January 2008 Daring Baker Challenge

Jen from Canada posted our challenge for January of a beautiful lemon meringue pie. This dessert brings one word to mind: nostalgia, and I would love to thank her for the warm memories that go with making this pie. My father loved lemon meringue pie and my Mom loved chocolate meringue pie. As a child, whenever I wanted to bake something special for my parents, I would make both of these pies, one for each so that neither parent was left out. Of course, Mom and Dad shared with all 4 of us children but the pies were created because I knew how much our parents would enjoy it. Then I grew up and moved from home. Every year after, I would make at least one lemon meringue pie for Dad. This was a four hour drive to get to my parents, then make and bake the pie at their house. Dad always acted so surprised and appreciative! I would like to include in this that my Mom is no slouch as a baker. She can outbake me any day, any time. She just doesn't enjoy baking pies. Anyways, Mom and Dad moved to Yuma, AZ about 3 1/2 years ago and since I live in WA state, there is no more driving to my parents to bake anymore pies. This is terrible. I am crying and typing. They are happy tears and homesick tears, so it is okay. =) When I was making the lemon filling, the phone rang. It was my Mom and Dad was in the background. Laughter and memories were shared over the phone while I scooped lemon filling into the pie crust. Dad wanted me to send him a slice in the mail. . .hhhmmm, this could be a problem.
I have to laugh because I forgot just how fast cornstarch, sugar and water can go from soupy to a thick paste. It happens in a flash, doesn't it? I was just mildly stirring and not paying a lot of attention and then BOOM! I can't hardly stir and I have to get a cup of this thick mixture to the egg yolks. I don't know if anyone else got the pleasure of trying to drop small globs of thickened sweet cornstartch into eggs and pray they don't curdle but that is what happened to me! Everything turned out fine and the filling was smooth, silky and a bright lemony yellow but I did have quite the start.
The pillowy meringue topping is so much fun to try and swirl, lift and make pretty swooping designs on the top. I have to hand it to Jen for all the great ideas at the end for creativity as well. As many times as I have made this in the past, I have never thought to add or emblemish! Silly me! The idea for free form flat tart crusts is amazing to me and I am going to have to try this along with reading over some of the other daring baker's ideas! That is why this group is so addictive! Everyone coming at the same idea from different angles! Phenomenal! =D

Here is Jen's recipe as posted on the Daring Baker's site for all to see and Jen, Thank you =D.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie
For the Crust:
3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 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
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make 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 1/8 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 1/2 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.

To Make 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.
To Make 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.
Free-Style Lemon Tartlets(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)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.


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