Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Strawberry Lemonade Pie

Summertime in Augusta, Georgia is oppressively hot. Oh, I know it's only May and all, I know it's barely summer, but yesterday was 97 degrees and it feels like August feels everywhere else I've lived. Perhaps that's why it's named Augusta. The air here is pregnant with water- its holding all the water it can without actually raining. Step outside, and it's like stepping into a foggy bathroom after a hot shower.

So what do we do in sticky humidity, when the chocolate chips are melting in the jar on the counter because someone in this family thinks air conditioning is for wimps? We make icebox pie. And because it is strawberry season, and because nothing refreshes like bright, tart lemon, and because Martha was kind enough to publish this recipe in her June magazine, we make Strawberry Lemonade Icebox Pie.

Now to me, icebox pie is something that you don't bake, like a eggless cheesecake or chocolate pudding pie. This pie you bake (and I was very loath to turn on the oven, believe me), so it baffled me where the icebox part came in.

The answer is, you absolutely must refrigerate this thing, or else the butter in the crust and the juice from the strawberries and egg whites (if you go there) make a big soggy mess. We first ate it after letting it sit on the counter for hours, and it was a little soupy, but the leftovers stored in the fridge were the proper consistency. So I wouldn't recommend it for all-day-in-the-sun cookouts, but it would work great for a party where you can keep it cold until eating time.

Strawberry-Lemonade Icebox Pie, from Martha Stewart Living June 2011 Issue

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Get out your 9-in pie or tart pan.

10 graham crackers, zipped into a ziplock pounded into smithereens with a rolling pin. Or pulsed in a food processor until fine.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 t coarse salt
5 T unsalted butter, melted

Mix 1 1/3 cup of the graham cracker crumbs with the 1/4 cup sugar and the 1/4 t coarse salt. Add the butter and mix with a fork until moist and thoroughly combined. You can also do all this in the food processor.

Press the mixture firmly into the sides and bottom of the pie dish using your fingers or a dry measuring cup. Freeze for 30 minutes. (Or 15, as the case may be.)

Once chilled, bake the crust for 10 minutes in the 375 oven, until golden brown. Remove the crust and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the filling.

so many yellow ingredients!

1 14-oz can of sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup strained fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 4-6 lemons)
2 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
1 large egg
Coarse salt

Whisk all these ingredients together and pour into the pre-baked crust. (It's ok if it's still warm). Bake at 325 until the center is set, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (the icebox part).

30 minutes before the 3 hours are up, prepare the topping.


12 oz (2 cups) sliced strawberries (just use a whole quart).
2 tablespoons sugar plus 1/2 cup and 2 tbs sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 large egg whites, room temperature

Sprinkle the strawberries with the 2 tbs sugar and lemon juice, and let stand for about 30 minutes.

OPTIONAL MERINGUE: While the strawberries are standing, heat the egg whites with the 1/2 cup plus 2 tbs sugar in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are warm.

Using a handheld or counter mixer, whip the egg whites at high speed until medium peaks form.

Now assemble! Drain the juice from the strawberries and spoon them over the lemon pie. If you want you can stop here, it will be fab fabby fab. A delectable dessert flavored with the vibrant colors of red and yellow.

However, if you chose the meringue, spread the whipped egg whites over the strawberries. Toast the meringue using a kitchen torch or the broiler in your over. The broiler is RISKY. BUSINESS. Check it every minute AT LEAST. I swear my pie was only in the oven for 3 minutes and here's what it looked like, not pretty:

Still quite tasty though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Broken Cake Trifle and trippy weekend.

I was gone for... no real reason. I have an extreme lack of quality pictures because I never seemed to have my camera on me when I was making things, and I just couldn't bring myself to write a post in general. I thought "Hmm, I should post today, that bread pudding is looking moldy." Then I'd click the "New Post" tab, and stare at the blank text box for a few minutes before going off to check my email and google reader instead. I have been making things though, and I aim to be a more responsible documenter as it appears a few of you missed me. And in lieu of pictures, I have words today, so grab some coffee and focus your attention spans.

News Item 1: Crazy Easter weekend.

Easter weekend was a sleepless haze of cream puffs and music like I'd never heard it before.

The restaurant had a catering on Friday night for a French couple's wedding. They requested a Croquembouche for their wedding cake. The croak-am-boosh is a traditional French dessert that is basically a zillion cream puffs glued with hot caramel into a tall cone shaped tower. Time consuming. Dangerous. In addition the wedding cake 'bouche, they wanted 80 individual 'bouches for their guests. No big deal.

And so all Thursday night and much of Friday found me making desserts for the restaurant, 450 cream puffs and gallons of Grand Marnier-flavored pastry cream in an increasingly sleep-deprived and manic state. I didn't get to go to sleep until 1 pm on Friday, but tragically, I had to be at the wedding venue at 4pm to help assemble the dang thing.

