Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pineapple Meringue Cupcakes

To download a copy of the recipe for Pineapple Meringue Cupcakes, click HERE.

Although last week’s recipe was for a delicious dessert pastry, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while doing this site, it’s that people have a special fondness for sweet treats. This week we’ll do another, a very special cupcake that was inspired by my favorite dessert.

Pineapple Meringue Cupcakes, modeled after lemon meringue pie, not only have a fresh-made pineapple custard as the filling, but also have it incorporated into the cake itself. They’re also topped with a homemade meringue that is lightly browned to get the texture, taste and appearance just right. And if you’re thinking something so good must be terribly difficult to make, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find they’re not at all hard to do.

 Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:

  • To address the obvious question, to make lemon meringue cupcakes, just use your favorite lemon pudding instead of making the pineapple pudding.

  • When making the meringue, a stand mixer is strongly recommended. Even with the stand mixer’s larger motor, the whisking takes several minutes; doing it with an electric hand mixer will take a good bit longer. (Don’t even think about making the meringue manually with a hand-held whisk. While a whisk can do a good job of beating simple egg whites until they’re fluffy, preparing a meringue requires a lot more whisking power than that.)

  • While we’re on the subject of the meringue, anyone who loves lemon meringue pie has sometimes had to endure day-old meringues that are rubbery and tasteless. It’s worth noting that the topping in this recipe, a meringue adapted from Food Network Kitchens’ recipe for Lemon Meringue Frosting, retains its flavor and soft texture even days after being made. I recommend that portion of the recipe also be kept as a useful, stand-alone meringue.

  • When filling the cupcake liners and applying the meringue to the cupcakes, putting the filling or meringue in a pastry bag or a plastic food bag with the corner removed can make the task much easier.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

Since we’ll be using the custard both as the filling and as an ingredient in the cake, let’s make that first.

Drain two 8 ounce cans of crushed pineapple in juice well, retaining the juice. Set the pineapple aside.

Dissolve 1 packet (1/4 ounce) of unflavored gelatin (Knox or similar) in the juice.

Put two egg substitute eggs in a bowl. Add 2/3 cup sugar, 1-1/2 Tbsp flour and ¼ tsp salt, and 1/3 cup of skim milk and mix well to combine.

Heat one additional cup of skim milk in a double-boiler.

When the milk is heated, add the egg mixture to it, stirring constantly until thickened into a custard.

Pour the custard into a large bowl, add the gelatin mixture, and let cool thoroughly.

When the custard mixture has cooled, add the pineapple.

Gently fold 1-1/3 cups of fat-free whipped topping. Refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best) until the custard is firm.

Now we’ll make the cupcakes:

Begin preheating the oven to 350 degrees.


Blend 7 Tbsp of softened, firm textured butter substitute with 2/3 cup sugar in a bowl. Add 2 egg substitute eggs and mix well.

Sift 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, and ¼ tsp salt into the bowl and mix to combine.

Mix in 1 cup of the custard and 1 tsp vanilla.

Put cupcake liners in a cupcake baking pan. Fill each of the cupcake liners 2/3 full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning the tray half-way for even baking. Set aside and let cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, make the meringue frosting.

In the bowl of a double-boiler, mix 4 large egg whites, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, a pinch of cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt. Set the bowl onto the double boiler and continue mixing until the mixture is hot and the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat at high speed until the meringue holds stiff peaks. (This will take several minutes.)

To prepare the cupcakes:

Preheat the broiler to high.

Using a small knife, cut a core from the top of each cupcake to make a space for the filling. There should be room to put a generous teaspoon of filling inside the cupcake. Retain the cores.

Fill each cupcake with the custard.

Cut the top off of each core and use it to plug the opening in the cupcake. (Set the rest of the core aside for snacking!)

Cover the top of the cupcake with meringue frosting.

Place the frosted cupcake under the broiler only long enough for the meringue to start to brown, about 2 – 3 minutes.

To download a copy of the recipe for Pineapple Meringue Cupcakes, click HERE.

I think you’ll agree these are not cupcakes-as-usual!

Visit again next week for another tasty, kitchen-tested recipe! Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hamantaschen Pastry with Apricot Filling

To download a copy of the recipe for Hamantaschen Pastry with Apricot Filling, click HERE

Although hamantaschen (HAH-mehn-tah-shen) is a pastry originating in the Hebrew celebration of Purim, there is no question it also stands on its own as a valid baked treat people of all cultures, and from all over the world, can enjoy year-round. To paraphrase a popular saying, all people eat pastry in the same language.

