Wednesday, August 19, 2009

a rustic, free-form success

I've never really been good at pie crusts. I've always left that to my mom and my grandmothers. I think it's a truth universally acknowledged that no one makes pie like your mom or grandmas made it. Other pies just don't compete. It's true.

Now that I have access to a food processor courtesy of Mark, I decided to challenge myself to make tartlets. (This was partially due to my residual high from watching Julie & Julia and feeling like I could best any culinary challenge, I admit.) I wanted something fruity and somewhat nostalgic, and rustic free-form apple tartlets from a Cooks Illustrated recipe were the ticket.

As a side note, if you haven't watched America's Test Kitchen on PBS, you should. And if you aren't familiar with Cooks Illustrated, their periodical cookbook, you need to make each other's acquaintance. For my 26th birthday, my gramma T gave me one of their annual cookbooks. She got me hooked. The recipes are amazing and are informative and seem somehow to leap off the page.

Back to the story. Let's start with Sir Sous Chef and his ingredients (as well as my less than stellar food photography. I think I'm more about practicality than artistry here.)

Pulse cubes of cold butter and cream cheese....

with your dry ingredients in a food processor.

I am a total nerd. I love watching ingredients pulse in a food processor.

Pulse it til it becomes pebbly. I made that word up.

Add some liquid ingredients, like very cold water. My mom always told me that the water has to be super cold. She was right. Get it moist enough to be able to shape it into a ball.

I forgot to snap a shot of the dough in a giant patty. I cut the patty into wedges and refrigerated them for about a half hour. In the meantime, Mark used the food processor to chop apples. (It was almost as exciting as pulsing the dry ingredients.)

With some sugar and cinnamon...

I rolled each wedge of dough out into a rough circle and then made a circular layer of apples inside. After folding the edges up and pushing the edges , I got them on parchment paper and a cookie sheet.

After they bake for 15 minutes, you egg wash them and add more sugar to the apples. "More sugar" is another phrase I like to hear.

Bake until golden brown and of course, top it with vanilla ice cream. They were delicious and I was able to declare my food processor pie crust a success.

A rustic, free-form success.

what to do with extra egg whites

Mark made vanilla bean ice cream on Sunday to complement my free form rustic apple tartlets. He ended up with 6 leftover egg whites, which we couldn't bear to throw out. So what does one do with leftover egg whites?

Meringue cookies, of course. A double batch.

I made these for the first time for our annual Halloween party in the shape of bones. They taste like marshmallow cookies and they dissolve in your mouth in a poof of loveliness.

Beat 3 egg whites with 1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar until they thicken. Add 3/4 c. of sugar and 1 tsp. of vanilla extract gradually on high speed until "stiff [glossy] peaks form." That wording is in a ton of recipes, but I love it when those words come to life on the whisk attachment to my KitchenAid.

Mark and I experimented with different tips from my cake kit (which looks more like a tackle box, but that's another story) to see what shapes we could pipe. We tried to make small swirls. Let me just make clear that piping meringue in small plastic piping bags can get really sticky.

After what I like to call a 2-hour "slow roast" at low heat (225 degrees, which felt like high heat considering it was 92 degrees outside on the day we made them), we got 80 bajillion poofs of loveliness, however uneven they were.