January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie - Daring Baker Challenge Jan. 2008 and My First One!

I finally did it!
I “dared” to ask Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and was invited to be a Daring Baker. So, as far as I am concerned, I have fulfilled the “Daring” part of the title. As for the “Baker” part of it, let me say I completed the challenge. So if baking makes me a baker, then I have qualified for the “Baker” bit of the title. So I am now a Daring Baker as of January, 2008!
D-day has arrived, or maybe I should say DB-Day.
The Daring Bakers is a community of over 400 enthusiastic bakers across the world. A challenge is announced every month, where all members bake following same one recipe and then post about it on the same day of the month. Some amongst us are experts, some are novices (like me) and others are somewhere in between. But what we all have in common is the enthusiasm with which we approach our monthly challenge.
Before you go any further, I will warn you that I am going to bore you all with this post, but I just have get all this down!!
I have been admiring the lovely results of the challenges posted by the Daring Bakers on their blogs. I have long wanted to bake like this some day. When I was sent this month’s challenge by Mary of Alpineberry, it would be an understatement to say I was thrilled.
Once the euphoria died down, however, I started to wonder what I had let myself in for. The only pie I had made before was an apple pie. While it wasn’t a disaster, it wasn’t all that great either. Now, I knew what lemon curd was and I had eaten meringues before and knew how they were made (in theory). Beyond this, I didn’t have a clue as to what a Lemon Meringue Pie looked like. Of course, the internet helped out with pictures and recipes, and also told me all the things that could go wrong and there were quite a few suggestions on how to bake the perfect pie.
By now, I was a Terrified Baker-to-be!!! But I was going to bake that pie.
The recipe we were to follow is given below the picture of my pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie
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.

Daring Bakers Extra ChallengeFree-Style Lemon Tartlets
Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:
To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.
To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF.
Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.
Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks. Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

You can make one pie or tartlets (in a tin or free-form)
You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like.
Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.
Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002Tartlet recipe courtesy of Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz, 2003

My Pie Making Experience:
The Crust:
I thought I would make a smaller pie, but decided to stick to the exact measurements on this challenge. I have a 9 inch pie dish so the extra pie dough was used to make two little tart bases (my daughter finished them off before I had a chance to do anything further with them).
Since keeping the butter cold was important I cut the butter into thin slices and then put it back in the fridge. I used salted butter so left out the salt.
I had a lot of difficulty transferring the dough circle onto the pie plate. When I tried getting it onto the rolling pin, the dough came apart in pieces! So I rolled out the dough once more on a plastic sheet, placed the pie dish face down on the centre, turned the whole thing right side up and peeled the plastic sheet off. This way I could centre the rolled out dough.
I was quite proud of my effort at fluting the edges.
The pie crust turned out well, crisp and flaky.

The Filling:
This turned out well. No problems here. I poured the lemon curd onto the pie crust while it was still hot.

The Meringue:
This turned out well too. I couldn’t find Cream of Tartar so I used white vinegar instead. The substitution ratio was 3 tsp vinegar or lemon juice for 1 tsp Cream of Tartar. This was advice generously offered by other Daring Bakers. It worked. I used 1 ½ tsp of vinegar.
I piled the meringue onto the hot filling working from the side of the pie to the middle, covering the side so the lemon filling was completely covered. I used the back of a spoon to get the “spiky” finish to the meringue and baked it for 15 minutes.

The Verdict:
The filling wept a little bit after it cooled down a bit. I just drained this off! The pie also wept very slightly every time I cut a piece out of it. Maybe it felt sad at being taken apart!!! The meringue did shrink away from the crust after a couple of hours after the pie came out of the oven. Otherwise, I was quite pleased with the way my pie turned out.
Thinking back, I feel that perhaps the lemon juice used to make the filling could be cut back to ½ cup. It might reduce the “weeping” as the consistency of my lemon filling changed after the addition of the lemon juice to the cornstarch mixture. And my filling might have set better.
While many of us had weepy pies, many turned out perfect ones. This makes me think that perhaps different varieties of lemons that we used would be having varying levels of acidity and this perhaps determined how well the lemon filling set.
The pie tasted nice, not too sweet, a bit too tart for us (we are not very partial to lemons) but quite ok. It was appreciated by all the others who had it. It kept well in the fridge (I chilled it, didn’t freeze it) quite well for about 4 days, no soggy crust. This is how long my pie lasted!

I have to say a big thanks to all the Daring Bakers who offered me their suggestions and support for my First Challenge and to Jen of The Canadian Baker for this month’s challenge as I would never have attempted a Lemon Meringue Pie otherwise.
Do check out the Lemon Meringue Pies that other Daring Bakers have made. They can be found on the Daring Bakers Blogroll.
Update (29th January):
I just found out that the Daring Baker community now has about 500 members. The thought of over 500 of us, in various parts of the world, all whisking away at lemon curd fillings and meringues for Lemon Meringue Pies throughout January is mind boggling to say the least! And then those LMPs that were made for non- Daring Baker reasons!!


Nags said...

congrats Aparna!! The pie looks awesome!!!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Great pie Aparna...am envious of it! Well done! You got the slice...mine was pudding & I have proof!! HA! HA!!

Dhanggit said...

Congrats and welcome to DB!!! great job you did!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Congratulations! Welcome! Your pie looks gorgeous! Great job!



sunita said...

Aparna, you've done a great job on your first challenge...congrats and welcome to the gang :-)

Pille said...

Your pie (and especially the crust!) look lovely - I love the pretty crust edges!

Pixie said...

Well done on your first challenge!

Asha said...

This is the 3rd Pie I saw today. They are all look look so yum!:)

Susan said...

Beautiful -- that crust is just gorgeous! Welcome to DBs.

culinography said...

