Count Broccula's veg-head ramblings

My home experiments with vegetarian cooking. Focused on seasonal produce with some vegan stuff thrown in for good measure. I may include random other food-related stuff as I please.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lemon meringue pie -- first attempt

4 cups flour
1 cup shortening
1 cup margarine
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbs vinegar
1 egg
1/2 cup cold water

Mix together flour, shortening, margarine, sugar and salt.
Beat together egg, vinegar, and water.
Combine two mixtures, stirring until all ingredients are blended. Chill at least 15 minutes prior to rolling out.
(NOTE: This makes two crusts, so cut it in half -- yes, half an egg -- if you're only making one pie.)

Lemon filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups boiling water
3 egg yolks
2 Tbs butter
1/3 cup lemon juice

Combine first four ingredients (sugar through salt) in a medium sized saucepan and gradually stir in 2 cups boiling water. Stir until mixture thickens and comes to a gradual boil. Add 3 egg yolks and cook a few more minutes. Add butter and lemon juice and stir thoroughly.

3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Beat in sugar, one tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Beat in vanilla.

Okay, here are the rest of the instructions, as cobbled together by me.

Roll out the crust to two inches wider than the pan you're using, then put it in the pan and flute the edges. Score the bottom and sides.

Pre-bake the crust in a 475 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes (my oven runs a little hot, and 8 was plenty). The instructions that seem to be missing from the filling include putting the saucepan on medium heat. I did medium high and I suspect the texture will be too gelatinous because it cooked too hot and too quickly.

Fill the crust with the custard, then put the meringue on. Bake in a 400 degree oven for ten minutes or until golden brown.

My mom said you really have to make triple-sure that the meringue is beaten enough, so I whipped the living shit out of it. I beat it until the peaks were stiff, then beat it a little more. I also saw some hints the other day that the way to make sure the meringue doesn't weep or shrink is to put it on the filling when the filling is still hot and spread the meringue all the way to the crust so that it's touching the crust all the way around.

I like the way my grandma always made meringue, with little browned peaks, so I tried it myself by spreading out the meringue, then touching it with the back of a spoon, then pulling the spoon upwards. I pretty much got the effect I wanted.

Mom says that crust recipe is absolutely the best one ever, and since I am pretty sure that's what she uses on her other pies (oh, just the thought of her cherry pie and pumpkin pie make me drool), I'm going to go with that.

Mistakes to learn from this time -- Obviously, the heat thing. I haven't tried the pie yet (it's for dessert tonight), but I have a strong feeling that the texture will be far too firm. And second, (this is a typical "me" mistake) I decided to use washed raw sugar since I had some on hand and it's of a very good quality. But I tend not to think things through, and the sugar has a brown tint, like brown sugar, which of course meant that instead of being a translucent pale yellow, my custard is brown. Mmmmm, appetizing.

A note on technology -- I have never whipped cream or eggs to stiff peaks by hand. I am lazy and puny. But the KitchenAid mixer is a good, reliable friend. I've also seen people make pie crust dough in the food processor, so I tried that this time. It worked like a charm. I pulsed the dry ingredients with the shortening until it was about the texture of sand, then added the wet ingredients until it barely came together. I was pleased with the results.

By the way, I love cooking and baking, but I've always left the pies to my mom, so this is actually a first for me.


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