Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Playing with leftovers

You may remember that when I made my jam tart in the weekend, I found myself with some leftover pastry. Since the pastry recipe requires a yolk only, I also had an egg white in the fridge. I went looking for a recipe which would use up my bits and pieces.

I was not successful in finding a single recipe which would use up both the egg white and the pastry. I know what you're thinking: Lemon meringue pie. But the filling uses the yolks, so it wasn't a suitable recipe for using up a single white.

In the end, I decided on custard tart (p208) as a way of using up my pastry. Since the recipe actually uses 200g of pastry, and I only had 100g, I made a half-mix of the filling and made tartlets in my patty tins.

The first step was to roll and cut the pastry to line the patty tins. Then they had to be baked blind, so I filled them up with some dried haricot beans and bunged them in the oven. I had to be pretty careful with my cooking times - the timings given in the recipe were for a tart 20cm in diameter: Mine were more like 5 or 6cm. So 15 minutes blind baking became 5.

After taking the blind-baked shells out of the oven, I was forced to do a little multi-tasking. I had to remove the blind and put the shells back in briefly to dry out. At the same time, I was cooking my custard filling, which at theat stage required constant stirring. Since I wanted my shells ready at the same time as my custard, I found myself stirring with my right hand while I clumsily picked beans out of the pastry shells with my left.

But eventually they were ready, as was the custard. I poured in the filling, sprinkled the tartlets with nutmeg, and stuck them back in the oven. Before long, I had some cute little custard tarts: very sweet and a little eggy. The pastry was lovely, much less crunchy than on the jam tart. Perhaps the extra chilling time helped, or maybe it's just that the jam tart was cooked for longer.

And what happened to the egg white? Well, what else do you do with egg whites? There is actually a list of suggestions for using up egg whites and yolks on p98, but I chose the obvious route and made meringues (p64). Incidentally, the meringue recipe is found in the "slices and squares" section of the Edmonds book. Why?

I can think of only one occasion when I have previously tried to make meringues. They were from a microwave cookbook (?!) and I was probably about 10 at the time. I baked a lot back then, and I knew I liked meringues, so I didn't think I would have any difficulty in making them. What I didn't know is just how much you have to beat the egg whites to make them meringuey. The result was a number of flat sugary blobs. Mum must have been delighted when she found I'd used up several egg whites to make them!

This time, I had a better idea of what is required. I've made pav, of course, and meringues are just mini pavs really. The problem was, since I only had one egg white, I was making a half recipe. And one egg white is not really enough for my big mixer. Well, I needed an arm workout anyway. Out came the eggbeater.

I was surprised. Once I'd found the optimum angle for using an eggbeater on a single egg white, it took no time at all. Less time, in fact, than it usually takes me to whip cream for a pav. I added the sugar in two lots, kept beating, and before I knew it, I had a glossy meringue mixture.

I tried using my piping bag to make them into pretty shapes, but the mixture wasn't stiff enough to take the shape. And, being out of practice with my piping skills, I managed to let meringue dribble out of the bottom of the bag all over the place while I struggled to scoop the rest into the top.

No matter. I got 6 fairly regular-sized meringues (well, actually 5, plus one misfit) into the oven, before cleaning up the sticky mess all over the bench. I left them in for an hour only, though the recipe says 1 - 1 1/2 hours. This way there's still a slight chewiness in the middle. Yuuummm.

So don't let your leftovers get the best of you: there's always something you can make. And if what you have left over happens to be egg white, I do recommend meringues. They're much easier than you think!

Leftover pastry is a less common problem, but if you like eggy custard, custard tart (or tartlets like mine) are really easy to make. Of course, no-one's saying you have to wait for leftovers if you want to make either of these recipes!

To see an even more successful attempt at meringues, click here

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