Italian Meringue

– johanna | December 14th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

A couple of weeks ago I was dying for a bite of my mom’s coconut cake. The last time I tasted it was 13 years ago when I made it for Thanksgiving dinner with Stephen’s family. Stephen and the kids are not keen on coconut. As much as I would have loved to carry on the family tradition to serve coconut cake on Thanksgiving day, it just is not going to happen without additional mouths to help devour it. With Nadine’s pending birthday there was no question as to what type of cake I wanted to bake.

My mom’s version of coconut cake calls for boxed white cake, cook and serve vanilla pudding and a meringue frosting that uses corn syrup. My kids are allergic to chemicals, dyes and preservatives in processed foods, and corn syrup. My mission was to find a way to make a cake from scratch that was light not dense. Next, I had to find a recipe for the vanilla pudding. Pastry cream was the perfect substitute. Finally, I needed to tackle the corn syrup issue in the meringue frosting. After much research and debate Italian Meringue won. This frosting is so light and marshmallowy delicious.

My cake was so scrumptious. Above all I found a way to make it using fresh ingredients. I froze the leftovers to share with Thanksgiving dinner. It was just as fabulous as the day it was made. Happy baking!

Source: King Arthur
2 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the 2 egg whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat until the egg whites are foamy and thick; they should mound in the bowl, without holding a peak. Set whites aside while you prepare the sugar syrup.

Combine the sugar, cream of tartar, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently; the sugar should be dissolved. If the sugar hasn’t dissolved, cook and stir a bit more, until it has. Once the sugar has dissolved, boil the syrup, undisturbed, for 2 minutes, or until the syrup registers 240°F on a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer.

Begin to beat the egg whites, and immediately pour the boiling sugar syrup into the egg whites in a slow steady stream, beating all the while. As you beat, the mixture will thicken.

Once all the syrup is added, stir in the vanilla, and continue to beat until the frosting is thick and will hold a peak.

Immediately spoon hot frosting on top of prepared cake.

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Beef Wellington

– johanna | December 7th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Photo property of: Honest Cooking

Ever since the first time I watched the infamous Gordon Ramsey dish up beef wellington on Hell’s Kitchen, I have long desired to know what the succulent entre is all about. Over the years I shyly took a peek at the recipe wondering if I am daring enough to execute it. Well, the time came to once and for all tackle this one. I decided to treat my mom-in-law to a grand English dinner for her birthday. She has had a tough time the few months and was in need of good nosh and pampering.

I did not go with Chef Ramsey’s recipe. Instead I found a simple list of ingredients for Beef Wellington by Ruby Moukli via Honest Cooking and adapted it slightly. I, nearly knowing nothing about meat, asked my friendly butcher to help me out. Does beef tenderloin really cost that much or was the man ripping me off because the market was on strike that day? The beef tenderloin unfortunately is pricey. Yet, Beef Wellington is definitely something you have to try at some point in your lifetime. So it is well worth the splurge for a special occasion.

I had some issues wrapping the fillet. My dough was too large so there was an excess of flap on the ends and I completely forgot to brush the inside with egg. The bottom was very soggy. I used a deep casserole to cook the Wellington in but I added two sausage links because they needed to be cooked before their life came to an end. So even though the tenderloin hardly produced juice the sausage could have wrecked havoc on the crust.

I have heard you can wrap the wellington right after sealing the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes, then take out and brush with the egg, and refrigerate another 10 minutes before cooking. Supposed to help with soggy bottoms.

Mine may have looked like a train wreck but it was absolutely superb. My niece and I could not keep our hands off the left over filling and crust.

Source: adapted from Ruby Moukli via
Serves: 6
750g (1lb 10 oz) thick beef tenderloin filet
1 onion, chopped finely
175g (6oz) chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely
350g (12oz) puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
Good pinch of thyme (fresh or dried)
1/2 cup dry sherry or broth (optional)
Salt/pepper to season

Preheat oven to 220 C/425 F.

Heat a heavy pan over high heat. Smear 2 Tbsp of the butter all over the filet, then season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, 1-2 minutes per side. Place beef in roasting pan uncovered and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the duxelles by heating the oil and the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large pan. Sauté garlic, onion and mushrooms until they begin to soften. Add sherry (if using) a splash at a time and wait for it to cook out before adding more. Add in parsley and thyme, then season with salt and pepper. When it’s all browned nicely (about 15-20 minutes), remove from heat and let cool.

When meat has baked for 20 minutes, remove from the oven, cover with tin foil and let cool. Pour the juices out ,set aside to make gravy later.

Roll out pastry dough into a rectangle, just large enough to wrap the meat in. Beat the egg and lightly brush the entire surface of the pastry with it. Spoon about 3/4 of the duxelles over the surface of the dough, leaving a border of about 2 inches. Place the beef in the middle and spoon the rest of the duxelles onto the top of it.

Wrap the sides of the pastry over the filet. Pinch the edges together and use any remaining or excess pastry to patch up gaps or make decorative shapes.

Using a sharp knife, make two slices in the dough.
Brush the remaining egg wash over the entire Wellington. Place back in the roasting tin, on a wire rack if possible, to help guard against a soggy dough. Bake for 30 minutes for medium-rare, 40 minutes for well done. Check frequently and if it’s starting to brown early, cover with foil.

Remove the Wellington from the oven and let rest for about 10-15 minutes before slicing into thick (1 1/2 inch) with a serrated knife.

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