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Key Lime Pie

There are a few different ways to top a Key lime pie, but meringue is the most thoughtful.  It is just as sweet as whipped cream to complement the lime’s tartness, but meringue makes use of the leftover ingredients of the pie filling.  This particular recipe, unlike others found on the web and in cookbooks, calls for an equal number of egg yolks and egg whites: four yolks for the pie filling, and four whites for the meringue.  Imagine that, smart and sumptuous food!

key lime pie

key lime pie

Makes one pie

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups of finely ground graham cracker crumbs

6 tbs. of melted butter

6 tbs. of vanilla-infused sugar (make this by storing a vanilla bean in your sugar container)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Evenly mix the sugar and graham cracker crumbs in a bowl.  Stir in the melted butter, making sure that everything gets evenly combined.  Press into a metal or aluminum pie pan, and it’s okay to have an uneven edge because it will be hidden by the meringue.  Bake for 12 minutes, and let cool at least 15 minutes before adding the filling.

graham crust, prior to baking

graham crust, prior to baking

For the filling:

14 oz. (one can) of sweetened condensed milk (we suggest organic if available; same goes for the limes, too)

1/2 cup of Key lime or lime juice

4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)

1 tbs. of lime zest

condensed milk and egg yolks

condensed milk and egg yolks

Maintain oven at 350 degrees F.  In a bowl, mix together the egg yolk and condensed milk, just enough to break the yolks and distribute.

with lime juice and zest

with lime juice and zest

Whisk in the lime juice and zest, and combine until evenly mixed.  Pour into the cooled pie crust and bake on a cookie sheet for 18-20 minutes, until the filling doesn’t jiggle in the center anymore.  Prepare the meringue towards the last part of the pie’s baking time.

out of the oven, right before adding meringue

out of the oven with a dark golden brown crust

For the meringue:

1/2 cup of vanilla-infused sugar

4 egg whites (leftover from the filling earlier)

1/2 tsp. of cream of tartar

Mix the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form.  Slowly add the sugar while the mixer is still stirring, and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.

plop it on

plop it on

Once the pie is out of the oven, let cool about 5 minutes so that it’s not extremely hot.  Reduce the oven to 325 degrees F.  Put the meringue on top of the pie and spread out to the edge of the crust.

beautifying with peaks

beautifying with peaks

Using a flat spatula, create peaks across the surface of the meringue by placing the spatula on the meringue and lifting up quickly.

peaked

peaked

Cover the entire surface, including the sides to help hide any uneven crust edge.

perfect

perfect

Bake for 14 minutes at 325 degrees F until the peaks turn golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator.  Fully cool in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.

Whole Foods Bakery, Oakland CA

whole foods desserts

whole foods desserts

Since Easter we’ve had the category Bakeries but we’ve only found two so far that met Zach’s standards.  When we look for bakeries, we expect more than croissants, muffins, and cookies.  True bakeries show depth and breadth of skill; baking is a science, but there is also artistry.  You might think that there must be better bakeries than Whole Foods in the Bay Area, but to be honest, the showcase here is hard to beat.  With a gelato freezer, large cakes, and dozens of mini items, it’s nearly impossible to do a shopping trip here without drooling over the plenitude.

mini tiramisu cup

mini tiramisu cup

Looking like a tiny frothy latte replete with a handle, the mini tiramisu cup is at once cute and tempting.  A dark chocolate cup, edible through and through, is the vessel for layers of soft and soaked moist cake, whipped cream, sweetened coffee, and cocoa.

mini pecan pie

mini pecan pie

Pop a mini pecan pie in your mouth, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, gooey filling, meaty nuts, smooth cream cheese frosting, and flaky crust.  The cream cheese frosting gives it an extra rich deepness that is usually lacking in pecan pie.  It’s a wonder how many textures can fit in one bite.  Imagine a few of these warmed up with a scoop of ice cream – yum!

mini fruit tart

mini fruit tart

This mini tart is a bite of the season, bursting with freshness.  Four types of berries and a kiwi slice top the tart with a delicate tart shell and refreshing key lime filling.  Some key lime fillings are overwhelming, but this one was on the mild side of tart (we know, a tart tart would be bad).

mini chocolate cheesecake

mini chocolate cheesecake

Of the many kinds of cheesecake in the world, chocolate might be one of the most decadent.  If you can’t bring yourself to buying a standard-sized chocolate cheesecake, a mini is ideal for getting the same flavor without the temptation (and subsequent guilt of eating the whole big one).  Details don’t disappoint, all the way down to the tiny chocolate fan.

