Monday, 28 January 2008
Lemon Meringue Pie
The whole blogosphere is going to be crowded with Lemon Meringue Pies! Yeap! That was the challenge for this months edition of The Daring Bakers.
When I first saw the challenge, I must admit that I wasn't too excited. You see, I'm not a big fan of Lemon Meringue Pie. I've had a LMP once and only once before and it's definitely NOT something that is on my radar screen to make. But I guess that is the whole point of the Daring Bakers. As Captain Kirk says - "To boldly go where no man has gone before..." There I go showing my age again. Anyway, I much prefer Jean Luc Picard!
Captains Log, Stardate 43223.5, my orders are to attempt the Daring Bakers challenge of a Lemon Meringue Pie. As usual, I woke up early to tackle this challenge. There are three parts to this pie,
and I'll share my experience with each part.
I used the Food Processor option for my crust and it came together rather well. First mistake though was I don't think I used enough flour. (Either that or this Romulan class flour just doesn't bind together at warp speed). I didn't pack the flour in but just filled the cup loosely. I know there wasn't enough flour because the pastry was very soft even after chilling. Or perhaps there's too much cold water in the recipe. Whatever it is, I added in a few more sprinkles of flour. Then I lined my pastry dish and let some of the dough hang over the edge before chilling it again.
Problem was that when I baked it, the 'overhang' all dripped off. Fortunately though, there was enough pastry that stayed in the dish to form a nice crust. The crust was delicious and my darling daughter loved the parts that had dripped off to form 'drop biscuits'! She even had these with milk for her breakfast and declared the biscuits were yummy!
While waiting for the crust to cool, I started on the filling. When I had read the recipe earlier, I noticed that there was a large amount of corn flour needed for the filling, but it didn't seem to bother me. However, once I boiled the water and added in the sugar and corn flour, I couldn't help but think how much it reminded me of glue... Sorry. Fortunately when I added in the eggs, the mixture looked much better and resembled a custard. No real problems here.
This was the least of my worries but don't we all know that when you least expect it, something will go wrong. Before I go into details of my Meringue, this was the opportunity to use my latest toy! Yes! My parents gave me a Kenwood Chef as a combined Birthday/Christmas gift. Here's a picture of it sans bowl and balloon whisk (which were being washed!)
So, with my Kenwood whipping up the egg whites into a frenzy, I started measuring out my sugar. Aaaaarrrggghhh! Not enough Caster Sugar!! The egg whites were already at the soft peak stage so I briefly considered rushing out to the store to get some caster sugar - but that would probably deflate the egg whites. Screw it. Just use some coarse granulated sugar instead.
In retrospect, if I have stayed calm and cool like the man I normally am, I'd have whizzed the coarse sugar in the food processor to make it finer. But I was too darn panicky wasn't I. S T U P I D! Definitely NOT what they taught me at Starfleet Academy.
Anyway, i only had about a quarter cup of Caster sugar so that meant half a cup of coarse sugar. I turned the Kenwood on high in the hopes that it would dissolve the sugar. Man! I've never, EVER seen egg whites whipped to such stiff peaks before. It was awesome!
Unfortunately, all the sugar didn't dissolve and there were still a few grainy bits in the meringue. I piled the meringue on and even piped some around the edges. However, when I tried to shape the meringue into lovely billows, it just ended up getting mussed up - I think it was a tad too stiff. So anyway, I just swirled it on and then popped it into the over to bake.
Too much thinking is not good for the soul and neither is it when it comes to baking. You see, I figured with some sugar still undissolved and also to try and prevent beading and also to get a nice golden top, I should place the pie dish on the top rack. Bad Idea.
The meringue browned a little too much and a little too quickly. I realised the folly of my ways and removed the pie to the lower tray. It came out looking pretty nice although not as nice as I had imagined in my minds eye. No billowy sails or peaks. Just a mound of smooth meringue. Oh Well.
So. All in all, a pretty successful challenge. But how did it taste? I was the first to cut and taste it and I am happy to report that there was NO weeping! YAY! The pie was quite tasty and definitely the best Lemon Meringue Pie I have ever tasted but seeing as I've only tasted one before, that's really nothing to shout about. It was nice enough, I have to admit but its really not my cup of tea. And I really doubt I wuold make it again or even try it anywhere else - unless I had too or jus to be polite. As I said, the LMP is just not my kind of pie. Also, I still had visions of the corn flour glue..... but even without that vision, not really my kind of dessert.
But the crust was superb!
Anyway, to be fair, I thought I'd let my official tasters guide me on it.
My son kind of liked the pie. He seemed to like the lemon taste as well as the meringue. Kind of expected as he likes sourish things - especially lemons and limes! But it wasn't a super dessert in his eyes because he didn't rave about it nor did he want seconds. But all in all, I think he quite enjoyed it.
My daughter loved the meringue but wasn't too impressed with the filling. But I expected that as she is a Chocolate girl - like her Daddy!
The lovely wife was not a great fan. She felt the pie was a bit sweet and just didn't quite like it. She also mentioned a bit ruefully that this was the first DB challenge that she didn't like....
Oh Well, it was still a great experience making this pie and if not for this challenge, I would never, ever, not in a million years have thought of making a Lemon Meringue Pie. And isn't that just what the Daring Bakers are about! So my thanks go to Jen the Canadian Baker for choosing this as the challenge.
You can find the rest of the Daring Bakers at the Official Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how they fared with this challenge.
In the meantime, for any of you interested, the recipe is duplicated below. I now need to return to The Bridge as The Enterprise is about to orbit the two major planets of the Beta Renner system. Engage!
Lemon Meringue Pie
from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie
For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water
For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ 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
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
For 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 ⅛ 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 ½ 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 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.
For 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.