Posts Tagged ‘lemon’

Although I have made pies in the past, meringue pie was a new venture for me with this episode. I don’t have anything against meringue pies, though I suppose I probably prefer a good double-crusted fruit pie. Having made Alton’s pecan pie last Thanksgiving, I was pretty confident that Alton’s lemon meringue pie would be spectacular. He broke his pie recipe into two parts, the first being the crust.

Pie Crust

Alton’s pie crust calls for both butter and lard, with the butter primarily providing flavor and the lard ensuring a flaky texture. The recipe starts with placing 3 oz of cubed butter in the freezer for 15 minutes, along with 1 oz of cubed lard. Also, at this time, place two pie plates in the freezer.

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Lard and butter, cubed and headed to the freezer.

While the fat chills, put some ice in a squirt bottle with 1/4 C water. Next, in a food processor pulse together 6 ounces of flour with 1/2 t salt.

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Flour and salt in the food processor.

Add the chilled butter, pulsing the mixture five or six times.

Add the cubed lard and pulse three more times.

Use the squirt bottle to thoroughly spritz the surface of the flour mixture and pulse the dough five times.

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Spritzing dough surface with ice water.

The dough should hold together when squeezed, which should take approximately 2 T of ice water. Continue spritzing the dough with more water until it holds together easily without crumbling. I found that I needed to spritz the dough several times.

Once the dough holds together, move the dough to a large ziplock bag, squeezing the dough into a ball, and then flattening it into a disc. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

When the dough has chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and cut off the two sides of the ziplock bag, leaving the zipper top and the sealed bottom intact. Open the bag and flour both sides of the dough.

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Edges of sides of ziplock cut off, and dough floured.

Close the bag again and use a rolling pin to roll the dough until it barely reaches beyond the open edges of the bag. I love Alton’s method of rolling pie dough in a bag because it keeps my counter and rolling pin clean!

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Floured dough, rolled out inside of ziplock bag.

Peel back the plastic and re-flour the top of the dough.

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Ziplock opened and top surface re-floured.

Place one of your chilled pie pans on top of the floured dough and flip the dough onto the back of the pan.

Remove the plastic from the dough and place the second cold pie plate upside down on the dough, so the dough is between the two pie plates (the dough will be lining the second plate).

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Second cold pie plate placed on top of dough upside down, so dough is lining second pie plate.

Flip the pie plates again and remove the top plate (the first one), and your second pie plate will be perfectly lined with your dough; just be sure to press the dough down into the edges of the pan.

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Pie plates flipped over with dough between them. Dough is lining second pie plate.

Cut away any excess dough hanging over the edges. There is no need to make the dough edges fancy, as they will be covered with meringue. Use a fork to dock the bottom of the crust and place the dough in the refrigerator to cool for 10-15 minutes. This helps to form fat layers in the dough, which will yield a flaky crust.

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Docked dough. Excess dough removed.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 425. When the oven is ready, place the pie crust on a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper, and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights. Bake the crust for 15 minutes.

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Crust lined with parchment and beans, and placed in oven for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, remove the parchment and beans/weights, and bake the crust for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until golden.

Let the crust cool completely before using. You could use this pie crust for any type of pie, but I had to continue on and make a lemon meringue filling, as that was what Alton did in the episode. This pie crust recipe is super easy and I love Alton’s tips/tricks for rolling the dough and lining the pie plate.

Lemon Meringue Pie

I ended up making Alton’s lemon meringue pie twice in two days. Why? My first lemon meringue pie was lemon soup. I had followed Alton’s directions exactly as he made the pie in the episode, which resulted in a filling that was not nearly thick enough. For my second pie, I cooked my filling much longer than Alton recommended and ended up with a perfect pie. Here, I’ll go through the steps as Alton did them, giving my recommended changes along the way. The lemon meringue pie begins with making the meringue. Place 4 egg whites (save the yolks for the lemon filling) in the bowl of a mixer and add a pinch of cream of tartar (helps to denature proteins).

Whip the whites by hand until they are frothy.

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Egg whites beaten to a froth by hand.

Then, beat with the mixer on medium-high. When you have a light foam in the bowl, begin slowly adding 2 T sugar with the mixer running.

