...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Kitchen Pilgrimage

Over the summer, we took a monthly garden pilgrimage, but the gardens are sleeping and the air is chilly. Much better now to make kitchen visits, don't you think? Our first kitchen pilgrimage is to a friend's catering kitchen. Paula was with me at the birth of my first child and was the first to teach me that true Texans put pickle relish in their chili! Paula is an artist in the kitchen, and I'm thrilled to have her as my first guest blogger in the winter kitchen pilgrimage series! To follow her on Facebook, add her business page for Paula's Parties 'n Such to your listings and check out her offerings on a regular basis. Here's one she included as per my special request. Thanks, Paula!


We all know that homemade pies are a hit for the holiday festivities. But, there are some who shudder at the thought of making tender, flaky pie crusts and perfect meringue. Well, the tips below should put your mind to rest. I'm hoping you will use these tips to reach absolute confidence in your baking skills.


1. Separate eggs while they are cold.

2. Allow whites to come to room temperature (always) which assures the most air will be incorporated.

3. Use a small deep bowl and make sure the beaters are very clean (any grease will interfere with the beating). The whites will increase 2 1/2 - 4 times their original volume. A rotary hand mixer will make a soft meringue, but you will need an electric mixer to make a hard meringue.

4. When the whites are beaten to the foamy stage, add salt and cream of tartar. Cream of tartar helps egg whites to reach maximum volume and increases the stability.

5. The amount of sugar to add depends on the type of meringue: 2 T sugar to each egg white for soft meringues (toppings) and 4-5 T per white for hard meringues (shells). Beat in sugar gradually, 1 T at a time until no grains of sugar can be detected. The sugar is added when the whites have reached soft peaks; if added too early, meringue will not reach its full volume.

6. Spread meringue on HOT pie filling. This method provides heat for the bottom of the meringue cooking it slightly and causing it to adhere to the filling. When spreading meringue, make sure it is spread over the entire surface so that the filling is completely covered and the meringue is sealed to the edge of the dish. This prevents shrinkage of the meringue during baking.

7. To prevent weeping, make sure you bake meringue properly. Bake a soft meringue in a preheated 350 oven for 12-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meringue, or until golden brown. Cool at room temperature. After it reaches room temp, you can refrigerate.


For a 9" pie: 4 eggs at room temp, 6 Tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 4 teaspoons cream of tarter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Place room temperature whites in mixing bowl. Beat on medium speed until foamy. Add salt, cream of tarter, and vanilla. Mix until whites reach soft peak stage. Add 2 Tbsps sugar and continue mixing making sure the sugar is completely dissolved. Repeat, adding sugar 2 Tbsps at a time until all the sugar is incorporated. Mix until whites are stiff and shiny. Spread on HOT filling, taking care to cover completely, touching edges to seal. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until delicately browned. Allow to cool to room temperature before cutting or chilling.

(Alternate method using cold eggs: Put egg whites and sugar in mixing bowl and place the bowl in a pan of hot water. Stir constantly, until whites feel warm. Add the salt, cream of tarter, and vanilla. Remove the bowl from the hot water and follow instructions for adding sugar.)

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