When Jen revealed the January Daring Baker challenge, it immediately made me think of the Desperate Housewives lemon meringue pie episode. Bree, who everyone knows is the best cook and baker in the neighborhood, gets one-upped at a luncheon by Katherine, the new housewife on the block, who surreptitiously swaps Bree's pie with her own and conveniently sticks Bree's in the fridge. (*gasp* I know! The nerve right?!) Bree goes to no end to crack Katherine's secret recipe, which includes toiling away in the kitchen attempting to reproduce the pie but to no avail, an unsuccessful recipe exchange, and finally a friendly neighborhood breaking and entering into Katherine's house and padlocked recipe box. Who padlocks their recipe box? Luckily for us Daring Bakers, the recipe was given to us so no felonies were committed in the making of this pie. But there was a blow torch involved. Okay, okay, it was one of those little tiny kitchen ones BUT a blow torch nonetheless.
I think this is the first pie Daring Baker's challenge and it is actually my very first time making pie. I've baked tarts before but I've never baked a pie. I'm not crazy about pies because all of the ones I've tasted have had soggy crusts and theres really nothing worse than a soggy, greasy crust when a flaky crust is arguably the best part. Unlike a fruit pie where a wet filling is baked in the crust, a lemon meringue pie is must like a lemon tart where the crust is baked separately, filled with a lemon filling, and topped with meringue, then baked only briefly to color and cook the meringue. It sounded like the bottom crust had potential of being crispy and flaky. I held out hope. Then reports from other DBs around the globe started flooding in about watery, runny lemon fillings. I began to have my doubts.
Another thing I was a little wary about was the meringue. It seems like the meringue is still fairly fluffy and soft (to me that reads uncooked) when the pie is served. Some people love meringue, whether its the crisp, airy crunch when its baked into cookies, or soft, pillowy billows on top of meringue pies. Me? I'm not crazy about meringue. I think it tastes like sweet, sweet nothing. I was a little worried about eating uncooked egg whites because I get a little paranoid about food poisoning. But I was still eager to make the pie and play with my kitchen torch.
As a procrastinator, I didn't actually finish the challenge until the day before the due date. God that sounds like college all over again. But I did do my research. Before making the recipe, I read the Cook's Illustrated recipe to see what problems they encountered with lemon meringue pie (LMP) recipes. To my horror, LMPs are plagued with a multitude of problems some of which Cook's Illustrated wasn't even able to consistently solve. Cook's Illustrated is like my cooking bible. If they can't nail a recipe, how can I be expected to not screw it up? Conditions like humidity and temperature of your filling or oven can wreck havoc on your meringue. The filling can be too runny or the meringue can bead or weep. Crying meringue? That doesn't sound too happy. (Weeping meringue is when the egg whites start coming out of the foam state and back into liquid state and puddle on the top of your lemon filling. Yuck...) So by now I was a little intimidated.
But I made the pie and here are my thoughts.
I used the food processor and it was easy peasy. Gimme a food processor and I can whip out a pie crust in less than a minute. Hand me a pastry cutter or 2 forks and I will look at you with a blank stare. Yes it is probably a bad thing I'm so dependent on my food processor but it is undeniably fast. Anyway the crust was the easiest part.
It started to get clumpy during the cooking stage after I added the egg yolks so I took it off the heat. I'm don't think it was boiling yet so I might not have cooked it enough so it probably could have been a little thicker. As for the clumps, they were nothing a fine mesh sieve couldn't take care of. After adding the lemon juice the filling seemed a tad thin.
Easy to make *pats trusty KitchenAid*. I made one tart with the classic tall billowy layer of meringue and another with little meringue kisses. I baked the billowy tart in the toaster oven and used a kitchen torch on the kisses tart.
Meringue... still not a fan of it. I gave it a try. It tasted kinda spongy. Really bleh... Maybe I didn't make it right. I've actually never had a meringue pie so I don't know what it's suppose to taste like. It wept a little on the bottom so the fact that I had raw egg white running on my tart kinda put me off. I ended up scraping the meringue layer off. By now I had a plain lemon tart. I like lemon tarts. I found that the filling tends to run if you cut it when its warm out of the oven but after a chill it sets up nicely. But my god it was WAY too sweet for me. This is coming from someone who usually cuts the sugar in baking recipes by 25% to 50%. I know you're not suppose to fudge with baking recipes and their liquid to dry ratios but I do it anyway. I don't do it for DB recipes (they are the exception). So I found the filling cloyingly sweet. I ended up spooning out some of the filling out of my tart. But the crust. Oh the crust... it was the best pie crust I have EVER made. It was so shatteringly crisp and flaky. Oh my god, the little tartlet pie shell covered in a thin layer of lemon filling was deeeelicious. Good dinner. :P
Anyways enough of my rambling so here's the recipe. (Bout time you say?) I made half the recipe into little tartlets. I also included tartlet instructions.
Lemon Meringue Pie
from Wanda's Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie
For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water
For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling. For smaller tartlets, bake first for 20 minutes then remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes until the shell is golden.
To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.
To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.
For tartlets bake at 425 degrees F on the upper middle rack of the oven for 5 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown.
Cool before serving.
Now go and see all the other beautiful and daring lemon meringue pies made by my fellow bakers at the Daring Bakers Blogroll.