Chat Leftovers: Runny Fruit Pie, Inauguration Treats

Fruit pie issues - help!: Hi Kim, I found a recipe for a cranberry meringue pie (supposedly a Martha Stewart recipe) that calls for boiling the fruit and setting it with corn starch. First time I made it it was gorgeous. It took hours to set, but was a huge hit. Second time, it didn't set at all and we had lovely "soup"(we poured over vanilla ice cream and ditched the crusts) Third time, it set in the pan and was rubber and inedible. As far as I know, I followed the recipe each time.
So what are the hazards of such a recipe? What kinds of things go wrong - so I know what to watch for? I've been asked to make a batch of these for a party this weekend. I'm a bit leery given my record with it, but when it works it is both delicious and gorgeous.
Thanks for your help. Following is the recipe.

Cranberry Meringue Pie - supposedly a Martha Stewart recipe.
If you can't find blood oranges, use regular ones for the zest and juice.
3 1/4 cups fresh cranberries (12 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped blood orange zest, plus 1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 large egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Line shell with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment. Return to oven; bake until bottoms are just turning golden, 5 minutes more. Transfer to wire racks; let cool 5 minutes. Remove from tin; let cool completely.
3. Bring 2 cups cranberries, 1 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer mixture, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have burst, about 5 minutes. Pour through a coarse sieve, then a fine sieve; discard solids. (You should have about 1 3/4 cups; if you have less, add water).
4. Bring strained cranberry juice, 1/4 cup sugar, the zests, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and remaining 1 1/4 cups cranberries to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are soft but have not burst, about 3 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, stir cornstarch, blood orange juice, and 1/4 cup water in a bowl; whisk into cranberry mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, until translucent, about 1 minute. Pour into prepared shell. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour (up to overnight).
6. Preheat broiler. Put egg whites and remaining 1/4 cup sugar into the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a pan of simmering water; whisk until sugar has dissolved and mixture is hot to the touch. Attach to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium speed until foamy. Raise speed to high. Add cream of tartar; beat until medium, glossy peaks form. Divide the meringue evenly among pies.
7. Set pies under broiler until tops are browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Some online searching brought me to Martha’s site, where she has a video demonstrating how to make this very filling, with Tina Fey.

A few things to note: The recipe, as published on the MS site, is for a batch of mini pies made in a muffin tin. I’m wondering if this is why you’re having uneven results with the filling --- there’s just too much volume in a nine-inch pie plate for a consistently “gelled” filling.

I also noticed a discrepancy at the cornstarch “slurry” stage. In the recipe above as well as the version posted on the MS site, the instructions are to cook the cranberries and cornstarch mixture for just one minute, but in her video, Martha says five minutes, which sounds like a more realistic estimate to thicken the filling.

If you have the time, it might be worthwhile to do a test run of filling one night this week and pour into a pre-made pastry shell about half the size to see how it sets up.

Re: The rubber quality you mentioned -- was this the meringue or the filling? Hope this helps.

Limoncello: I've spent the last few weeks making a batch of limoncello to give away as gifts this season, but I am having the hardest time finding bottles to transfer the limoncello into. I'm looking for approx. 13-ounce bottles with rubber seals. I've found some at the Container Store, but they're a little pricy. Any ideas?

Is this the kind of bottle you’re looking for? Looks like you might be able to get them for about $2.45 per bottle.

Limoncello recipe from the Food section, December, 2005

Indianapolis, Ind.: Hello -- would you mind please re-posting your spiced nuts recipe? Also, how long will they keep for? I thought I would put them in holiday goodie bags and didn't know how quickly I would have to give them out.

Indianapolis, the credit for these addictive spiced nuts goes to Union Square Café in New York, where they have been a bar staple for years. I’ve had success storing them in a plastic container with a lid versus a Ziploc-style bag. Done this way, they’ll stay fresh for a few weeks. I’d keep them under airtight cover until the last possible moment before doling them out into those goodie bags.

January 20 Party: I am thinking of having folks over and I wanted easy dishes. I am thinking of a soup party with 3-5 different types of soups. I plan on keeping the soups warm in slow cookers. What do you recommend for desserts and appetizers? Do you have a recommendation for wines?

For dessert, there must be good ole American pie. Apple would be my first choice, unless you’ve got a reliable source for frozen blueberries or cherries for two other quintessential American flavors. Not up for making dough? Make a crisp or a cobbler instead.

Red velvet cupcakes come to mind, perhaps because of the color scheme, and you could decorate them with American flags or your favorite political icing cartoon. What about a batch of Toll House cookies? Milk for dipping, chocolate syrup for flavoring the milk, and you can take a Got Milk? mustache group photo when no one is watching.

There’s also the Hawaiian theme to consider, in honor of the president-elect’s childhood home state. I’m thinking of a pretty coconut layer cake that looks like a snowball, or a homey upside down pineapple cake, both of which will go great with coffee.

For apps, I’d do a few dips in advance -- onion dip without the dreaded soup mix, a quickie hummus and a take on black bean salsa that can be scooped with tortilla chips.

Wines on this night should be all-American -- and maybe it’d be fun to pick a bunch representing a variety of states -- a sparkling wine from New Mexico, for example, an Oregon Pinot Noir, a Virginia Viognier and a California Cabernet Sauvignon.

This week's What's Cooking transcript in entirety.

TOMORROW NIGHT: Celebritology blogger Liz Kelly and I will be on hand Thursday, Dec. 4, 6 - 8 p.m., for an official meet-and-greet at D.C.'s M Bar at the Renaissance M St Hotel. Come on out. A raffle for a special iPod shuffle and themed cocktails are on the menu -- and we can't wait to meet you.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 3, 2008; 7:30 AM ET Chat Leftovers
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For the chatter wanting to cook with kids I recommend several kids cookbooks--Honest Pretzels, Salad People, and Pretend Soup at all by Mollie Katzen (I think that is her name). She is the one who wrote The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (I think that one is for adults).

My kids (7 and 9) like to bake anything. The older one likes to make egg in a hole (bread with a biscuit sized hole for the egg, fried together) for lunch. They happily help with any kind of cooking.

Gingerbread houses are a great idea. I have made them from scratch and bought kits (easier since I don't usually keep molasses in the house). Make small gingerbread boys and girls out of various kinds of dough--chocolate, sugar cookie, regular gingerbread, etc--for a multiracial gingerbread family.

Pancakes are fun. Make and decorate cookies. I also like to make biscuits and use holiday theme large cookie cutters to cut them out (all the fun of cookie cutters without the all the calories of large cookies).

Posted by: janedoe5 | December 3, 2008 11:59 AM

As a general rule, Martha Stewart's recipes don't work, so I always avoid them. If you see something of hers that looks interesting, go to a reliable recipe website like epicurious or cdkitchen or allrecipes and look for something similar. Martha is a great source of ideas, but I find it hard to believe that she's still publishing recipes. They just don't work.

Posted by: margaret6 | December 4, 2008 2:47 PM

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