I saw so excited to see that this month’s Daring Baker challenge was lemon meringue pie! Not only do I love lemon, but the one lemon meringue pie I’ve made was several years ago and was only partially successful. It seemed to me like this had to potential to be a fairly difficult challenge – pie crust, lemon curd, meringue. But when Jen of The Canadian Baker revealed this recipe to us, she expressed some concern that it might not be challenging enough for everyone.
She needn’t have worried. As one person after another wrote in to the DB private blog that they had followed the recipe exactly and had lemon meringue soup to show for their efforts, I started to get worried. And it seemed that for every disaster, there was another DBer chiming in that they had followed the recipe exactly and had perfect results. It goes without saying that I was hoping to be in the latter group.
I was not. I, however, cannot claim that I followed the recipe exactly. Because I screwed up.
It was all going swimmingly until I baked the pie at the end. The crust was a bit thicker than I’m used to, and the filling overflowed the crust a bit after I added the meringue, but these are minor qualms. (Ah – I see now that the recipe is developed for a 10-inch pan, and I only have 9-inch pans. That explains it.) The problem arose when I opened the oven to bake the pie and realized that I needed to adjust the racks and add a sheet pan below to catch drips. As I fumbled around with these corrections, I cranked the oven thermometer up to make sure the heater stayed on.
About five minutes after I put the pie in, a smell reminiscent of marshmallows roasting on a campfire reminded me that I hadn’t turned the oven back down. At this point the meringue was a beautiful mix of almost black, tan, and white. Afraid of it turning entirely black, I took the pie out far earlier than the recipe instructed.
And like many DBers, my filling did not set. Is it because I baked the pie at 450 degrees for 5 minutes instead of 375 degrees for 20 minutes? I don’t know. The next day, however, the filling was nice and solid, although the meringue was insufficiently cooked.
I do know that this unsatisfactory pie did not satisfy the desire for lemon meringue pie that I had by now developed. I also knew that I wasn’t taking any chances with the same recipe. Instead, I tried a Cooks Illustrated recipe. Unsurprisingly, it went off without a hitch. Gotta love Cooks Illustrated.
Check to see how the rest of the Daring Bakers pie experiences went!
Lemon Meringue Pie (from Wanda Beaver’s 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
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.
The Ultimate Lemon Meringue Pie (from Cooks Illustrated)
Makes one 9-inch pie
Graham Cracker-Coated Pie Shell
1¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening , chilled
3-4 tablespoons cold water
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1½ cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon zest from 1 lemon
½ cup lemon juice from 2 to 3 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. For the pie shell: Mix flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with steel blade. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five 1 second pulses. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal with butter bits no larger than a small pea, about four more 1-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cold water over mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into mixture; press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough sticks together. If dough will not come together, add up to 1 tablespoon more cold water. Shape dough into ball, then flatten into 4-inch-wide disk. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.
3. Generously sprinkle work area with 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs. Place dough on work area. Scatter a few more crumbs over dough. Roll dough from center to edges, turning it into a 9-inch disk, rotating a quarter turn after each stroke and sprinkling additional crumbs underneath and on top as necessary to coat heavily. Flip dough over and continue to roll, but not rotate, to form a 13-inch disk slightly less than 1/8-inch thick.
4. Fold dough into quaarters; place dough point in center of 9-inch Pyrex pie pan. Unfold to cover pan completely, letting excess dough drape over pan lip. To fit dough to pan, lift edge of dough with one hand and press dougn in pan bottom with other hand; repeat process around circumferences of pan to ensure dough fits properly and is not stretched. Trim all around, ½-inch past lip of pan. Tuck ½ inch of overhanging dough under so folded edge is flush with lip of pan; press to seal. Press thumb and index finger about ½-inch apart against outside edge of dough, then use index finger or knuckle of other hand to poke a dent on inside edge of dough through opening created by the other fingers. Repeat to flute around perimeter of pie shell.
5. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Use fork to prick shell at ½-inch intervals; press a doubled 12-inch square of aluminum foil into pie shell; prick again and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
6. Adjust oven rack to lowest position, heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake, checking occasionally for ballooning, until crust is firmly set, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, remove foil, and continue to bake until crust is crisp and rich brown in color, about 10 minutes longer.
7. For the filling: Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at beginning of the process and more frequently as mixture begins to thicken. When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, whisk in egg yolks, two at a time. Whisk in zest, then lemon juice, and finally butter. Bring mixture to a brisk simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from heat, place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep hot and prevent skin from forming.
8. For the meringue: Mix cornstarch with 1/3 cup water in small saucepan; bring to simmer, whisking occasionally at beginning and more frequently as mixture thickens. When mixture starts to simmer and turn translucent, remove from heat. Let cool while beating egg whites.
9. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Mix cream of tartar and sugar together. Beat egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Beat in sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; until sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks. Add cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat meringue to stiff peaks. Remove plastic from filling and return to very low heat during last minute or so of beating meringue (to ensure filling is hot).
10. Pour filling into pie shell. Using a rubber spatula, immediately distribute meringue evenly around edge then center of pie to keep it from sinking into filling. Make sure meringue attaches to pie crust to prevent shrinking. Use spoon to create peaks all over meringue. Bake pie until meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature. Serve.