Friday, 8 March 2013

chestnut cream meringue pie

Whoopsies- forgot to publish this before I left on Sunday. I'm putting it up, unadulterated, anyways for it shall do well to tide over the days while I sort out my photos from the trip and catch up on some sleep)

One last post before my Middle Eastern stint. Things have not gone to plan unfortunately. After all that scrabbling around, I managed to make a target for pulsed laser deposition (PLD) in time to be mounted on Thursday before the actual deposition the next day. However, I just found out that the powder synthesis may be sensitive to batch size and thought it safer to do a quick x-ray dffraction on my target to ensure it really was as I thought it to be. That's when the fail happen: I somehow snapped my target into two. Nooooooooooo! Stood there gaping at the fragments for a good 5 min.

(deep breath) Anyway, I've had quite a lot of Chinese food posts this past month so it'll be nice to start catching up on the backlog of stuff that I made over Christmas, not to mention my brownie and sticky toffee pudding experiments since. Thus you see my chestnut meringue pie.

I used a sweet pate sucree crust (recipe from my time at Le Cordon Bleu), made more delicate by a 40g substitution of icing sugar for castor. I also used a little extra salt (3g in total) and vanilla. The pie is filled with chestnut cream and chunks of roasted chestnuts that I painstakingly peeled, and topped with a creamy Italian meringue. The sweetness from the meringue and pastry is rather necessary as the chestnut cream isn't that sweet or rich. There has been some debate about the texture of the filling and the chestnut chunks weren't wholly appreciated. I thought it brought a more interesting bite but it meant that you did also get crumbly bits that spoilt the smoothness of the rest of the filling. So alternatively, you could just double the amount of cream filling and omit the roasted chestnuts. In either case, be sure that the chestnut puree is very fine, or it will be grainy. To make a thicker creamier filling, don't whip up the cream but throw it all into the food processor and whizz.

(makes 1 18cm dia pie)
One portion pate sucree for a 18cm dia pie, rolled out and baked blind

For the chestnut cream filling
50g double cream200g chestnut puree
20g icing sugar200g whole chestnuts

For the Italian meringue
120g sugar            60g egg white             
  • Give the whole chestnuts one good stab with a fork before roasting them in an oven, at around 180C, for 15-20 min.
  • Shell the roasted chestnuts, roughly chop each chestnut into 5-6 pieces and allow to cool.
  • Whip up the double cream with icing sugar until it forms soft peaks (this is double cream rather than whipping, so it becomes a lot thicker)
  • Whisk a third of the whipped cream into the chestnut puree until the puree is broken up and homogenous.
  • Fold the puree into the remaining cream.
  • Fill the cooled, blind baked pate sucree case.
  • In a pan, add a splash of water to dissolve the sugar in.
  • Pour the sugar into the pan (you may want to give the solution a quick stir to ensure all the sugar crystals are wetted)
  • Heat the sugar syrup until the soft ball stage (I go towards the higher end, around 120C, to compensate for my piddly hand held mixer), making sure to brush down the edges of the bubbling solution to ensure you don't get nucleation of sugar crystals along the water edge, which would spoil the texture of the meringue.
  • Beat the egg whites until they are just foamy (start beating when the temperature of the syrup reaches around 116C), as you don't want to over beat the whites before the sugar addition, and pour in the sugar syrup. Normally you would trickle the syrup in at the edge of the bowl to prevent it hitting the rotating whisk head and spraying. However, as I am using a hand held mixer, I pour in it at a much greater rate.
  • Continue whisking until the meringue is thick and glossy.
  • Top the pie with the meringue and decorate as you will.
  • Flame with a blow torch to get some nice browned patches.  

Also, some pointers for blind baking:
  • Dock the pastry well to prevent it from lifting once the baking beans/rice (whatever you use) is removed.
  • Always rest the pastry to minimize shrinkage on baking.
  • Don't remove the baking beans/rice too early or you will have more shrinkage.
  • When lining the pie tin, make sure you aren't stretching the pastry as you push it into the edges of the tin, but lifting it up and allowing it to drop into the edge area.
(Sadly all the photos taken of my food over Christmas was done in the absence of natural light, we had these puddings after dinner)

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

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