~A Few Bites of Summer: Pineapple-Meringue Tartlets~
During the Summer, our gas grill is the focal point for all sorts of fun, foodie get-togethers. While I like a rare-cooked steak or a juicy cheeseburger accompanied by a baked potato and a garden salad as much as the next person, for me, 'tis the season to partake in poultry and pork. Big, meaty bone-on breasts, chops or ribs, slathered with sweet and savory sauces accompanied by grilled vegetable kabobs are amongst my favorites, and all are deserving of a light, bright Summer fruit dessert. Pineapple-meringue tartlets are the perfect ending to a Summer evening.
I adore pineapple. Spring and Summer, I'm rarely without some form of fresh pineapple in my kitchen or refrigerator. Heck, my husband grows two or three in pots on our deck each year (see photo below). Fall and Winter, I'm never without canned pineapple in in my pantry. Fresh, it's my "go to" Summer tropical fruit, and canned (packed in 100% juice), it's not a compromise.
A bit about pineapple and pineapple pie: Pineapple was introduced to the United States in the mid 19th Century via South American trade routes north to the Caribbean and into the West Indies, where Christopher Columbus found them. In Caribbean native tongue, the pineapple's original name was "anana", meaning "excellent fruit". The European explorers called it the "pine of the Indies", and, when the fruit started being exported to English-speaking parts of Europe via The Columbian Exchange, the suffix "apple" was added (to associate it with their favorite "excellent fruit", the apple).
From there, the pineapple spread to other parts of civilization and was placed on sailing ships because, like oranges, they were found to prevent scurvy. It was on one of these voyages the pineapple arrived in Hawaii, and, was presented to King Kahehameha by his Spanish advisor, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. On January 11, 1813 the first pineapples were planted in Hawaiian soil. In 1901, James Drummond Dole founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, and, within a few short years, the pineapple symbolized Hawaii.
Canned pineapple entered the American marketplace in 1903 and it was a big deal. It meant that pineapple was available to the home cook all year long -- it was no longer a rare, seasonal treat to be savored fresh. It was very popular with the American housewife -- by 1925, recipes for pineapple pie and pineapple upside down cake began appearing on cans of Dole pineapple and Gold Metal flour. To this day it is the most popular canned fruit next to applesauce and peaches.
Part One: Let's Talk Tartlet Shells
Canned pineapple is not a compromise and store-bought pie pastry is not a crime. When it comes to desserts in general, but especially desserts like pies, tarts and cheesecakes, if I'm baking for a large group of people or for a special occasion, small, individual-sized ones, while a bit more labor-intensive up front, are well worth the "fussy" extra effort in the end. Why? They're perfectly-portioned and require no slicing. Serving them is 100% mess-free and stress-free. That said, when I'm making tartlet shells to feed a crowd, I feel no guilt in using store-bought crusts to save time. They bake up golden and crispy, and, no one ever complains. Click here to learn ~ How to: Cut, Form & Bake Pie Pastry Tartlet Shells ~. Recipe yields, 14, 3"-round tartlet shells.
Part Two: Making the Pineapple Pie Filling
3/4 cup sugar
4 level tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained (1 cup crushed pineapple)
1 tablespoon pure pineapple extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or bottled concentrate
1/4 cup cold water
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature, reserve whites for meringue topping
3/4 cup water, heated to boiling
1 tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature (very soft)
~Step 1. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the pineapple, extract, lemon juice and cold water. In a small bowl, using a fork, beat yolks and whisk into the pineapple mixture. In microwave, in a 1-cup measuring container, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Slowly, in a thin stream, whisk boiling water into the pineapple/yolk mixture. Add the butter.
~ Step 2. Place the saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, to avoid scorching. As the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and allow to simmer, whisking constantly, for 45-60 seconds. Remove fully-cooked pie filling from heat.
~ Step 3. Ladle a scant 1/4 cup filling into each of 14 tartlet shells (that are still in their tart tins) that have been placed on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan. Set aside for 1 hour, to cool a bit. During this time the pie filling will lose its wet, glossy appearance and look "dry" -- the dry, cool surface will make it easier to dollop and distribute the meringue.
Cool on pan, in tins, 1 hour prior to topping w/meringue & baking:
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
~ Step 1. Place egg whites in a large, clean, dry, bowl. On medium mixer speed, beat until frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Increase mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. Lower mixer speed to medium and gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla extract, beating until just incorporated. Do not over beat.
~ Step 3. Using an ordinary tablespoon drop dollops of meringue evenly over the tops of the pie filling in the center of each tartlet. Continue distributing and dolloping until all meringue has been piled atop the tarts, forming a decorative peak at the top of each tart.
~ Step 4. Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven, 6-8 minutes, until meringue is golden, watching carefully after 5 minutes as meringue can and will go from browned to burned quickly. Remove from oven and transfer tartlets (in their tins) to a cooling rack to cool completely, 3-4 hours, or longer prior to removing from tins and serving at room temperature, or (after cooling), refrigerate, uncovered, until chilled, 3-4 hours or overnight, prior to serving chilled.
Cool to room temperature prior to removing from tart tins:
Special Equipment List: 14, 3"-round tart tins w/fluted sides & removable bottoms; 2-quart saucepan; wire whisk; fork; 1-cup measuring container; ladle; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; tablespoon
Cook's Note: Everyone who knows me knows that when given a choice between a chocolate dessert and a fruit dessert, I will always choose the fruit dessert. That said, if lemon meringue pie is one of my fruit dessert choices, I will choose it, without exception, every time. Click here to get my very special recipe for ~ My Love Affair w/Lemons & Lemon-Meringue Pie ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)