Monday, January 28, 2008

My First Daring Baker Challenge!!

I was very excited to join the Daring Bakers this month. For anyone who doesn't know about the group, it is a group of bloggers (and some non-bloggers) that take on a different baking challenge each month. Everyone uses the same recipe and posts about their results on the same day. Anyway, today is my first post on the results of the January Daring Baker Challenge!
The challenge this month was Lemon Meringue Pie. I was initially somewhat nervous about this challenge because first of all I've never made a pie crust before and my mom has a somewhat legendary LMP recipe. My mom's pie has always been one of my favorites so I wasn't sure if this recipe would be up to par with my all-time favorite pie.

On to the results and recipe for anyone who wants to give it a try:

First the recipe:

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.

My results:

As a whole the pie tasted very good; it was very "lemony" though. I did realize that it is quite different from my mom's LMP recipe. Her pie is much sweeter than this version. I actually ended up liking this recipe nearly as much as the original, but I really don't think of them as the same kind of pie.

Making the crust was definitely an experience for me. I had observed crusts being made before, but I've never made one on my own. I was very pleased with the taste of the dough (yes...I'm a raw dough eater), but the final product was a bit frightening. I'm not sure where I messed up, but my crust went through a weird shrinking phase. I think the edges were too thick, and that I didn't extend the crust far enough above the edge of the pie plate, which caused it to shrink. It still tasted wonderful but it was quite ugly. Luckily the meringue helped to hide the flaws in my crust.

The filling was also a first for me. I had never done a true lemon curd before but it was surprisingly easy. I was a little nervous about burning the mixture but it all worked out fine. Many people complained about a runny curd, but mine set up quite nicely. The taste was really good if you are into a true lemon flavor. I'm used to a sweeter lemon filling, but I can definitely appreciate the lemon flavor of this curd.

I was very excited about making the meringue because I've assisted in making meringues many times as a child. This recipe was a little different, but luckily I already knew the basics of making meringues. The most important seems to be making sure you don't get any of the egg yolk into the egg whites. The egg yolks will prevent the meringue from whipping properly. Anyway, the meringue turned out pretty nice, but I could never make it form really stiff peaks. You can see that in the picture, the points kind of fell down rather than sticking up straight, but I still think it looked pretty. The flavor was different too; I've never added vanilla to a meringue before so that was odd to me. I actually like the flavor better without the vanilla, but I had to follow the recipe to a "T". My only problem was that there seemed to be a liquid seeping from the meringue after baking. It didn't affect the taste but it definitely affected the look of the pie. I wish I could say what caused that, but I really have no idea.

Overall it was a very good tasting pie and, I think, a great first attempt at making homemade pies. I liked the recipe and I would recommend it to others, but you may want to do some research on preventing meringues from weeping.

On to February....I can't wait for the next challenge!


Jessica said...

Congrats on your first challenge - looks great!

Sarah said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers and congrats on your first challenge! Your pie looks great!

Joey Biscotti said...

great pie!!! Congrats on your first challenge!!!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Congratulations, you did a fantastic job!!

Dianne's Dishes said...

Looks great! Congrats on your 1st challenge! :)

Karen said...

Fantastic first challenge! Looks yummy!

Aparna said...

I'm one of the Class of January, too.
Your pie looks pretty nice. Mine wept a little as well but turned out ok.

Mindy said...

Looks sweet(A little weepy- mine wept too!)

Rachel said...

Congrats on the first challenge...looks lovely! Mine wept too..but it was ok..

Shea F. said...

Lori, you did not do your pie justice in your post! It was SOOO YUMMY! I dare say...I liked it better than our dear mother's LMP! I loved the extra lemony flavor! But I am the girl who ate lemons like oranges when I was pregnant with Emmeline! I can't wait to join the ranks of the Daring Bakers...just a few more days of waiting!

Quellia said...

Nice work on your first challenge!

Tartelette said...

Welcome to the Daring Baker fellow South Carolinian! (I am in Charleston). Your pie looks wonderful! So if I get this right, the whole family is joining the DB rank!! Kidding, but I love that it is a sisters affair!!

Dolores said...

I don't know how I missed you, but congratulations on your first challenge, and welcome to the insanity!