DB#15 or Some Things are not for Granted
I was born in a land where lemon trees grow on their own. Everybody there has a relative, a friend or a neighbor with a lemon tree in the backyard. My parents have a beautiful exemplar that every year gives us tons of sweet bright yellow lemons. They still live in sunny Alentejo (in south Portugal), I live in Lisbon (centre) and my brother moved to the north of the country a while back. Last month, we were chatting on the phone and he said in a shocked tone: you'll never believe what I bought today... Oh well, try me, I said. A lemon - he almost shouted. I bought a lemon! At the time, I laughed out loud but now thinking about it, I don't remember buying lemons myself - I always get them from my parents and keep them through out the year.
Two months ago, I read about the Daring Bakers and couldn't resist to such a funny concept - one single recipe, many bakers, so different results. Yes, I joined the group. Why? Because I want to learn. And I want to be challenged - I want to be taken from my comfort zone! And I would be lying if I didn't say I've joined for the fun - hell yes, girls (and a few talented gentlemen) just want to have fun!
Overly excited about the stunning (and difficult) Yule Log baked for Christmas by the DBs, I was looking forward to my first challenge. I couldn't stop thinking of what recipe our hostess Jen, from The Canadian Baker, would choose. When I read Lemon Meringue Pie, I immediately thought: Piece of cake! Having tons of lemons to use when they're in season, I've made more Lemon Curd jars in my lifetime then I remember and baked LMP at least a few dozen times. In fact, I had just baked a LMP for new year eve when I read about Daring Bakers January challenge. The recipe was quite different from the ones I tried over the years - Alice Waters' recipe being my all time favourite - and when fellow DB reported runny fillings and a few difficulties about the crust and the meringue, I was a little worried but still pretty confident. I did my homework, took notes about hints given by experienced DBs, checked a few measurement conversions to my metric minded self and got to work.
Lemon Meringue Pie
from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008
Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie or 6 tartlets
For the Crust:
175 grs - 3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
250 grs - 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
50 grs - 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
200 grs - 1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
60 grs - 1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
60 grs - 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
150 grs - 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.
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.
And now you ask: was it runny?
Unfortunately yes, as you can see, but I may have an explanation.
My thoughts on the challenge:
- The crust is great! It's crunchy, tasty and very easy to work. I used a food processor to mix ingredients, careful not to over work it - when rolling out the dough it was just perfect. I'll use it in the future for other pies as well, as it's much simpler to make then my usual recipe.
- The reason why the filling was a bit runny is probably because I undercooked it. After reading a lot about cornstarch thickening point and how overcook it would reverse that ability, I think I was too careful not allowing the cornstarch mixture to boil - it probably needed a little more heat... Lesson here: do not try too hard and trust your culinary instincts!!
- The meringue was a nice surprise. I used medium eggs (the recipe doesn't provide any orientation about size) and the same quantity of vinegar instead of cream of tartar (which I couldn't find). It was a nice meringue, with the right sweetness for my taste.
- My overall feeling is that this recipe gives a tangy filling, the meringue is very nice (not too sweet) and the short-crust makes a perfect bottom for the pie.
Will I try this recipe again? Yes, because I'm stubborn! I need to understand what I've done wrong. (Will post the update asap) Would I recommend it? It's a fine recipe once the little details come together. I wouldn't recommend it above Alice Waters, The Art of Simple Food lemon curd recipe but as said the crust and the meringue worked fine for me.
I'm a Daring Baker. A Daring Baker!! Hoo-ray!