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Do you know movita beaucoup? If the answer is yes, then please proceed reading about how she helped me make beautiful French Meringues on my second try. If the answer is no, then get your butt to her website RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE.
Here's what happened. This is from my Facebook page on New Year's Eve:
I was hoping to set up a really beautiful, all white photo shoot with gorgeous French meringues, but it turns out, you can't make regular lemon pie meringue, pipe it onto a cookie sheet and make these little French dainties. They brown in about 3 minutes and stay ooey gooey no matter how long you leave them in the oven. Oops.
No. No you can't. But had it worked? You would have been a Meringue Pioneer. Also, meringues are my most favourite baked treat.
From that point, I knew I would require movita's guidance to get it right the second time.
Was there even the teeniest, most slim of chances that it might have worked?
Whelp, the meringue most people use on top of pie is light and not very stable - so it all depends on the type of meringue you use. Swiss meringue is one of the most stable AND it can be consumed in three ways: right after whipping (it's food safe as the eggs have been heated to 160F), baked or in swiss meringue buttercream! It's my favourite!
So, here, with help from movita, is a recipe for French Meringues that worked for me on the first try. Some of my meringues cracked, but a) they look really pretty when they're backlit in a photo and b) they tasted amazing, so I didn't really care too much about that. I piped some short and flat like a French macaron with a little hat, and I piped others taller and fatter like a little meringue mountain. I used movita's beautiful meringue recipe, but modified it to use Meringue Girl's egg white to sugar ratio. I also added vanilla. They're pretty quick to make (other than baking time) and so pretty. Make them if you can!
4 egg whites, room temperature, weighed
sugar, double the weight of the egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
- preheat oven to 200ºF - line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
- grab a hand held whisk and a pot that the bottom of your stand mixer bowl fits into snugly - place 1-inch of water in the pot and bring it to a slight simmer on the stove - the water should be barely simmering - combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of the stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, mix on medium-low speed until just combined and a bit frothy, about 1 minute - remove the bowl from the mixer and place the bowl over the pot of barely simmering water - mix the egg whites with the hand held whisk for 3-4 minutes - you don't have to whisk the whole time because trust me, if you do, you will feel like your arm is going to fall off - just keep the whites moving so they don't scramble - remove whites from heat after 3-4 minutes and rub a bit between your fingers - if the sugar still feels gritty, return the bowl of whites to the pot and keep mixing until sugar dissolves - once sugar is dissolved, remove whites from heat and dry the bottom of the bowl with a tea towel
- return bowl to stand mixer - with whisk attachment, mix whites on medium-low speed for 1 minute and then crank up the speed to medium-high - I used speed 8 on my Kitchen Aid - mix meringue for 7-10 minutes until thick, glossy and doubled in size - I found the meringue doubled in size around the 5 minute mark but wasn't really thick and glossy until 9 minutes of mixing - I added the vanilla at the 8 minute mark
- movita uses an ice cream scoop to scoop meringue into dollops on the baking sheet and then uses a small spoon to coax the tops into peaks - I used a piping bag - use whatever you fancy - just remember, the bigger the meringue the longer they take to dry out inside - scoop/pipe meringue onto parchment lined sheets and bake 1-2 hours until crisp and dry all the way through - if they start to brown at all, take them out of the oven - when movita's meringues are done, she turns off the heat, and lets the meringues sit, in the oven, for an hour unless, as I mentioned, the meringues are turning brown - if that happens take them out STAT.
My small flat meringues were dry and crisp after 1 hour and 10 minutes in the oven - the taller fatter meringue mountains took 1 hour 30 minutes - just eat one to check for doneness - when all is said and done, if yours are chewy in the middle, don't worry, they'll still be delicious! I ate about 50 meringues in 3 days - some dry and crisp, some chewy in the middle, and I have zero regrets.
Just LOOK at the picture above. My pastry is golden and tastes really good (I use this crust recipe by Ina Garten - it's terrific) but my crusts are almost always a little raggedy. I've long accepted the fact that I will never make a perfect-looking, beautifully braided pie crust, and I'm totally fine with that because, isn't it often the case - the most perfect-looking things usually have zero flavour?
In that way I guess, pies are kind of like people.
