Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

It's January and 50 degrees, which is just plain wrong.   Everything is muddy and foggy.   I want real winter! I want people to quit being jerks on facebook!  I want women to be respected by our president!  When life gives you lemons, they say make lemonade.   Jimmy Buffet says to pass the tequila and salt.    I say make lemon meringue pie.



I made this pie for my friend Liz who bought my "Pie of the Month" club donation at my church's silent auction.   I really like a meringue with attitude, like this one.   I originally got the idea from Cook's Country magazine for a super tall meringue that relies on a cooked syrup.  Think of it as a giant marshmallow perched on top of the pie.  Their recipe called for more egg yolks than I usually use, so I went for it.  Can't go wrong with a more rich custard, along with a generous amount of lemon rind.    Their recipe was a bit more cumbersome than it needed to be, so I adapted it to suit my  way of cooking.  And since there were extra egg whites to be had, why not make meringues for myself?

 


Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

For Lemon Filling

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue topping and the other 4 for meringues)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 (9-inch) pie shell, fully baked and cooled

For Meringue Topping
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
pinch table salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and salt and lemon zest  together in large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 2 minutes.  Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

To make meringue topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Once syrup comes to rolling boil, cook 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating whites.

With electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk or it will splash). Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 5 to 9 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches edges of crust. Use spatula to create peaks all over meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

To make meringues, use my recipe here with the remaining 4 egg whites.  

After dropping off the pie at my friend's house.   I took to facebook and started unfollowing people that spew vitriol on social media.   It's a great day!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Upper Peninsula Inspired Glass Magnets

I'm the kind of person that goes to a craft sale and doesn't buy anything, because I think "I can make that!" but I never actually do.   My 2017 New Year's Resolution is to complete a craft each month.  I have never considered myself "crafty", although I guess I have some key skills needed to make crafts, such a sewing or cookie decorating.   I am good at copying other people's crafts.   I'm also the kind of gal that starts projects and never finishes them, and tend to be a perfectionist.    So for 2017, I am going to try to tap into my creative side and also work on my perseverance and try to complete a craft each month.  To help me,  I started a craft club on fb with some of the other Michigan Tech parents called Michigan Tech Inspired where we create an MTU or Upper Peninsula inspired craft each month to create.   My son is a sophomore at MTU and it is my alma mater, so this should be great fun!  Anyone is welcome to join....even if you don't have a connection with MTU and are interested in making crafts with an "Up North" theme.   Join us!

For our first craft this month, we made glass magnets.  It was a true test of my perseverance.    I found instructions several places online, and I talked to friends that made them with their 4H or Girl Scout troop so I thought this was going to be a snap.  If kids can do it, surely I can!  I headed out to Michaels on my lunch hour one day to buy supplies.   I found the glass gems in 1.5" size, and some strong disk magnets.  I saw that some people use thin magnets with adhesive on the back that can be cut with scissors, but these glass gems are heavy and I wanted them to stay put, so I went with beefier magnets.    Next stop, the adhesive aisle!  Being an engineer, I have a glue fetish.   I love to get the exact perfect fixative for every project.   Which glue to buy?   Online, people were raving about E6000 and Quick Grip, so I got some of that.   Also there is the crafter's favorite, Mod Podge.   I remember Mod Podge (or as I used to call it, "Modge Podge") from my own Girl Scout Holiday Bazaar crafting days myself.   We used Mod Podge to make Holly Hobbie plaques to sell.  So I got some of that, too.   I left the store with enough glue to make crafts for a lifetime!



To prep for my year long crafting extravaganza, I actually cleaned and organize the spare room I like to call the "craft room" (my husband calls it the "crap room") and set forth.  And that's when my inner  perfectionist reared it's ugly head.   The downside of being an engineer is that it makes you constantly look for how things can go wrong in any situation, and prevent them.   So, before I could unleash whatever artistic vision I might have deep down inside my soul, I needed to first determine which adhesive worked best.    I decided to use a vintage postcard image of the Keweenaw that I love as my prototype.  I used Microsoft Publisher to make my image, and spent more time than I should have trying to exactly match the blue of Lake Superior to fill the rest of the circle.   Did you know that there are apps you can get that will tell you the exact Pantone color of something?   I now know this, but I didn't need to learn this, because that kind of color matching doesn't need to happen when you are making an image this small that will be viewed under a blob of glass.   Just get it close enough!   Once I was able to move on, I printed a few copies on paper to test adhesives.    I had read online that Mod Podge tends to make ink jet print ink run because it is water based, so I was hoping the other adhesives wouldn't.    Then I started to wonder if E6000 and Quick Grip were actually the same thing, just sold under different brand names, so off I went to find the MSDS sheets on them to figure that out.   See this is why I never get crafts done!  (I'll cut to the chase: no they are not the same).   Then, I noticed that the ink printed on paper seeped through the back side, so I also tested printing on card stock and glossy photo paper.    I had read on the internet that putting the printed paper in the freezer would prevent it from running, which sounded like bullshit to me, but I tried it anyway:

