Birthday pie: lemon meringue

My stepdaughter is having a birthday and then she’s going off to join the Air Force. Wow! It is tradition to have the birthday child to select the type of dinner and cake she/he would like for their celebration. This one likes pie. Apple pie, lemon meringue pie, pie! This year she has selected barbecue ribs (Hubby’s job to grill) and lemon meringue pie which is mine to make.

I have a French cookbook of the coffee table variety which has a wonderful recipe for lemon meringue pie with a lemon curd. That uses butter. I also looked at one of my British baking books which has both a lemon curd tart and a lemon meringue pie. Which to make?

I decide to go with the lemon meringue pie from Home Baking: Cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, bread (Paragon Publishing 2005). I am not following this exactly because…well, just because! Almost, but adding one more egg and one more lemon. Here are my ingredients:

  • single pie crust; I recently made a batch of the apple cider vinegar pie crust and have one disc in the freezer. I thaw this out.
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • juice and grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 cup of sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs, separated

The pie crust needs to be pre-baked. i do not do this well. I want to buy some of those pie beans or some such to learn to do this better. But I have to make do with what is available. I do not have dried beans in the pantry. What to do? Last time I tried to pre-bake a crust I put a pot lid on it and this was not successful. It puffed up underneath the lid and the edges shrunk. This time I fit a disposable foil pie tin inside the pie pan and then put the lid on it. The recipe says to prick the crust all over and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. I did this and then uncovered the crust and let it bake for another 10 minutes raising the temperature to 375 F. This worked nicely, light brown, no shrinkage.

20161020_214726222_iosNow for the filling. I do a nice mise en place. I have misplaced/lost the insert to my old-time juicer so juicing the lemons is not as fun or simple as it was before.

Mi the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the cold water. Put the remaining water in a medium sized pot along with the lemon juice, zest and cornstarch paste. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly. Stir in 5 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks. I temper the egg yolks by stirring in a little of the lemon mixture first so as not to have scrambled eggs in the lemon pudding. Pour all of that into the pie shell.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and then whisk in the remaining sugar. I read up on meringues and later figured there should have been more sugar and I should have waited to put the sugar in and should not have whipped them so stiff. Anyway I then had to spread this carefully over the top of the pie. And since it was so stiff it did not spread easily.

Very lemony taste! I am not sure why the meringue cracked unless it was because i whipped the egg whites too stiff.  It was enjoyed by all!

Cherry Custard Tart!

I confess this is an experiment. I long to make cherry cafloutis and have not been successful. I think it is the texture that is foreign to this mid-American palate of mine! And ever since I watched all of the BBC series As Time Goes By I have urges to make Custard Tarts which were Lionel’s favorite teatime treat.

The weather cooled off sufficiently for me to want to turn on the oven. What to bake? I dream of biscuits, cakes, pies…and custard tarts! I have a pie dough circle in the freezer and get that out to thaw. I go through my French Feasts cookbook looking for custard. There are lots to choose from. Questions flood my brain: do I pre-bake the crust? which custard cream can be baked? do I bake the cream in the crust? Should I make the whole recipe or half. I see that I and the son have marked the recipes on Page 456 with the amounts for half recipes.

I chose the creme patissiere (pastry cream). I chose to prebake the crust and possibly bake it again with the cream filling. I do not spend any time researching what to do through cookbooks or the internet. I roll out the crust and try to fit it to an 8 inch spring form pan. This was my first mistake: I should have used a regular 9 inch pyrex pie pan. Who knew?

I also decide to make a topping using canned tart cherries. I “melt” 1/2 cup apricot jam in a small sauce pan and add 1/2 can of cherries. Bring to boil and stir.

