Monday, January 28, 2008

Daring Bakers January 2008 Challenge

Lemon Meringue Pie!!!
This is a lemon meringue tartlet, but you get the idea.

This month the Daring Bakers have all made the LMP, recipe from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver, recipe below. Robb and I diligently followed every instruction, including the bizarre step of boiling water and then letting is "rest" for 5 minutes. Really, if someone can explain that, please enlighten us. If it's to achieve a certain temperature, you'd think that would be the instruction. Maybe it's for using water straight from the river and we need to make sure all the critters are killed? We enjoyed wondering about this.

There were lots of posts on the DB private site (see recent explanation of what the DB group is all about) about difficulty with the crust, trouble with filling, and frustration with meringue as the month went along. Many DBers reported smooth sailing, too. Robb and I wanted to make extra sure that we followed every step, figuring that deviations could cause chaos for our LMP.

Since making the crust in the food processor makes it really easy to add way too much water, we were careful to measure precisely, and we had very cold (frozen) butter, and most importantly we checked the crumbly mixture as we went along. We found that it would hold together before all the water was added. This was also before it pulled from the side of the bowl as suggested in the instruction. For the folks who ended up with shrunken or tough or wet crusts, I wonder if it was due to being overworked or over watered using the food processor method.

The filling, aside from the step about letting the boiled water rest, was the usual cornstarch variety. Robb was the designated stirrer and wondered if the reports of runny filling might have stemmed from getting the filling hot, but not letting it boil. Cornstarch won't do it's job of thickening without coming to a boil. He stirred and stirred and produced a smooth and thick filling with a lovely pale yellow color and sweet lemony flavor. We also made our friend Kathy's recipe of yummy lemon filling so we could compare the two- remember we are binge bakers/cooks after all. Her recipe is the condensed milk version and is a very velvety and creamy filling.

The meringue is the standard meringue pie recipe of egg whites whipped with sugar and then baked so that inevitably the meringue weeps. We did make this version, but we also made our favorite Italian brown sugar meringue. Mix 1 1/2 c C&H brown sugar and 1/2 c water- cook to 246 degrees F. Beat 6 egg whites and 3/4 t cream of tartar until they have just started to increase in volume and drizzle in the sugar syrup. Beat until cool. This is Brigid Callinan's recipe as it was published in Fine Cooking magazine issue #38, and is also available at Fine Cooking on-line for free. The brand of brown sugar does matter- see the very interesting sidebar that accompanies the recipe for a discussion. Back in September, you may remember we wrote about our friend who brought us some of the treasured C&H brand brown sugar all the way back from Oregon so we could experiment with lemon meringue pies. Thanks again Jessica! We enjoyed it just as much this time. It's wonderful stuff. It tastes great, and you don't have to bake it which gets it dried out and weepy! You just have to make sure to get the sugar syrup up to the right temperature. I got impatient one time and didn't get it hot enough and it didn't turn out as voluminous and didn't hold up as well. Lesson learned.

With our two fillings and two meringues, some raspberry sauce, green food coloring, and various shapes of pastry, we had a great time. In addition to the challenge tartlet, we made a couple of slices- just triangles of pastry with a little fold at one end for the crust. We liked those a lot, we felt very clever. With the challenge completed, we went to town and had a lot of fun. It was a lot like decorating easter eggs, each item was slightly different. Click on any of the pics. for a larger view.

the ensemble

challenge tart & "slice"

brown sugar meringue lattice "slice", napoleon with raspberry sauce

lemon raspberry sunrise with brown sugar meringue
brown sugar meringue island in a sea of lemon
lemon island in a sea of foamy white meringue

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002

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

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.


Dolores said...

I'm glad I wasn't the only one curious about the whole "let boiling water rest" thing. And thanks for the tips on the Italian brown sugar meringue, a technique I've still yet to try.

SweetDesigns said...

holy smokes!! Those are soo awesome, so many variations, they all look amazing!! killer job on it all.

I(dot)J said...

OMgoodness. You totally rocked this recipe. Love the variations.

June said...

I love all the little variations. Great job with the challenge.

breadchick said...

Wow, wow, wow, and wow!!! Fantastic job on the challenge and great comparison of the varieties!

Cherry said...

Wow, that's a lot of pies you have there! Really glad you experimented with different condiments and decorations! Great job!

Princess of the kitchen said...

I love the pattern of meringue on your tarts. Well done!

Big Boys Oven said...

Oh gosh... so many of variation, I love them all, you are a genius!

Deborah said...

I think you get the prize for having the most fun with this challenge!! I love them all!

Candace said...

Gosh! Didn't we just have lemon-a-thon? Too cute! Nice job on all of it!

Anonymous said...

Oh wow! Look at all you made! I wouldn't know which to choose :)

Megan said...

You are an inspiration! Makes me want to do it all over again, Your way!

kellypea said...

You've got my attention about the Italian meringue. Sounds really interesting. I did try a different meringue, also having to be cooked to a 248 degree F temp. I loved it and have decided that it will be MY meringue. But only after I try yours. And what an amazing collection of shapes and presentations! I love the wine glass. I never thought about doing that! Nice job!

Lunch Buckets said...

I love your lmp buffet! Very nice :)

creampuff said...

Wow! Those little pies are just gorgeous. Congratulations on a great job!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You sure are ambitious! I like the criss-cross meringue on the "pizza" looking slice! How fun! Thanks for sharing!

Jen Yu said...

Wow! You are so creative with all of the different styles of LMP!! :) Awesome job!

Claire said...

Glad the challenge could inspire you so! Looks like you all had fun. I really enjoyed the lattice meringue!

Chez Denise et Laudalino said...

I love your variations - very creative!

Mer said...

Wow! That is quite a spread you've got there. Way to go!