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Showing posts with label meringue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meringue. Show all posts

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Lime Meringue Pie



If you are a follower of my Instagram, you know how much I love pie. I've been having a lot of fun lately with decorative elements and putting twists on classics. Personally, when I want a pie, I want a classical taste that is familiar in taste but somewhat conceptual in design. Remember my Lucky Charms Pie? The point is that I love lemon meringue pie...but lemons weren't on sale at the grocery store for 6/$1, so guess who won that fight.

This isn't key lime pie because key limes are tiny and actually are a citrus hybrid with a spherical fruit that can be quite small. Really they're best for juicing and making pie out of, since they're quite tiny to eat or enjoy. They also have a specific flavor that translates into something a little more fragrant and sweet than the lime you might find from the grocery store. Most of our limes come from Mexico and South America, where they grow easily.

In Pinoy cuisine, one thing can be said about the flavor profiles we seem to enjoy: put vinegar with everything. Pinoy people love vinegar and sour things, and I'm no exception to that rule. Sour things make your mouth pucker and water and they round out flavors that might otherwise be flat. One thing I learned in school that has sort of stuck with me in my career has been: if you taste something and it's tasty, but something is missing, 9 out of 10 the answer will be "acid." It could be a squeeze of lemon, a dash of vinegar, a little reduced wine or a smear of sour cream, but it is acid that elevates everything else and is a key component to delicious food. Learn to harness the power of sour!


Lime Meringue Pie
yields 1 9" pie

  • 6 oz flour
  • 1 oz walnut flour (or just fine-ground walnuts)
  • 1 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 oz vegan butter 
  • Ice water A/N
  • 8 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs
  • 1 c fresh-squeezed lime juice, strained (from about 5 or 6 fresh limes)
  • 1 3/4 c powdered sugar (sorry I don't know the oz, I always did by volume on this one!)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 8 oz vegan butter 
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 4 egg whites
  • 7 oz granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
Sift the walnut flour into the 6 oz AP flour and pinch in the fat using your finger tips. Don't stop until it all comes together and the butter is about pea-sized. Sprinkle a little bit of water over it at a time and press gently until it all comes together. Chill in a disc in the freezer while you prepare the rest of your stuff. 

In a sauce pot, melt your 8 oz vegan butter in with your lime juice and powdered sugar over a medium-low flame. Meanwhile, whisk together your eggs and egg yolks with the granulated sugar until completely homogeneous. Set up a bowl lined with a fine mesh strainer for later. When your butter is melted completely, give that butter-lime mix a quick stir and splash in about 1/2 cup of the liquid into the eggs, and then whisk gently to warm it. This is called tempering, and is essential to do with any liquid/custard product that will contain egg. 

Scrape your egg mixture all into the pot and whisk gently, constantly, over a medium flame until thick. Do not let this mix boil under any circumstances! Remember, with curds, low and slow is the way to go. When the mixture is a gloriously thick and shiny consistency, quickly dump your curd into the bowl lined with the strainer, and strain out lumps that may have occurred. Once passed through, stir in your lime zest and vanilla paste. If you want to make this a little more green, it's 100% okay to add a drop of green food coloring. It's okay, but optional. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic film into the surface of the curd to prevent from getting a skin. Store in the fridge.

Turn your oven to 350 degrees. With this dough, you will be flouring your surface. Sorry, you need it this time - the walnuts are worth it for flavor but with this crust they really do need a little more flour and structure, as they do release quite a bit of oil. Flour your marble surface and rolling pin and roll out your dough to a thin flat disc, and line your pie pan with it. I like to let my dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes to let the glutens relax a little before I decide how I trim it and decorate it.

You can do polka dots, braids, whatever you like for yours!
With this particular crust, I knew that I was going to have a meringue mounding up the top so I needed to have any design I was going to decide on be around the edge, but I still wanted a little bit of a three-dimensional element happening. With decorations, I really love leaves as elements, and I have this pretty cutter that looks like lime leaves. Unfortunately, it's too big to go around the edge of the pie, so I took my smallest circle cutter and cut a lot of small circles to go around the edge. I stuck them on with a little bit of egg wash, but you can use a little almond milk if you like. You may as well use egg wash, though, since you're going to want to brush the sides of your pie dough with the egg wash to make it brown.