No freezing required


The bottom line?   Mod Podge on card stock worked the best!  I was correct, the freezer idea didn't work....the other 2 adhesives resulted in clouding of the image with some crystal residue.   The Mod Podge didn't stick at all to the glossy photo paper.  Also, when I used some E6000 to stick the magnet on the back, it showed through on the other side.   Another downside to being an engineer is that we are very thrifty, so I decided to repurpose all my prototypes except the one that worked best by soaking them in hot water to remove the image.  Lesson learned: if you make a magnet you don't like, you can start over.   It even worked on the glue that is supposed to be waterproof.

So now it was time to get down to the art.   What images to pick?   The other crafters in my group were already well on their way making many Michigan Tech Husky related magnets and sending theme off in care packages to their students.   Since I knew I wanted to go with my vintage Keweenaw Land postcard image, I decided to stick with the vintage theme.  I found some great images of Houghton establishment logos to use, plus some mid century winter sport scenes.   My son is a hunter and a fisherman, so some old school hunting images would be great, too.  The lift bridge, the miner statue....the MTU logo of my 1980s era....it was fun to find images.   Remembering that I don't need to match everything perfectly, I made a template of 1.5 inch circles in Microsoft publisher, and then used the shape fill with a picture option to make the images.   I found that rectangular images with a lot of space on the periphery tended to work best.  For those that didn't have that, I just filled with a color that looked close enough, and then placed the image on top of it.

I printed them out on business card weight card stuck I had in a cream color that further enhanced the vintage look, and cut them out with scissors.  I wet the back of the glass gem with Mod Podge (it was opaque white) and then pressed them down on the image, making sure to get all the air bubbles out.   I let them dry overnight, and then used the scissors to trim them.   I stuck the magnets on the back with Quick Grip, but I am sure E6000 would work just as well.    Voila!  I completed  a craft!!!  YAY!

Glass Magnets
I packed up a care package to send to my son, including these magnets and some snacks.  I'm looking forward to our February craft.  Meanwhile, I've got tons of requests for these magnets, so I put them up for sale in my Etsy store.   Check it out!




Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bourbon Balls

After getting some snow this December, our Christmas Eve forecast is for rain, which is really depressing.   It is supposed to go into the 50s by the day after Christmas, which should make for lots of gray and mud.   Christmas sort of snuck up on me this year.   I haven't yet made any cookies, but I might try to get some made today.  I'm taking it easy; it seems Christmas never comes out exactly as I think it should be,   So why not just kick back and enjoy it for what it is?



I was inspired by my friend Paula who said she made some bourbon balls that didn't have ground up vanilla wafers in them.   I wondered if they were like ones I tasted a few years ago when I was in Elizabethtown, KY for work that had a more creamy texture at a cute little place called the Back Home Restaurant.    I vowed I'd try to duplicate them, along with their version of Kentucky cream pull candy.  A quick googling found a recipe on allrecipes by someone named "KY Piano Teacher" that looked like it might fit the bill, but when tried to follow the recipe, I found the instructions a little lacking so I modified it a bit.   It's essentially a no cook fondant center.   I was a little nervous because I thought it would melt when I dipped it but it did not.   I coated these with some fancy candy making chocolate that I have, but if you are lacking that, try some Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate bars that you can find in any grocery store.   Learn how to do it here.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

1 c. chopped pecans, additional whole pecans for topping (optional)
5 T, bourbon (I used Maker's Mark, but a cheaper bourbon is really all that is required)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 lb. confectioners sugar
18 ounces chocolate, for dipping

Put nuts in a canning jar with a lid, and add bourbon, shaking to coat.  Allow to steep overnight.  In a mixing bowl, add butter and sugar and mix on medium speed until crumbly.   Add nuts and bourbon.  Knead the fondant with your hands until a soft dough forms, slightly sticky  Add more powdered sugar if necessary until it can form a soft sticky ball.  Line a tray with parchment, and form fondant into 1 inch balls.    Refrigerate until very firm.  Dip balls in melted chocolate,   You can top with a whole pecan, if desired.