Sunday, April 17, 2011

Desserts for the girls

It's Bex's birthday on Monday, so she asked a few friends around on Saturday for an evening of watching chick flicks and gossiping. And naturally, a bunch of girls watching DVDs are going to want some food: at Bex's request, I made some desserts.

Bex had suggested lemon meringue pie (p211), which I was more than happy to go along with - especially since I still had a number of her eggs to use! In addition, I selected pineapple snow, (p204) a dessert based on egg whites and jelly.

I started by making the pastry for the lemon meringue pie. Since making all those fruit mince pies at Christmas, I find sweet short pastry pretty easy to make, and don't bother buying it anymore unless I'm in a hurry. The pastry used one egg yolk, and I set the white aside for the pineapple snow. 

While the pastry was chilling, I made a start on the pineapple snow, draining the juice from a can of pineapple and adding it to a bowl of jelly crystals dissolved in boiling water. The pineapple chunks went directly into the serving dish (in this case, a plain glass bowl, since I don't have any suitable fancy dishes).

I'd actually had a bit of trouble with the jelly crystals - I was supposed to get pineapple flavour, but it doesn't seem to be available anymore (except in Weightwatchers brand, which has 11g packets as opposed to the standard 85g. I wasn't about to buy eight packets). Instead I settled on tropical flavour, which worked fine.

The jelly mixture then had to chill until it reached 'the consistency of raw egg white'. I knew this would take a while, so I turned to my next task: last time I visited Bex and Richard, I made a cheese ball, which Bex enjoyed so much she requested another one. It didn't take me long to whip up the cheese ball, and the pineapple mixture still had not begun to set. In fact, it had hardly cooled. Instead of putting it back in the fridge, I stuck it in the freezer.

I got the pastry out of the fridge, rolled it out and lined a pie dish. I lined the pastry with tinfoil (usually I'd use baking paper, but I'd run out) and added some baking blind. By the time I got the pie dish in the oven, the pineapple mixture was finally starting to show signs of setting.

The jelly/pineapple mixture had to be folded through beaten egg whites, so I left the bowl in the freezer just long enough to get the egg whites beaten and ready. When they were done, I removed the bowl from the freezer, added the egg whites, and began to fold.

The jelly, despite having reached raw-egg white consistency (in my opinion, at least. I mean, raw egg whites are pretty runny) was difficult to fold through the egg white. Most of the air in the egg white was gone by the time I had them mixed together. That didn't matter though, since the next instruction was to beat the combined mixture until thick. Well, it didn't really thicken up as much as aerate, but in the end I figured I'd probably reached the desired result, poured the mixture over the chunks of pineapple, and put the dish into the fridge to set.

Now, time to sort out the filling for the lemon meringue. It was pretty easy, just combine lemon rind and juice with water and cornflour, then heat until it thickens. It looks a bit watery and unappealing until you add the egg yolks and a bit of butter, and it turns a nice yellow colour. It was ready at about the same time as I finished baking the base. I poured the filling into the base, and made a start on the meringue.

I had just begun beating the egg whites when I noticed I was supposed to use three eggs, rather than the two I was currently using. I added another egg white, but it did mean the filling was short a yolk. Oh well: it didn't seem to affect the taste. A little caster sugar, gradually added to the egg, and a drop of vanilla essence, completed the meringue. I smoothed it over the filling and plonked the pie back in the oven.

The meringue went beautiful and golden well before the ten minutes suggested in the recipe. And the pie looked absolutely gorgeous. I still had an hour or two before I had to leave for Rakaia, which allowed me enough time to take a short walk, during which I got snarked at by a random old lady, who apparently took offense at me politely standing aside to let her pass. I wonder how she would have reacted if I'd rudely barged on through?

Shortly before 2pm, I packed up my pie, pudding and cheese ball, and headed off to Rakaia, making a slight detour to pick up Kaye on my way. On arriving at Bex and Richard's, I added my contributions to the array of food already laid out, and we arranged ourselves comfortably around the coffee table.

While it's handy having your nibbles laid out on the coffee table, the downside is that they are also within reach of a passing toddler. This provided us with much entertainment, however - especially when little Tyler reached out and took a fistful of cheese ball on one of his forays at the table. It occurs to me that my helpless laughter in the background probably rendered Bex's scolding less than effective. How parents manage to keep a straight face in these situations, I'll never know.

Despite nibbling all afternoon, we did manage to have an actual meal as well: Bex's tasty homemade pizzas followed by the lemon meringue pie, pineapple snow and a lovely cheesecake (also of Bex's making). The lemon meringue pie was pretty awesome, if I say so myself. Nice, fluffy meringue, thick lemony filling, and a thin crust of pastry. Thumbs up for this recipe!

I was also quite impressed with the pineapple snow. All that beating had resulted in a light, airy texture, and the fresh pineapple flavour was quite refreshing, especially seen against the richness of the lemon meringue and the cheesecake. It's the sort of thing you can eat even if you're feeling full. I couldn't stomach a second helping of pie or cheesecake, but I had another bowl of this!

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