So my resolution to 'write more frequently' failed miserably. As you can tell, that was my very last post - on January 4th! So what is that finally lured me back into the blogosphere? It's that time of the month again. Daring Bakers! I figured, eh, when life gives you lemons - make this months challenge - Lemon Meringue Pie! Jen from The Canadian Baker picked this challenge for us and once again it put me to the test. Not only did I wait until today (yes TODAY!) to make the tarts, I am hugely inexperienced in the pie-making department.
Since my food processor died on me a few months ago, I was left with no other choice but to opt for the pastry cutter process for the dough. This was my first attempt at any pie dough, not to mention the fact I have never used a pastry cutter before. To my relief, the dough came together in a jiffy and it was chilling in the fridge without a single drop of sweat. Once chilled, I rolled it out, used my circle cutters and lined the dough into my mini muffin pan. With the leftover dough I made three larger free-form tart shells. After a quick blind bake, they were itching to be filled.
The curd was next on the list and though the process itself was a cinch, the sweat broke loose on this one! After adding the cornstarch and sugar to the water it was only a matter of seconds before it thickened to an opaque glue. I whisked and whipped with all my strength and once the eggs were tempered and added, it felt as though my right arm had doubled in size! I am going to have to learn how to whisk with my left now just to even things out. I spooned the curd into the mini tart shells, covered them with cling film and left them to set for a while.
Meringue has to be one of the easiest and yet most gratifying recipes in the pastry world. It's versatility is endless and it's just plain pretty. With the help of some extra horse power (by way of Kitchen Aid), my meringue was shiny and fluffy before I could fit the tip on my pastry bag. A few dollops of meringue later, the pasty tarts were off for a tan. The crust is lovely - flaky and buttery yet not too sweet. The curd bursts with lemon flavour and is delightfully silky. The meringue, pillowy and light as air.
Et voila! There you have it, tart 'n tiny lemon meringue pies - made with love. If I didn't know better, I'd say they were too cute to eat!
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie.
For the Crust:
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
- 2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water
For the Filling:
- 2 cups (475 mL) water
- 1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
- 5 egg yolks, beaten
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
- 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
For the Meringue:
- 5 egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar
To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt.Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or counter top) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.
To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 ml) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.
To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.