten out as expected.


 The original recipe, below, and below that, I've written out the recipe as I made it.


Grandmother's Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 375F

1 c. raisins
7 T. water
1 c sugar
1 c. butter at room temperature
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
2 c. regular oatmeal
1/2 c. chopped nuts

Cook raisins and water in a saucepan for three minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cream sugar and butter.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add raisins and water, and mix.
Sift dry ingredients and add, and combine.
Add oatmeal and nuts.
Mix well.
Drop by tablespoons (or use a small ice cream scoop) onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.
Press down with wet hands or the bottom of a glass.
Bake until brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.






Monday, February 27, 2017

Lemon Bars



Lemon Bars, like this one from a vintage recipe card, were ubiquitous during my childhood -- a plate of these tart and sweet treats appeared at nearly every gathering, from the ladies' afternoon card games to pot luck dinners. Created by Betty Crocker in in 1963, the lemon bar caught on like wildfire. And for good reason -- they are a delicious combination of a cookie base topped by a tart lemon custard. They are still quite popular, albeit with some modern twists, like the addition of lemon zest to ramp up the lemon flavor.

Did I mention these are a snap to make? I whipped these up for my dear friend Suzanne, a huge fan of my red velvet cake. And I hope these lemon bars too!

Let's get started. Using a stand or electric mixer, combine the flour, butter and confectioner's sugar for the base. Place the mixture into the baking pan and, using your hands (I always wear gloves), press it down...


Until it is spread evenly.


Bake for 15 minutes. It will look rather raw, but remember, it will get a second baking.


Prepare the lemon topping, which you can do while the crust is baking.  Beat the eggs well, and add the sugar, flour and baking powder.  Mix it well.


It should look like this.


Pour it over the prepared crust and pop it in the oven.


Remove it from the oven and let it cool a bit.


Sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar, using a strainer for even coverage. Let cool completely and cut into squares.


Production notes: I followed the recipe almost exactly, but have typed out instructions below this rather stained recipe card. I tried to create a sling with parchment paper, but didn't cover the entire pan as I usually do.  It was a big fail, and I could not get the cake out in one piece. I also beat the eggs first, really, really well (not to the point where they form a ribbon, but almost).


Sophie's Lemon Bars

Preheat oven to 350F

Crust:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. confectioner's sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well (w. electric mixer)
Place into an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 inch square pan.
Press into pan.
Bake 15 minutes.

Topping:
4 T. fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/2 t. baking powder

Beat eggs a lot. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix very well.

Pour over crust and bake for 25 minutes.
Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar when almost cool.
They will firm up while cooling.
Cut into bars.