Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie

Otherwise known as the pie that almost killed me. This was my first attempt at pie crust, and what was supposed to virtually be a fool proof recipe was not so much. The recipe is actually from "America's Test Kitchen," probably my favorite cooking show next to "Good Eats" and really the first cooking show I remember watching as a kid.

It began with blending chilled butter and vegetable shortening with flour and salt in a food processor. Then it's time to add a little bit of chilled water and chilled vodka. The reason for the vodka was that it is supposed to prevent the dough from being over worked.

Once mixed, form it into a rectangle and refrigerate for an hour. Then roll it out into a 12-inch diameter circle.

And place it into a pie pan.

Refrigerate again for 30 minutes, flute the edge and refrigerate again for 30 more minutes. Then bake at 425 degrees with pie weights for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for another 5 to 10.

Unfortunately, this is where it all went wrong. My fluting wasn't up to snuff and during baking the pie crust slumped in the pan. So much so that I couldn't use the crust. So I made the dough again, only to have the dough turn out with the wrong consistency. After the third remake of the dough, I finally got something I could work with, although it wasn't exactly pretty. But we must admit the failed attempts were some of the best tasting pie dough we've ever had.

After all of that, the lemon curd seemed easy. The curd took 1 cup of juice, 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, 8 egg yolks, sugar, salt, cornstarch, butter and water.

Cook over medium heat and strain.

The curd should then be refrigerated for a minimum of an hour or up to one day. Then it was onto the meringue, an Italian meringue at that. Mix sugar and water for 4 minutes to make a simple syrup.

Begin to whip egg whites with salt and cream of tartar. Once at soft peaks, slowly add syrup to the egg whites. Whip for about 10 minutes.

Then top the pie with the meringue, ensuring that it attaches to the pie crust to avoid any shrinkage during the browning phase.

Place in the oven set on broil until the meringue has browned. Serve once cooled.

The pie had great, tart lemon flavor and was quite good. Unfortunately, as you can tell by the below picture, the pie lacked structure. There wasn't a piece that came out looking picture worthy, but luckily the flavor made up for it.

Lesson learned: From-scratch pies are not as easy as I thought they were. I looks like I'm going to need a lot of practice.

1 comment:

Lo said...

Oh, yeah! I can make a lemon curd in my sleep... but don't ask me about pie crust. I've only recently gotten to the point where I can make a marginally passable crust.

That said, I'm with Julia Child on this one. I think it's more about leaving the FEAR behind than it is actually about technique. Do it again -- and this time, don't fear the dough. Conquer it. I have a feeling you'll do just fine! (Also -- check your oven temp; maybe it needs calibration?)