mini vanilla cupcake

mini vanilla cupcake

Even the mini cupcakes aren’t simply frosted and boxed.  Detail is everything at this bakery, all the way down to the precise placement of the swollen blackberry atop vanilla frosting on a white cake base.  It may have simple flavors, but this is not a dull cupcake.

assorted cookies

assorted cookies

A cart nearer to the cash registers than the bakery has a sign decorated with a Cookie Monster.  If the real Cookie Monster ever visited a Whole Foods, he’d be in trouble.  Pick up a bag, a box, or a tin, and load up with any of dozens of varieties, all for the same bulk price.  Please all of your family members/coworkers/friends with different tastes at the next big gathering you attend.  From alfajores to ice box cookies, all are fresh and delicious.

Don’t waste time going to a “bakery” in the East Bay, when Whole Foods provides any treat or dessert imaginable plus so much more.  If you haven’t been to a Whole Foods yet, find your local store and take time to explore.  The smells, sights, and tastes are indicative of the quality.

A Sunday in Martinez CA

Friend and reader Ryan asked us try his home-brewed beer and give an honest opinion.  We already had to be in his town for another engagement, so we made a mini event for the day.  Before getting to Ryan’s, and before it closed, we stopped by the Martinez Farmers’ Market to see what unique items we’d find.

We met Angela, owner and baker of Simply Heaven Mini Pies.  As a pastry chef by training, Zach feels very confident in endorsing these little delights.  Two different sizes (mini and mini mini) come with a variety of fruit fillings, making it easy to mix and match flavors without committing to a whole regular-size pie.  The crust was flaky and buttery, and Zach the supertaster could tell that “it’s natural and made with 100% care.”  The fruit within was exceptionally fresh and clearly in season; there was no excess of sweetness due to sugar compensating for tart, not-quite-ripe filling.  We did not get any, but we did see that sugar-free and gluten-free pies were available, as well.

bistro blends of napa valley

bistro blends of napa valley

An affable young man at the Bistro Blends tent coaxed us to try the oils and vinegars.  As we sampled through them with tiny cubes of bread, all tasted sumptuous so it was hard to narrow it down for a purchase, but we ended up taking home a bottle of blackberry balsamic vinegar.  The balsamic acidity was very well balanced by the deep berry flavor, giving the vinegar a robust edge that would be a great ingredient in a marinade, among other things.  Besides oils and vinegars, we also tried dijon honey truffle mustard.  The truffle flavor was intense but not overwhelming, with a base of a mild mustard flavor.  Besides sandwiches, we’re looking forward to using it in cole slaw or potato salad as a special additive.

achadinha cheese company's broncha

achadinha cheese company’s broncha

August popped a grape and a hunk of broncha cheese from Achadinha Cheese Company, and was sold.  Broncha is made with a blend of goat and cow milk and aged it for 2-4 months.  August liked this cheese a lot because, to her, it was kind of like Parmesan with a light blue cheese quality.  We know it has to be good shaved over a salad or paired with fruit like we tried it today, but sometime it would be fun to do a ranch tour at Achadinha to learn more about their processes and specialties.

marella honey b's

marella honey b’s

Honey produced within 50 miles of where you live and work can help sustain your immune system against plant allergies, so it was neat to find honey that’s from Concord, Pleasant Hill, and Oakley.  MarElla Honey B’s offers local honey and so much more, from beekeeping classes to swarm and colony removal.  Setting up a few hives on our hillside is something we’ve considered, since it would help our neighborhood’s vegetation as well as support the bee population that is strangely dwindling across the globe, so we’re genuinely interested in looking into the beekeeping classes.

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After strolling downtown Martinez we met Ryan at his home.  He has a garage converted with all kinds of equipment to work on clone recipes as well as crafting his own.  Today we tried his original “Black Hops Down,” an IPA that he calculates ranks at 6.5% ABV.  Being that it wasn’t bottled but from a tap, Ryan did a great job at finding the rate to trickle in external CO2 so that the light carbonation perked up the rich flavors.  The combination of hops in his brew made it taste like a roasted chocolate with a strong hop finish, dark but not dismal.  On first sniff and sip, August said that if it were available she’d buy it, while Zach who typically avoids IPAs felt that it was a hoppy beer he could actually enjoy.  Thank you, Ryan, for inviting us out to try your tasty creation!

It was a relaxed day of walking, drinking, and conversing, a nice way for August to spend her last hours before going back to school tomorrow.  Goodbye, Summer, we’ll see you again in ten months!