Never throw away the pie crust trims! Turn them into little decorative elements that will go on your pie!

Prick your pie crust with a fork and line with a parchment sheet, and fill with baking beads (or dry beans) and bake for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked and browned. To make the leaves, cut them with a mold and bake them until crisp, about 10 minutes. I got the 3D shapes by propping the leaves against the lip of my baking sheet. Set aside to cool. Now, we're going to make a meringue!

Place your egg whites in the bowl of  your standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Meanwhile, place your sugar in a small saucepot with just enough water to cover. Fit it with a candy thermometer and bring it up to a slow boil on a medium high flame. Please note that it's very important to not jostle the pan in any way while it's coming to the temperature that you're going to want it at. Otherwise, it might crystalize and you're going to have to start again. Your goal temperature is 260 degrees F. When it gets up to 250, you can turn on the standing mixer and start whipping it to foam up.

Whip your egg whites until they've become quite white and fluffy, to about a medium peak, which should be the right amount it takes to get from 250 to 260. If you need a little more time, turn your whisk down to the lowest possible setting and let it stir. If it sets, you're in trouble. 

When all is ready, turn your whisk up to high and carefully pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream, being very careful to avoid the whip. Pour it in slowly, as you continue to whip to stiff peaks, until all the sugar is gone. Turn the speed down to medium-high and let it whip until the meringue is cool, about 3 minutes. What you've just made is an Italian meringue, and it's the most structurally sound of all meringues and will last you the longest. 

I totally used a smear of green gel dye in this. Why? Because look at that gorgeous color.
Now, we're finally ready to assemble! Obviously this takes quite a bit of time to do, a couple of hours, but it is worth it. Assemble by removing the baking paper and beads from your pie crust and dumping your curd in, smoothing the top to be even. Dump in your meringue and use an offset spatula to swirl and make attractive flips and whirls. You can use a torch to make it toasty, or a super-hot oven, around 450 degrees, for 3 minutes tops. Finish with your leaves, set in the side, against the meringue. 

To cut: heat up your knife with the flame of a torch or some near-boiling water, and your meringue will be cut smoothly!

And there you have it! A gorgeous, super-tart, super tasty lime meringue pie. I hope you've enjoyed reading, and please don't hesitate to tell me if you try it out.  Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Lucky Charms Pie

I think I was supposed to be a stoner. I think whatever deity made me just
sculpted 90% of a stoner and forgot to flip the final switch. 
I have no idea what this is and I frankly don't even want to talk about it. I have no idea why it worked out or how in the world it even crossed my subconscious, but it did. Strap in, my tchotchkes, because you're going to learn how to make one of the craziest pie recipes I've ever made. It's not really crazy because it's got some wild technique that I've invented - it's just....wild. Like, who in the world would ask for a Lucky Charms Pie? My subconscious, that's who.

Several days ago I woke up thinking of a Lucky Charms Pie. Somehow, it was in my dream the night before. It was such a weird dream, but I didn't tell my husband about it because I couldn't recall the actual plot of it. Fast forward through the day and it was easily one of the worst days at work in memory. I don't want to talk about it, so don't ask, but just know that I was already emotionally drained from returning home from Tucson after my great-grandmother's funeral. I basically didn't have it in me... And more and more was happening, even after the work day had technically ended. I was throwing things at this point and my husband asked me if he could do anything for me. I was so mad I couldn't think, so I just asked him to go get me a soda or a crunch bar or some kind of sweet, textured thing while I cooked dinner. He came back with sodas, a crunch bar, some OJ (for him) and a box of Lucky Charms. Naturally, I burst into tears.


via GIPHY

It was like a sign. The Gods of the Good Kush wanted me to make this stupid pie. I was already up to my elbows in tortellini, though, so of course I wasn't going to make it tonight. I did, however, have the perfect opportunity to do it the following Sunday when I was having a brunch/dinner with my friends.

