Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Love

This is one truly good pie. It may not look like much, but it was so good.

I followed the recipe exactly, and produced an absolutely delicious Single Free-Form Tart.

The "fruit slices" on top are thinly sliced pate de fruit (grapefruit) from Hediard's, which I bought from my recent trip to Paris. They went perfectly with the lemon meringue.

However, it was not all plain sailing. (So far, none of my attempts have been - and I'm wondering if that is not actually part of the joy of it.)

First, there was the self-doubt. "I don't know that I'm up to it this month." "I don't have x or y equipment - it's going to be too hard." "Sure, I like cake - but who's going to eat ALL that cake?" "I'm not too fond of this kind of cake though."

Then, somehow, you find the grit to make it anyway. Even though you've just returned 3 days ago from a month-long backpacking "holiday", are feeling a little under the weather, and had just found your lost luggage the day before. Somehow, you find the equipment . Your food processor's broken, so you make short pastry using the rubbing in method you learnt in home economics class. You don't have a juicer, so you use the underside of a mini strainer to squeeze out 9 tiny warmed up lemons. You use a full bottle of fish sauce as the rolling pin.

And you discover that there's plenty of people to share your cake with, if you stopped to think for a couple of minutes.

You also realise how competent you actually are, in spite of your self-doubt, creating a cake you'd never even think to make. You fall in love with lemon meringue pie.

Most of all, you discover how much you really, really do like your own homemade cake. Unreservedly!

By the time I finished the pastry dough, I was starting to glow with pride. But (as is usual), that quickly disappears as the realisation dawns on me that I don't have any beans to weigh the dough down with, not enough lemons, 50g short of the total amount of required butter, and probably cornstarch.

But a quick dash out to the supermarket at 9.30 pm took care of that.

Once the dough is chilling, the rest was about strategically timing everything so that I can get to bed before 12.30am. Bake dough, juice and zest lemons, bake dough again, break eggs, and so on.

When I made the meringue, I had my victory. How satisfying it is to watch the white satiny swirls in the bowl. I was at peace. A perfect play putty. I learnt that every stroke you make when piling the meringue onto the pie counts. It's like an egg white sculpture which you send into the kiln.

I was going to give the whole pie to Joanna -who's moving into her new place in Newtown - as a housewarming gift. But even when the pie sort of crumbled on me, due to my miscalculating the fit between pie and cake box, I was unfazed.

She loved it, and she's not one to mince words. I happily enjoyed the remains.

Next time - and there'll be many more times - I'll be making a sunburnt snowman out of this.

And here's the recipe for posterity - big thanks Jen!:

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

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.


Joanna said...

It truly was the most gorgeous pie ever! Such a good breakfast to have yesterday, thanks Yenping!

SweetDesigns said...

Man that is Awesome!! I didn't think of doing 1 big free form tart. Great idea!!

Sweet and Savory Eats said...

Clever idea adding the grapefruit.

michelle said...


Deborah said...

I'm so glad it turned out well for you!

Dolores said...

A bottle of fish sauce makes a great rolling pin. And you make a most excellent Daring Baker. Thanks for sharing what surely goes through all of our heads as we ponder each month's challenge.

Sheltie Girl said...

You tart is simply lovely. I love how you got creative with your kitchen tools. A true Daring Baker!

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Lunch Buckets said...

Victory is sweet - and tart :)

Claire said...

Glad you got to share your pie! It looks great.

creampuff said...

Nice job on the pie!