Monday, August 1, 2011

Miss Humble's Lemon Meringue Pie

I'll admit that a lot of recipes I do on here aren't original creations, but rather, trying out other people's recipes and making cooking notes about it.  It serves two purpose: one, a memorandum for myself shall I make it the next time; two, some advice for readers shall you attempt to make it yourself.

This week, I took on the challenge of making the lemon meringue pie that is the crown of Miss Humble's blog on Not So Humble Pie.  Pies have always challenged me, it's either too wet and soaked the crust, or the filling is too runny so the slice just leaks everywhere  I have also been leery of adding lots and lots of corn starch to stiffen up the filling, afraid that it will cause a poor texture and taste (gluey).  So, I decided to take on another pie challenge.  I love lemon meringue cake from my local fancy bakery, Duchess Bake Shop, so why not make a pie?  If I can figure out the pie, then I can tackle a cake next.  Wishful thinking.

Sorry, skimped on photos this time.

Miss Humble did an excellent job in explaining why lemon meringue pies tend to fail in slightly scientific layman terms.  But essentially, the trick in making this monster of a pie is to cornstarch it to hell, don't agitate it too much and don't overheat it.

Miss Humble's Lemon Meringue Pie

1   9" baked pie crust
Some slightly beaten egg whites

1 cup plus one tablespoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (almost two lemons)
4 large egg yolks
pinch kosher salt

1 1/4 cups boiling water

4 large fresh egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar* or splash or lemon juice

Cake crumbs, cake donut crumbs or bread crumbs (optional)

*omit if beating in a copper bowl.

Prepping the pie crust
1.  If using pre-packaged pie crust, preheat oven according to package instructions and bake the pie shell.  Don't forget to poke some vent holes and put pie weights down (I did :( ).

2. Bake pie shell.  In the last 5 minutes, brush with some slightly beaten egg whites to seal the pie crust.  It's okay to use some of that egg whites you are saving for your meringue.

3. Bake pie shell until slightly golden brown.

Prepping the filling
4. In a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, combine sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks and salt.

5. Whisk until sugar is combined.

6. In a cup, combine cornstarch and cold water.  Mix well to dissolve.  Add to lemon mixture and whisk to combine.

7. Whisk in the boiling water and then place the sauce pan over medium-high heat. 

8. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring gently with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. 

Cooking note: It is important to stir gently.  Read Miss Humble's explanations on the nature of cornstarch.

9. Then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thermometer reads 155F or mixture thickens, continuing to stir gently. Like, hard to stir thickens.
Cooking note: when I cooked mine, the thermometer read 155F but it was still runny.  I thought something didn't look right especially even after I baked the whole thing for 12 minutes.  So I returned the filling back on the stove and cooked it until it thickened but keeping within the 155F range.  The mixture stayed within the 155F range for a long time without me having to adjust the heat.

10. Pour the filling into your prepared pie crust. 

Miss Humble discussed in depth about meringue weeping (seeping out moisture afterwards), and whether it is more beneficial to use French meringue or Italian meringue.  I opted for a French meringue this time, mainly for less sweetness.  I love making Italian meringues mainly because it gives such a nice glossiness to it, but it is quite sweet and sticky, and also much mess on the mixer whip.

For Italian meringues, if you're uncomfortable eating raw egg whites, 

  • double the sugar
  • add water to sugar (doesn't matter how much as sugar temp/thickness relates to sugar to water content ratio)
  • cook syrup to 240F
  • add syrup to soft peaked meringue 
  • cook cornstarch gel and add to meringue
  • beat until glossy and stiff

11. Drop your egg whites into a mixer and beat on medium low.

12. Start cooking your corn starch gel: add cornstarch and water to dissolve and heat on medium high, until it forms a goopy gel.

13. Slowly add your sugar in batches once your meringue has formed soft peaks, giving it time to incorporate the sugar.  
Cooking note: You can use castor sugar in an equivalent weight to regular sugar too for ease of incorporation.  Same volume may be too much as castor sugar is finer and will sit together closer than regular sugar.

16. Add cornstarch gel and beat until incorporated.

17. Beat until glossy hard peaks, not dry and broken.

Hot filling
18. Sprinkle some cake crumbs onto your pie, if using, to absorb meringue moisture.
Cooking note: I didn't and wish I did, my meringue slides a little off my slice of pie.

19. Immediately top with your pre-prepared meringue, bring it right to the edge of the pie to seal it.

20. Style your meringue according to personal taste.

21. Bake for 12 minutes at 350F.  Any longer may cause beading on the meringue (sweating) 

Cold filling
18. Allow the filling to cool completely and then transfer to the refrigerator.

19. Before serving, sprinkle some cake crumbs onto your pie, if using, to absorb meringue moisture.
Cooking note: I didn't and wish I did, my meringue slides a little off my slice of pie.

20. Top with meringue, bring it right to the edge of your pie to seal it and style according to personal taste.

21. Bake for 12 minutes at 350F.  Any longer may cause beading on the meringue (sweating).

After final baking.
Yeah, I suck and manipulating meringues.  It's probably over beaten.
That's why it was hard to style.
I personally find the flavour a little too tart, though any sweeter would also be nasty.  Mr. Meow could not comment on whether it is good or not since he's used to having lemon meringue pies with pre-packaged fillings (ew?) and whipped topping (not even real whipped cream?) so he has never had an actual lemon meringue pie.  But he's not complaining about this pie, so I guess it's good.

The pie crust was a bit soggy probably due to my first round of baking it with the runny filling.  So, make sure your filling is thick to the point where you think it won't run on you before filling it and bake to seal.

And like Miss Humble said, there is no escaping from the meringue weeping if you intend on storing your pie for a few days.  I noticed that there was beading on my meringue and moisture seeping out inside the pie after a day in the fridge.  So, if you can help it, eat it all immediately!!

Beading after storage

Moisture seeping out of pie

As for the texture, I am surprised that with the amount of cornstarch there is in it, the pie doesn't taste starchy or have a gluey texture.  Though I am still leery about something because it is just weird to me that the lemon filling is standing on its own.  Meow is just weird like that.

"Look Ma, no hands!"  
Nothing is running out or going *splat*

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