Beat the whites until you have stiff peaks. You can check for stiff peaks by quickly dipping/withdrawing your beater – if a peak forms and remains, you have stiff peaks. If a peak forms, but falls, you need to keep beating. Once you have stiff peaks, place a pan lid on the bowl and set it aside in a cool place.

Oh, and preheat your oven to 375. To make the lemon filling, whisk 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl and set them aside.

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Beaten egg yolks.

In a saucier whisk together 1/3 C cornstarch and 1 1/2 C water, placing it over medium heat.

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Cornstarch and water in saucier.

Whisk 1 1/3 C sugar and 1/4 t salt into the starch mixture. Stir this mixture often, bringing it to a boil.

Once boiling, simmer the mixture for an additional minute.

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Simmering starch mixture.

Remove the pan from the heat and slowly beat about half of the hot mixture into the bowl of beaten egg yolks, adding only a whisk-full at a time.

When half of the hot mixture has been added to the yolks, whisk the egg mixture back into the pan.

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Egg mixture whisked back into saucier.

Alton tells you to return the pan to the heat, simmering it for one minute; I did this with my first pie and the mixture was very runny, but I assumed it would thicken later. Nope. Instead, for my second pie, I cooked the mixture for about 10 minutes, until it was bubbling and quite thick. Keep in mind that the mixture will not thicken much later, so you want it to resemble your desired pie filling texture now.

Once thickened, turn off the heat and stir in 3 T butter.

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Butter whisked in.

When the butter has melted, add 1 T lemon zest and 1/2 C fresh lemon juice.

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Finished lemon filling.

Pour the filling into the baked/cooled crust.

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Finished lemon filling poured into cooled crust.

Working quickly, beat your meringue again for about 30 seconds to plump it up.

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Refreshed meringue.

Dump the meringue on the hot lemon filling, spreading it with a spatula to seal it against the crust edges. Smooth the top.

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Meringue, spread onto hot lemon filling.

Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake it at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Let the pie cool completely before slicing.

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Meringue after baking.

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A slice of lemon meringue pie.

This pie was great… the second time around. Alton’s crust recipe is fool-proof, flaky, and buttery. His lemon filling has a perfect balance of tartness and sweetness, and is bursting with lemon flavor. And, his meringue came out perfectly both times I made it. If you are interested in making a lemon meringue pie, do this one, but be sure to cook your lemon filling until it is thick.

As someone who likes to cook regularly, my dad came up with a great Christmas gift for me in December. He and I do not live in the same town anymore, but he called a gentleman where I live and arranged to have all of our kitchen knives sharpened. I dropped the knives off at the knife sharpener’s house one morning and had them back a few hours later. He sharpened 13 items, including our serrated knives and two pairs of kitchen shears. Our knives are just like new again! If you know someone who cooks a lot, keep the knife sharpening idea in mind as a gift! FYI:  The knife sharpener told me to never try to sharpen my knives at home, nor to hone them with a steel. Instead, he told me to use a strop to hone our knives prior to each use; a strop is a piece of leather that was traditionally used to sharpen straight-edge razors in barber shops. Now, onto the 94th episode of Good Eats, which was all about candy.

Peanut Brittle

I have made some candy in the past, such as fudge, divinity, and caramels. Peanut brittle was the first type of candy Alton made in this episode. For this recipe, you will need a heavy saucier with a lid, a wooden spoon, and two half-sheet pans; line one pan with a silicone mat, and lube the back side of the other pan liberally with vegetable oil.

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Two half-sheet pans, one with its back oiled and the other lined with a silicone mat.

Begin by rubbing the sides of your saucier with a vegetable oil-coated paper towel, as this will help with crystal formation on the sides of the pan.

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Saucier with its sides oiled.

Next, put 3 C of sugar and 1 1/2 C water in the saucier.

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Sugar and water placed in saucier.

Place the pan over high heat. Note:  If you are worried about your stove producing uneven heat, Alton suggests placing a cast iron skillet between your saucier and your burner to diffuse heat. Stir the sugar/water mixture occasionally, bringing it to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pan and set a timer for three minutes. This will allow the steam in the pan to wash down any crystals from the sides of the pan.

After three minutes, remove the lid and decrease the heat to medium. Meanwhile, toss 1 1/2 C lightly salted peanuts with 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t cayenne pepper.