See, my friend had never had mimosas before. As a Crowned and Anointed Basic Bitch I couldn't let this stand, so I bought some cava and some pulp-y orange juice for the mimosas. I thought about making french toast but since we'd be meeting around dinner time I figured I'd make a quiche. And since I was making pie dough already...

I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

I made a whole wheat pie crust to work with both the savory and sweet...and because I wasn't really doing anything truly healthy at dinner and we were having booze after, it somehow made me feel better to do a whole wheat crust on this thing. I kept it neutral in flavor so it would work for both. You can obviously use store-bought pie crust but feel free to use my recipe below.

Lucky Charms Pie
yields one ungoldly horror of a pie, 9" across, serves 8

Pie Crust
  • 350 g AP flour
  • 150 g whole wheat flour
  • 150 g vegan butter substitute (or dairy butter, whatever you like)
  • 150 g vegetable shortening
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Rum, as needed
Lucky Charms Cereal Milk
  • 475 ml (or 2 cups) soy milk
  • 1 cup lucky charms plus more to garnish, divided
  • 1/2 c (100 g) granulated sugar + more later...you'll see
  • 1/4 c (31 g) icing/confectioner's/powdered sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • Blue food coloring, if desired
First thing's first, you're going to make the pie crust. Start by rubbing the fat into the flours and salt using your fingertips. You can also place your flour in the bowl of a standing mixer with your paddle attachment and adding in all of your fat, stirring until everything is sort of incorporated and the fat looks to be about pea-sized. You can also pulse your pie ingredients in a food processor. Whatever. Everyone has their own way to make pie dough, you can use yours. 

I like to use rum in my pie doughs because it has a genuinely nice flavor and alcohol won't form gluten like water will. I like to have my doughs be rather short, so I kind of like to take every precaution I can to have a nice short crust. Yay! 

Either way, bring your dough together and allow to chill for at least one hour before rolling out. This will make enough dough for two pies plus plenty for decoration, so feel free to cut this recipe in half. I just always make this amount in case I need to make two pies. And hey! It's great to have extra on hand. 

While your pie dough is chilling, make the cereal milk by pouring a whole cup of this yummy marshmallow cereal into your soy milk (you can use dairy milk, if you want - it's your pie) and stir. Get everything wet and let sit for about 30 minutes in your fridge.You don't want to bring your milk to a boil and then infuse it in the hot way, like you would a tea. Just be patient and do it this way. In the meantime, separate your eggs and let them come up to room temperature. You can use all six egg whites, but I only used three since I didn't know how much of a sugar coma I wanted to put my friends into. Besides! You can freeze egg whites perfectly to make an excellent macaron later on.

Use cutters, use braids...use whatever you like! This is your pie.
Once the dough is chilled and rested, please feel free to go nuts with the decoration. You'll be par-baking this crust at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes before baking the custard in with it. This way, no soggy bottoms. We don't like soggy bottoms. I did end up using parchment paper and some baking beads. You can use rice, dry beans, and more - just PLEASE make sure to use parchment paper to line it with first, and poke some holes in the bottom of the crust to allow some steam to vent. Otherwise, this could turn into a big gloopy gross mess. 

After it's baked, turn the oven down to 325 degrees and place the pie pan on a cookie sheet. Then take the cookie sheet and place it in the middle rack of the oven. Go ahead and open up the oven to let the heat come out and pull the rack out about halfway so that the pie is sitting in the oven already. Trust me on this because you'll thank me later. You won't have to walk to the oven with a slippery and hot pie crust with sloshy liquid!

Using a spatula, mix the egg yolks with both the powdered and granulated sugars. I like a spatula instead of a whisk because I don't want too much air in this. Basically, I stir and press to make a smooth sort of custard-looking texture, and this way I won't get a foam on top. I then strain the cereal milk liquid into the eggs, slowly, and stir in until everything is incorporated. Make sure you scrape from the bottom and try not to agitate it too much! Next, add your salt and - if you like - the food coloring. I noticed that the dyes from the cereal turned my milk a faint blue color, and I just felt like going fully psychedelic with this. Again, you don't have to! I just chose to. 

