Sugar Cookies II

I’ve had a crazy weekend. Worked Friday, Saturday, and Sunday just about non-stop with a quick jaunt to see A Single Man with my roomie, which I highly recommend. Anyway, prior to commencing this crazy weekend, a few of us decided to watch the new season of the WIRE we had got in the mail Thursday night. Needless to say, we watched 4 episodes in a row because it is hands down one of the best TV shows ever.
Anyway, while we were watching, I had that baking itch and decided on some sugar cookies. Not just any sugar cookies mind you, sugar cookies with royal icing. I had never made royal icing before and had I been smarter about it, I probably should have waited. By the time the cookies were out of the oven and cooled, it was already 10:30 and I was just starting to ice. I did about 12 cookies with detail, but given how long it took, I just gave up with the fanciness and kind of globed it all on after that. When I was paying attention to detail, I used a variety of tips from my cake decorating kit to get some thin and thick lines. I added a but too much water to some of the purple icing that I planned to flood, so it didn’t dry so well, but I learned my mistake and only diluted the blue a teeny bit. For future, I will definitely give myself plenty of time to ice cookies with royal icing. I could see making some really awesome cookies though, because the icing dries hard, so you can stack them when you’re all done and you can make some really nifty patterns. So while not a complete success this time, I will certainly try again.


SUGAR COOKIES

(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookie Book)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1) Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, brandy, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

2) Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

4) On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

royal icing:

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder, or 2 large egg whites (I used meringue powder)

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder.

2) Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water.

3) A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details.

4) Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

Lemon Meringue Pie

This past weekend, there were two birthdays in my suite. One on Friday and my roommates on Sunday. As joint venture between the two, we had a lovely little party on Saturday night. Since they are both known to like a little lemon, I decided to try a lemon meringue pie since I have never made one and I bought a tart pan weeks ago that I have been dying to use.

Since it’s still Passover, I decided to make a tart crust with cake meal, so that I would be able to eat it as well. After much research, and finally discovering that the cake meal box itself gave me the answer, I ventured into tart making territory knowing that I could subsititute 5/8 cup of cake meal for every 1 cup of regular flour. I found that the cake meal made the crust much more crumbly, so I wasn’t able to roll it out, but had to press it into the tart pan bit by bit. I know that this is a big no-no when making pie dough as it can cause shrinkage, but I had no choice.

Making lemon meringue pie is definitely a two day process unless you have ALL DAY to make it. On Friday I made the crust and curd and refrigerated it over night. I made the meringue the next afternoon, but it in the fridge again and it was perfect for serving later that evening. 10 minutes gave me the perfect brown over the meringue, but make sure the meringue stretches all the way to crust, or else it will start to shrink. I think it was a big hit for both the birthday girls and all the guests. I am definitely going to try it again after Passover with an actual flour crust, but it still makes an excellent Pesach treat 🙂

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

(Adapted from joyofbaking.com and ME)

DIRECTIONS:

crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I substituted 1 cup of cake meal)
  • 1/8-teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

lemon curd:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

INSTRUCTIONS:

crust:

1) In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and salt.  Set aside.

2) Place the butter in your mixer and beat until softened.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated.  Don’t over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color.

3) Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball.  Don’t overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.

4) Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until firm.

5) Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 – 12 inch (28 – 30 cm) circle that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.  To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry.  The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan. (I had much issue with using cake flour. If you do use cake flour, you can try using cake flour, otherwise, I just pressed pieces into the tart pan)

6) When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll.  Unroll onto top of tart pan.  Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan).

7) Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan.  Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry.  With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan.  Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry.

8 ) Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes).

9) Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten in the flour.

10) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.  Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

11) Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface.

12) Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown.

lemon curd:

1) While the crust is baking make the Lemon Curd.

2) In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended.  Cook, whisking constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick. This will take about 10 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.

4) Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted.

5) Add the lemon zest.  Immediately pour the lemon curd into the baked crust and smooth the top.

6) Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

7) Bake the tart for about 10 minutes or until the lemon curd is firm but still a little wobbly in the center.  Do not let it brown or burn.

meringue:

1) In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

2) Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

3) Using a spoon, place dollops of the meringue over the entire surface of the hot lemon curd, starting at the outside edge of the tart.  (Make sure the meringue comes right up to the crust and there are no gaps between the crust and the lemon curd.)

4) Then, with the back of your spoon, gently press down on the meringue to get rid of any air pockets and to make sure all the lemon curd is covered with the meringue.  If desired, swirl the meringue making a few decorative peaks.

5) Return the tart to the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue has nicely browned.

6) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, away from any drafts.  When cool, serve or else cover and refrigerate.