Continue cooking the syrup until it reaches a light amber color and has slow bubble formation, which Alton says is at 350 degrees; Alton says you really do not need a thermometer to make this brittle, as you can just eyeball it. I decided to use the thermometer, as “light amber” seems subjective to me. Yeah, so Alton’s temperature of 350 degrees is COMPLETELY WRONG, and will result in scorched syrup. I had to discard my syrup and begin again.

This time, I decided to eyeball the light amber color.

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Second attempt at syrup – this is what I determined to be light amber.

Once you have reached light amber, turn off the heat and dump in the peanuts, stirring.

Immediately pour the mixture onto the prepared silicone mat, distributing the nuts evenly with a spatula. Press the mixture down with the lubed backside of the second prepared pan. Set the brittle aside to cool completely. Once the brittle has hardened, place the second half-sheet pan, this time inverted, on top of the brittle pan. By shaking the brittle between the two pans, you can easily break it into pieces. So, my verdict of this recipe is not that favorable. I have no idea how Alton recommended 350 degrees for the syrup, as it was just way too high. The second time I made my syrup, I think I probably pulled it off the heat too early, as my brittle did this weird foaming thing when I poured it onto the mat.

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Brittle poured onto mat and beginning to foam.

My resulting brittle was opaque, somewhat gritty, and had an odd white hue. The candy tasted fine, but it wasn’t what I think of as brittle, which is normally caramel-colored, shiny, and clear.

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Even my dog thought my brittle looked weird.

I think this recipe would have been much more successful if Alton had provided the correct temperature for the syrup, which a Google search says is around 300 degrees. In theory, the eyeballing technique could work for someone who makes candy often, but candy making requires more precision than eyeballing. I’d follow a different peanut brittle recipe next time for sure.

Acid Jellies

When we were kids, our parents would give us each a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day. I preferred nut-free candy (still do), so my box was typically a mix of caramels, creams, and jellies. It had been years since I had last had a jelly, so I was pretty stoked to see jellies appear in this episode.

To make Alton’s version of jellies, combine in a saucepan 1/2 C fresh lemon juice, 1/4 C fresh lime juice, 1/2 C water, and 8 packages of gelatin. Set this saucepan aside with no heat.

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Gelatin, lemon juice, lime juice, and water combined in a saucepan off of heat.

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Gelatin mixture after sitting.

In a second small saucepan, place 1 C sugar and 3/4 C water, and place the pan over high heat. Again, you can use a cast iron skillet as a diffuser, if you wish.

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Sugar and water placed in small saucepan over high heat.

Stir this mixture until the sugar dissolves and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, place a lid on the pan and set a timer for 3 minutes. As with the recipe for brittle above, the steam in the pan will serve to wash crystals down that may have formed on the sides of the pan. After 3 minutes, remove the lid from the pan and attach a candy thermometer. Cook the syrup until it reaches 300 degrees.

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Sugar syrup cooking to 300 degrees.

Once at 300 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and pour the syrup into the gelatin mixture, stirring constantly.

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Sugar syrup being poured into gelatin mixture.

Place the mixture over low heat, continuing to stir until the gelatin dissolves. I had some difficulty with this phase of the process, as a solid mass of sugar seemed to form in the bottom of my pan. I am guessing this was because my sugar syrup cooled too much too quickly. I opted to increase the heat under my pan, allowing the sugar to dissolve again, which worked.

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Gelatin mixture placed over low heat to dissolve.

Once you have a smooth, clear mixture, add 2 T lemon zest and 2 T lime zest, and pour the mixture into an oiled 8-inch square pan.

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Completed jellies, poured into greased pan.

Let the jellies sit at room temperature for four hours. Once set, turn the jellies out and cut them into 1-inch squares with a pizza cutter.

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Jellies, cut into cubes.

Transfer the cubes to a bowl and toss them with the remaining 1/4 C sugar until coated.

Move the cubes to a cooling rack placed over a sheet pan, and allow them to dry for 24 hours at room temperature before eating.

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Alton’s jellies.

