Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sweet successes and tart failures

After last month’s challenge, which I sat out due to total disorganization (I did the challenge but never got around to posting about it), I was excited to get back into the swing of things. I was thrilled by the prospect of this month’s challenge because a) I love lemon-flavored anything, b) I’ve had some meringue disasters in the past and was happy to build some skills in that area, and c) my sister and her boyfriend were visiting so I had some helpers who really like lemon meringue pie. Since it was just the three of us, I decided to make the tartlets and to do half the recipe (except I didn’t do half eggs because I figured half an extra yolk in the curd and half an extra white in the meringue wouldn’t even be noticed). I started with the crust, which was VERY easy to make in the food processor. Here it is after being baking (yes… sadly, my tarts got a tad too golden):
The curd was also very easy to make. I had worked with tempering egg yolks before, so I avoided any scrambled egg fiascos and ended up with delicious curd. The only issue I had in this step was an error in timing. I made the curd while the dough was chilling the first time, not noticing how much longer I had before the crusts would be read. My curd ended up sitting around for a while and was totally cool and VERY thick by the time I assembled the tartlets.

For the meringue, I made sure my whites were at room temperature and the mixer did the rest. My meringue turned out very stable and thick, perfect for piping.

After reading some suggestions from other DBers, I decided to not to re-bake my tartlets. Instead, I used my kitchen torch to toast the meringue to avoid making the lemon curd too liquid.
The final result was beautiful: toasty but firm, with beautiful ridges and nooks.
Audience/My response (Success, then failure):
We all thought the meringue and lemon curd were DELICIOUS but found the crust to be way too hard… so hard that it was difficult to eat. I’m not sure if this was because I over-baked it or because the curd was fully cooled when I spooned it on or because I torched rather than baked the tartlets the second time. I also had a sinking suspicion that my math was off and I had used the full quantity of sugar rather than just half. Overall, the flavor was good and they were easy to make, so I decided to try them again. This time, I think I got too cocky because the tarts were a total failure! The crusts were again very hard (despite baking them for a shorter time and making sure I really did half of the ingredients), and the meringue was too soft (I didn’t wait for the whites to be at room temperature). I also realized that I didn’t have nearly enough lemons to make the curd so I decided to use a jar of lemon curd I had in my pantry. However, when I opened it, it became perfectly clear that it was way past its time (it smelled like goat cheese, which I like but seemed wrong for the curd). In the end, I had to scrap the whole thing. I tried to salvage the meringue by baking it into suspiros (Ecuadorian baked meringues like the mushrooms from last month’s challenge- the name means sighs) but they turned out super-chewy and had to be tossed too. Sad!

What I learned/practiced:

1) Just because a recipe turns out once doesn’t mean it will be perfect every time, especially when you get careless!

2) The temperature of the egg whites is basic to making meringue. Waiting for the whites to get to room temperature may be a pain but it’s the only way for the meringue to get to the right consistency.

3) The sequence and timing of a multi-component recipe is very important. This is something I really struggle with in all of my cooking. I tend to just make things without looking at how long each component will take and end up with some things overcooked or cold before everything is ready. Clearly, the curd should be made while the crust is baking, not an hour before.

4) Dividing an egg yolk or white in half is a pain and pointless, as putting in the extra half made absolutely no difference in either the curd or meringue. This may not be true for cakes and baked stuff, but for custards and such, I won’t bother with half eggs in the future.

The final verdict:
Overall, I think lemon meringue pie is yummy, easy enough, and very impressive (especially if you torch it table-side!) so I will definitely be making it again. I really loved this lemon curd recipe. It’s definitely a keeper. The meringue is pretty standard, although I did learn my lesson about how to make it properly. The crust, however, was a disappointment and I’ll have to find another recipe for it that is much more tender.

Before I end, I just want to thank my sister for her wonderful photographic assistance. I also want to (shamelessly) sneak in a couple of pictures from my Yule Log, since it was a TON of work and I never got to post about it. Also, I thought it came out beautiful. It was hazelnut-flavored with marzipan holly decorations.

