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