Alton’s jellies had intense citrus flavor and a great balance of sweetness and tartness. I did find them to be a bit more rubbery than I would have liked, but that could have perhaps been due to my difficulties with combining my two mixtures. I am tempted to try these again to see if I can get a better result, as they were pretty and their flavor was great. My only other complaint with these candies was that they remained very sticky and damp on the outside, and they never really dried out as Alton said they would; I found that this was a common complaint in the online recipe reviews, and I am not sure how to fix that issue.

Chocolate Taffy

I suppose you couldn’t really have a candy episode without including something chocolate, so that’s where chocolate taffy comes in. This recipe requires only a few ingredients, beginning with combining 1/2 t salt, 2/3 C Dutch cocoa, and 2 C sugar in a large saucepan.

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Salt, sugar, and cocoa.

Stir this mixture with a whisk to combine, and add 1 C light corn syrup, 1 t white vinegar, and 1/4 C + 1 T water. Stir the pot over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, and then increase the heat to bring the chocolate to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to low and attach a candy thermometer.

Cook the chocolate until it reaches 260 degrees, and then stir in 1 1/2 T butter.

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Chocolate cooking to 260 degrees.

Pour the taffy onto a silicone mat-lined pan, smoothing it with a spatula, and set it aside to cool for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, don latex gloves and lube them with butter. It is time to pull the taffy. First, use the mat to fold the taffy into thirds.

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Taffy, folded in thirds.

Next, fold the taffy in thirds again, but in the opposite direction. Knead the taffy with your hands, as if working with dough. The chocolate will still be quite warm.

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Taffy, folded in thirds the other direction.

Pull the taffy from both ends, folding them back into the middle.

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Pulling ends of taffy back to the middle.

Then, pick the taffy up and continue to twist and pull the taffy until it has striations in the middle and is very hard to pull.

Roll the taffy into a log on the silicone mat and cut it into four pieces with kitchen shears.

Roll each piece of taffy into a snake, cutting each log into 1-inch pieces. If the candy becomes too hard to cut, you can place it in the microwave for about five seconds to soften it. Keep the taffy pieces separate while you work, or they will stick to each other.

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Taffy cut into individual pieces.

Roll each piece of taffy in a piece of wax paper and place them in an air-tight container. This one was disappointing for me because my taffy came out rock hard, while Alton described something like a Tootsie Roll. I am guessing that my taffy was not pulled enough to reach the desired texture, but I did pull it until it felt like it was solidifying. Maybe I needed to soften my taffy again, and pull it more? Or, maybe the “T-Rex” nickname my brother gave me as a teenager was more justified than I realized? Either way, I don’t think I will do this one again. All-in-all, this episode was pretty “meh” for me.

Fresh Yogurt

Yogurt is one of those things that I always feel I should eat more of than I do. I tend to go in spurts with yogurt, eating it frequently for a while, and then not at all. Alton’s yogurt episode began with homemade yogurt. I made homemade yogurt once years ago when I was in grad school, as part of my food microbiology lab course. All I really remember from that experience was that I had a lab partner from Mongolia who called himself “Woody,” I could barely understand a word he said, and our yogurt was very pink. Needless to say, I was hopeful that my Woody-less yogurt would be more successful. When making Alton’s yogurt, you can use any type of milk that you choose, but Alton opted for organic 2% milk in the episode of Good Eats. Alton did say that whole milk will result in looser yogurt, while skim milk will yield yogurt with a grainy texture. In addition to a quart of milk, you will need 1/2 C of powdered milk, 2 T honey, and 1/2 C of plain yogurt, containing live cultures.

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Ingredients for homemade yogurt: plain yogurt with live cultures, dry milk, honey, and milk.

Begin by pouring your milk into a saucepan, adding the powdered milk and honey.

Meanwhile, allow your yogurt to come to room temperature.

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Plain yogurt, being brought to room temperature.

Using a probe thermometer, heat the milk mixture to 120 degrees over medium heat. Remove the milk from the heat, and pour it into a clean cylindrical container, allowing it to cool to 115 degrees.

Once the milk has cooled, whisk about a cup of the warm milk into the yogurt.

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About 1 C of warm milk whisked into yogurt.

Then, whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the cylinder of milk. Wrap the cylinder in a heating pad that will maintain the yogurt’s temperature between 100 and 120 degrees; you can test your heating pad first by filling your cylinder with water.

