Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: lemon meringue pie

Last time, I swore I would not leave this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge to the last minute. But, here I am on posting day finishing up my lemon meringue pie! Argh! There’s always next month!

This month’s challenge is hosted by Jen at The Canadian Baker. It’s a classic lemon meringue pie from Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002. In the interest of full disclosure, I am neither a fan of lemon curd nor a fan of meringue so this was not a challenge of the heart but rather a challenge of the head. For me, the interesting part of this recipe was the meringue. The dough was classic and straightforward to make, the curd was a cinch and cooled to a wonderful, firm consistency. But the meringue! I’ve made meringue before so it was not the meringue itself that was a challenge but rather preventing it from shrinking after baking or sweating/weeping and becoming a messy puddle on top of the lemon curd. I didn’t realize this would be so tricky until I read about the experiences other Daring Bakers were having with the recipe on the group’s private blog.

I did a little research on this issue and it appears to be a common lemon meringue pie challenge. There are several ways to address it. Read here for a comprehensive explanation.

1. Make sure sugar is fully dissolved in the meringue (sugar attracts moisture): use superfine sugar which is more easily dissolved and test to make sure its dissolved by feeling meringue between your fingers before you stop whipping
2. Add a cornstarch and water mixture to the meringue after the sugar is incorporated to help stabilize the meringues (see link for specifics)
3. Always pile meringue onto piping hot, not cooled, curd/cream so that bottom layer of the meringue is sufficiently cooked by the residual heat from the filling
4. Be careful not to over bake or under bake the meringue (when egg whites are baked too long they begin to tighten and squeeze out moisture)
5. Make sure the meringue is layered all the way over the edge of the pie so that it forms a tight seal: putting the meringue on the pie from the outside in helps in this regard
6. Allow the pie to cool gradually after baking: leave pie to cool in the oven, door open

We are not permitted to deviate from the host’s recipe so I only went as far as to make sure my curd was hot before I put the meringue on it and it seemed to help. I will definitely experiment with the other tricks above next time as I saw consistent advice throughout the web. Note: I made one large lemon meringue pie and then couldn't resist making a small one with the remaining dough (using a mini tart pan). The mini version was adorable and makes a wonderful individual-sized dessert.

Thanks, Jen, for the challenge. I learned a lot and it was fun!
Lemon Meringue Pie (from Wanda's Pie in the Sky)
(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
(note: see link above for optional corn starch addition to help stabilize the meringue)

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 (note: advise not cooling the filling based on what I've read about meringue. Make the meringue before the filling cools or keep the filling in a small pan and re-heat once the meringue is ready).

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.


Bea said...

Yum, looks delicious. Lovely opening photo.

Anonymous said...

I love the light and reflection of the blue hues throughout the top photo. Springy in mid-winter. Bet it tasted good, too.

Katia Mangham said...

Your pie looks beautiful! I learned a lot form this challenge as well, the directions were different than I was used to. I agree with your meringue tips- specially using superfine sugar, I always do.

Madam Chow said...

Lovely photos! I agree with the tips that you listed. Like you, however, the thing that I did do was to put the meringue on hot filling, and I think it helped a lot.

Anonymous said...

Nice LMPs! And wonderful photos!

Anonymous said...

Very pretty!

Meryl said...

Your meringue is so fluffy and pretty!

Madeleine said...

Great job!!!

kitten said...

Good idea to use the extra dough to make a mini pie. There was a lot of left over dough in this recipe. Your pies look beautiful.

Suzana Parreira said...

What a gorgeous job you've done here!! And awesome photos too. I just discovered your blog and it's lovely. :)

Annemarie said...

Great tips - thanks for posting them. The pie looks lovely, with the South-Beach-blue background offsetting the idea of lemoniness perfectly.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Beautiful pictures and a beautiful looking pie! I am impressed by those who seemed to research the LMP before making it.Great job!

Brilynn said...

I surprisingly got this challenge done early, but I think that's because I had friends that were pestering me for pie!

Laura Rebecca said...

I love the texture of your meringue! It's so lovely and different from all the other meringues I've seen.

Thank you for the tips, too. I've done some research on weepy/shrinking meringues but your info adds to my what I've learned. :)

Anonymous said...