This is what 450 cream puffs and several gallons of pastry cream looks like:

Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the finished product, it was chaos.

I toiled away in my corner, filling cream puffs, trying to avoid the rest of the staff rushing around. (Here's a quick trick for any of you desiring to make this monstrosity: if you have to bake the cream puff in advance, pop them in the oven for a few minutes and let cool before filling them. The toasting will help them keep their shape in the tower and its less likely to topple over...)

Anyway, after a few panicked minutes with some iffy caramel, burning fingers on said caramel, burning foot on dropped caramel (Toms shoes have no place in the kitchen folks), and trying to work around the cheerful and inquisitive wedding photographers who thought they'd capture the process for posterity, we presented one grand, imposing cake and 80 minute cakes to the newly married couple and their guests. Phew, time for some sleep. Not.

I went home to bed at 9 pm to sleep...but then had to be back to work at midnight to bake for the Saturday farmers' market. So I stayed up til the next day at noon, baking and selling bread. Are you keeping track of my sleep folks? Like, how there's really none?

Saturday afternoon I was done with work and feeling strangely powerful, like maybe I'm a super-human who doesn't have to sleep. I happily jumped in the car to drive with Eric to the Allegreen Music festival near Athens, GA.

Now, this Festival was one we got tickets for on Groupon for super cheap, on a whim, without even looking at the bands. We'd been planning on a little trip to nearby Athens anyway.

It wasn't until a few days before the festival that we thought to check out the bands playing, and by then it was too late. The headliner was a band called JACKYL, and I'll let you look them up yourselves. Basically, they are 40 or 50 year old rockers that got their start in the 80s and never calmed down. We're talking flames and yelling and dancing ladies. The lead singer has super-straight brown hair that flows passed his waist. He sings with a wireless microphone attached to a whip and his mic stand is made out of a rifle. Those are probably the tamest details I can share with you. They were the last act of the night, and by then I was wearily determined to sit on the ground in the middle of a hoard of standing/dancing show-goers. Eric thought it best to drag me off to bed, so we only stayed for a couple songs as shocked observers.

Allegreen was a hugely unique experience all-around. It was held at a remote resort called Durhamtown where you can rent ATVs and dirtbikes and zip the around the woods on dirt tracks with jumps. In fact, between shows, guys performed huge as-seen-on-TV-type stunts on a track with a jump that shot them a hundred feet up into the air.

I embarrassed Eric by gasping and covering my face with fear as they twisted and flipped the motorcycles in the air. Underneath it all, a woman gulped lighter fluid or whatever and blew flames into the air, finishing her performance with a flaming hula hoop. (Oh, we also saw some junior fire breaters lurking around later that night. Three teenage boys beckoned us to them and tried to impress us with their pyro skillz while staring deep into our eyes/souls and refusing to blink. One of them had a tail attached to his pants. Another's pockets were stuffed full of straw, which doesn't seem safe to me.)

Anyway, one act there was truly mind-blowing. He's call "That 1 Guy" and he plays a MAGIC PIPE, and occasionally a MAGIC BOOT. These are electronic instruments completely of his own making. He's a one man band and the pipe has strings and buttons and pedals and more. He always wears two Amish-type hats at the same time and has super pointy sideburns. A real weirdo, which I think he'd take as a compliment. That 1 Guy's lyrics and music were extremely complicated (and strange) with excellent beats. Every time he finished a song he'd end with an "AaaROOOOOOO" wolf howl, which at first was off-putting but he was so awesome that half way through the set we were all yelling "AaaaROOOOO" with him. Check out some videos, its the only way to know.

This video is longer and really lets you see what this guy is about:

We slept shivering in our tent next to a family with the Taj Mahal camping set up. The next morning the wife asked me "Were ya'll making a peanut butter sandwich last night? I saw your shadow in the tent spreading something." Um yes, thanks for noticing.

News item 2 to come next time. BUT- In case you wanted some food content in this post, here's a Broken-Cake-Chocolate-Strawberry-Trifle.

I made a Sweet and Salty Cake and a Coconut Cake (recipe coming soon) for our friends Ryan and Laura's wedding. The first batch of chocolate cake came out of the pan in clumps because I thought I could use wax paper instead of parchment paper to line the bottom of the cake pan just this once. Don't try it, it doesn't work.

Well, never one to let cake go to waste, I made a Trifle for a potluck that night. I layered the broken cake with Chocolate Pudding, sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

I didn't even have to go to the store for any extra ingredients- the pudding just takes milk, sugar, chocolate and cornstarch.

Here's a rough recipe- but you can mix and match with whatever you have. Even cool whip and pudding from a box, if you must.

1 layer broken chocolate cake, plus crumbs to sprinkle the top
2 cups cream, whipped
1 quart strawberries

Layer half the cake, then half the pudding, then half the whipped cream, then half the strawberries. Repeat. Top with cake crumbs.

Enjoy this accolade this brings! The potluck people swooooned over it.