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Yogurt added to milk and wrapped with heating pad to ferment for 6 hours.

Allow your yogurt to ferment for three to 12 hours, depending on how you like the texture of your yogurt; a shorter fermentation will yield looser yogurt, while a longer fermentation will give thicker yogurt. Alton did an even six hours in the episode.

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Yogurt, after fermenting for 6 hours.

Refrigerate your yogurt overnight before using.

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Alton’s homemade yogurt.

I thought this yogurt was fine, but really nothing special. If anything, I would have liked this yogurt to have had a thicker texture, so I would possibly ferment it a little longer if I were to make it again. Honestly, I wouldn’t go to the trouble of making this again when I can easily buy yogurt that I like just as much.

Thousand Island Dressing

So, really, Alton calls this dressing “Million Island Dressing” in the episode, and it is a good use for some of his homemade yogurt. To make his dressing, whisk together 1 C plain yogurt, 2 T vegetable oil, and 2 T tomato sauce.

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Yogurt, tomato sauce, and vegetable oil.

Once combined, add 2 t lemon juice, 2 t dry mustard, and 2 t sugar.

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Lemon juice, dry mustard, and sugar added to dressing.

Next, whisk in 1 t Kosher salt and 1/2 t pepper.

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Kosher salt and pepper added to dressing.

Finally, fold in 1/2 C diced onion, 1 T relish, 1 T chopped green olives, and 1 minced jalapeno.

I enjoyed this dressing more than I thought I would. It has a really good kick from the jalapeno, tang from the yogurt and lemon, and bite from the onion. It also adds a lot of texture to a salad. We actually liked this enough that I made it a couple times in one week for us to eat on our lunch salads. This is a really good salad dressing.

Tarragon Yogurt Sauce

If you are looking for another savory application for plain yogurt, this tarragon sauce is one to try. This sauce is very versatile and could be served over many things, including fish, eggs, and vegetables; in the episode, Alton says that his favorite use of this sauce is over braised carrots, so that is how I opted to use mine. For this sauce, begin by heating a saucier over medium heat, adding 2 T olive oil, 1/2 t Kosher salt, 1/2 C finely chopped onion, and 1 1/2 t minced garlic.

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Olive oil, Kosher salt, onion, and garlic in saucier.

I did not have a saucier until recently, but I inherited my parents’ copper-bottomed Calphalon saucier when my brother and I finished sorting through our parents’ belongings; thankfully, my parents are still living, but they really do not cook anymore. Yes, I have learned that a saucier is a very nice tool to have for a job such as this tarragon sauce. While your onion and garlic saute, combine 2 T cornstarch and 1 C chicken stock in a lidded container, and shake to combine. This slurry will help to thicken the sauce, and will also prevent over-coagulation of proteins, AKA curdling. Cream-based sauces have enough fat to prevent curdling, but yogurt-based sauces do not. Anyway, add the slurry to the pan, increase the heat, and add 1 1/2 T dried tarragon, whisking.

Remove the pan from the heat and temper 1 C of plain yogurt by gradually whisking in some of the sauce mixture. Finally, add the tempered yogurt to the pan, whisking.

Heat the sauce over low heat, just until warmed through. As I said before, we ate this sauce over carrots as a side dish.

The tarragon flavor in this sauce is quite strong, giving a real anise-like flavor, and you also really taste the yogurt. This is a sauce you could make with other herbs too; I think a dill version would pair terrifically with salmon. Either way, this is an easy sauce to dress up veggies or protein.

Yogurt Cheese

What is yogurt cheese? Yogurt cheese is yogurt that has been allowed to drain, removing whey. While cheese has had its whey removed, regular yogurt has not. Allowing yogurt to drain results in a thick yogurt that has a consistency similar to cream cheese. To make yogurt cheese, line a strainer with two layers of cheesecloth, setting the strainer over a bowl. Add a quart of plain yogurt to the strainer, folding the cheesecloth over the top.

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A quart of plain yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Weigh the yogurt down with the lid of a pot and a can, refrigerating it for four hours.

Yogurt cheese can be used plain as a spread, or in Alton’s recipe for frozen yogurt, which I will write about below. I tasted the plain yogurt cheese, but opted to use it for Alton’s other recipe; it tasted like plain yogurt… just much, much thicker.