20160911_215721278_iosFor the “creme pat”:

  • 4 cups milk; I make this with 2 cups half-and-half and 2 cups water. The only milk I have in the house is almond milk and that has very little fat in it.
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup butter

Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar until pale. I don’t think mine got to pale. I used a hand whisk and not the mixer. I add about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla to add some flavor. Meanwhile put the milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the butter. And scald. To this I added the zest of one lemon to augment the custard for the cherries. Add a little of the scalded milk to the egg mixture and then return to the saucepan whisking constantly while adding. I then remembered to add 2/3 cup sifted flour to the egg mixture before I had added it all to the milk. I got that sorted out and this mixture gets cooked gently for 10 minutes. I whisked it a lot of that time to be sure it would be smooth. It came out nicely. I have too much pastry  cream for the little crust I had formed.

I baked the crust for 10 minutes with lid used for the baking blind. I have to get me some of those “baking stones” soon! Ugly, ugly, ugly! And not so crisp. The sides shrunk down as well. I have very little success pre-baking pie crusts. I put it back in the oven for 5 minutes without the lid in it. Now it looks a bit browner. Maybe it is okay. I decide at this time to just add the pastry cream and chill.


The mistakes I made:

  1. not properly shaping and pre-baking the pie crust in the proper pan. This is not a short crust but a flaky crust that most of us Americans use for all pies.
  2. making too much pastry cream and not letting it cool before filling the pie crust.
  3. not cooking down the jam and cherries long enough to make a thicker sauce.

But how does it taste? Let’s find out.


Nice flavors. The custard was loose. Perhaps more time in the refrigerator will set it better. I will find out tomorrow. The crust was nicely colored and crisp on the bottom. Good bake! I have lots of pastry cream leftover so cream puffs may be on the menu this week!

Blueberry Pie

Hubby and I took a Sunday drive to look around some of the local campgrounds to see if any looked inviting for weekend camping trips. It is the second half of the season for camping and I may or may not find a Labor Day weekend spot but it is worth the effort. In the rural areas of this small state there are farms and farm stands. We found one that also is a new winery with a wine tasting happening so we had to stop! And because they took “plastic” for payment I bought plenty of fresh locally grown produce and homemade preserves and a fancy bottle of wine!

They had only four pints of blueberries left so I bought two of them. Pie, I was thinking! I had two discs of pie dough in my freezer so this should be easy! Easy as pie! 🙂

I do not like to cook up the fruit before filling the pie crust. I also wanted to use just one pie crust and fold it over the top of the fruit so it looks rustic. I am not sure what that is called but I’ve always wanted to try it.

  • one pie crust, unbaked and rolled out to a 12 inch circle; I love the apple cider pie dough recipe here.
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice; I read some time ago that lime is nice with blueberries so i thought I would try lime instead of lemon juice

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Roll out crust and place in 9 inch pie pan. Mix the fruit with the other ingredients and pour into the crust. Fold the crust over the fruit filling. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

I also sprayed the crust with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkled on some sugar before baking. I figured this would make a nice golden brown.

And here is the final product:


The filling was a bit runny. This may be because I cut it when it was still warm. But it tasted good and fruity. The filling broke through the crust so I would not be able to pull it out of the pan to place on a serving plate. Did I roll the crust too thin? Hmmm?

Pork Pies

Pictured here are just pie dough and jam, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar: not the recipe below!

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a little while now. I have these in my freezer, we ate some for a supper, and even took some camping and toasted them up on the grill. The pastry is from a recipe that I copied out of a book The Make Ahead Cook. I don’t remember the author. I found this in my “want to make” recipe notebook.

I had some seasoned pork that my stepdaughters’ aunt puts together for pork pie. My youngest stepdaughter made pork pie for us one time and it is delicious! I found a recipe for pork pie in the Yankee magazine after the girls told me of it. I had never heard of it before. It is ground pork seasoned with onion, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. I think each family recipe is probably a variation on that. Hubby mentioned that I needed more puff pastry so I could use that with the seasoned pork which the family calls “gratin”.  I did not have any puff pastry so this recipe came in handy. And its a bit different than regular pie pastry. Here are the ingredients for the crusts:


  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  8 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces (the original recipe called for shortening)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil

A food processor is a fabulous appliance for making pastry dough.

