This is a tale of what NOT to do when tackling any baking project, let alone a Daring Bakers challenge.
First, make sure that you aren’t sick. If you are sick, make sure that none of the children are sick, or at least make sure that husband is not sick so that he can attend to the sick children. And if you have been so sick that you have subsisted on crackers and ginger ale for two days, don’t let the love of your life make his favorite spaghetti and meatballs for dinner on the day you plan to bake (even if you have no plans to eat any of it) because the smell alone will send you right back to bed. Or the bathroom. Or both.
Second, don’t wait until the last minute. I had all sorts of good reasons for putting off this challenge until Saturday, and every single one of them was legitimate. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) I couldn’t do it the first weekend because the holidays were just over and my sweet tooth needed a break. Even though I have a serious contender for the world’s largest sweet tooth, I needed a break from sweets. The next weekend was my birthday celebration with a red velvet cake, and the following weekend I was immersed in baking king cakes for my latest FoodieView post. So I had to go down to the wire on this one. But that leaves no room for error or acts of God.
Third, if the crust doesn’t work the first time, don’t say “Oh, it will be fine,” and go ahead with the rest of the project. For any pie, the crust is key. If it shrinks up, you won’t have enough room for all the custard. I can only plea that I was still in recovery mode, so I was sort of on autopilot.
Fourth, pay attention to the filling as it’s cooking. Don’t let little boys running underfoot distract you. I cooked mine too long and it never set up properly.
Learn from my mistakes.
So yes, I started the pie on Saturday afternoon. I was feeling better after two days of misery and I thought I could make the pie on Saturday then write my post on Sunday. I was doing great, had the dough mixed up and in the frig, and I had even managed to make some yummy baguettes to go along with dinner. I was feeling fine. Then the meatballs started cooking. I had to go to bed and shut the door to block the smell, and I was not able to stagger back downstairs until late the next morning.
So on Sunday, after we got the kids to bed, I pulled the dough and the rest of the ingredients out of the frig and started working. I was impatient, though, and I was trying to make the dough cooperate rather than letting it sit a few extra minutes to soften up. The dough ended up rather sticky and did not transfer easily into the pan. It didn’t crack or break, but it was sticking all over my hands. The chilling time helped, but not enough. When I pulled up the foil and beans during baking, I found a huge puddle of butter in the bottom. I closed my eyes and put it back into the oven hoping that it would all turn out fine. The crust did not exactly cooperate and I had to cook the crust an extra 8 minutes to get it set up. By then it was 10:30 and I was exhausted. The crust needed cooling time, and I didn’t have the energy to bake at midnight. So I went to bed, hoping the boys would give me some time in the morning to finish.
Around 6 am I snuck downstairs, pulled the eggs out of the frig, separated and covered them, and let them sit so they could come to room temperature. Then I snuck back upstairs and went back to bed until my boys woke up. A few extra minutes of sleep is always good! The boys were up soon after and after fixing their breakfast and desperately trying to get them engaged in another activity, I tackled the filling and the meringue.
The filling seemed a bit loose (hmm) as I poured it into the crust, though I think the meringue was good with nice tall peaks that browned just right in the oven. I left the pie in the maximum time because the filling still seemed loose (uh oh) when I touched the pan during the first check. It was still loose (oh no) when I pulled it out of the oven, but by then the meringue was browned and couldn’t take anymore time in the oven. I hoped that the chilling in the frig would help the loose filling, but it was not salvageable (grrr). The filling tasted pretty good, I just botched up the cooking because I was distracted with the boys and let it cook too long.
Even though my attempt was not entirely successful, I still think the pie was pretty good. I had planned to make free form tarts, as that was an optional part of the challenge, but I wasn’t up to it this time around. I would add more lemon zest to the filling because I prefer a really tart lemon curd. Lemon meringue pie is a dessert that I enjoy when the weather is hot and steamy and I crave something cold and citrus flavored. Jen, The Canadian Baker, chose this delicious challenge for us, so I’m sending a big thank you to Jen for giving us a little taste of summer in January!
Make sure you visit the other Daring Baker blogs! There are some lovely pies and tarts on display!
LEMON MERINGUE PIE
10-inch pie pan
3 quart heavy sauce pan
stand mixer with wire whisk attachment (or hand mixer and large bowl)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup ice water
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1. CRUST: Make sure all of the ingredients are as cold as possible. In the bowl of the food processor, mix the flour, sugar and salt. Add all of the pieces of butter and pulse about 10 to 15 times, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Drizzle in the ice water and continue processing until the mixture begins to stick together.
2. Pour the mixture out into a bowl or a floured surface and press together into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
3. Bring the dough to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured surface, roll to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut a circle in the dough so that it is 2 inches larger than the pie pan, then transfer the dough to the pan. Turn the edges under, leaving an edge that hangs over about 1/2 inch. Flute the edges and chill for 30 minutes.
4. Set the oven rack in the middle and preheat to 350° F. Line the crust with foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and continue baking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before filling.
5. FILLING: In the heavy sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 minutes. Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Gradually the mixture to the hot water, whisking until the dry ingredients have dissolved.
6. Return the pan to the cooktop and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to boil. The mixture will be very thick.
7. In the medium bowl, beat the egg yolks. Add 1 cup of the hot mixture to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Add the yolks to the hot pot, whisking vigorously, and continue cooking. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted and incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest, and vanilla, and stir 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.
8. MERINGUE: Preheat the oven to 375° F. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the egg white, cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla with the wire whisk until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar while beating, until you have stiff, glossy peaks. Place large dollops of the meringue around the top of the filled pie, bringing the meringue to the edges to seal in the filling. Tap the top of the meringue lightly all around with a spoon, creating curls and peaks.
9. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown. Cool on a rack, then store in the refrigerator. Best eaten the same day.