Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vanilla Meringues

What are you doing this weekend? I am headed to Las Vegas! I'm so excited because I just purchased a new lens and I can't wait to test it out.

While I'm off melting (literally) in sin city, I want to leave you with these light meringues. By light, I mean their delicacy, and their melt in your mouth trait. I've wanted to make these babies ever since I was a little girl, but I was always intimidated. There's something about smooth, white, and fluffy things that just get to me. I mean it, everything from my "marshmallow" comforter (goose down) to bunnies, to fluffy frosting. I just love it all!

Anyway, after biting the bullet, I soon found out how easy it was to make these. They are easy to transport and keep fresh and will satisfy that hankering for sugar feeling at around 3:00pm to help get you through the rest of your day. Please enjoy and have a wonderful weekend! Wish me luck!

Vanilla Meringues adapted from Cake Love

Note: There is a very very fine line between underbaked and overbaked. Because the baking time is not very much, I would suggest sitting in front of the oven and staring as they take shape until they are done.

4 large egg whites
6 oz. (3/4 cup) extra-fine granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
3 oz. (3/4 cup) confectioners' sugar
1 oz. + 2 tbsp. (5 tbsp.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. vanilla powder

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

2. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a nonstick silicone baking mat.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.

4. With the mixer still on high speed, slowly add the sugar and whip for 15 seconds to incorporate. Add the vanilla extract and reduce the mixer speed to medium for about 15 seconds to stabilize the meringue.

5. Stop the mixer and remove the bowl. Tap the wire whip on the side of the mixer bowl to remove all the meringue. Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue in 3 additions using a rubber spatula, working gently to avoid deflating the meringue.

6. Fill a pastry bag or ziploc freezer bag, fitted with a piping tip, with the meringue.

7. Pipe the meringues onto the lined sheet pan about 1 inch apart to allow for spreading.

8. Bake for about 7-9 min. ( I only took about 5 min.) or until they appear dry and slightly brown.

9. Remove the pan from the oven and cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes on a flat, heat-resistant surface or a wire rack.

10. Once the meringues are cooled, gently slide an offset metal spatula under each one to release from the pan.

They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fourth of July Weekend

This is way over due, but so worth blogging about. This is what I did for Fourth of July (try not to drool too much).

Disneyland Resort's Cafe Orleans

Appetizer - Pommes Frites (traditional French-fried potatoes tossed with Parmesan cheese, garlic and parsley, served with a Cajun spice remoulade)



Main Course - Creole Ratatouille (A N'awlins twist on a French favorite! Savory vegetable ragout, with eggplant, red onion, bell pepper, squash, zucchini, and fresh garlic - seasoned to perfection and served with corn cakes topped with grana padano cheese)
Main Course for sig-o - Mardi Gras Chicken Sandwich (Succulent chicken breast, marinated in olve oil and Cajun spices, then lightly blackened. Nestled on a toasted multi-grain roll with avocado giardinere relish, crisp lettuce and tomatoes. Served with tossed, tender greens)
Dessert - "Mickey"- shaped Beignets (Topped with powdered sugar and served with raspberry coulis and vanilla-bean creme anglaise)
Porto's Bakery in a Burbank, CA (they also have a Glendale location). It's a wonderful Cuban bakery with delicious desserts and tasty sandwiches and smoothies and coffees.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Great American Bake Sale Recipe # 2: Sugar Cookies

One of the very first recipes I learned to bake (at 9 yrs. old) was a sugar cookie. In my young little eyes, I found them to be the best cookie to start with. They were simple, non-intimidating, versatile and very easy to work with. You could cut them into any shape and for the most part, the way they went in the oven was the way they would come out of the oven (at 9 yrs. old that's all you care about).

To me, a sugar cookie is one of those quick fixes that make a bad day good and a sugar craving go away. I know that some people can't stand the taste of these delightful creations and that the sound of the word "sugar cookie" makes them cringe, but I am here to speak up for all the sugar cookies in the world. I love sugar cookies and I'm proud of it! I love how they can be easily decorated and the fun shapes that can be created when you have neat cookie cutters. I love the way they smell coming out of the oven and how their nostalgic they are during the holidays. I love...I'm sorry, am I getting side tracked? Anyway, did I confess my love of sugar cookies?

With all of that off my chest, I could not, with good conscience, leave them out of the bake sale, now could I? I knew you would agree with me.

For the most part, they had a huge contribution in the bake sale - if memory serves me correctly, I believe they were 75% gone by the time the sale was over. Not too shabby, huh?

Sugar Cookies adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

If you've had a bad experience with sugar cookies, please give them another chance and try this recipe. If these don't convince you, I won't ever mention it again.

2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz.) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
14 tbsp. (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread 1/2 cup of the sugar in a shallow dish for rolling. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed.

3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Give the dough a few final stirs with a rubber spatula to make sure it is well combined.

4. Roll 2 tbsp. dough into balls with wet hands, the roll in the sugar to coat. Lay the balls on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 2 in. apart. Flatten the cookies to 3/4 in. thickness with the buttered and sugared bottom of a drinking glass. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the flattened tops.

5. Bake the cookies, one sheet a t a time, until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10 to 12 min., rotating each baking sheet halfway through baking.

6. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 min., then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.