Monday, January 28, 2008

3-day Lemon Meringue Pie

I have to admit that I don’t think I’d ever eaten, let alone baked, a lemon meringue pie before this month’s challenge! I’m one of those people who don’t see a point to desserts without chocolate. But that’s really why I wanted to join the Daring Bakers – to have a reason to bake (and eat) things that I would never choose to bake on my own. Thanks for the great recipe choice this month, Jen!

BobbieSue-Lemon Pie Cut

I’ll start at the end. My pie turned out fantastic, and my husband and I both loved it – we are presently busy digesting the ¼ pie we took out as soon as it was done baking. He really liked that it had more tartness than other lemon meringue pies he’s had. It made the contrast with the sweeter meringue stand out more. I liked the tart, lemony flavor myself, having nothing to compare it to. And I am a huge meringue fan ever since making those Yule Log mushrooms.

BobbieSue-Lemon Meringue Pie

I actually baked the pie over three days because I didn’t really have time to do the whole process in one day. I was worried that the pie would suffer because of this, but it didn’t seem to, and if it would be better baked in one day, that would be impressive. I made the pie crust on Saturday, the lemon filling Sunday, and finally the meringue topping today. I especially liked making the lemon filling. I’ve never made anything like that and it was pretty cool to see it come together. I wanted to get a little fancier with my meringue, but I am late already, so I just plopped it on. It kind of looks like a smiley face though, doesn’t it?


Lemon Meringue Love

When I saw this month’s challenge, I knew my husband would be happy. He loves lemon meringue pie, but I do not. I have never made it for him, never made it at all in fact. So, a first for me, a great dessert for him. And he loved it. I believe the exact words were “the best lemon meringue pie ever!”


I was a bit nervous after reading some other DBer’s comments about making the pie, but it came together pretty easily. The crust was easy to work with, although I don’t think I rolled it as thin as the recipe called for. The scraps were pretty yummy baked up into a mini apple tart, too!

BrookeW (1)

Squeezing the lemons for enough juice was the hardest part of making the filling. I wasn’t sure about tempering the egg yolks with the thick cornstarch/sugar/water mixture, but not a scrambled egg in sight! And the filling was pretty tasty, a great sweet/sour balance, I thought.

BrookeW (2)

This was my first meringue, and my egg whites behaved themselves nicely; it was like a thick marshmallow cream as I spread it over the filled crust. I decided to go with a porcupine look for the meringue. It only needed about 10 minutes in the oven before it was golden brown, glad I was watching it closely.

BrookeW (3)

The results were outstanding according to a lemon meringue pie lover, and I even thought it was pretty good. My husband loved the filling, he thought it tasted like the perfect lemonade. The crust was different than what he’d expected, closer to a shortbread than a regular pie crust, but still really good. So, second challenge completed successfully! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next month (and neither can my husband)!


MMM Lemon Meringue Pie..

Wohoo!! It's my first Daring Bakers Challenge!!

I love lemon meringue pie. Absolutely love it, and so does my hubbs. So he was rather happy about this. I read the recipe, read it again,made sure I had everything and understood everything. Going great so far, yup. I started with the crust it was going great! It looked yummy and smelled great too! That is, until I put it in the oven. It sank! One big giant piece of thats's no good. Well, we can make this work. It'll just be a big tart like thing. The lemon curd wasOH SO GOOD. It was so good me, hubbs, and Roxy (our wanna be human collie/german shepherd puppy) had all gotten our paws into it. It set up beautifully and wasn't runny at all. Next time I might do a tiny bit less lemon, maybe mine were just super potent lemons. And the meringue, it was a dream!

