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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Nests and Apple Hand Pies

I've been pretty busy these past two weeks, making pastries for a reception at my church. All in all I prepared around 200 mini pastries; it felt something like a teach yourself pastry school course as I tried a couple of different items I had never made before.

The first pastry was the Meringue Lemon Curd Nests, adapted from a recipe by Chef Gordon Ramsey in BBC Good Food.
Meringue Recipe

3 egg whites
1/2 teasp. lemon juice
3/4 cup of fine sugar (ground regular sugar in the coffee grinder)

Heat oven to 200 degrees F. Tip the egg whites and lemon juice into the clean bowl of a food mixer. Whisk until the whites double in volume and hold a peak when the whisk is drawn through them. Keep the whisk running and add the sugar a tbsp at a time, incorporating completely before adding the next. Whisk until all the sugar has been added and the whites are glossy.
Place a square of baking parchment on a large baking sheet. Pencil 20 circles, about 1-1/2 to 2 inches each, onto the parchment (or place a second sheet of parchment with drawn circles under the top sheet). Spoon the meringue into a 14-inch piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle (no. 3 is a good size) and pipe concentric rounds to fit each drawn circle, piping two or more rings around the edge to form a nest. Place in oven, leaving oven door slightly open by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon it it. Bake for 3 hrs until they are crisp and lift off the paper easily. Leave to cool completely.

Make lemon curd mixed with whipped cream.
Spoon small amount of the curd-cream into each meringue nest. Delicious!

The next treat was apple hand pies. I used a pie pocket maker 3 inches in diameter to cut the pastry and fill the pies. This is a wonderful tool as it makes really neatly shaped pies.

Apple Filling Recipe
(from The Professional Pastry Chef, by Chef Bo Friberg*)

About 7 Granny Smith apples
10 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
4 teaspoons lemon juice
Peel and core the apples. Chop approximately 2/3 of the apples into 1/2 inch pieces.
Place the chopped apples in a saucepan with sugar, water, and lemon juice. Adjust the amount of sugar according to the tartness of the apples and your own taste. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the apples have broken down and the mixture starts to thicken.
Chop the remaining apples into 1/4 inch pieces and add to the mixture on the stove.

Continue cooking the filling until the apple chunks are soft and the filling has reached a jamlike consistency, adding a bit more water if it seems necessary. Let cool at room temperature, then store, covered, in the refrigerator. Add nuts, or raisins, currants or dried cranberries.

Make favorite all butter pastry.
Roll out to about 1/8 inch thick and cut as many rounds as will fit. Sprinkle pie pocket maker lightly with flour. Fill each round of pastry with about a TBS. of apple filling and insert into pie pocket, closing very lightly. Remove apple pastry from pocket. Make a couple of small knife inserts into pie so air can escape while baking. Use egg wash over the top side of each pie.

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes or a bit less. (These pies freeze very well, unbaked; when needed they can be baked straight from the freezer.)

Tip: Very important - use only the first round of pastry cut outs - the dough on subsequent rounds will shrink in the the pie pocket and the pies will open while baking. The leftover dough from each first round can always be used for something else.
Work quickly; only cut one circle at a time for each pie. Use needle, not knife for pricking. Use egg wash to help close edges as well as over tops. Must prepare well beforehand so pies can sit in freezer at least overnight.

The reception guests thoroughly enjoyed both these treats - I will be making more of them coming up Thanksgiving visits and Christmas Holiday visits.
*The Professional Pastry Chef:Fundamentals, by Bo Friberg, is an absolutely fabulous baking volume. I would highly recommend it for a treat-yourself purchase.