20160526_203351193_iOSProcess flour, salt, and baking powder in food processor until combined, about 3 seconds. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. (I did not cut the butter into small enough pieces so ended up with chunks that made the rolling out of the circles a little more difficult than should be).Add broth and eggs until dough comes together. This took more than the 5 pulses in the original recipe. Transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Knead by hand to form a smooth ball and then divide into 16 pieces.

Roll each piece into a circle of about 6 inches diameter. Place 1/4 cup filling on half, brush edges with water, fold over and seal. I have to admit my 6 inch circles were approximate and “circle-like”! Half way through I ran out of the prepared pork (already cooked) and made a quick extra filling by cooking some breakfast sausages and scrambled eggs with a touch of grated cheese. (The original recipe called for a meat mixture made with 1 1/2 pounds of meatloaf mix.)

These get baked on cookie sheets preheated in a 425 degree F oven. When the pans are heated drizzle 2 Tablespoons of oil on the pan before placing the pies on them. The original recipe said to brush the other Tablespoon of oil on the tops. I sprayed them with cooking spray and for the second pan I did not drizzle the oil. The oil drizzled pans did produce a browner, crisper crust. So it might be worth the effort to do so next time as well.

I sprinkled paprika on the scrambled egg ones to distinguish them from the pork. This is a recipe that I will use again. It made 14, not 16, but that was the extent of the filling available. The crust is flavorful, like a biscuit, but thin and crisp. They are definitely not just pie dough and filling. These will be handy for a grab and go lunch or super easy supper on a busy night, or when I am just too lazy to cook!





Steak and Cake

Somehow over the past 10 or so years our Thanksgiving meal became the pre-Thanksgiving feast for family to gather around. This is the result of blending families and the kids growing up and becoming adults. And when the son-in-law entered the family his birthday needed to be celebrated and then the grandchild was born all around the Thanksgiving holiday. So we don’t cook a turkey until Christmas because everyone will go to families with turkey feasts the next day.

So it is steak and cake…and pumpkin pie!

This year we bought a top butt uncut for $4.59 a pound. Hubby cuts it into the steaks for the Family Feast with plenty of meat to spare. This was a family time so I forgot to take a picture of the cooked steaks. And there were no leftovers!

The cake will be a rainbow sprinkle cake made from scratch. I do not yet have a “go to” plain cake recipe. The first year I bought the cake mix and pre-made frosting. My step daughters and hubby came home and caught me making a cake from a box!!! Horror of horrors! They thought they were in the wrong kitchen or possibly aliens had taken over my body! I did this for a couple of years so they got used to it and son-in-law got the birthday cake he requested. So this year it is made from scratch. I found a nice yellow cake recipe that I had made for our Easter meal this past spring. I figure I can just add rainbow sprinkles. Homemade cakes tend to be denser than cake-mix cakes, at least the way I make them. This particular cake is dense and moist. I am pleased that it came out so well because I had my granddaughter helping measure and add the ingredients. She is almost two so the exact amount of baking soda and salt are questionable.

What to do to frost the cake? The son-in-law announced that he too is lactose intolerant or sensitive. So no cream cheese or dairy, except butter, will be required. I do not like to make marshmallow frosting because I do not do it well. So I get out a standard Buttercream frosting recipe from my 1950 Rumford Cookbook. This is a book that my grandmother used. There are notations in her handwriting and a draft of Grandpa King’s obituary on lined writing paper as well. I substitute soymilk in the ingredient list.

Butter Cream Frosting: Cream 6 Tab butter until very soft; gradually add 3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar; mix in 2 teas vanilla extract;  add 5 Tab cream or evaporated milk; beat until very light and fluffy and of good spreading consistency.

Thanksgiving2015 018Buttercream is very sweet but seems to mellow some after being placed on the cake and left to sit for a few hours. Decorations are courtesy of the granddaughter.

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And there is pie! A few years ago my son and I made two pies to determine if the Cook’s Illustrated magazine “improved” pumpkin pie was truly an improved pie. The crusts were store bought refrigerated crusts that you unroll. We used the Pillsbury brand crust for the “improved” pie and the store brand one for the other. The standard pie recipe that I had used was from my Betty Crockers’ Cookbook (1978). This is a basic cookbook found in ordinary kitchens all over America, nothing fancy or special about it. For Cook’s we ground fresh spices and it has sour cream added. It came out looking smoother and the aroma was better than Betty’s .