An excellent first DB challenge, Aparna! Welcome to the DB'ers!

Your pie looks wonderful!

I think you might be right... the lemons may well have been the culprit.

Jenny said...

Great job on your first challenge! Your pie looks great! This was my second challenge, it's so much fun!

Big Boys Oven said...

this is incredible cool....you did well for the first one!

Joey Biscotti said...

Great job, Aparna!!! It looks DEEE-licious!!!

zorra said...

Looks great and welcome to DB!

Happy cook said...

Delicious Pie.
You are indeed so darring.

Suzana said...

Aparna, that's a great pie! And so perfect when sliced. Great work!!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Fantastic Job!!Congratulations!!

Laavanya said...

That looks awesome Aparna! Looks very professional..looking at the crust i wouldn't have guessed that you had trouble with it at all.

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

Welcome to the Daring bakers!!! Your pie looks great!

Siri said...

28th shud be declared as DB day .. The blogosphere is filled with yummy LMP's like urs Aparna.. Congratulations on becoming a DB.. and u indeed did a great job at ur first attempt!

~ Siri

bee said...

what a great entry into the club!! this is a delicious-looking pie.

Deborah said...

Your pie looks absolutely perfect!

Rosie said...

This is one divine looking pie here!! Congrats on being your first entry into Daring Bakers too!

Rosie x

shriya said...

If u didn't tell us we wouldn't have known that this is your first time making it. It looks so professional. Nice job. Love your blog.

Dhivya said...

This looks great,,thanks for sharing

TBC said...

That looks really good for a first attempt!

Red Chillies said...

Way to go Aparna, you certainly don't seem like a novice baker. Looks yummy and delicious!

Tartelette said...

Beautiful job on your first challenge and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Rachel said...

Congrats on your first challenge...Great work on that fluting..I need tips on that!!

My dough tore as well while I was transferring it! had to re-roll it!

Mindy said...

Good work, Apara. I love your description of a weeping pie!

Srivalli said...

Aparna..that looks simply superb!..great baking efforts!

Aparna said...

I am almost speechless at all the appreciation coming my way.
I can only say that I'm proud to be a Daring Baker and part of such a supportive community.
Waiting for the next challenge.:)

Cakelaw said...

Wow Aparna - given that you had never seen a lemon meringue pie before, let alone baked one, this is superb!!! Congrats on being a first time DB, just like me.

Bellini Valli said...

Welcome to the DB'ers...and what a start with you first challenge!!!You rose and you conquered!!

Jessica said...

I am envious of your pretty crust edges! Even though I make a lot of pies, no matter how hard I try, I can never get a nice pretty edge. Your pie looks great! Thanks for stopping by my blog and your nice comments.

CB said...

Congrats from one DB newbie to another! Your pie looks perfect!

Lori said...

Your pie looks great! I had major problems with fluting the crust so I'm impressed that you did so well on your first pie.

DK said...

Your pie luks awesome! Luking ata that makes me wonder why you had to think so much to join DBers. You are a supre duper baker already :)

Melanie said...

Congratulations to you, too! Your pie looks fantastic!

chou said...

Welcome to the DBs! You'll love it! :) Great pie, I hope there are more to come.

LP said...

Fabulous looking!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Your pie turned out beautifully. I think that the real solution to a weepy filling is to let it chill for at least 8 hours. It is interesting that people in India are not partial to lemons, while people in the Philippines love lemons. I used meyer lemons, which I think are milder. Also, you can make a good meringue with just egg whites and sugar and vanilla.

The Queen Bee said...

welcome to DB! your pie is fabulous...i'll bet it tasted great! job well done- looking forward to your pics next month!

remya said...

Excellent aparna!!!! looks fabulous....

the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

So lovely! I do agree that there is something very stirring (so to speak) about the idea of a virtual community coming together to prepare this pie.

Naomi Devlin said...

Looks like a fantastic pie - I think you're a natural!

Miss Ifi said...

Congratulations on your first challenge and I must say that your pie looks GREAT!!!
Welcome to the Daring Bakers!!

Sig said...

Congrats Aparna... seeing a lot of these LMPs out there, I am getting some serious cravings for a pie now... and I don't even like pie normally... :) You have done a terrific job with your first challenge...

Seena said...

How dare you, Aparna! :)
I am always afraid to experiment on baking..
Looks wonderful...!

bbaking said...

Fab first chllange! Welldone you!

Your lemon bit was fab! mine was like runny custard!

Mandira said...

Aparna, that does look yummylicious :) and that moon bean cutlets are so inviting too!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Great job on your first DB challenge! It looks beautiful!

Sagari said...

wowwwww beautifullll pie

Meeta said...

You did a brilliant job on your first challenge Aparna. Well done.

Quellia said...

Well done! Your pie does not look like it was made by someone who didn't even know what a lmp looked like, it looks great!

Michelle McLovin said...

Your pie looks great! I thought the same thing about cutting the lemon juice back a bit. I am going to re-try it with less juice and see what I get. I'll let you know the outcome. =)


Dolores said...

Congratulations and welcome Aparna. I'm glad you decided to join us. Your LMP is beautiful, and you *are* both daring and a baker.

Kelly said...

Amazing job on your first challenge and your second pie ever! I love the edge of your pie crust, it's so beautiful. Welcome to DB!!

Jenny said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! It looks lovely. I agree that the crust held up really well, several days without getting soggy here.

aamena said...

hey nice looking pie.. and you bet the oldies have quite a few tricks up their sleeve :P haha hope my mom doesnt read this :p

eatme_delicious said...

Your pie looks beautiful! And what a gorgeous crust. I can definitely relate to crust anxiety. Good for you for figuring out how to make it work. I probably would've just tried to stick the pieces in and mush them together.