Fabulous pictures and the lemon pie is to die for. Delicious!

Melanie said...

Oh my, your pictures are amazing (not just the lemon meringue pie, but ALL of them I've seen)! Really, they are some of the best. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting - I am definitely bookmarking your blog for some great future recipes. Thanks!

Beth G. @SweetLifeKitchen said...

BEAUTIFUL~ it looks fantastic!!

Andrea said...

Ooo, the mini pie is so pretty! (And I think I need to read up on some of these tips in more detail!)

eatme_delicious said...

Your pie and tart look great! The meringue is so cute looking. And your photos are beautiful. I love the colours.

eatme_delicious said...

Oh and I forgot to say thank you so much for posting those meringue tips! I didn't know it was possible to avoid weepy meringue but now I must try again. :)

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I know, I read up a lot before attempting my pie. My first challenge, my first LMP ever, and all those "weepy" stories had me scared!
I did the hot filling thing too.
My pie shed a few tears, but on the whole it was an enjoyable challenge.

zorra said...

Thank you for the tips. I followed tip 3 and 5. :-)

Your pie looks fantastic, great shots.

Molly Loves Paris said...

It's amazing all the ideas people can have for correcting problems. But I'll add mine in anyway. The only change I made to the recipe was to cook the meringue at 325 degrees. That's what my grandfather would have done, and he was a chef. It struck me that 375 was too hot. Weather has a lot to do with meringue. I'll bet it tasted pretty good anyway.

Big Boys Oven said...

this amazing exciting, looks so cool and well captured under your lense!

desie said...

gorgeous pies. the photos look so fresh.

Anonymous said...

After chocolate, lemon is my favorite flavor. Your pie looks delicious & made my mouth water!

Anonymous said...

LMP is hands down my favorite pie ever. Your rich and beautiful photo took me back to all of the amazing LMPs I have enjoyed over the years. I would love to see a cross-section photo if you took one.

Anonymous said...

The picture is Great.
The pie looks superb.
Can't wait to taste it.

Special K

Deborah said...

The meringue recipe I normally use has cornstarch in it, and it has never not worked for me. I actually had really good luck with this recipe as well, though, but I might have just been having a lucky day in the kitchen! Your photos are stunning!

Merav said...

What a beautiful picture. The meringue looks like a cloud in against the blue sky and sunny lemons!

Gigi said...

Lovely tarts! I am so jealous of all the lovely pie and tarts. Everyone did such a great job!

Helene said...

Beautiful job! I love the first picture and how sharp the pie and the glass look. Great job on the challenge again!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! It's been ages since I've had lemon merengue pie...sounds delicious! :)

breadchick said...

Great Daring Baker go to it for the challenge! Love all the little things you learned and will try them myself.

Lunch Buckets said...

I am really diggin' the lead photo with the bowl of lemons in the background. Once yet I prove my inability to be unigue....

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sabra: you got a lovely pie. I like the mini for individual servings myself also. Nice photo with the lemons!
Thanks for considering my pool of butter problem. I'm wondering if the problem was in measuring the flour because 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour given in the recipe didn't measure that way for me. 2 cups on my scale came in at closer to 240grams, I don't understand the ml use for flour at all.

Jen Yu said...

I love how thorough you are with your research :) The little tart is soooo cute! Great job.

Sabra said...

Hi everyone. Thank you all so much for your comments!
Laura rebecca: I noticed that too. Maybe I whipped longer than other people did? Too long? Will have to see next time.
Molly loves Paris: I read that too and should have added that to the list - agree slow and low is better than fast and high heat.
Lunch buckets - I've seen your site and you are very unique!
Thanks again everyone!

creampuff said...

What beautiful pictures! Great job!

Peabody said...

Such beautiful photos as always. Your tarts are fantastic.

Unknown said...

What stylish pictures! Love them.

Anonymous said...

Yummmmmmm! Your pie looks mighty tasty!

Anonymous said...

First time visiting your blog !! so pleasant and easy to read :) Thanks for the recipe

Anonymous said...

Interesting recipe, Personally have had ALOT of success with the LMP in Best Recipe cookbook. Biggest issue
for me is making ahead of time (12 - 24 hr's) and the meringue "weeps" Any one have a tip on how to minimize that???

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