quick classic berry tart

I can’t be the only one who prefers recipes that use whole eggs instead of egg parts. It isn’t just a mild packrat tendency, although I’m sure that’s part of it. I buy the expensive eggs – the ones that are hopefully (but questionably, I know) from slightly less mistreated animals. Throwing away egg whites is throwing away money. And sure, you can freeze egg whites (because it’s always egg whites I have leftover; delicious rich emulsifying egg yolks I can almost always find a use for), but what’s the point of gathering a collection of frozen egg whites that I’ll never use?

All this to say that I didn’t really make Dorie’s classic berry tart. I made Tartine’s. Their pastry cream is the only I’ve seen that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. I like the silky light texture that results from the addition of egg whites. Likewise, their tart dough uses whole eggs, so I went ahead and made that too, instead of Dorie’s.

Of course the result was fantastic – every baking book has some variation of tart dough + pastry cream + berries, and for good reason – it’s an unbeatable combination. I’m confident this tart would be just as good with Dorie’s recipes; I’ve made both her pastry cream and her tart dough, and they’re wonderful. They’re especially great if you enjoy egg white omelets so you don’t end up with a freezer full of egg whites.

Christine chose this, and she has Dorie’s recipes posted.

One year ago: Tartest Lemon Tart
Two years ago: Florida Pie

cauliflower cheese pie with grated potato crust

I have a hard time figuring out where I fit on the healthy eating spectrum. Some things are obvious. I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins: good. I also eat dessert often, although not necessarily a lot of it: still, bad. But everything in between, I’m not so sure.

For example, I love these bran muffins, and I consider them very healthy, as they’re completely whole grain, have a large portion of pure bran, a good dose of dried fruit, and less than 1 teaspoon fat per muffin. But someone commented, “it would be interesting to know the calorie/fat/carb ratios and that way know exactly how healthy these are…” Well, I don’t know; to me, they’re considered healthy. Maybe others disagree based on their versions of what healthy means.

Branny often “brannifies”, as she calls it, recipes by reducing the cheese and other fat, increasing the vegetables, substituting whole grains for refined, using egg whites instead of whole eggs, and choosing less saturated fats than butter. She used many of those tricks when she made this pie, but then when I made it, I…well, I unbrannified it, making the original Moosewood recipe instead of Branny’s healthier adaptation.

I like healthy foods too, and I have no problem decreasing fat and increasing vegetables when it seems reasonable, but by my standards, the original version of this recipe was healthy enough, with just a couple tablespoons of butter in the whole pie and 1 ounce of cheese per main course serving.  Perhaps milk, eggs, and potatoes are all questionable ingredients, but by my standards, they’re all fine in moderation.

But while we may disagree on just how healthy this is, I think we can all agree that it tastes great. And if you don’t like cauliflower, I think it would be at least as good with broccoli. The crust in particular is a revelation – made of grated potatoes and held together by an egg, there is no butter or oil anywhere. How about that for a flaky delicious pie crust? I can’t wait to use it with a quiche. Because even I know that buttery regular pie crust is decadent.

One year ago: Anadama Bread (another Moosewood recipe)
Two years ago: Sichuan Green Beans (still one of my favorites)

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Cauliflower Cheese Pie with Grated Potato Crust (adapted from Moosewood via Branny Boils Over)

Serves 8 as a side dish; 4 as a main course

Looking at online versions of this recipe now, I’m seeing that most call for the shredded potatoes to be salted and drained. I didn’t do this, and in fact, I thought the starch from the potatoes would help form a cohesive crust. I was very happy with how my crust turned out without the draining step.

I recommend using a food processor to shred the potatoes, grate the onion, and shred the cheese.

Crust:
2 cups packed shredded raw potatoes, preferably russet
¼ cup grated onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten

Filling:
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
1 dash thyme
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1 cup packed grated strong cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
black pepper
paprika

1. Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400ºF. Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray.

