So part of the reason I started this blog was so that I could join that super cool group of Daring Bakers. Over the last several months, I've watched them make all sorts of daring and fantastic things, where I alternately commented to myself, "I could do that if I had to", or "Oh I bet that's really good to eat". Last month I happily challenged myself, with delicious results, making the Yule Log. So this month I eagerly awaited the secret announcement of what we were going to make. The lovely Jen, The Canadian Baker who's hosting this month declared we would be making Lemon Meringue Pie!
Pie. "Oh boy," I thought. "I do not want to make pie." I don't like pie. Pie has the dreaded one two punch of fruit and crust. Crust is tasteless and if made wrong gummy. And fruit is yucky. My mom can make excellent pies. She used to whip out blueberry pies and apple pies all summer. Every year for her birthday instead of cake she would have cherry pie. When I was young she would make lemon meringue pies piled high with yummy meringue. Wait a minute I thought. Out of all the pies, I actually don't mind lemon meringue pie. It's not so bad, other than the crust part. Maybe this would work out OK.
Crust has always been my nemesis. I have had several people try to show me how to make crust. And always, when attempting it by myself it fails. The edges burn. The top becomes transparent. It's miserable. My mom suggested I try Grandma's secret recipe (Jiffy Pie Crust Mix). Instead I started trying the Pillsbury refrigerated already made pie crust. I can't even say that always turns out for me. My poor poor husband loves pie and I just haven't been able to deliver. He says I get an A for effort, but still it has been a crushing defeat in my baking skills.
So imagine, if you will, my trepidation when Lemon Meringue Pie was announced to be our challenge this month. That is a challenge indeed. But I decided that this was the nature of the beast. That I would have to try at least to make this lemon meringue pie. As word started to spread, in not so polite fashion, about how people were having trouble with this recipe, two thoughts came to mind. First, I was determined that I would succeed at this if it killed me, because I felt so bad that so many people were being so negative about the recipe. And second, I had better make this early because so many people were having trouble and pies are definitely not the easiest thing in the world for me to bake.
So after carefully taping my recipe to the cupboards and measuring as exactly as I could, I set out to make the crust. It has butter in it. I'd never seen a crust recipe with butter in it. I love butter. Pie crust with butter in it couldn't be that bad. I'd just think of it as a cookie. That made me have less of an aversion to baking it. And really when all was said and done, it tasted more cookie like than any pie crust I've ever made before. Unfortunately the recipe is for a 10inch pie. I don't have a 10inch pie pan. Walmart didn't sell them. So I went with a 9inch pie and 11 little tartlettes. Basically I squished leftover crust in square cupcake molds. Then I stuck them all in the oven with beans to weight them down and waited until they were golden brown. For the sake of making sure they were done, I sampled one of the tartlette crusts. Not too shabby, I thought, for pie crust anyway.
Next came the filling. Again I measured carefully, horrified by the amount of cornstarch. Carefully I cooked the filling and then it happened. I came to the point where I've seen thinner wallpaper paste and it kept getting thicker and how was I going to tell if this stuff was boiling because holy crap it was thick and bubbles weren't going to be able to get to the surface! Finally, after what seemed like hours, but was probably only about a minute or two, a bubble came to the surface and I declared it boiled. Then with the eggs tempered and added it was a beautiful yellow color. By the end it tasted so delicious and lemony that I was back to my early thought of merely, oops, forgetting the crust and just eating the filling and meringue. Shoot, I wouldn't mind just eating the filling.
I filled my 10 remaining tartlette shells with a blob (that would be the technical term) each of the lovely lemon filling and spooned the rest into the pie. Meringue has never been a problem for me so I happily whisked the living daylights out of my egg whites to form pillowy white meringue. Slapping that meringue on the pie and the little tarts was a lot of fun. Being that my pie had actual come out, shall we call it, "rustic" from my inability to crimp correctly, I thought it would look ridiculous to try piping and getting all fancy. So I just spread it on with a spatula and tried to make as many happy little peaks as I could. I asked the Brain if I could borrow his blowtorch, but he made me use my tiny little kitchen torch and supervised to make sure the only things I was toasting were the pie and the tartlettes.
Over all, I'm super pleased with how the pie and tartlettes came out. They were delicious. I know, pie being delicious is a concept I'm trying to work my brain around. I gave the big pie to my friend S. who's family devoured it. The Brain and I each had 2 of the tartlettes and stuck the rest in the freezer. Every so often we'd pull 2 out to thaw while I'd make dinner and we'd have a lovely dessert.
So thank you Jen for a fantastic challenge that I can honestly say I would have never tried if I hadn't joined the Daring Bakers. And I'm glad I tried it. For the recipe check out Jen's blog. And for the hundreds of other Daring Bakers and their attempts at Lemon Meringue Pie check out the Daring Baker Blogroll, here.