So, I started on my pie/tart thing. I sort of just globed the lemon curd in the middle in a mound leaving about an inch on the sides for the meringue. Then i put the meringue on top, well the meringue that i didn't sneak (note:don't eat raw egg white. I know I shouldn't I just couldn't help myself).  I spread the meringue all the way to the sides so the curd couldn't escape and It looked awsome! I was so excited. So into the oven it goes. YAY pie!! So after it can out I couldn't wait to get my hands/fingers/spoon/anythingthatwillgetmeabite into it. And OH goodness it was YUMMY. Hubs loved it too, as well as our neighbors cause we couldn't eat a whole pie ourselves. We, we could it just wouldn't be healthy. The only problem I had, besides the flat crust, was that the next day the crust was rather soggy, but i sort of expected that.
I do have pictures, but I'm not exactly computer savvy. I can't figure out how to put them up so bear with me til I figure it out please =)

I'm glad my first challenge wasn't so hard. I woud definitely make this again, except I will use my own pastry. Thanks so all the Daring Baker family! Thanks to Jen for this months challenge! Thanks to Lis and Ivonne for starting this ever-growing group! And especially to Lis for answering, patiently, all my crazy e-mails. (Even though she forgot about me in the beginning)

Sunshine on a Wintery Day!

After a December of making and eating rich desserts and lavish dinners, it was refreshing to be baking a lemon pie for this month's challenge. As far as my favourite flavours go, I'm hands down a chocolate girl! I love, love, love anything chocolate. I didn't think there was anyone in the world who didn't share my passion until I met my husband. He dislikes chocolate... a lot. To the extent of not liking chocolate chip cookies and who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies!?!. I know, weird!
This is a roundabout way of getting to my point which is that his dislike of chocolate forced me to go outside of my comfort zone into the world of baking with other flavours such as citrus, caramel, vanilla, and ginger. I've loved experimenting more with flavour and along the way have discovered that lemon is pretty amazing in desserts (not as good as chocolate, mind you, but great when you want something that tastes a little lighter or more refreshing.) Lemon tastes like spring to me and lemon meringue pie is a hint of spring to come during these long, grey days of winter following Christmas.

I decided to make mini lemon tarts since they looked so cute and I didn't have a particular occasion that called for a whole pie. I used the food processor method since I normally make the dough with my pastry cutter and I wanted to try something new. I know that Dorie Greenspan uses this method for her tart dough and I had marked that as one of the recipes on my list to try. It all came together quite nicely and very fast too.
I formed the shells in medium sized muffin tins. I cut circles so that the dough, when shaped in the muffin cup, came up about halfway on the sides. They baked in about 35 minutes and after cooling to room temperature they came out very easily. The texture was a little sturdier than I like but taste testers compared it favourable to shortbread. I've tried many lemon curd recipes in the past and this one was as good as others I've tried. I was going to have fun with the meringue and experiment with many styles of topping the tarts, but time got away from me and I had to top them quickly before heading to work.

All in all, another successful and satisfying challenge. Thanks to Jenn for a great recipe, to fellow DBers for their tips, tricks and insights on our private blog and to my wonderfully talented friend Christine ( for taking such droolworthy pictures. She is a fabulous photographer and an even better friend!

I'm still new to the world of blogging and do more "lurking" around other DBers blogs, enjoying their yummy pics and heartwarming stories, than I do commenting and giving back some of the support that I've been getting by being part of this wonderful group. I'm making a conscious effort to put more of myself out there so I look forward to seeing everyone's beautiful creations this month and Ietting you know how great they are! See you next month - I'm crossing my fingers for a gooey, triple-chocolately Valentine's dessert!


A Fun Challenge - LMP


Well, I've finally finished, tasted and photographed my pie. I have to say I've had better, but it wasn't terrible either. I did find it to be a little runny, but not excessively. I typically like my meringue's to have a lot more meringue, and I like to pull out my torch to toast it rather than the oven. To be quite honest I've never toasted a meringue in the oven before, and I really didn't like it. The entire top layer of the meringue felt like a film when cutting it. It did taste good though. Nice and tangy. The crust was good too. I needed a touch more water to get rid of a few crumbles, but it still turned out.


When I tried to remove a slice it completely fell apart, and was a big mess. My husband didn't seem to mind though. It was a fun challenge, I cant wait for more!!!

-Tina E.