2. Combine the shredded potatoes, onion, salt, and egg. Pat the potato mixture into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, then give the crust a spritz with nonstick spray. Continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes, until browned. Lower the oven temperature to 375ºF.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the onion and cook just until they start to brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the thyme, cauliflower, and salt; cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is just tender, about 8 minutes.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, a pinch of salt and another of black pepper, and the milk until evenly colored.

5. Spread half of the cheese on the baked crust. Top with the cauliflower mixture and the rest of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the pie. Dust with paprika.

6. Bake the pie until the custard is set and the top is slightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

soft chocolate and berry tart

Chocolate and raspberry was my favorite flavor combination for a long time. It’s still up there for sure, but I’ve tried so many desserts recently that I’ve found all kinds of other great pairs – orange and vanilla, peaches and amaretto, cream cheese and anything. There’s no need to play favorites, but I was excited about making a chocolate and raspberry tart.

Then I used strawberries instead. Sometimes baking for Tuesdays with Dorie happens to be one item on a long (but manageable!) To Do list, and those times, I make do – and I had strawberries in the freezer. Even though Dorie specifically recommends against using strawberries because they’re too juicy, I went ahead with what I had. I defrosted a few, diced them small, sprinkled them with sugar, and set them aside to give off some liquid, which I drained before using the berries in the recipe. (I had a brief thought of “what should I do with the liquid?” Then – wait a minute! That’s sugary strawberry juice! And I drank it.)

I’d call it a success! My tart was a bit sloppy when I cut into it, but it was still crisp tart crust, rich chocolate, and sweet berries. No one complained about combining chocolate and strawberries around here, that’s for sure.  Rachelle has the original recipe posted on her site.

One year ago: Lemon Cup Custards

toasted-coconut custard tart

I used to not like coconut. That was dumb. I used to not like a lot of ingredients that are actually very good – ingredients that I’m not sure I’d actually tried. That was also dumb.

Although I think I would have liked this tart even back in my coconut-adverse days. There’s toasted coconut both in the pastry cream itself and sprinkled over the top of the tart, but it seemed to affect the texture of the tart more than the flavor.

It was good either way, but I wish I’d added a drop of coconut extract to the filling. Or maybe used coconut milk instead of regular milk in the pastry cream? Does that work? It sounds delicious.

However you make it, you can’t go wrong with crisp tart crust, smooth pastry cream, and light whipped cream topped with crunchy toasted coconut. Beryl chose this tart for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Caramel Crunch Bars

banana cream pie

Dave lucked out this year when his annual birthday pie didn’t come out quite right. Because then I made another one, and then when that one wasn’t perfect either, I made another one.

The recipe is Tartine’s, and as usual, they take a classic and kick it up a notch. Their banana cream pie has the traditional flaky crust, pastry cream, bananas, and whipped cream. Then they add caramel and a thin layer of chocolate over the crust to keep the pastry cream from compromising the crust’s crispness.

The chocolate layer in my first pie was way too thick. It was like a Hershey bar on the bottom of the pie. It was impossible to cut. Dave compared it to armor. The second time, I slimmed down the chocolate, but ran out of sugar when I was making the caramel. I thought I’d come up with a way around the sugar issue, but it must not have worked because the caramel layer was hard and chewy. If the chocolate had been like leather armor over the crust, this was chain mail.

I tried one more time. And, finally! A very thin chocolate layer, the added subtleties of caramel, two layers of sliced bananas, Tartine’s wonderful light pastry cream, all topped with sweet whipped cream. Perfection. Although after my third banana cream pie in as many weeks, I am so ready for some cake or something. I’m not sure Dave agrees.

One year ago: Crispy Baked Chicken Strips
Two years ago: Moo Shu Pancakes

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Banana Cream Pie (completely rewritten and slightly tweaked from Tartine’s cookbook)

Full disclosure:

1) The pastry cream pretty much always curdles for me before it boils, but I just pour it into the strainer set over a bowl, whisk like crazy and strain it, and it always ends up smooth and delicious.

2) Working with small amounts of caramel can be tricky, but I had no problems with these quantities. If you see crystals forming when the sugar mixture is bubbling, discard those ingredients and start over. If you’re worried about it working right, you might want to make twice the amount listed here and save half of it for another use.

