Classic recipes achieve their status not through crazy combinations or impossible techniques, but through simplicity. No one goes to their chocolate chip cookies for a change of pace, but for comfort. Knowing that each individual component will shine through and create a perfect harmony, excelling their individual flavors to make the sum even greater than its parts – That’s what give these old fashioned culinary staples a place in every cook’s repertoire. Instead of going off in uncharted territory as is typical with Daring Baker Challenges, this month’s chosen trial was to tackle well known and well loved dessert that any baker should have a handle on: Lemon meringue pie. Easy enough, so I thought, as I already had experience with veganizing all of the separate components before.
Charging ahead with enthusiasm, I couldn’t wait to put this one to bed. Crust, filling, topping, done! But one look at the crust recipe set off alarm bells in my head- All margarine, and no shortening? This thing will melt like a snowman in Florida! I feared. Still, there’s no arguing with the official method, and so I went by it just as recommended, taking out some extra insurance by going so far as to freeze the crust instead of merely chilling just prior to baking. Blissfully ignorant of the transformation occurring beneath the veil of tin foil for the first 30 minutes, I went about assembling the mise en place for the remainder of the pie, feeling as if I might perhaps be getting the hang of this stuff. Time came to remove the foil and brown the par-baked dough… And that’s when the disaster was revealed. There was no “crust” beneath the foil, at least not the traditional sort, as it had all dripped down the sides and puddled at the bottom of the pan, looking sad and shrunken, a shadow of it’s former self. Saddened by this turn of events but not the least bit surprised, out came the cookie cutters and I salvaged as much of the remaining dough as possible, resulting in 4 individual flat rounds. So they would be a bit untraditional in presentation, but this was the only failing of the recipe.
Everything else went without a hitch- Lemon curd was whipped up using the recipe found in my cookbook for the filling of the lemon poppy seed cupcakes, and dropped on top of the flaky, buttery rounds in generous dollops. The meringue, well, that’s still classified information my friends, but I’ll let you in on the secret soon… But it whipped up nice and fluffy without issue, and I pressed my luck by taking out the piping bag and attempting a more neat design. Squishing light, airy meringue into an unforgiving plastic bag and then squeezing it out of a small, rounded tip isn’t exactly the easiest operation, but somehow I still managed to apply it to the free-form pies without collapsing that temperamental foam. Finally, it was into the oven for one last burst of heat, and my impatience got the best of me so I yanked them out a few minutes early. Just to brown the tops a bit more, I brought out the kitchen torch and gave them a touch more color.
And there you have it! Easy as… Well, you know. Since this was actually my first time ever making a lemon meringue pie, it was a joy to finally take it on, even if it didn’t end up in the pie’s classic shape. Despite all the troubles with the crust, it did prove to be incredibly flavorful and tender, yet flaky and strong enough to hold its toppings. Tart and sweet, smooth and creamy, I would be happy enough eating that lemon “curd” off of an old shoe, but when paired with that meringue… It’s like eating a lemony cloud on top of a biscuit.
My thanks go out to Jen for choosing this particular challenge for January. Now I can’t wait to see what’s on the agenda next!