Monday, 14 March 2011

In Honour of Π Day

Happy Pi Day! It's nearly midnight and at this point, I better get a move on my 3.14 post!!

For much of today, I've been racking my brain trying to think up a pie to make in celebration of pi day, and finally settled on key lime pie (more specifically, I went with Emeril's pie recipe as my starting point). However, I didn't have a traditional pie pan and so I inadvertently ended up with a tart, the close sibling of the pie. As if this wasn't enough, I invited one of my colleagues over to join me for dinner and time had forced me to finally choose an entrée, of which I went with my take on a galette-style crêpe (the galette being the cousin of both the pie and the tart). Okay, so I ended up not making any pies on pi day, but I did sit down with the rest of the family... that counts for something, right?

After a quick run to the grocery store, I came back to my apartment and immediately started on the crust of my lime tart. To begin, set the oven to 400° F, and microwave 6 tbsp unsalted butter for 40-50 sec; allow the butter to cool once melted. Whereas Emeril's recipe called for a graham cracker crust, I ended up having to make my own crust out of a different kind of cookie, i.e., the chocolate sandwich cookie. You could certainly buy an already prepped crust, but as I had read earlier today, storebought crusts tend to be too fine and gritty, with little to no variety in crunch and texture. The solution therefore is to make your own. (In any case, I already had the cookies and butter at home.) If using a large tart pan as I had done, split a total of 18 chocolate sandwich cookies, quickly scraping the filling (it's quite alright if you've got some in the fold). Use two bowls to roughly crush the cookies. When you get to pieces about 1/8 the size of the cookie, take about 1/4 of the crushed cookies and run them through a food processor until they get ground to a rough powder. Mix this back into the bowl and stir in the (now cooled) melted butter, making sure to coat the cookie pieces in the butter. Press this butter-cookie crumble onto the tart pan to form a bottom crust, covering as much of the surface as possible; don't worry about little holes in the crust at this point, as the cookies will further soften and spread out with the butter during baking. Into the oven, blind bake the crust for 10 min and set this off to the side to cool when that bake time has elapsed.

Now, lower the oven temperature to 350° F and, as the crust is cooling off, work on the filling. Into a bowl, empty two 14 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk and with a strong whisk incorporate a bit at a time 1/2 c granulated sugar. In a separate bowl, beat very well two whole eggs and then slowly incorporate this into the milk. Next, about 1/4 c at a time, slowly whisk in (to prevent splattering) 2/3 c total lime juice (i.e., the equivalent of the juice found in one of those plastic lime juice containers in the market). Add to all this the grated rind of half a lime, and pour the batter into the tart pan once it's cooled down (to the point where the dish is warm and you can pick it up with no issue). Upon gently tapping the tart pan against a surface to release  any trapped air bubbles, put the tart back into the oven and bake for 10 more min. After the tart comes out of the oven, gently nudge the tart pan; you'll notice the filling is no longer runny and has begun to set; allow it to continue setting by refrigerating the tart for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, let's work on the galette-style crêpes. [An aside: I should note I wanted to make actual galettes--the unsweetened, buckwheat version of crêpes, which I first had in Paris--but I didn't have any buckwheat sitting in my pantry. Generally speaking, however, a galette is a free-form pastry dessert baked on a baking sheet and typically filled with fruit.] I've shared my own crêpe recipe elsewhere on this site, but have resorted to working with an arguably simpler recipe, which I developed from this recipe. For four galette-style crêpes (and a smaller dessert crêpe), in one bowl, mix together 1 c all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp ground sea salt, and 3/4 tsp ground black pepper; in another, beat very well a whole egg and stir in 1.5 c milk. Into the bowl of dry ingredients, slowly whisk in the wet ingredients.

To cook each crêpe, first preheat a 10" skillet at medium heat, and "kiss" a stick of butter to the pan to lightly coat it. After you start to hear the sizzling of the butter, pour 1/2 c of the crêpe batter onto the pan and quickly move the pan about to distribute the batter into as thin a layer as possible. When the batter turns an opaque colour and can easily be lifted off the pan with the aid of a spatula (about a minute), flip the crêpe and cook the other side for an additional 30 sec. For ease of assembly, cook all the crêpes first and then proceed to filling. Set the oven to broil.

To fill each crêpe, place one on an oven-safe dish and arrange a loose 1/2 c of cheese (I used a shredded mild cheddar and Monterey Jack blend). Next, arrange 4 thinly sliced pieces of deli smoked ham, and fold the edges of the crêpe inward to form a square (or as near as you can get), being sure to press down the sides as best you can to hold in place. Put the dish in the oven and leave it under the broiler for about 2 min, or until the crêpe has held its shape and the edges have crisped with a slight browning. As that's going, fry an egg atop a lightly buttered pan. When the (now) galette-style crêpe has come out of the oven, top it off with the fried egg, tucking it under the crisped edges as best you can. [An aside: I also tried frying the egg first, wrapping it inside the folded crêpe, and then placing all of this under the broiler. The crêpe still crisped nicely but the yolk cooked halfway through-- which you do not want.] 

Cut into the yolk, let it ooze and mingle with the crêpe filling, and enjoy! Serve with a side of green vegetables, if so desired.

Oh, yes... and don't forget about dessert! Be sure to serve up the lime cookie tart will chilled. For additional photos of this cooking experience, click here.

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