3) I’m too lazy to set up a makeshift double boiler for 1 ounce of chocolate and I’m biased against microwaves for some reason, so I just melt the chocolate in a very small saucepan over low heat while stirring constantly.

4) The photo of the slice shows only half the whipped cream called for in the recipe, because I ran out of cream.

Pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean, cut in half and seeds scraped out
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 ounces (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes

Caramel:
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
½ tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch salt
3 tablespoons cream
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter, cut into four pieces

Whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream, cold
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Assembly:
1 pie crust for single-crust 9-inch pie, fully baked and cooled
1 ounce chocolate, finely chopped
3 bananas, sliced ¼-inch thick

1. For the pastry cream: Pour a bit of water into a medium saucepan and dump it out. I know it sounds strange, but wetting the bottom of the pot before adding the milk really helps keep the milk from forming a browned layer on the bottom. Add the milk, salt, and vanilla seeds to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then whisk in the eggs. When the milk boils, pour just a bit of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Keep whisking and very gradually add the rest of the milk to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the pot and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and just starts to boil; it will only take a few minutes (see note #1). Quickly pour the pastry cream into a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl (I use the same bowl I originally mixed everything in). Use a rubber spatula to push the pastry cream through the strainer. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, occasionally stirring it, and then mix in the butter, 2 cubes at a time. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate it until completely chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight.

2. For the caramel: Pour the sugar into the center of a tall, heavy-bottomed medium saucepan (see note #2). Carefully pour the water and corn syrup over the sugar. Gently stir the mixture with a clean spatula. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Before it boils, you can stir it a bit if it seems to be heating unevenly and the sugar isn’t dissolving, but once it starts to boil, stop stirring. You can gently swirl the pan if it seems to be cooking unevenly. Once the mixture becomes a light amber color, remove it from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble up a lot, so stand back. Give it a few seconds to die down, then whisk the cream into the caramel. Add the vanilla extract and lemon juice, then stir in the butter one cube at a time. Pour the caramel into a small dish.

3. Pour about an inch of water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer (see note #3). Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl, place the bowl over the simmering water, and heat, stirring pretty often, until the chocolate is melted. Pour the chocolate into the cooled crust and use a pastry brush to spread it evenly. Set the chocolate aside to set for a few minutes.

4. For the whipped cream: Place the mixer bowl and whisk attachment (or beaters for a handheld mixer) in the freezer for at least 10 minutes. When the bowl is cold, add the cream and beat at high speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating at high speed until firm peaks form.

5. Pour the warm-not-hot caramel over the chocolate and spread it fairly evenly. Spread half the pastry cream over the caramel, then arrange half of the banana slices over the pastry cream. Repeat with the remaining pastry cream and bananas. Spread the whipped cream over the bananas. Refrigerate the pie at least 4 hours or overnight, until set.

pecan pie

Conversations from this Christmas:

  • Me: I was thinking we could all go to the botanical garden’s light show like we did a couple years ago.
  • My sister: Oh yeah, we did that last year too, so it’s a new tradition.

  • 4-year old, after opening a present: A truck! Vroom vroom! Can I open another present now?
  • His mom: No, the tradition is that we all take turns, so you need to wait until Aunt Bridget and Grandma each open a present; then it will be your turn again.

  • My brother: Are we really going to go look at the luminarias across town? It’s already after 10pm, and it’s 15 degrees out.
  • The rest of us: Of course we are! It’s tradition!

We take tradition seriously in my family, and that extends to the holiday meal. It’s turkey and fixings, and variations are not appreciated. Complaints will be lodged if the cranberry sauce has too much orange zest, the stuffing has too much sausage, or, worst of all, pumpkin cheesecake replaces the pie.

So I waffled on what to do with Dorie’s pecan pie recipe – I liked the idea of adding bitter ingredients like chocolate and espresso to cut the sweetness of regular pecan pie, but I didn’t want to make something so different that my mom would have to make her standard pecan pie recipe as soon as I went home to satisfy her craving. I ended up reducing the chocolate from 3 to 2 ounces, skipping the cinnamon because I didn’t really want it, and skipping the espresso because I didn’t have any available.