Discard the soggy cereal and strain this entire mixture into a pitcher. Push the rack back, the pie shell directly in to the oven, while sitting on the tray, and pour your custard into the shell. Now simply bake for about 40 minutes, or until the custard is just barely set. My oven took about 40 minutes, but yours might take more or less time. I'd say just check it at 30 and then see.

When the custard shows a slight wobble, in the middle, turn your oven off and open the oven door a crack. Let the custard sit in the oven for another 20 minutes to gently carry-over cook. This will give you a smooth-as-silk finish. If you had bubbles or foam on the top, it might have browned slightly. This is okay, as we're covering the whole pie with meringue later.

Once it's all done with it's pre-cool, remove your pie from the oven and pop it straight in the fridge. I'd let it cool for at least an hour, but give it two if you can. When you're ready to serve, get your mixer ready.

Using a very clean bowl and a very clean whisk attachment for your standing mixer or hand mixer, pop in as many egg whites as you like. The rule for me is that a perfect meringue is about 1/4 c granulated sugar per large egg white. This means that, for three egg whites, I used 3/4 c of granulated sugar. To make a perfect meringue, make sure your equipment is super clean and super dry. I like to have a pot of simmering water at the ready, and set my bowl - egg whites inside - over the heat. Using a whisk, I like to stir in the sugar by hand, whipping gently to foam and dissolve the sugar. Once it's a fairly warmer than body temperature and all foamy and dissolved (I think 160 degrees F/71 degrees C if you want to be precise) remove it from the heat. Then use your electric mixer to bring it up, on high, until the peaks are stiff, glossy, and about tripled in volume. The meringue shouldn't slide out of the bowl at all and should hold its shape. Delicious!

This is another way you can get really creative. Once my cooled pie was ready, I heated the oven to 350 again. I used a piping bag to make the designs around the edges for mine, or at least for half of it, and then dumped the rest on in a pile just to cover the top of the custard. You can really just go nuts on how you want to decorate this, so long as at least half of the meringue is baked. I baked mine for about 5 minutes in the oven, just until the tips were lightly brown. You can also use a torch, if you like! Either way, I baked the custard, piped on some fresh meringue to help stick the garnishes, and then topped my pie with a big fat handful of the Lucky Charms cereal. You can add some white chocolate bits, some chocolate candies, and even some rainbow sprinkles, if you like! Just please don't go too crazy with other flavors. You want to have the real flavor of this crazy cereal as much as possible!

Serve to your friends and watch them begin to giggle like schoolgirls at the taste of this crazy thing...which is straight-up cereal. Hilarious and fun! It's a great treat for a party or for your holiday fun. Speaking of which, I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I might just make this crazy thing again for Tuesday. We'll see!




A post shared by Chef Kolika (@wannabgourmande) on

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Chocolate Cake with Fresh Strawberries



I've been focusing a lot on my Instagram lately. It's odd; I always get notifications for new followers, and when I check, the number almost always is the same, or possibly one or two lower than last I checked. I can only guess that - between the hours that I've checked - I've gained one and lost two, or some combination of that. I can't quite fathom why, but I can only assume it's because I don't post as often as a high-follower-having instagrammer might post. Eh.

I love Instagram because I think it's one of the most-pure social media outlets there are. Minimal ads, no add-ons for the interface, just captured moments with a caption, and that's it. You can like it or not. You can follow or unfollow. There's not a huge amount of drama that can happen in that simple space, and I think that's why I love it. It just captures moments and that's it. It's a beautiful way to experience and savor our reality, and I'm 100% for it.



For those of you that may follow me on Instagram, you'll know that my life revolves around three things: my work, my pets, and my garden. Sure, I'll post the occasional style photo of what I'm wearing and what kind of makeup I'm doing(sometimes in my pink wig), but not as often as the food stuff. That being said, I like to think of myself as more of a lifestyle blogger than a food blogger. I try my best to live sustainably and do my best to recycle and produce as low waste as I can. I buy in bulk, for example, and try to make my own sodas. I also compost instead of throwing away biodegradable waste. I'll admit that it's more of a time-based project than anything, but it's worth it when your garden thrives more and more each year you invest in it. That being said, it's still a food blog, and I love food.

