31 May 2008

Mini Pies = Pielets

Mini tarts are called tartlets, so mini pies must be called pielets right? And passionfruit meringue pielets these shall be.

So, I promised a fancier way to serve the passionfruit curd (I know it took a little too long!) and while you actually can just have it on your toast (which is still very good, btw), I think sometimes it doesn't hurt to make a little more effort to impress people a little. By fancy, I really didn't mean difficult. Just needing a little more time.

These meringue pielets are fairly easy to put together. The tart base is very easy and quick to do, but so good! Fragrant with a nice buttery, flaky crumb, I think it will work well with many sweet tarts. I used Fanny's recipe for the tart base and followed it word for word. I didn't the need to change it. I've since used it twice and my favourite part about it, no shrinkage when baking! All-in-all, it takes about another 1 or 2 hours to assemble the pielets including the time needed to chill and the tart dough. The full recipe for tart base makes about 11 3" tartlets (weird number, I know). The following recipe makes 4 pielets so it will use 1/3 of the tart dough recipe. Or you can simply bake up all the tart bases and store in an airtight box for future use!

Passionfruit Meringue Pielets

Tart Dough
250g plain flour
25g sugar
Pinch of salt
125g butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
40ml ice cold water

Filling and Meringue
4 heaping tbsp passionfruit curd (find recipe here)
1 egg white (I used the one left from making the pastry)
40g sugar

- Sift flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Using only your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. When incorporating the butter into the flour, lift up your hand slightly and let the flour fall back into the bowl.
- Mix the egg yolk and cold water together in a small bowl and pour over the flour mixture.
- Knead gently until the dough comes together into a ball. Work the dough as little as possible so that it will remain light and flaky when baked.
- Wrap in cling wrap or a plastic bag and chill for 30mins or until ready to use. You may want to divide the dough into 3 parts before wrapping so that you can take out only what you need when baking.
- Preheat oven to 180 degC. Lightly butter and flour 4 3" tart moulds.
- Roll out 1/3 of the tart dough to about 1/8" - 1/4" thick between the clingwrap or plastic bag or on a lightly floured surface. You may find that you need a bit more tart dough depending on how thick you roll out the dough.
- Drape the tart dough over the moulds and press into the edges. I find it easier to try to fit it into the bottom first before letting the dough drape over the sides.
- Trim the excess dough from the rim and prick the base with a fork. Chill again for 20mins.
- Bake the tart bases blind for 25mins until golden brown. When baked, let cool before filling with passionfruit curd. Increase oven temperature to 200 degC.
- While the tart shells are cooling, whip the egg white until soft peaks form and slowly add in the sugar while whipping until stiff.
- Fill the cooled tart bases with 1 heaping tbsp of passionfruit curd each and top with the meringue, spreading it out to cover the passionfruit curd and piling up high in the center. Create whiplash peaks using a knife. Alternatively, you might want to pipe the meringue and making decorative swirls or using patterned nozzles.
- Bake 8-10mins or until the meringue browns slightly. You can use a blow torch too.

I know most people don't keep meringue pies, but if you happen to have leftovers, or they cool before you have a chance to eat them, pop them into the oven or toaster to warm up again before serving. I find that they taste better warm because the crust is more crisp, rather than hard.

21 May 2008

Passion for Passionfruit Curd

I first bought passionfruit curd on my Perth trip in 2005 with my art classmates without knowing what exactly it was. It just sounded... exotic. I knew what passionfruits were, how they looked like, how the plant/flowers/vine looked like. But I never got to eating real passionfruits. The only "passionfruits" I tasted before were passionfruit *flavoured* drinks and didn't know if they were anything like the real deal. So imagine my glee when I saw them fresh in the Singaporean supermarkets last year! Okay, back to passionfruit curd. I was pleasantly surprised! I thought it would be kinda jam-like, but it was smoother since it was more "liquid", more rich with the addition of eggs and butter and less cloying because it wasn't as sweet.

Ever since I found passionfruits on sale in the supermarkets, I wanted to make passionfruit curd. But you know, procrastination, school, yada yada... Many times I bought passionfruits to "make passionfruit curd when the weekend comes" but they either end up eaten as it is or worse, dying in the refrigerator (which, sadly, happens all too often with ingredients I buy). Well, it took me long enough to recreate passionfruit curd in my kitchen and I'm glad to say it's so easy I won't have to buy it again! Taste wise, the flavour of the passionfruits weren't showing through much. It might be because the passionfruits (the Indonesian/Malaysian variety, green on the outside, reminds me of Pong Pong) were a little lossy on the flavour to begin with, or the fact that the lemons I used were too fragrant. Despite that, it's still a great recipe! I love the smooth texture of the curd, the tang and fragrance of the lemon and the crunch of the passionfruit seeds. Seriously, I "wiped" the bowl in which I prepared the curd in with a slice of white bread. I wasn't about to let any bit of this yellowy goodness go to waste. I also had it with yoghurt and cake, both of which proved to be delicious. If you're in the mood for something fancier, I'll follow up within the next few days with another recipe.

