Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Homemade Whipped Cream

Originally we weren't going to make whipped cream, since the key lime bars are plenty tasty all on their own, until I commented about how we weren't. Mom seemed to take this as an affront to her culinary dignity, since, as she pointed out, it's super-easy to make, and we had the powdered sugar and the heavy cream already. So we made some. Particularly for simpler desserts, it's worth taking the time to make homemade whipped cream; the key lime bars have enough punch to stand on their own, but strawberries and store bought whipped cream are simply tasty, whereas homemade whipped cream makes them an event. And it really doesn't take much time at all to make, unless you require truly stupendous quantities of the stuff.

Heavy cream
Powdered sugar
1 or 2 drops of vanilla

It's important not to use any more vanilla than that, but you can use pretty much whatever amount of cream you have on hand, and sugar to taste. You also need an electric mixer if you don't want making it to be two hours of pain. And you don't. With the mixer, though, it takes about five minutes.

The only thing I don't like about doing it off-the-cuff like this is that shortly after it gets properly smooth and fluffy, if you keep mixing it (if, for instance, you need to mix in more sugar, or if you're like me and you just really like mixing things) it gets kind of choppy and doesn't look quite as nice, but it still tastes fine. We also made way more than we needed, but somehow I'm sure we'll find a way to get rid of it all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Key Lime Bars

So my mom made this thing, this delicious key lime pie thing. She made it for the first time a couple of weeks ago for a Margaritaville party, and because we still had a number of the ingredients left over (and because it was awesome) she made it again for our 4th of July get together. The filling is a really nice mix of creamy and fluffy--I've had key lime at restaurants since then that I didn't think was as good, it was too smooth and kind of custardy--and it's got a neat citrus bite to it that goes well with the butter in the crust.

Our version breaks down like this:
1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
2 1/2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lemon peel
2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice
1 cup sweetened condensed milk, (14 ounces)
1/4 cup heavy cream

You'll notice that this is slightly different than the list in the original recipe. My mom is of the opinion that zesting is entirely too much trouble, so we used dried lemon peel instead. It's perfectly tasty. Sometime I want to try this recipe with fresh lime zest proper, but this version has plenty of zing to it, so I'm not complaining. We also didn't use the key lime slices in the presentation, because we're not quite that awesome.

We also used two ingredient tricks to make it easier to prepare. The first is store-bought graham cracker crumbs. This was mostly because my mom made so many of them for the party; if she'd just been making this for home consumption, she would have just gotten graham crackers and taken a rolling pin to them while they were still in the wax-paper package.

The other is Nellie & Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice. Again, this was mostly necessary because my mom was making these in mass quantity for the party, and juicing 60+ key limes (they're tiny!) would have been ridiculous. But even for smaller batches, it's not a bad trick. The lime juicing would be the most time consuming part of this recipe. Without that, it takes a minute or two to mix up the crust, you can prep the filling while that's baking, and then after another ten minutes in the oven you can stick the whole thing in the fridge and forget about it until it's ready to serve. That last step is a big part of what makes this good for parties: it's really best if you make it a day ahead of when you plan to serve it.