I've been on a cake kick lately, which is lucky considering I'm doing a friend's wedding cake come this Halloween. Since the flavor profile was strawberry and chocolate, I wanted to get a little practice in before the event, so I needed guinea pigs. Luckily, the birthday parties of both a dear friend and a soon-to-be sister-in-law would fulfill this need for me.




The first cake I made was this gorgeous strawberry cake. It was bright pink inside(which you unfortunately can't see because of the lighting of the night club we were at) with an Italian Buttercream frosting, a much lighter and more tasty version of the plain old American Buttercream we all might be used to at this point. I learned this amazing new marbling technique for decoration where you smear the sides of the cake randomly with different shades of a certain color and then frost them all together in irregular ways to achieve this effect. I also love the drip cake trend that we've been having lately, with asymmetrical decorations on top. I think it looks so much more organic and natural than anything constructed, which I find so much more appealing.

This cake is chocolate on chocolate, with the fresh strawberries for color and a little contrast in texture. It's insanely rich and dense, and just perfect for a birthday party. This cake makes three nice layers, so you'll get something that's wonderfully tall, which is completely instagram worthy. Oh, and just in case that wasn't instagrammable(is that a word?) enough, it's entirely #dairyfree!

Chocolate Layer Cake
yields 3 8" round cakes
Adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson

For the Cake

  • 4 oz baking chocolate(I like guittard dark), broken up in pieces
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • 6.75 oz vegan sour cream(I love the tofutti products for baking)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 oz brown sugar
  • 7.75 oz granulated sugar
  • 4 oz coconut oil 
  • 4 oz grapeseed oil
  • 10 oz AP flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
For the Ganache
  • 1 lb good quality chocolate, 58% cacao or higher
  • 8 oz coconut-almond milk blend(I like Blue Diamond brand)
  • 0.3 oz coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray three 8" baking pans with pan-spray. Drop in a heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder into the middle of one of the pans and knock it around to spread it. You're basically coating the bottom and sides of the pan with cocoa powder, and then knocking the excess into each of the other pans, so that all three are evenly (and thinly) coated to keep your batter from sticking. This allows easy release from the bottom and a good rise on all sides for the cakes when they bake. 

Put the cocoa powder and broken-up baking chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and pour in your hot coffee, and whisk until everything is smooth. You might have to microwave the mixture to get the chocolate to melt, but cross that bridge if/when it comes. Once that's all nice and together, scrape in your tofu sour cream and whisk to combine, ending with the vanilla extract. Set aside. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a separate bowl. Set that aside. (Yes, you're working with a lot of bowls. Deal with it.)

Combine the sugars and coconut oil in the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until incorporated, which will take about two or three minutes, depending on how warm your kitchen is. Yes, it'll look crumbly and not that creamy - that's okay! Add in your grapeseed oil in a thin stream as it whisks, and it'll get nice and fluffy...or, at least, fluffier. Add in your eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, leaving at least 30 seconds between each addition, and scraping down your sides between so as well. This takes some time, but trust me - the next part goes fast!

Remove your bowl from the standing mixer and grab a spatula, then alternate folding in your flour and the chocolate mixture, about a third at a time, ending with the dry ingredients. You don't want lumps, of course, but it's okay if you have them, as you don't want to overmix your batter. It should be rather smooth and smell quite chocolatey. 

Using a disher, divide the batter evenly between the three pans. I love using ice cream dishers to do these kinds of things, as the results are always consistent, so plan on investing in a large-ish ice cream disher should you plan on producing layer cakes on a regular basis. Once all of your batter is divided, knock the bottom-sides of your cake pans to evenly distribute your mix and knock out any particularly large bubbles that may be lurking insidiously. Yes, you want bubbles, but you want small and even bubbles rather than large ones. 

Bake for 20 - 24 minutes at 350, or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and springs back when the top is lightly touched. Let the cakes cool, in the pans, for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, make your ganache.