Some are sweet, some are savoury. Some are tough, some are soft and flaky. Some are overflowing with warm gooeyness, some are near-empty shells. I could go on but I think you probably get the picture.
And so, my pie crust is golden, crusty, and uneven. Inside it is just the right amount of sweet, creamy, warm, spicy filling. It's also a little cracked on top.
My pie is a perfect-looking reflection of me.
Butternut Squash Pie Filling (and yes, I really do think it's better than pumpkin)
1 medium-sized butternut squash
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp each of pumpkin pie spice and ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 C heavy cream
1 Tbsp vanilla
- prepare and pre-bake your favourite pie crust - as I mentioned above, I use this recipe by Ina Garten
- preheat oven to 350º - pierce skin of squash all over with a fork or the tip of a small paring knife - place the squash in the microwave and cook for 6 minutes - the pierced spots will weep a bit of water - that's totally normal - carefully remove the squash from the microwave (it may be hot to the touch) - line a baking sheet with parchment paper - cut the squash into 4 segments - place segments on the baking sheet, skin side up, and bake for 1 hour - remove from oven and cool slightly until you can comfortably touch with your hands - scoop stringy guts and seeds out of squash and discard - peel skin away and discard (most should peel right off but you may need to use a small sharp knife to coax some of it off - place all peeled squash into a large bowl or your food processor
- if using a large bowl, mash the squash until smooth - if using a food processor, pulse the squash until smooth - add eggs, sugar, flour, spices, kosher salt, heavy cream and vanilla to squash - mix by hand or pulse in processor to combine - pour the filling into your pre-baked pie crust and bake 20-25 minutes*
*I baked my pie for 30 minutes. Apparently, this is why mine cracked a bit - when the eggs are overcooked in a pie filling, it causes cracking - next time I will check my pie at 20 minutes and then keep my eye on it - the filling is thick so it's a bit hard to tell when it's set. At 20 minutes, eggs should be pretty much cooked and safe to eat so use your judgement.
I had it in my head that rum and plums and dates would be good together.
I was right.
As the name implies, these pretty little puffs are verrrrrry rummy - and verrrrry yummy.
Rummy Plummy Date Puffs - makes 24 puffs (I used a 3-inch round biscuit cutter but you can make then any shape or size you like)
1 package puff pastry, thawed overnight in the fridge (2 sheets)
flour for dusting
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C rum
1 tsp vanilla
2 plums, pits removed, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp butter
12 Medjool dates, pits removed, quartered (I use Natural Delights Medjool dates***)
***please note this IS NOT a sponsored post - I just really like this brand of dates
- preheat oven 425º
- lightly dust countertop with flour - unroll thawed puff pastry sheet - lightly roll with a pin until sheet is about another half larger than the original size - with a biscuit cutter, cut 12 circles from each sheet of pastry and arrange on two parchment lined baking sheets - leaving a small border on the pastry circles, prick the inside of each with a fork - apply beaten egg around each the border of each circle with a fingertip - bake circles 5 minutes - remove from oven and with a fork, again prick holes all around the inside of the borders - this will deflate the inside of each circle making your border puff and the inside stay flat
- in a pot, stir together brown sugar, flour and salt to combine - add rum, vanilla and plums - stir together - cook over medium-high heat until sauce begins to bubble/thicken - remove from heat - stir in butter and dates - when butter has melted complettely, spoon rum/plum/date mixture into the center of each par-baked puff pastry circle - baked 10 minutes more or until pastry is golden
Raspberry Thyme Scones (makes approximately 12 x 60g scones)
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
1/2 C Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C butter
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla + 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 - 1 C fresh raspberries
1 egg + coarse sugar for garnish
- preheat 350º
- in a bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and thyme leaves together - set aside
- in another bowl, mix Greek yogurt and baking soda together - set aside
- combine butter, sugar, one egg and vanilla in mixer - beat until light and fluffy - add flour mixture to butter and mix until just combined - add Greek yogurt in and mix until just combined
- portion dough into 60g balls - roll between hands with pieces of raspberry - use as much or as little raspberry as you like - lay out 8 dough portions on a parchment lined baking sheet - flatten each scone lightly with fingertips - in a small bowl, beat second egg with a fork - brush tops of scones liberally with beaten egg - sprinkle each scone generously with coarse sugar - bake 15-17 minutes, until bottoms are golden