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Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Pineapple Meringue Pie Captures Prize
[Tuesday, July 03, 2012]
Jennifer Vargas of Santa Rosa almost had one foot out the door when her pineapple meringue pie received top accolades in the All-American Fourth of July Pie Competition for the Fundamentals of Baking class at Texas State Technical College Harlingen (TSTC).
The mid-term exam for the course serves as a friendly, educational event. At least that’s the goal according to Culinary Arts (CA) instructor Patrick Bauer. Vargas sat in the student gallery recently as Bauer announced the results and her colleagues began to congratulate her before she realized she won. She almost left class a little early, before the announcement of the pie contest winners, to pick up her daughter.
“I heard Mr. Bauer call my contestant number and it took me a while to process it and realize it was my number,” she said with a smile. “As I look back on the experience, I feel I accomplished something.”
Vargas said that the winning pie represented her interpretation of recipes she found in a Sam’s Club book and
magazine. “I saw the recipe and I thought it was something different. So, I decided to try it out. It is summer time, and summer and pineapple go together. I added more pecans on top for extra decoration.”
A 2003 graduate of Harlingen High School, she earned a cosmetology license after studying at the University of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences in Harlingen. She enrolled at TSTC in 2009, selected the CA major in 2011 and plans to graduate after spring semester 2013. Vargas said that she was a self-taught cook before she enrolled at TSTC and she frequently bakes for her daughter. Her husband, Rick, always encouraged her to pursue CA.
There are no specialties or favorites in her cookbook, she said. Vargas prefers to experiment and try new ideas or modify recipes. “I like getting away from the norm and getting into a little bit of everything,” she said. “My father watched the Food Network a lot and I took an interest in it, too. I’ve always loved to cook. Since I was young, I was always the cook.”
Fourteen students in her class selected ingredients from the program’s kitchen, although they had the option of using personal funds to purchase special ingredients. The Fundamentals in Baking class regularly gains experience by preparing desserts for the Wednesday luncheons conducted by the CA Program.
Jorge Zapata of Harlingen took second with blueberry crumble mini-tarts and lemon-lime meringue tarts by Linda Noell of Harlingen ranked third. Contest results in the second Fundamentals in Baking class included first, Dulce Vara, Harlingen; second, Eddie Flores, Harlingen, and third, Eric Lopez, San Benito.
Judges Elvia Berry, a CA graduate who owns A Berry Catered Affair in Harlingen; Diego Benitez of Harlingen, a private chef who studied at TSTC as a CA major and then graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and Cindy O. Mata, director of the College Assistance Migrant Program at TSTC, served as judges.
“The pineapple meringue pie was delicious and it was unusual,” Berry said. The competition inspired a variety of tasty desserts and attractive presentations that could qualify for any bakery or restaurant, she added.
PINEAPPLE MERINGUE PIE
Ingredients: 2 cups pecan shortbread cookie crumbs; 1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut, divided; ¼ cup butter, melted; 2 cups milk; ¼ cup cornstarch; 3 large eggs, separated; 1 cup sugar, divided; 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained; 1 tablespoon butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preparation: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir together cookie crumbs, 1 cup coconut, and ¼ cup melted butter; firmly press on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. 2. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire rack and let cool one hour or until completely cool. 3. Whisk together milk and cornstarch in a heavy saucepan, whisking until cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk in egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar, whisking until blended. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until a chilled pudding-like thickness. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will be thick enough to hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat; stir in pineapple, 1 tbsp. butter, and vanilla. Spoon immediately into cooled piecrust. 4. Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1 tbsp. at a time, beating until stiff peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Spread meringue over hot filling, sealing edges. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup coconut over meringue. 5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven to wire rack and let cool one hour or until completely cool. Chill four hours.
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