Simply combine all ingredients in a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water and gently melt together. Use a spatula and not a whisk to combine everything, and please be gentle with it. You don't want to create air bubbles in a ganache, lest it turn sandy and the color go off. Once everything is mostly melted together, turn off the heat and let it hang out for about 15 minutes. By this time, your cakes should be ready to come out of the pans and ready to layer up.

Simply take each layer and spread about a third of a cup of ganache between each one, then coating the entire concoction with a thin layer of the ganache before setting in the fridge. Remember, you only want this to set, as you'll be glazing more ganache on top. I personally like the more rustic approach for these kinds of cakes, but you can be as refined as you like with it. I used fresh strawberries, mini meringues (a la Dominique Ansel's book, The Secret Recipes)  and shards of Hershey's special dark chocolate bars to decorate the top of this cake. You can decorate with whatever you want, so long as you play with height, color, and texture. Just make sure to set it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving it, especially if you want nice and neat layers at the end!

Okay so it's not the prettiest picture - that's why it's not on Instagram!
It seriously only took a couple of hours from start-to-finish, and most of that was just waiting on things to bake, cool, or set. There was a lot of Netflix between those times, as well as plenty of time to perfect my party makeup or get a nice outfit together. However you spend your time waiting, I hope you've enjoyed this brief tutorial. Now get out there and share your life! Happy cooking and happy eating!




Friday, October 24, 2014

Russian Egg Volcanoes

On my Facebook page for WannaBGourmande, I posted a video(I think Russian in origin) of an egg dish I had never seen before! I had a little bit of time before work, so I did my own version of it. And by that, I mean followed the video to the letter. (So to speak...)

Fluffy Russian Egg Breakfast Thing

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 2 slices of toast
  • butter, salt, and pepper as needed
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Heat a pan and cook the bacon over medium-high heat. While that's going, whip the egg whites to a stiff peak. Since you used 2 eggs, just divide the fully whipped mixture in half when putting it in the pan. Drain all but 2 tsp of the bacon fat from your pan, and set the bacon aside to hang out. Plop the 'meringue' mixture into two snowy mountain-looking things in the pan. Gently let the egg yolks slide into the meringue. Pop the whole thing in the screaming-hot oven for about 4 minutes, or until everything has browned/crisped up just enough. 

Butter your toast, arrange your bacon on the plate, and when the fluffy egg volcanoes are done, they'll come right out of the pan quite easily using a rubber spatula.

To tell you the truth, it wasn't my absolute favorite, but it was still pretty good! It was fun. It was fluffy and light, and kind of reminded me of a souffle/frittatta kind of thing. I could have probably let it cook less, but I wanted to make sure that the egg whites were cooked. It honestly could have gone fine for 2 minutes, since my oven gets really hot really quickly. But the yolks were warm and still runny, so what more could I ask for?

I hope this encourages you to try new things. And check out the original video here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oeufs a la Niege

This post/blog is specifically for my friend Dwight.

While Chef-ing it up at Pancho's Villa, I'm afraid I haven't had as much time as I would like to eat frozen custard in my bathrobe and type on my laptop using fun pictures I found on Tumblr. I barely have time to play the amount of Skyrim I want to play between full-time work, full-time school, and full-time being Momma to Howl. And my boyfriend? It's a wonder how a girl has time to sleep!
"I'm soft. This isn't. Now pet me."

Anyway, I was walking up to class in my torn jeans and oh-so-stylish strappy black American Eagle heels when I saw my friend Dwight sitting at the table with Izaak(another friend from class) and another girl that I can't remember the name of. They were brainstorming about what to do for their latest class project. They were the group that had to come up with an amuse bouche and a dessert.

"Well, mini pies and quiches are trending right now. So are custards and meringues," I said, being the savvy Tumblr-ateur I am. "Ooh! Or you could do oeufs a la niege."

Dwight didn't know what they were, so I gave a brief explanation/example of one I had done before. Basically, it's a meringue(I prefer Italian meringues because of their strength) that's poached in milk and served in creme anglaise. The one I had done before was a ginger-infused meringue in a beautiful sake sabayon with a little hibiscus reduction for color. I remember we put a tuille cookie or two on there, as well, for some texture. Maybe I'm wrong. It's been awhile.