And it was great! I’ve tried a number of pecan pie recipes, and this is the only one that I’ve really enjoyed. The small amount of chocolate was a nice treat, but mostly it was the brown sugar and the balance of corn syrup to pecans that made this pie so good. In fact, everyone liked it – even those of us who don’t traditionally even eat the pecan pie.

Beth chose this pie for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

rosy poached pear and pistachio tart

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I’m not really good with pears. I don’t know much about them, so I never buy them. And, of course, because I never buy them, I don’t learn much about them. Which types are best for baking and for eating? When are they in season? How do I know when they’re ripe? How long do they take to ripen after you buy them?

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Due to my lack of pear knowledge, I was a little worried about how my tart would come out. I should have looked up what kind of pear to use, plus I forgot to buy mine early so it would have time to ripen before I needed to make the tart.

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It probably would have been a little better if my pear had been softer, but, as it was, this was a pretty darn good tart. I mean, the pear is cooked in wine for over half an hour – how could that be bad? Plus, pastry cream is just delicious, although pistachio pastry cream resembles split pea soup a little too closely for my comfort. Good thing it’s covered by that beautiful purple poached pear!

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Lauren chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Linzer Sablés

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chicken empanadas

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Dave got yelled at over these empanadas. I’m not much of a yeller normally; I’m more of a silent treatment and glower type of person. But there was no time for that; action needed to be taken immediately.

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It’s all because I made the filling a couple of days before I planned to form and bake the empanadas. The filling isn’t the most simple thing to make. There’s all kinds of chopping, browning, simmering, and meat shredding. And I was a little short on chicken, so I didn’t end up with as much filling as I’d hoped.

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That night, Dave needed to heat something up for himself for dinner, so I told him there was some extra brown rice with black beans in the fridge. I walked away for a few minutes, and when I came back, he had dumped my precious empanada filling onto a plate, microwaved it, and was scooping it up with a fork.

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Hey, guess what there is none of in this filling? 1) Brown rice. 2) Black beans.

“Damn!” he exclaimed. “This is good!”  That’s when I yelled, because I just needed him to stop eating it right away.

And then he was so apologetic and I felt like a jerk. He kept saying, “It really was tasty!” as if that was supposed to make me feel better about it.  Yes. I know it’s tasty.  I spent some good time making sure it was.

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And what can you do to make something so delicious even better? Wrap it in pastry and bake it until it’s browned and flaky and crisp. Oh wow, these are good. And apparently that’s true whether they’re wrapped in pastry and baked or just dumped onto a plate and microwaved.

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One year ago: Comparison of 2 chocolate cake recipes
Two years ago: Cream cheese chocolate chip cookies (and my very first blog entry)

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Chicken Empanadas (adapted from Smitten Kitchen and epicurious)

Makes about 18 empanadas

I didn’t actually measure anything in the filling. I had to leave the olives out because Dave hates them.

As I formed each empanada, I put it in the freezer while I worked with the rest. That way the dough didn’t get too soft and it baked up flaky.

After forming the empanadas, I baked about half of them immediately. I froze the rest for a couple of months, then baked them straight from the freezer. They were perfect.

Dough:
4½ cups (21.6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
2 large eggs
⅔ cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

Filling:
3 whole chicken legs, including thighs (2 to 2¼ pounds total)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, halved lengthwise, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
⅓ cup (1½ ounces) finely diced Spanish chorizo
½ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (not hot)
¼ cup chopped pitted green olives
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Egg wash:
1 egg
water
salt

1. For the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl; blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-sized butter lumps. Beat together the egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add it to the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. The mixture will look shaggy. Turn out the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather it together, kneading gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring the dough together. Form the dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour or overnight.

2. For the filling: Pat the chicken dry and season it with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then add the chicken, skin-side down. Cook it without moving for about 3 minutes, until dark golden brown, then turn it and continue cooking for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside.

3. Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves to the skillet and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chorizo and paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the olives, raisins, wine, and broth and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Return the chicken to the skillet along with any juices accumulated on the plate, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until the chicken is tender, 25 to 30 minutes total.

4. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate. The sauce remaining in the skillet should be the consistency of heavy cream; if it isn’t, briskly simmer until it’s slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and coarsely chop the meat. Stir the chicken back into the sauce. Discard the bay leaves and season the filling with salt and pepper. Let the filling cool for 30 minutes, uncovered.

5. To form and bake the empanadas: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking pan with a parchment paper or a silicone mat. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces and from each into a disc. Keeping remaining pieces covered, roll out 1 piece on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 5-inch round (about 1/8 inch thick).

6. Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling onto the center of each round of dough and fold the dough in half, enclosing the filling. Press the edges together to seal, then crimp decoratively with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Transfer the empanada to the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining dough. You might have extra dough.

7. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash, then bake one sheet at a time until the empanadas are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm.

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flaky apple turnovers

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I have officially relinquished my annual Fight Against Fall. Usually I’m very stubborn about waiting until October before I want to think about apples, pumpkin, or candy corn. But, eh. It got cold early this year, and we’re going to be really busy in October, so I figured I’d better soak up this time while I can.

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So bring on the apples! These turnovers are interesting because the dough has a bit of puff pastry-ness to it. It’s made kind of like pie crust, with butter cut into flour, but then instead of stirring in ice water, it’s hydrated with sweetened sour cream. Yum! If I wasn’t severely trying to curb my dough-eating, there might have been a problem. A there’s-not-enough-pastry-left-for-the-apples problem.

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The dough only has one turn (roll it out and fold into thirds like a piece of paper going into an envelope), but it has to be chilled before and after. Then it’s rolled out again and filled with a simple mixture of apples, cinnamon, sugar, and flour.

I will admit that I was starving when I ate this, but oooh, so delicious. The filling is a no-brainer; it’s just apple pie filling. But you know how sometimes you’ll be eating a turnover, and the corner bites are disappointing because there’s no fruit there? That isn’t an issue with these, because the crust is so darn good! And, as an added bonus, I got the best whiff of apples and spices while these were baking, and we had football on, and I don’t care how green the trees still are, it’s definitely fall for me.

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Julie chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted.  I skipped the butter in the filling.  I baked some of the turnovers immediately, and froze the rest and baked them a few days later, with absolutely no negative effects.  The second time, I brushed the turnovers with milk instead of egg, which worked very well.

One year ago: Chocolate Chunkers

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lime cream meringue pie

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Oh, how times change. I had kind of thought that last year’s lemon cream tart would be my first and last citrus cream experience. Seriously, that is a lot of butter. But apparently, my attitude toward rich foods has slowly evolved from ‘this is way too fattening for me to indulge in more than a few bites at a time’ to ‘well…it’s not like I eat like this all the time…’ except that, these days, I kinda do.

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The lime cream is made almost exactly the same as last year’s lemon cream – heat sugar, eggs, zest, and juice, then blend in softened butter – with the only difference a couple teaspoons of cornstarch that is added to the lime version, along with grated fresh ginger. Don’t take me lightly when I say there’s a lot of butter involved – the full pie calls for 2½ sticks (20 tablespoons), and that doesn’t even include the portion in the crust.

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Fortunately, I was hearing that some Tuesdays with Dorie members were decreasing the butter, sometimes by as much as half. I didn’t make quite such a dramatic change, using 4 tablespoons for the quarter of the recipe I made – so the equivalent of 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) for a whole recipe. It worked really well.

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I do like these citrus creams. I’m a big fan of citrus desserts, and of smooth, rich custards, so the combination is wonderful. I also really like meringue and, you know, torching food. So there really wasn’t much not to like for me this week! Except for the tiny portions I forced upon myself. Ah, compromise…

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Linda has the recipe posted. I decreased the meringue by half, because I happened to have that amount of egg whites leftover from something else.  Also, I didn’t strain out the zest.

One year ago: Black (and Pink) and White Chocolate Cake

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