How Many Lemons Does it Take to Make a Lemon Meringue Pie?

For me, that answer is 6. I do love lemons but the paper cuts on my hands definitely do not.

This is my first official entry as a Daring Baker and things went well, although slowly – but that’s my fault. My old school food processor did a great job of making the dough. I did have to add more water to get it to the right consistency.

Old School Food processor

The pie crust turned out great and I had no problems transferring it to my pie plate.

Rolled out

I’m not that good at decorating pie crust edges (yet) so this is as fancy as it got, but doesn’t the pie look like a ray of sunshine? I didn’t put beans in the bottom of the crust because I thought, “I don’t need them.” Well, I kept checking on it and now I see why the instructions say to do that – the bottom of the crust kept puffing up. Thankfully, once I took it out of the oven it settled down for the most part. Lesson learned. I also forgot to bake the crust while making the filling (duh). So I had to keep stirring and heating (simmering) the filling to keep the film off of the top while I waited on the crust.
No harm done.

Crust baked
Like the Sun

I took my coworker’s advice on keeping my utensils as cold as possible in order to make the meringue so I put my bowl in the freezer. I added more of the cream of tartar because it seemed like I was mixing that meringue FOR-EVER! I think it whipped up alright in the end. I think it’s pretty.


Glad to be a Daring Baker!

So purty


Of Dessert Choices and Dark Horses, or, Live and Let Lemon

It’s been said many times that people who eat dessert fall into one of two categories. Either they love chocolate, or they’re drawn to lemon. I don’t like to limit myself when it comes to dessert, and hold no prejudices against any sweet (except coconut, which I hate more than wet socks). But if I had to make a Sophie’s choice about which I preferred, lemon or chocolate, I’d have to go with chocolate. Seldom does anybody eat a slice of chocolate cake and think, Hmm, I could really go for some lemon right about now. Chocolate is the meal’s coda. After it, you gather up your coat and make for the exit.

My mom, not a big fan of sweets, loves lemon meringue pie, and Z. disclosed that, back in the day, if LMP was on the menu, he’d order it rather than, say, banana cream pie. Knowing this, I’d wanted to try baking LMP for some time. I’d attempted it once, for Thanksgiving, and wound up with a meringue island floating in the middle of a sea of lemony glop. Not exactly what I was shooting for. Thus, my pleasure at learning the January DBC was LMP. (Wow, I’m starting to sound like a programmer with all these TLA [three letter acronyms].)

Ami Silber-Not Scrambled Eggs

First up, the crust. When making crusts, I typically stay with Ken Haedrich’s recipe from his book Pie, but have experimented here and there with other recipes, including King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion, Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours, and Nancy Baggett's All American Dessert Book. None of them was so remarkable or unsuccessful that I vowed it would either be my crust recipe for all eternity nor would I shun it. I do like pie a lot, but sometimes the crust merely serves as a container and minor textural counterpoint to the filling. The noteworthy thing about the crust recipe for the DBC was that it calls for exclusively butter, not the more common combination of butter and shortening. It came together quickly in the food processor, then it chilled, and I rolled it out. Right away, I saw that I’d have more crust than necessary, but not enough left over for a whole other full-sized crust. So I was able to roll it thicker than usual, plus I took the spare dough and made a tiny, free-form crostata of raspberry jam with demara sugar sprinkled on the top edges. (Sorry, no photos of the crostata. Z. and I wolfed it down within minutes of it coming out of the oven.) The dough handled well, also. No tearing or other tantrum-inducing misbehavior. But I got nervous when, after pulling it from the oven to complete the blind-baking, there were little puddles of melted butter on the bottom of the crust. I wound up baking it about ten to fifteen minutes longer than the recipe called for just to ensure a good, golden crust. The butter puddles disappeared and everything seemed dandy.

Filling came next. Holy bejesus, was that sucker thick! The mixture of water, sugar and cornstarch set up quickly, then I added the yolks. I actually wound up bending the tines on my whisk because it was so thick. I decreased the lemon juice to half a cup rather than the three quarters of a cup that the recipe stipulated. I almost didn’t add the vanilla, but it needed the warm sweetness to temper the acidity. Into the crust with ye!