Anyway, it's a beautiful dessert and can be done to order in a flash. Who's ready for pictures? I am!

 This is a more classical Ouefs a la Niege in presentation. But you can get creative with this kind of thing! (Isn't that the beauty of cooking?)

One of my favorite things about being in Culinary school and being a Chef is that you don't exactly just memorize recipes all day. What you do is learn techniques and methods and classics, and once it is instilled in you as such, you can really have fun and twist things up.

Think about "Chopped." I'm a big fan of the show and I love to play along at home. I can't cook along with them, of course, but I know the way you have to win - recognize what is familiar out of what is not. Say you're given black chicken, licorice, quinoa, and persimmon. Sure, these are messed up ingredients that would make a normal person's head explode...but once you break it down into something familiar, it's not so bad. The chicken is your protein, the quinoa is your starch, and persimmon is(well, kinda) your veggie course. Once you have those three, you can kind of start to build on it!

Oeufs are just meringues, and the 'niege' is an anglaise sauce made from it. I learned a simple recipe from a book from the Kansas City Public Library, but my favorite recipe is from Alton Brown. You can find that particular recipe on Food Network.com, but I'm going to give you my favorite recipe.

Ingredients

Oeufs:

  • 8 oz water
  • 6 oz granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup 
  • 4  pasteurized egg whites, room temperature
  • ** 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 squirt of lemon juice

Neige:

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 4 pasteurized egg yolks 
  • 1 tsp Cardamom
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
First thing is first, which is creating a simple syrup from the sugar, water, and corn syrup. You can infuse the simple syrup with anything you like, from tea leaves to cinnamon to spices to citrus. I love orange peel for this, so that's what I like to use. Making a simple syrup is just boiling it together until the sugar dissolves.

Whip together the egg whites until frothy on medium speed in your electric mixer, then add the lemon juice(or a pinch of cream of tartar, if you like) and put the speed up to high. When the egg whites have tripled in volume and become shiny at soft peaks, add in the hot simple syrup in a small stream down the side of the bowl to 'cook' the egg whites.

To create the base for the niege, which is basically an anglaise sauce, and I find the easiest way to do that is to create something we call the 'ribbon.' Whisk the egg yolks briskly in a large metal bowl and slowly-slowly-slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar until the color changes to a pale yellow and becomes thick. It reaches the 'ribbon' stage when you pick up the whisk and the yolk mixture comes off in a 'ribbon.'

As this is going on, have your milk, 2 Tbsp sugar, vanilla, cardamom, and salt cooking over medium heat in a medium saucepan on the stove. Make sure it's stirred often, or this will not work. Bring the milk to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.

There are many ways you can do this, but I have a few favorite methods to poaching the meringues. You can pipe them in using a pastry bag and snip them off using scissors, like Chef Zakarian did in the most-recent Next Iron Chef. You can also use two spoons and make quenelles, or even an ice cream scoop and portion them into the simmering milk that way. Whatever way you choose, poach the meringues in the simmering milk for five minutes each. When done, simply remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.

This is meringue in custard with berries. Not oeufs, but still pretty
To create the anglaise, bring the milk up to a more-rapid boil and then immediately bring back down to a simmer. Splash some of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and whisk-whisk-whisk. Once the milk is incorporated, add the egg yolk mixture into the rest of the hot milk and whisk like mad, while simmering, until sauce thickens.

To serve, ladle in the creme anglaise into a serving bowl or dish and pop two or three of the oeufs, which will sit like little floating islands. From this point, you can top them with anything from caramel syrup to chopped nuts - I like hazelnuts - on top. Et voila! Oeufs a la Niege.


Once this is understood, you can do just about anything with it, from adding reductions to switching up sauces. Maybe instead of a creme anglaise you could try a sabayon, which is an alcohol-based custard sauce? Or just do a chocolate anglaise. Or a raspberry sauce. Or something.

Anyway, they're great. The wonderful thing about them is that it's like eating clouds. Make sure you add a crunchy element, though, like a cookie or something.  Have fun. Eat. This is what matters.