Sunday 3 July 2011

Mini Lemon Meringues

I'm a big fan of James Martin, especially his cake recipes, and have made his Lemon Meringue recipe a few times now, always with good success.   This time, I wanted to utilise my new tartlet tins, and try and doing some mini ones, and try and hone my meringue piping skills a bit at the same time.  The couple of times I've tried piping meringue in the past it has been a complete failure, and I've ended up trying to rescue it with a palette knife afterwards.  This time, everything went a little more according to plan, and the finished meringues looked half decent and definitely went down well with those who tasted them.

To get the recipe, head over to James Martin's at the BBC website.  Instead of the pastry recipe given here, I used some Pâte Sucrée pastry cases that I had already made for my Strawberry and Chocolate Tartlets.  I also halved the amount of Lemon Curd filling, and Meringue.  In all, this made about 24 mini Meringues, on 5-6cm tartlet cases.  Bake for about an hour in a 160°C oven.

Strawberry and Chocolate Tarts

Since I bought the Michel Roux "Pastry" book, I've wanted to have a go at some of the fruit tart suggestions, especially the cute little ones that are easy to share about.  I'd made a full sized Strawberry Tart from the book before, and wanted to try a variation, adding chocolate to the Crème Pâtissière, and putting them all in mini pastries.  

I bought a bulk load of cheapish 5.1cm Tartlet Tins, then later bought a second bulk lot once I released that they also make far more convenient liners when blind baking.  So if you're thinking about buying lots of small tartlet tins for pastry usage, buy double the amount that you think you'll need at once, so that you can easily line them all.  You can get away without lining them, or you 'could'  line them with baking parchment and baking beans (not something I'm ever going to do when they're that small and making so many, just washing them up is bad enough).

For about 60 or so 5-6cm Pastry Cases

Recipe for the Pâte Sucrée

  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 100g Icing Sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 100g Butter, cubed
  • 2 Large Eggs

Mix together the Flour, Icing Sugar and Salt, then blend with the Eggs and Butter, for me, idealising using a Pastry Blender.  Knead it couple of times to get a nice ball of dough, then divide into two, flatten into a couple of inch-thick patties, cover in cling film, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once chilled, preheat your oven to 180°C, grease your tartlet tins, then remove a patty from the fridge and roll out until about 2-3mm thick.  Then out your pastry for the cases using a 7cm Pastry Cutter.  Chill in the fridge for another 20 minutes, then prick with a small fork, and line each one with an empty tin.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the liners, and bake for a further 5 minutes.  

Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once completely cool, store in a cake tin until needed.

Repeat until you've used all the pastry.

Recipe for the Chocolate Crème Pâtissière filling

  • 4 Large Egg Yolks
  • 85g Caster Sugar
  • 25g Plain Flour
  • 330ml Milk
  • 1 Vanilla Pod
  • 50g Dark Chocolate, chopped into chips
  • Icing Sugar for dusting
  • 400g Strawberries, hulled and halved

Whisk together the Egg Yolks and a third of the Caster Sugar until you get a ribbon consistency, then whisk in the Flour.  While you're doing this, bring the Milk to the boil in a pan, along with the rest of the Sugar, and the Vanilla Pod, split lengthways.

When the Milk comes to the Boil, carefully pour into the Egg Yolks, whisking continuously, then return the mixture to the pan, and continue stirring until thickened.  Pour back into a bowl, add in the Chocolate Chips and stir until completely melted and mixed.  Dust the top with Icing Sugar, and leave to cool completely before refrigerating.

The Pastry and the Crème Pâtissière and be made in advance, but you really want to avoid putting them together until just before you plan to serve them, to avoid the pastry going soggy.  Put about a teaspoon or so of Crème Pâtissière into each pastry case, then top with a few Strawberry Halves.  Finally, you could dust with a little more Icing Sugar. 

Bacon and Asparagus Quiche

Quiche is definitely a family favourite of mine.  I love my mother's quiches, most of the time, once I realised how simple they are to make, I've had a go at a few myself.  With Asparagus in season, I decided to make pretty much a Quiche Lorraine, but with the addition of Asparagus.

Most times when I've cooked quiche, I've tended to blind-bake the pastry first, then fill and bake again.  However, a foodie friend of mine said that he never bothered, especially as you're cooking for 45 minutes.  Having tried one of his quiches, without soggy pastry, I've decided to give this a try myself on the last couple of occasions, and I have to say, he's pretty much right.  I suppose, if you have the time, and you want to blind bake the pastry first with a quiche, it does no harm, but it not 100% necessary.

For the Short Crust Pastry

  • 100g Butter, cubed and chilled
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • Pinch Salt
Mix the Salt with the Flour, add in the Butter, and blend until you have Petit Pois sized crumbs of butter.  Lightly beat the Egg and add to the mixture and combine to form a dough.  Add a tablespoon of water if the mixture is too dry to form a dough patty.  Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Once chilled, roll out to about 3mm thickness, then line a greased 24cm Flan Dish, and put back into the fridge to chill.  At this point, you could prick all over with a fork, line with baking parchment, fill with baking beans, and bake in a 180°C oven for 15 minutes.  Or you could leave that step out.  Phillip would leave it out.  I'm undecided.

For the Filling

  • 200g Free-Range Bacon Lardons
  • 1 Large Onion, finely chopped
  • 450g Asparagus, chopped to 5cm pieces
  • 150ml Creme Fraiche
  • 50ml Milk
  • 5 Large, Free-Range Eggs
  • 200g Gruyere Cheese
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Once you pastry is ready to use, drop the Asparagus into a pan of boiling water for couple of minutes minutes, then cool down immediately in cold water.  Keep the tips separate, so that you can arrange them nicely at the top towards the end of the assembly process.

Gently fry the Bacon Lardons in a dry pan.  If it releases some additional water, wait until this has evaporated and then add the onion, continue to fry in the fat released from the Bacon until softened and translucent.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk the Eggs with the Creme Fraiche and Milk.  Add a good helping of Freshly Ground Black Pepper.  Pour in the Bacon Lardons and Onion.

Put half of the grated cheese in the bottom of the prepared pastry in the flan dish.  Add the non-tips over the cheese.  Pour in the Egg, Creme Fraiche, Milk, Bacon and Onion mixture.  Arrange the tips over the top, so that they're still mostly submerged.  Put the remainder of the grated cheese over the top, along with the grated Nutmeg.

Bake in a pre-heated 180°C oven for around 45 mins.

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