Passionfruit Curd
(Makes approximately 500ml)

2 lemons
6 passionfruits
80g sugar
60g butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

- Zest and juice the lemons and set aside.
- Remove the pulp from the passionfruits and set aside.
- Bring a pot of water to boil. When the water is boiling, turn the heat down and let the water come to a slow simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over the pot of water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
- Combine lemon zest and juice, sugar and butter in the heatproof bowl and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
- When the sugar has dissolved, add in the passionfruit pulp and stir briefly. Do not overheat.
- Add in the eggs slowly through a strainer and whisk constantly. The mixture will take some time to thicken, about 10mins. When it thickens and starts to coat the whisk/spoon, remove from the heat, let cool and store in sterlised jars.

P.S. You might want to try another method which involves stirring (constantly!) all the ingredients, except the butter, in a bowl over a pot of simmering water until it thickens. When the mixture has thickened, remove from heat and whisk in the cold butter to incorporate.

11 May 2008

I'm Back!

And in one complete piece! Phew~!

Did you miss me?

After a long month of struggling with pencils, brushes, needles and sewing machines, I'm glad to report that I've fully accomplished my mission and successfully, more or less, survived my second academic year at fashion school! YAY! If you want, you can take a look at my proudest creation up to date.

Ok! So back to the edible.

I actually baked a couple of times before my hellish term started back in March but didn't get around to posting about them. I've been pestered by SK for quite some time to make bread pudding. But I've never had bread pudding before, and thought it was just simply soggy french toast. So it didn't appeal THAT much to me and I obviously procrastinated. Then it seemed to be like bread pudding season somewhere in Fall of the Northern hemisphere, when I saw this and this. But I still didn't make it.

So after a long long wait, I finally got around to making bread pudding in March. But that's partly because I had leftover cranberries and apples and oranges to use and found it exactly the ingredients of this bread pudding which I thought looked really quite good.

Not having bread pudding before, much less making it, I looked through some trusty food blogs online for recipes to reference to. And my favourite (and only) dessert cookbook. And they seemed easy enough: thickly sliced bread in a simple custard of milk (sometimes cream), eggs and sugar make up a very basic recipe which can be flavoured and tweaked with additions of other ingredients. So, to use up the leftover ingredients that I've had in my refrigerator for *ahem* months *ahem*, I infused the custard with orange zest and orange juice and topped the puddings with diced apples and cranberries. I made individual bread puddings because I brought them for a sleepover with my fellow art-sians and was quite attracted by how Bea packaged hers. I'm not sure if I over-filled my cupcake cups because they were leaking by the time they were supposed to go into the oven and I had to stack up to 4 cups for 1 pudding. So feel free to use ceramic ramekins or baking dishes if you're not going to have them lugged around like me.

Truth be told, I can't remember the exact quantities of the ingredients I used, so I'm going to leave you with some very very vague measurements here. But I promise to recreate something soon enough to post an accurate recipe that works.

Cranberry and Apple Bread Pudding

1 green apple (I used Granny Smith)
~200g loaf of multi-grain bread
400ml milk
2 large eggs
~80g sugar + 1 tbsp
Zest and juice of 1 orange
Handful of cranberries
Icing sugar for dusting

- Peel, core and dice the green apple. Set in a bowl and let macerate with orange juice and 1 tbsp of sugar.
- Slice bread thickly into 3/4" slices. Cut them into 1" sticks.
- Divide bread sticks evenly into 10 individual cupcake cups, lined with wax paper, or greased ramekins/baking dishes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar and orange zest.
- Divide the custard mixture evenly into the cups and let the bread soak up for about 10 - 15mins. Here's where you need to keep an eye on the puddings if you're using cupcake cups. If they leak, layer on the paper cups.
- Preheat oven to 180 degC.
- Top the individual puddings with macerated apples and cranberries and bake for 45mins.
- Let cool slightly before serving and dust with icing sugar if desired.

By the time we got around to eating the puddings in the midst of our movie marathon, they were already quite cold and I don't think it did them much justice. The tops were kinda dried out which I thought would be slightly crusty and crispy if it had been warm, or not been left out for that long. I think If I were to do it again, I'd probably not have my bread stick out of the cups this much, or soak them all in custard before filling them into the cups. Also, my friends thought they weren't sweet enough and I drizzled on extra syrup for them. I don't have a major sweet tooth and didn't have a problem with the sugar content. If you like your desserts really sweet, add more more more! sugar.