Herb Spread

This herb spread is basically the same recipe as the one for yogurt cheese above, but with added seasonings. To a quart of plain yogurt (I used homemade) add 1 1/2 t cumin, 2 T chopped parsley, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

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Cumin, parsley, Kosher salt, and pepper added to a quart of plain yogurt.

As with the yogurt cheese above, place a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and add the yogurt mixture.

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Seasoned yogurt poured in cheesecloth-lined strainer to drain.

Weigh the yogurt down with a pan lid and can, allowing it to drain for four hours in the refrigerator.

The resulting spread is tangy and has a punch of cumin, and it is great with crackers or on sandwiches.

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Herb spread with crackers.

Talk about an easy hors d’oeuvre, and it is even easier if you use store-purchased yogurt!

Lemon-Ginger Frozen Yogurt

This recipe is the perfect use for Alton’s yogurt cheese. Combine in a bowl 4 C plain yogurt cheese, 3/4 C sugar, 1/2 C light corn syrup, 2 t lemon zest, 1 T minced fresh ginger, and 3 T lemon juice.

Whisk the yogurt mixture until smooth and freeze in an ice cream mixture per the manufacturer’s instructions.

In the last few minutes of churning, add 1/4 C chopped crystallized ginger.

Freeze the frozen yogurt in the freezer until firm.

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Alton’s lemon-ginger frozen yogurt.

This frozen yogurt is super refreshing and reminds me of warmer weather (as I type this, it is snowy outside and the Christmas tree is illuminated). The first time we ate this frozen yogurt, the crystallized ginger seemed too chewy, but after freezing the yogurt for a longer period, the chewiness went away. I definitely foresee making this again, as it is packed with ginger and lemon flavor, and is a relatively healthy treat. This is worth making.

 

I have been a tea drinker for as long as I can remember, and particularly during the colder months of the year. Like many people, I often reach for a tea bag when making a cup of tea, due to their convenience and simplicity. I have, though, occasionally been known to brew a fresh cup using loose leaf tea. A couple years ago for Christmas, my parents gave me a tea variety basket from Murchie’s Tea, which consisted of numerous types of loose tea and tea bags. Having so much loose tea around the house led me to really appreciate the superior quality and flavor of a cup of tea made with loose leaf tea. A tea bag just truly does not produce a cup of tea that matches that made with loose leaf tea.

Perfect Cup of Tea

To make Alton’s perfect cup of tea, you will really only need a few things. You will need a vessel for boiling water (preferably a kettle), a vessel for brewing your tea (preferably a teapot), fresh water, and loose tea. While loose tea is composed of full tea leaves, tea bags contain leftover dust and fannings, which can produce bitter tea. When making tea, Alton stresses that you should always use fresh water, as it has lots of oxygen in it; our tap water tastes fine, so I just used tap water. Heat your water in a kettle or in the microwave (in a microwave-safe container, of course).

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Heating water in a kettle.

If heating your water in the microwave, place a wooden skewer or chopstick in your water; this will give bubbles a place to form, thereby avoiding explosive bubbling when you remove the hot water from the microwave. If you are using a teapot to brew your tea, Alton recommends that you preheat your tea pot with warm water prior to brewing. I do not have a teapot, so I just used a glass Pyrex measuring cup, which is not nearly as sexy as the cute cast iron teapot Alton used in the episode. Depending on the type of loose leaf tea you are brewing, you will want to adjust your water temperature accordingly. Note:  black, green, and Oolong are the three major styles of tea. For black tea, you will want full boiling water. For Oolong tea, your water should be 200 degrees F, while for green tea, your water should ideally be 180 degrees F. I brewed some Darjeeling, which is a black tea.While your water is heating, place your loose tea in your teapot or brewing vessel, allotting a heaping teaspoon (Alton uses a regular teaspoon instead of a measuring teaspoon) per cup of tea.

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One heaping teaspoon of tea per 5.5-6 ounce cup of tea.

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Since I do not have a teapot, I used a glass measuring cup to brew my tea.

If your teapot has an infusing insert, Alton recommends that you do not use it, as the tea leaves need room to bloom. Now, for the water, you want to use 5 1/2-6 ounces of water per cup of tea, but it is best to add an additional ounce or so of water for the tea leaves to hold onto. When your water is at its ideal temperature, pour the water directly over the tea leaves.

