(please excuse the horrific lighting…by the time I finished this pie the sun had set…forcing me to use creepy indoor lighting)
After missing last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I told myself I wasn’t going to miss the next one. Since joining this lovable bunch of bakers, I have been able to exercise my baking muscles to churn out such things as Sticky Buns, Bostini Cream Pie, and Tender Potato Bread. Each challenge brought about new knowledge of baking techniques and tips (with over 300 Daring Bakers in your support network, there is a wealth of knowledge to be shared!). So I was looking forward to getting back in the swing of things this month.
And this month’s challenge is…Lemon Meringue Pie. Zoiks.
You have to understand a few things about me and this dessert…number one being, well, simply put, I don’t actually enjoy eating it. Second, I am not a big fan of meringue…at all…ever. Suffice to say I have never made, nor thought of making, this dessert. I have never made meringue either! And egg whites are an old nemesis of mine…
But that is why I joined this group…not to bake what I have baked a hundred times before, but to conquer things that I have never baked before…things I would never even think of baking…things that make shiver and shake and yet, as any Daring Baker would, still swagger into the kitchen, Microplane zester in one hand, citrus reamer in the other, to look that lemon in the eye and whip those egg whites into shape.
And that’s what I did. Sort of.
Bumps in the road are part of every challenge, and as I was already expecting, this one yielded more bumps than usual for me. First, the crust. Working with crust or pastry of any kind, or any ingredient that needs to be “chilled” is a major challenge in my kitchen, whose heat and humidity are off the charts. You need to work very, very fast, and “chill” things in the freezer instead of the fridge. My crust, which stuck and tore all over, turned out to be quite literally a patch-up job at best. Of course, you couldn’t see that once the filling was in 😉
So, the filling. It seemed to come together like a charm…thickening quickly and blooming into a beautiful shade of yellow. I poured it into the pre-baked and cooled crust and hoped for the best.
I started on the meringue, my knees knocking a bit. How challenging is it to do something you feel is your weakness, at the same time knowing you won’t enjoy eating it? Very. But, as is often the case when I push myself to do something out of my ordinary circle of things, I was pleasantly surprised. I like making meringue! Watching the egg whites magically turn pearlescent as you add the sugar. Piling mounds of sticky, cloud-like pillows onto the pie. Swatting at it with a spatula to coax peaks and swirls out of its surface. Then seeing it get all toasty in the oven. Like toasted marshmallows. It’s a very bibbity-bobbity-boo moment (it’ll do magic believe it or not!).
Don’t let the swirly, toasty peaks fool you though. Beneath their peaceful exterior lie a filling that just wouldn’t set. Yes, hiding sneakily beneath the surface, waiting to surprise me when I tried to slice the pie for my guests! Criminy. If you have any suggestions for me they will be much appreciated! Should I have let the pie and filling set in the fridge before adding the meringue? Should I have cooked it for longer and thickened it up more? Help wanted 🙂 It was much better after a night in the fridge as it firmed up some…
From the taste testers: The pie was enjoyed by my mom, who loved it. I gave some to my best friend K and she liked it but thought it was a little too tart (although she did liken it in general to her grandma’s lemon meringue pie…thrill!). C thought it was too tart as well. My kind guests said they liked it but I’m not sure if they were just trying to be being polite to my runny pie…
Me? As someone who doesn’t really enjoy lemon meringue pie, I am the worst judge of all. I thought it tasted like, well, like lemon meringue pie…something I still don’t really love, but something I now know I can make 🙂
Thanks to Jen the Canadian Baker for choosing this challenge and giving me the opportunity to make something I wouldn’t have made otherwise! I think I can finally distinguish between “soft peaks” and “stiff peaks”…yay! 🙂 Jen, you don’t know how long I have been agonizing over the difference…so from the bottom of my heart…thank you! You can find the original recipe here. Check out the other fabulous creations from the Daring Bakers here!