We had blind taste testing after the meal. Betty Crocker won hands down for best tasting! The lesson here is that those basic standard recipes can often be the best. I suppose that is why they become the standards and the basics.

family feast blog 001

I had posted the Steak and Cake feast menu and recipes in sleeve protectors and hung it on the kitchen cabinet. I figured folks could take a look and help out with things.

Son cooked the Brussels sprouts. These were wonderful! And to think the recipe came from the local grocery store coupon flyer. Basically skillet roast the sprouts with bacon, onion, garlic, and whole cranberries.

I made the sour dough rolls and these were nice and light and buttery.Thank you KAF!

Daughter made the green salad. Stepdaughters worked on the mashed potatoes and the baked sweet potatoes. And the sauteed mushrooms.

Hubby and son-in-law supervised the grilling of the steaks.

All in all it was hectic and fun and crowded and I would not have it any other way.

Crock Pot Meal

I like cooking in the crock pot. Meals are ready when evening comes. It is convenient and simple. Slow cooking meat this way is a way to turn tougher cuts into tender meals. I usually cook chicken in the crockpot although I have cooked beef. I would like to use it more but to be honest the texture of the meal is similar regardless of what I’ve cooked. It seems to be all “stew-like.” But this does not stop me from preparing meals this way. It is rather an assembled meal and not necessarily really a recipe meal.

It is convenient. I do not necessarily need the convenience in that I have 1 ½ hours at home alone before my husband arrives home from work. I have 45 minutes to an hour in the morning as well. I REFUSE to feel guilty that I have arranged my work to be so close to home. I do recognize that some may call this a luxury and that not everyone can arrange life like this. But I did and I really enjoy it. Work is work but this change saved my sanity from my previous job!

So we had a huge grocery shopping trip this week. And I say “we” because my husband makes it a practice to go shopping with me. Now this is a luxury! Lots of chicken was purchased at my discount grocery store. I have a 10 pound bag of chicken leg quarters. These work nicely in the crockpot. I have every intention of making my own barbeque sauce and barbeque rubs. I have not done so yet. Well, that is not true. I made one sauce and used it over chicken but it would be better over pork. I am not sure that I like it; it is made without ketchup. My plan is to make a simple sauce in the morning before work. This does not happen. I have about ½ cup tomato  soup leftover and will use that instead.

Here is an assembly of ingredients that make a meal: chicken parts, potatoes, carrots, onions, tomato soup, spice rub, liquid smoke.

Maine weekend and crockpot meal 049 Maine weekend and crockpot meal 051

I put all that in the crockpot and cooked it on low for 8 hours then kept it on warm.

Maine weekend and crockpot meal 056And then there are muffins. I thought at first that I would make corn muffins but the KAF 200th Anniversary Cookbook had a wheatgerm muffin and I have wheatgerm in my fridge. So that is what I made. Page 76.

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And then I make pie! Dough from Emily RPCV referenced in previous blog (Savory Pie). And the pumpkin pie from the KAF cookbook. My standard pumpkin pie recipe is from the Betty Crocker cookbook. But I am trying to keep to my goal of baking through this one cookbook.

So I had gone to the grocery to buy a few more items that we forgot at the big grocery shopping trip. I come home and bake and bake. I feed my husband and we have a nice dinner. I make the pie after supper and then need to clean up. He says he is not doing dishes until the morning. Well, I did the dishes this morning since they needed to be done. I am sweeping up the kitchen floor and slightly seething, very slightly, not even seething, more like minor brooding trying not to brood, while my husband is trying to get his iPhone to find local pool halls. I have made his favorite pie! I bring this to his attention and he tells me he works hard enough and he is not going to work at home this evening after working hard all day! And he sometimes feels like Cinderella! This is true for both of us. I just wanted a bit of help cleaning up the kitchen. But it is done and we can relax and wait for the pie to cool down so we can have a slice.

Pie makes everything right. Happy autumn!