It is important to note that, while you can go to many food markets and bakeries this time of year and find something they’re calling hamantaschen, don’t be fooled. In most cases, what you’re seeing is a counterfeit, and a poorly made one at that, consisting of a triangular shortbread or butter cookie filled with cheap jelly. Authentic hamantaschen is made from a lighter, tastier pastry, generally with citrus or almond overtones, with a sweet filling. Prune or sweet poppy seed fillings are the most traditional, although apricot, as used in the recipe below, has come to be widely used as well.


Some Cook’s Notes before we begin:

  • If you’re not inclined to make the filling from scratch, a jar of good quality jam will work well. Go with any flavor you like; there’s no need to be a slave to tradition here. These are your pastries.

  • As with any pastry dough, the colder it is, the easier it handles. Keep the dough cold while you’re working with it; cut, fill and form the pastries as quickly as you can, even putting the dough or cutouts into the freezer briefly if necessary. You’ll be glad you did.
  • While we’re on the subject of working with the dough, here are a couple of tips to help when folding up the sides to form the pastries. To lift the sides to make the triangle, I find slipping a knife underneath and using it to fold up the side is a lot easier than using my fingers. (This also helps keep your hands from warming the cold dough prematurely.) Also, when pressing the corners together to seal them, I find it helpful to let one of the sides extend a little past the other, allowing you to roll it over slightly before pressing them together and sealing with wet fingers.
  • To make the filling in this recipe, we’re using water to rehydrate dried apricots. For an extra special touch, rehydrate the apricots with orange juice instead.

  • Finally, for those interested in hamantaschen’s historical back-story, here’s the short version. (Biblically-inclined readers will find the full version in the book of Esther.) Haman (as in “Hey, man!”), an advisor to King Ahasuerus of Persia, created a plot to exterminate all the Hebrews in the kingdom. When it turned out one of those Hebrews was Queen Esther, the King’s favorite wife, the plot was foiled and everyone - except Haman after the King got hold of him - lived happily ever after. And what might otherwise have been a solemn observance somehow became a traditionally carnival-like celebration, part of which involves mocking Haman by eating pastries that are not only named after him, but also are shaped to resemble his trademark three-corner hat. (In addition to being a racist tyrant, it turns out Haman was also a fashion icon. Go figure.)

This recipe makes about twenty-eight 3-1/2” hamantaschen.

First, we’ll make the pastry dough:

Sift 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder, and ½ tsp salt together into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat 1 cup of sugar and 3 egg-substitute eggs until creamy.

Add the egg-substitute eggs, the zest and juice of ½ lemon, and 1-1/2 tsp vanilla to the butter mixture. Whisk to combine.


Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.

Mix until a dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two until smooth. (Be careful not to overwork the dough.)

Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for about half an hour while you make the filling.

While the dough is chilling, let’s make the apricot filling.

Put 1-1/4 cups (tightly packed) of dried apricots, ¼ cup sugar, and the juice and zest of ½ lemon in a medium sauce pan, and add just enough water to cover the apricots. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes to soften.

After the apricots have softened, drain out the water and mash the apricots well.

Add the ½ tsp cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, ¼ cup of raisins, and 1 Tbsp of honey to the mashed apricots and mix well to form the filling. Set aside till needed.

When you’re ready to form and bake the hamantaschen:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the dough into quarters. Working one quarter at a time (and placing the re-wrapped remaining dough back in the freezer so that it stays firm and easy to use), place the dough on a well floured surface, and roll it out to 1/8” thick.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out 3-1/2” circles. Gather up the unused scraps; after all four quarters of your dough have been rolled, cut and formed into pastries, you can combine the scraps and get a second rolling out. (Don’t do a third rolling after that, however. The gluten in the flour will be too developed by that point and your dough will have started to become tough.)

As you cut each cirlce, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicon baking pad. Repeat for the remaining portions of the dough. (You’ll probably have to form and bake the pastries in batches.)

Combine one egg-substitute egg with one Tbsp water to form an egg wash.

Place a generous teaspoon of filling in the center of the circle.

Fold two of the sides up to form two sides of a triangle. Using moistened fingers, press the edges together to seal. (Refer to the Cook’s Notes above for tips on doing this.)

Fold the third side up to complete the triangle and, using moistened fingers, press the edges together to seal. Brush each formed pastry with an egg wash.

Sprinkle lightly with turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw or similar).

Bake until golden, about 16 minutes, turning the baking sheet half-way for even baking.Let rest on the baking pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

To download a copy of the recipe for Hamantaschen Pastry with Apricot Filling, click HERE

In the early 1960’s, a famous series of bread advertisements advised, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s Real Jewish Rye.” It was true. And so it is with the fresh baked deliciousness of apricot-filled hamantaschen pastry. Enjoy, my friends. No matter where you are in the world, or what faith, if any, you call yours, enjoy.

Be sure to visit again next week for another great-tasting, home-cook friendly, and entirely non-sectarian recipe. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)