ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bill Bryson's Dream-Fulfilling Lemon Pie

"Dessert was of course the highlight. Everyone on the trail dreams of something, usually sweet and gooey, and my sustaining vision had been an outsized slab of pie. It had occupied my thoughts for days, and when the waitress came to take our order I asked her, with beseeching eyes and a hand on her forearm, to bring me the largest piece she could slice without losing her job. She brought me a vast, viscous, canary-yellow wedge of lemon pie. It was a monument to food technology, yellow enough to give you a headache, sweet enough to make your eyeballs roll up into your head -- everything, in short, you could want in a pie so long as taste and quality didn’t enter into your requirements." 

Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods (chapter 5)
(From DC member Sheri)  

I combined/adapted three recipes from Cook's Country for my pie. The instructions for the creamy layer were written for a food processor and I just left them that way even though I don't have a food processor and used my blender and mixer. When I baked the crust I did it at a lower temp for longer time, but am going to try again at the higher temp for shorter time (that I listed here) and hopefully it won't be as chewy next time.

Remember folks, this was one of the winners at Dessert Club Lit Night.  Lemony heaven; perfect sweet-tart-creamy-crunchy love child.  Definitely got my vote.

Bill Bryson's Dream-Fulfilling Lemon Pie (print recipe)
10 lemon sandwich cookies
8 whole graham crackers, broken into rough pieces
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Add the cookies and crackers to the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until they are finely ground. Add the butter, sugar and lemon zest to the bowl, and continue pulsing until well combined - the mixture should start to clump just a little. Turn the mixture out into a 10-inch springform pan. Press into an even layer and half-way up the sides to form the crust. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the crust to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

For The "Canary Yellow" Layer:
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup of lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
½ cup water
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
8 large egg yolks 
2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch and salt together in a large non-reactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture is translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.

Strain through fine mesh strainer into the baked and cooled pie shell and scrape off filling from the bottom of strainer. Reserve about 3 tbsp in a small dish for the decoration. Refrigerate while making creamy layer.

Creamy Filling Layer:
1 cup fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons) and 1 tablespoon grated fresh lemon zest 
1 ¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
¼ cup sugar
1 (8‑ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14‑ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
⅓ cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Stir ¼ cup of the lemon juice and gelatin together in a small bowl and let sit to soften.
Process the sugar and lemon zest together in a food processor until the sugar turns bright yellow, about 30 seconds. Add the cream cheese and continue to process until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the condensed milk and pudding mix and continue to process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl.

Microwave the lemon juice mixed with gelatin until warm (just before bubbling), about 15-30 seconds. Stir to dissolve the gelatin.

With the food processor running, pour the warm gelatin mixture, remaining lemon juice, and vanilla through the feed tube and continue to process until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Pour the creamy filling into the pie shell on top of yellow layer and smooth the top with a spatula. 

Transfer the reserved Canary Yellow filling to a small resealable plastic bag and snip one of the corners. Pipe thin, parallel lines of the Yellow filling onto the creamy layer, then drag a knife or spatula through the lines (perpendicular to them) to create a decorative pattern. 

Refrigerate the pie, uncovered, until chilled and set, about 6 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Raspberry Jam and Apple-Tart for a Hobbit's Uninvited Guests

“What’s that? Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think for me.”
“And for me,” said Thorin.
“And raspberry jam and apple-tart,” said Bifur.
“And mince-pies and cheese,” said Bofur.
“And pork pie and salad,” said Bombur.
“And more cakes – and ale – and coffee, if you don’t mind,” called the other dwarves through the door.

“Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow!” Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. “And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!”

~ The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkein

I had a couple favorites at Dessert Club Lit Night, and this was one of them.  As you can see, it's a simple, straightforward tart recipe.  Not too many ingredients.  But when they're awesome, like butter, sugar, and apples, you don't need much else.  

Poor Bilbo.  Dwarves showing up and making demands.  But you have to admit, they have good taste.  

Raspberry Jam and Apple-Tart (print recipe)
Serves 8

1 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
7 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and halved
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Combine flour, 8 tbsp. butter, and salt in a food processor and pulse until pea-size crumbles form, about 10 pulses. Drizzle in 3 tbsp. ice-cold water and pulse until dough is moistened, about 3—4 pulses. Transfer dough to a work surface and form into a flat disk; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Unwrap dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, flatten dough into a 13″ circle and then transfer to a 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom; trim edges; chill for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375º. Working with one apple half at a time, thinly slice into sections, keeping slices together. Press sliced apple half gently to fan it out; repeat with remaining apple halves. Place 1 fanned apple half on outer edge of the tart dough, pointing inward; repeat with 7 more apple halves. Separate remaining apple slices. Starting where the apple halves touch and working your way in, layer apples to create a tight rose pattern. Fill in any gaps with remaining apple. Sprinkle with sugar and then dot with remaining butter. Bake until golden brown, 60—70 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat apricot jam in a small saucepan until warmed and loose; pour through a fine strainer into a small bowl and set aside. Transfer tart to a wire rack; using a pastry brush, brush top of tart with jam. Let cool completely before slicing and serving with whipped cream.

Recipe from Sara Moulton via, and Dessert Club member A.M. 
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