Daring Bakers: Lemon Meringue Pie

posted in: Cooking | 28

The last couple of Daring Baker challenges have been things that I didn’t particularly enjoy eating so when I saw the January challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie, I was very excited. I like eating lemon meringue pie but I had never tried making it before and this was the perfect moment to do so. I had been battling with a terrible case of morning sickness that put me in the ER and some serious lack of energy. Along with that, there was the fact that nothing sounded good and just the thought of cooking or baking grossed me out. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to participate this month but thank goodness I have been feeling much better in the past week or so and I decided it was this past Saturday or never!

Earlier in the week, I tried to make the dough but that went wrong. I needed to add more water than the recipe called for just to get the dough to come together but then it was too wet. I put it in the fridge to see if it would firm up but it didn’t so I had to throw it away. The second time I tried was on Saturday and I had the same issue. I used less water than the previous time but the dough was still fairly wet. As before, I put it in the fridge and let it rest until it became firm enough to roll. It was all going fine until it was time to line the pan with the dough. It was so wet and sticky that I just couldn’t get the plastic wrap off the dough. I had to put the whole thing back in the fridge and wait again. Only then, was I able to peel the plastic off the dough, which was already molded into the pan.

The next few steps were easy and went without a hitch. I got perfectly thick lump-free curd, beautiful meringue, etc. I assembled the pie and put it in the oven for the meringue to brown. It looked great right out of the oven and through the cooling process. It looked so gorgeous I thought I’d gotten away with it. However, not everything was as it seemed. Do not let that perfect meringue and crust fool you, lurking beneath was a watery mess.

I tried to cut a wedge out of the pie to photograph it and only then did I realize what a disaster the whole thing was. It was very watery and the meringue layer did not adhere to the curd. My heart sank to the bottom of my chest. I wanted to weep, just like my pie had. It was awful watching the whole thing fall apart.

Since I hadn’t made lemon meringue pie before or even read a recipe for it, I didn’t know this at the time but the recipe is essentially flawed. First of all, and probably least important, is that it didn’t call for the dough to be docked. I docked it when I realized the pastry shell was swelling but I suspect a novice baker would not have picked up on this. However, that is not what made my, and many other Daring Bakers’, pie fail. The recipe says to wait until the curd had cooled to room temperature to apply the meringue layer and that is where it is flawed. I have done serious research since Saturday and every recipe and article I’ve read (and the Good Eats episode about lemon meringue pie) say that you need to pour the meringue onto the curd while it is still piping hot.

Why, you ask? Steam for the hot filling passes right through the meringue while baking. However, if the pie assembled when the filling is hot, the steam from the filling will only reach the meringue. As the pie cools, the steam returns to its liquid state and pools between the layers of meringue and filling. That is the infamous weeping and the reason the layers to do not stick together and the pie falls apart when you cut it.

That said, the pie did taste OK, however, I just couldn’t get past the unappetizing look. I probably won’t be making this recipe again but at least I learned something in the process and in my mind, that’s really what being a Daring Baker is all about!

You can see the recipe on the hostess’ blog, The Canadian Baker

28 Responses

  1. slush

    You know I read all the posts about pouring the meringue on while the filling was hot. But with all the mixed reviews, I thought I had better stick to the recipe. Bad idea, mine was a swimmer too.

    Regardless of the water, your pie looks great, perfect meringue!

  2. Maryann

    Great attitude. We learn so much from these challenges. I made minis after hearing about all the problems. It worked!

  3. Lis

    Firstly, I can’t remember if I congratulated you or not.. so congratulations! 🙂

    I hope your morning sickness eases up soon.

    Well, I have to tell you I didn’t know that was the reason to put the meringue on the hot curd.. thank you for teaching us that! 😀

    Regardless of the weeping, it sure was a beautiful pie!


  4. Baking Soda

    If I read you right there is a win win situation here: morning sickness at bay and a meringue/filling lesson learned, too bad the LMP suffered during the process ;-). It does look good from where I am!

  5. chou

    Beautiful pictures. I especially appreciate the research you did about meringue–I’ve wondered why it weeps, and now I know. Hooray!!!

  6. Mary

    Thanks for the information on why meringue weeps! Separated and weepy meringue is how my mom always made LMP so I guess I just thought it was normal! HAHAHAHA!

    I hope the morning sickness ends soon!

  7. Annemarie

    Oh dear – and this after your horrible morning sickness too! I didn’t have any wateryness problems but my ever-shrinking (and puffing) pie crust was a problem. Thanks for passing on your research, and hope those crazy pregnancy hormones have calmed down.

  8. Gabi

    Hi June, Sorry you’ve haven’t been feeling well.
    I docked the crust for my tarts too- I didn’t even think about it since that’s what I always do for unfilled pie shells. Mine were fine. I also put the meringue on immediately after the filling (while hot) into the cooled shells and then immediately into the hot oven. Everything worked great so your research was right at least for me. 🙂
    I like that you went right out and found a solution- nice job!

  9. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    June I’m so glad you are passing out of that morning sickness time zone!!
    This pie remains a mystery to me. It worked without a problem for many of us and caused so many of us nightmares that I can’t make sense of it. Like you I researched it out. Love Alton. I did my tarts some with hot filling some with cooled, got no difference between the two. I think some had problems with over cooking the cornstarch. Cornstarch is an ingredient that has a narrow range of “done”. It will be thick but if you keep cooking it, it passes into liquid again and no amount of cooking/heating then will thicken it again. The docking of crust is something I’ve done with all my pies till this one. When it puffed after I took the weights out, I just pushed the puffs down again. I had beautiful edges until the sides melted down into pools of butter.
    Basically, I think simple is not always simple.
    Can’t wait to see what’s coming in February!!

  10. Claire

    I put my meringue on top of cold filling and didn’t have much of a problem…just a bit of syrup-like leakage but no watery stuff under the meringue. Sorry you had such problems. You picture is great and does not leave hints as to the watery mess! Maybe you can try again and get better results!

  11. my food affair

    I had the same problem with my lemon meringue pie too!! I was really excited when it came out of the oven, because it looked like i had succeeded…but then the weeping. your pie looks beautiful anyway!!

  12. kitten

    sorry it didn’t work out for you… i agree that this recipe was flawed a bit. your pie looks gorgeous tough.. good job and it’s always nice to learn a little something.

  13. Jenny

    Well… it sure LOOKS nice. 🙂

    I just added barely enough water until the dough would come together when I pressed it with my hands. Kind of like working with shortbread, really.

  14. Sheltie Girl

    Every recipe can be an education in it self about cooking and baking. I learn so much each time I attempt a different recipe on an old favorite. Your pie does look beautiful.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  15. Claire

    The Pierre Hermé recipe I swear by uses the following method:
    – Make lemon curd day before assembling pie, refrigerate
    – Bake pie crust blind, then remove beans and paper and bake a little more til golden.
    – Fill pie crust with lemon curd, stirred to make it smooth after refrigeration
    – Pipe Italian meringue on top
    – Torch to finish

    No baking apart from the pastry crust, separately!

  16. Dolores

    I love (and I share) your approach to learning through our monthly challenges. Even if we never repeat a recipe, if we learn something from the experience we can use later, that’s a success.

  17. Claire

    I actually did my meringue on a cold filling and it worked fine…no pool for me! You pie looks fantastic. Even that last picture wouldn’t lead anyone to believe you had water.

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