Archive for January, 2008

My Introduction to Daring Bakers: Lemon Meringue Pie

January 28, 2008

my first lemon pie I love pie. Fruit pies are my favorite, but I have a special place in my stomach for lemon meringue pies, especially real pie made from real lemons. So when the Daring Bakers, an internet group of amateur bakers which I recently joined, announced Lemon Meringue Pie as their challenge for January, I was very excited. So excited that I actually missed one of Robyn’s hockey games to make the pie without any time pressures.

Lemon meringue pie consists of three distinct layers — pastry, lemon custard and meringue — and each layer has its unique challenges. Will the crust be too tough? Will it leak? Will the custard set up properly? Will the meringue be firm enough to slice without getting all hard and crumbly?

Crust ready for bakingI had not made a pastry crust in quite a while and it took some time to get my confidence up. It took a couple extra mils of water to get the crust to stick together, but it rolled and shaped well, even if it did puff up a little while baking. My happy pie weights didn’t do a complete job this time. Next time I’ll bake it a little longer with the weights and make the flutes a little higher since the dough shrunk back quite a bit while baking.

Custard Ready to goThe custard was a lot of fun to make. It thickened up quickly and the flavour was spot on. There was a little extra which I kept in a bowl to test how it set up.

Ready for OvenThe meringue also went really well, I thought. I don’t really know my soft peaks from my firm peaks but it seemed to work find and looked gorgeous before and after baking.

First try was runnyAfter waiting a loooong 2 1/2 hours for the pie to cool (and Cindy and Robyn to get home from hockey) we dug in. I was stunned that a pie which looked so beautiful had so many problems! Tough crust, runny custard and a meringue that didn’t stay together.

I did a little internet research and have a couple ideas as to what to do next time:

  • crust: Use a little more water early so I don’t have to work it so much. Use the pie weights for another 5 minutes or so when baking. I might even go to my traditional pastry crust with shortening for some added flakiness.
  • custard: chill the pie prior to slicing so it sets up more.
  • meringue: top the pie while the custard is hot so the bottom of the meringue bakes well. Possibly beat the meringue a little stiffer too; I may have only had medium peaks after all.

In the end the pie tasted really good, even if it didn’t look the best. I had enough ingredients to make another pie but life took over and even though my Daring Baker pie was made on January 5 I haven’t had the time for another attempt. Maybe in March.

Thanks to the folks at Daring Bakers for the challenge — I’m looking forward to February already!


Foolin with Flickr

January 9, 2008


Originally uploaded by mdstamps

I just figured out how to blog about a photo that I uploaded to Flickr. So now you all get to see Cindy and me from this summer on Vancouver Island. Not sure which of the kids took it but it turned out OK.

As the kids get taller the angle on the pictures look better too!

What can I cover best?

January 2, 2008

Jeff Jarvis writes about how newspapers are laying off excellent reporters as they stop coverage of national topics to focus on local news. He offers an excellent alternative which preserves the great work the reporters are creating.

Within the post he links to an earlier post which really struck a cord with me. Jeff asserts that a key principle of blogging is to “Cover what you do best, and link to the rest.

I really like that. It ties in well with the “hyper-local” reporting idea I was kicking around last year — forget talking about what’s happening in Regina and focus in on my neighbourhood, or my street, or my front yard. I set up a first prototype on WordPress but it’s a little stagnant right now.

I can apply Jeff’s ideas in 2008 blogging two ways:

  • linking to other blogs a lot more
  • figuring out what I’m “best at” and covering that

So what am I best at? I’ve got a few ideas, all involving what’s going on in my local community.

What are you best at? Please share!

New Year, New Goals

January 2, 2008

It’s been one year since my foray into blogging and I have mixed feelings about my results. I’ve spent far more time reading other blogs (I consider myself a ‘whiz’ at Google Reader and am progressing to full ninja status) than actually writing. I’ve also spent far too long worrying about the focus of the blog than getting my thoughts in print.

So this year I resolve to worry less and write more. My goal is two posts per week. Warning in advance that the topics are going to cover a pretty wide range:

  • observations about my family: growth, change, stirring victories and sad losses too.
  • what it’s like to build a business: as we slowly build the Orange Boot Bakery I’m fascinated by the process of starting and growing a business. I want to put everything I’ve learned in business and life into the bakery and share the foibles. I’m going to write about the process here. The Orange Boot Bakery site (now here but soon to be here is for our customers and I don’t want to clog it up with weird ramblings about being a small business owner.
  • the joys and struggles in building community, be it our local community association, the kid’s minor hockey teams or the various groups I’m involved with online
  • What’s new and exciting (to me) in internet technology. My professional career has been about helping people through the learning curve when it comes to new technology. I spent the early part of 2007 thinking I had fallen way behind the times but I’m still ahead of the curve compared to 90% of people so there’s likely lots to learn here.

My only fear is that the variety of subject matter will turn people off. Well it can’t be worse than not posting at all, right? I’ll make judicious use of tags / categories and if I do find a Voice in all of this, I can adjust later. But the goal for now is to write — two per week, come hell or high water.