Act three was the meringue. Again, no trouble putting it together, though I wondered whether a cooked Italian meringue might work better so that I might only need to brown it with my kitchen torch and not overcook the whole pie. But I didn’t want to deviate from the recipe, so an uncooked meringue went onto the pie and back into the oven. It browned up beautifully, and I set it out to cool.

Ami Silber-What Lurks Within

As it cooled, the meringue did shrink back from the sides a bit, but not nearly to the terrifying degree of my earlier LMP attempt. Having read other DB posts regarding this challenge, I was concerned about the filling. Many noted that it was watery when sliced. And, lo, when I did slice into the pie, it released a gush of liquid. But the filling was actually set—the mystery liquid having originated from someplace no one at the table could identify. I sopped up the liquid, and Z., his mom and I discovered that the pie was, in fact, delicious. The filling tart, but not punitively so. The meringue ethereal, not rubbery. The real surprise hero, however, was the crust. Since I was able to roll it a little thicker than usual, it took on the delightful properties of a shortbread cookie. In the future, I may use this recipe when baking pies. Let’s give it up for the dark horse crust!

Ami Silber-Lake Lemon

Leftovers did quite well. The crust didn’t get soggy, and, after the initial gush of mystery liquid when first slicing the pie, it didn’t show up again. The lemon filling broke a little bit, but hardly enough to deter Z. and I from polishing off the rest of the pie.

Am I going to make LMP again? Probably not. I satisfied my curiosity and was able to cross it off of my challenge list. I may attempt, at some point, the impressive-looking lemon meringue cake from Elizabeth Prueitt's Tartine cookbook, but, until then, there’s too many other recipes to try, both chocolate and lemon.

Your servant,
Ami S.

Lemon Meringue Pie - My First DB Challenge!

When I heard that my first Daring Bakers Challenge was a pie, I was thrilled! (Tales of the Yule Log Challenge last month had me shaking in my Crocs!) Pies are my thing—they are what I bring to potlucks and family gatherings where a contribution of food is needed. But I had never made lemon filling from scratch, so that, I thought, would be my challenge.

But as I began following the recipe for the crust, I realized it was a lot different from my usual crust. (I use vegetable shortening and just a little more than a cup of flour for a single crust pie.) The butter and 2 cups of flour made it much richer, heavier, and more difficult to work with. The resulting crust was very thick and doughy, not flaky at all, but had a wonderful flavor.

LynnFerda-Lemon Pie Baked

The meringue, with 5 egg whites as a base, was too much for the pie (2 or 3 would have been more like it) but I followed the recipe and used it all. By the time the meringue was golden on the outside, it seemed still almost raw inside.

The filling turned out to be the best of all! It was lemony and light, not at all rubbery as is sometimes the case with a boxed mix. It had a wonderful fresh lemon tang to it which everyone loved. I added grated lemon peel on the meringue, and the pie was very pretty!

LynnFerda-Lemon Pie Slice

I’ll definitely make a pie using this filling recipe again, but I’ll stick to my own recipe for crust and meringue. All in all, I’d grade this one a B-minus.

- Lynn F

Lovely Lemons for a Pretty Pie

I've not made a lemon meringue pie in years. The primary reason is that I was lazy too make pie shells. Not any more! This crust was easy to roll out, easy to lay out and turned out like a shortbread cookie, light and crisp!

I cut out 3" scallop edged circles and half of these i placed in mini muffin tins to make a free style tartlettes and mini tarts.

I then proceeded to make the curd. I was hopeful that it was going to gel properly as it seemed quite thick. I needed it to hold it's shape as my tartlette was quite small. It turned out absolutely delightful!

After assembling everything, I piped the meringue on top and i torched it instead of baking it. I thought it would be pretty to see the curd peeking from underneath a white cap. Yummy! I had so many tartlettes last night and again this morning that I wish I made more! Till the next challenge!