Monday, January 28, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Pie!

Another month has come and gone, which means it's time for another Daring Baker's Challenge. This month's challenge was hosted by Jen at The Canadian Baker (who gets big points for picking a recipe that required only ingredients that I already had on hand). This month's recipe was Lemon Meringue Pie from Wanda's Pie in the Sky.

I LOVE baking pies, but I've never made lemon meringue before, so I was really excited about this month's challenge. I started with the crust, which was different from my standard pie crust. It was almost more of a shortbread crust (meaning LOTS of butter). I am a pie crust purist and like to make my pie crusts by hand, so that's how I did this one.

I started with the raw ingredients:

After mixing together the dry ingredients, I added the cold, chilled butter. Then it was time to cut the dough, until it resembled a coarse meal. A few minutes with my pastry cutter, and a transformation occurred!

After adding the water, I chilled the dough before rolling it out. After a few minutes in the oven, I had a nice pre-baked crust cooling as I made the filling:

Next up, the wonderful lemony filling!

I was a little nervous about it. I was worried that it wouldn't quite thicken up enough and I'd end up with a runny pie. However, it thickened up quite nicely, just like the recipe said it would.

I then filled my prebaked crust and allowed it to cool while I went outside to play in the snow with Thea! It was a nice baking interlude!

Finally, it was time to make the meringue. I took these ingredients:

...and let my KitchenAid whip them up like crazy!

Once done, I piped the meringue onto my pie and stuck it in the oven. The result was a perfectly browned Lemon Meringue Pie!

I took the pie to dinner at my dad's house, and served it over a blueberry sauce, and it was a big hit! The pie had a very lemony taste without being overly tart, and it was perfectly complemented by the light sweetness of the meringue. The blueberry sauce was a great addition, and provided a great visual contrast to the bright lemon filling.

And now, the recipe:
Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ 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
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For 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 countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ 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 ½ 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.

For 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.

For 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.

Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how the other daring bakers conquered this challenge.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Breaking Radio Silence

This will be short and sweet, but after being such a bad blogger for so long, I feel I owe you an explanation. You see, it has been a very exciting time in the Whisks and Needles home. On the day before Thanksgiving, Psycling and I received wonderful news: we're going to be parents! The little one is due on August 2. So, this means for the past couple of months I have been battling the nausea and exhaustion that come with the first trimester of pregnancy. As a result, I haven't had the energy to do much but sleep...which means too tired to cook and too tired to knit. Unfortunately no cooking and no knitting (and no energy) means no blogging. And the nausea has meant that I wouldn't really be able to eat anything that I might cook anyway...for a while I was living on grilled cheese, cereal, bagels and cream cheese, and mac and cheese (notice a theme here?).

I'm now about 12 weeks along, and fortunately, the nausea has tapered off and I'm slowly getting my energy back. Not only am I writing a blog post, but I might even find the energy to knit when I'm done (this a pretty huge given my zombie-ness recently).

I hope that as my energy comes back, I will be able to do some more experimenting in the kitchen, get some more projects going on the needles (maybe from the Baby Knits book Psycling got me for Christmas), and generally maybe be a normal person again. I'll do my best to stick to the basics here, and not turn this into a blog about pregnancy and impending mommy-hood. But with such big changes going on, I imagine some of them will find their way into this blog.

Stay tuned...more on the way eventually!