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Thirteen ounces of boiling water added to tea leaves. Six ounces of water per cup, plus an additional ounce of water for the leaves to retain.

How long to let the tea brew? Brew black teas for 3-5 minutes, Oolong teas for 4-7 minutes, and green teas for 2-3 minutes. Brewing for too long will result in tea that is bitter. When your brewing time is up, pour your tea through a strainer into a cup.

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Strainer to pour tea into mug.

If desired, you may add sugar, honey, or lemon. If adding milk, though, you should always pour the milk in your cup prior to adding the tea. Why? Adding cold milk to hot tea can cause a “skin” to form on top of your cup. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your perfect cup of tea.

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A perfect cup of Darjeeling tea.

Prior to watching this episode, I brewed all loose leaf teas the same way – using full boiling water and letting the tea steep for about five minutes. I also have typically used a tea infuser. Is Alton’s method for tea brewing really superior? It’s tough for me to say because I am also using fresher, better tea; how much is the tea and how much is the method? That being said, the tea I made with Alton’s method was excellent.

If you are curious about Alton’s method of tea brewing using tea bags, here you go:

  1. Using a microwave-safe container, tie five tea bags together and place in a quart of fresh water. Top the container with a small plate.
  2. Microwave the tea for eight minutes, or until it starts to simmer.
  3. Remove the tea from the microwave and check its temperature – you want the temperature to be between 180 and 190 degrees F.
  4. Cover the tea again and let steep. For mild tea, let steep for two minutes. Allow three minutes for medium tea, four minutes for strong tea, and five minutes for bitter tea.
  5. Remove tea bags and do not wring them out.

 

Sweet Tea

In addition to hot tea, I really enjoy iced tea when the weather is warm. My mom always made sun tea by steeping tea bags in a glass jug, allowing the sun to warm the water. Somehow, sun tea always seemed to taste better than typical iced tea.

Alton’s iced tea is really a two-step process; if you prefer your iced tea unsweetened, you can stop after the first step, whereas if you like your iced tea to be sweetened you can carry onto the second step. For the first step, steep an ounce of loose black tea in one quart of boiling water for 4-5 minutes.

It is not necessary to use your best tea for this process, as some flavors get masked when tea is iced. Once your tea is done brewing, strain it into a two quart pitcher.

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Strainer ready to strain tea into pitcher.

To your tea, add one quart of lukewarm water; you do not want to use super cold water, as cooling the tea too quickly can result in cloudy tea.

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A quart of room temperature water to add to the tea.

Place your tea in the refrigerator and allow it to chill thoroughly. If you do not wish to sweeten your tea, go ahead and enjoy the tea as is.

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The finished unsweetened iced tea.

If you prefer to have your tea sweetened, Alton recommends making a simple syrup. Why make a simple syrup, rather than just adding sugar to your iced tea? While granulated sugar does not dissolve easily in cold liquids, a simple syrup will mix in quite easily. Plus, you can add some additional flavor to your tea, if desired. To make plain simple syrup, in a pan combine 5 C sugar and 3 C cold water. Bring this to a boil over medium heat, cover, and let it cool to room temperature. Seal and refrigerate for up to a month. Alternatively, to add some additional flavor to your simple syrup, add six sliced lemons and a few sprigs of fresh mint to 3 C water and 5 C sugar.

Again, bring to a boil.

Cover the mixture for 10 minutes before straining.

Let cool, refrigerate, and add to iced tea as desired. You will have quite a lot of simple syrup, but you can always freeze any extra. Simple syrup is also great in some cocktail recipes.

Though it really isn’t the season for iced tea, I made Alton’s sweet tea this week. I used some old Lapsang Souchong tea that I had sitting around, which resulted in iced tea that was quite smokey and intense. I would probably use a different type of black tea if I were to make Alton’s iced tea again. I opted to make the lemon-mint simple syrup for my tea. We found that placing 1.5 ounces simple syrup in a pint glass, and filling the glass to the top with iced tea resulted in the perfect level of sweetness.

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A perfect glass of Alton’s sweet tea.

The lemon and mint flavors really shine through, and it would be quite refreshing on a hot day.