Monday, 28 January 2008

Daring Bakers - Lemon Meringe Pie

Another Daring Bakers Challenge.
Another interesting recipe.
Another learning experience.

This challenge was a recipe which I have never made. Lemon Meringue Pie. I’ve made that type of pastry before. I’ve made meringues and pavlova’s before. & Paul has his own recipe for citrus curd. The challenge was to follow the recipe. While making the lemon curd, Paul was standing there asking me what on earth I was doing. “Following the recipe” was the obvious response. To which he replied. “That’s not any curd recipe I’ve ever seen” and left me to follow the recipe. Using exactly the ingredients, measures & procedures stipulated in the recipe, I was a bit perturbed to see the curd thicken, then go past the point that I would have considered “ideal”. Maybe the cornflour here in Australia is different to the USA. Who knows.
I also differed slightly in the construction of the pies. Instead of one large pie, or 6 free-form pies, I made eight individual pies, 3 each of 6.5cm, 8.5cm & 2 of 10cm diameter ramekins. After cutting out the pastry rounds, I upturned the ramekins & (covering them in foil) draped & pressed the pastry over the ramekins. Saves on blind baking & gave a nice home-style finish to the pastry. After the pastry is cooked, simply flip the whole ramekin & pastry onto a cooling rack.
The rest of the construction was as laid out in the recipe, with piped meringue to top it off. The end result was a series of good looking pies. We had the 3 smallest ones as individual desserts later that day, and friends acquired the other pies. Over all it was quite tasty, Paul suggested the lemon curd could be stronger in flavour & sweeter. I also thought that the curd was too firm in texture, making it chewier than I’d prefer. Still, it was fun making them. Next challenge please…

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Apples & Thyme - Figgie Lollies

I have fond memories of Christmas as a child with my family. The family dinner with the various different courses prepared by my paternal grandmother. From a very young age I can remember her serving these sugar coated, rolled balls of figs. I’m sure that there was a proper name for these sweets, but we always referred to them as “Figgy Lollies”. A traditional sweet that made its way to the Australian table from the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, via Zagreb, with our grandmother. Our Christmas table is incomplete now without them.

Sadly, my grandmother passed away and for the last few years my sister, Tess, has been making them. Thankyou Tess for preserving the recipe and ensuring it remains with us for all time, and thank you to Jeni at The Passionate Palate & Inge at Vanielje Kitchen) for hosting Apples & Thyme.
This year I thought I’d make them for the family, but with a few very slight changes. My grandmother coated the balls in sugar but we decided to experiment & rolled some in cocoa, and coated others with dark chocolate. Some we left plain, and of course some were rolled in fine sugar.
These need to be prepared at least three weeks in advance to allow them to dry sufficiently. And they are excellent as simple, tasty, presents!

500g dried figs (the drier the better)
1 thick skinned orange
125ml rum or brandy
400g dark brown sugar (approx)
Ground cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg

Finely chop the figs by hand with a sharp knife or puree in food processor.
Add the orange juice, orange rind, sugar, liquor and spices. Combine ingredients and cook slowly for about an hour, stirring occasionally. My grandmother used a double saucepan over boiling water, but I simply used a saucepan.
The mixture should be a thick and sticky paste (do not be tempted to add water)- the colour will darken and the fig seeds obvious. The longer the mixture cooks the better, but be careful it doesn’t burn.
Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and put on a high shelf somewhere out of the way for a week or two. It is very important that the mixture be allowed to dry for 3 –4 weeks. It is ready when the mixture is dry to touch and somewhat set. Do not use an airtight container, for the obvious reason. Roll the fig mixture into balls (approx 2cm in diameter). Roll the balls in fine sugar (or cocoa and fine dark chocolate, as I did).
Place the Figgy Lollies in petit fours cases, and store somewhere dry until ready to eat.