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I have to admit, sometimes being unprepared does have its charms and advantages. In regards to this challenge it caused me to be creative and not be afraid to play with my baked goods a little bit. As most of you have heard at one time or another, up until I joined the Daring Bakers, I didn’t bake – as a point of principal. Any recipe that had the words: Knead or Yeast or even really Flour and that was as far as I got, I wasn’t going to make it. Period. When I joined the Daring Bakers, I followed each recipe word for word. I did some modifications, sometimes, but nothing that really diverted from the recipe too much. I didn’t want to mess it up! But times change, you get older and wiser and all that good stuff. So here I am – it has been almost a YEAR since I joined this fabulous group of food bloggers, and I still don’t have a pie pan in my possession…therefore, it doesn’t take me long to realize there is no way I am making a big honkin’ pie. I just don’t have the equipment. This was going to give me a chance to play with my pie crust a little and do something fun. I decide to go all French and create mini tartlettes with my fabulous new muffin tin that I got for Christmas – (now a note to you DB purists, this was an allowed modification to the challenge)!

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Not only that, but I also got to christen my new Cuisinart Food Processor, an early wedding present from my Dad and Stepmom, who were here last weekend :) THANKS GUYS!!!
AND, it is also my first DB challenge in my new kitchen. So this challenge for me was also full of firsts. The pie crust in this recipe is great. Very buttery and flaky. Roberto and I went to visit my mom this weekend and she was making a chicken pot pie and needed a crust recipe. I gave her the recipe from this challenge (minus the sugar of course) and it was perfect! So delicious!

I learned a lot from this challenge too – number one, I never knew what actually made the pie filling of lemon meringue pie yellow. I assumed that it was from the lemons, but no, the color is actually derived from the egg yolks that make up the lemon curd. Very interesting. I wonder if the inventor of this pie planned it this way, or it just turned out to be the proper color by luck?

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I also got really creative with my leftover lemon peels. As those who have been reading my Farmers Market series know, I got some fabulous Meyer lemons, recently. I have been using them in a variety of dishes. They are just so tasty, I couldn’t waste even a peel, so I decided to make a lemon simple syrup to get ready for my next kitchen project – limoncello. As I was rooting around for the vanilla extract, needed for the lemon meringue recipe, I came across some dried lavender flowers I had, so I decided to make Lavender-Meyer Lemon Syrup. I also expanded my love of leftovers into the baking world. After I finished filling my tartlette crusts for the challenge, I still had more filling and more meringue. So I decided to play and have fun. I added some Lavender-Meyer Lemon Syrup to my leftover lemon curd to make meringue cookies filled with Lavender Lemon Curd. I think I enjoyed them even more than the original tartlettes. There is just something so spectacular about the combination.

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I also was a huge baking geek and researched online ways to keep the meringue from weeping. Lemon Meringue is my mom’s favorite and I had to make the tartlettes on Friday, so they were going to have to sit in the fridge overnight. So I wanted to do my best to keep them from disintegrating, since the recipe states you should eat the pies within 6 hours. I also learned a technique for making the perfect meringue (see my cooks noted embedded in the recipe for these tips).

This was a great challenge for me. I really had a great time making a huge mess in my new kitchen and using some new toys. It was really a fun day and left me feeling so happy and renewed inside. I am not sure why – maybe the sunshine stored inside those lemons!

So without further ado – here is the recipe for Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from “Wanda’s Pie in the Sky” by Wanda Beaver)
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008

Host: Jen (Canadian Baker)

Challenge Requirements:
1. Pie flavor must be lemon

Allowed Modifications:
1. You may make either the pie or the Lemon Meringue Free Form Tartlets (recipe follows Lemon Meringue Pie)
2. You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
3. You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like
4. Decoration is up to you – lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.
5. High altitude modifications are allowed as long as you stay “true” to the recipe.
6. Conversion for certain dietary restrictions like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan etc. is allowed.
7. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:

3/4 cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

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(see that label on the cornstarch? – made from Non-GMO Corn! Love that!)

For the Filling:

2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3/4 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
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:

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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.

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(as you all can see, I also didn’t have a rolling pin!)
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 1/8 inch (.3 cm).

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Here is where I cut my crust into small disks so form the tartlettes. If you are making a big pie, follow these directions:

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 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

Here is where I used my mini-muffin tins.

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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.

To Make 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.

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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.

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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.

*According to my online research, to prevent meringue pies from weeping, you should add the meringuw topping to HOT filling. This ensures that the meringue starts to cook on the bottom as soon as it hits the filling, forming a stronger barrier. I did this and it seemed to work really well*

To Make 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.

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*According to online reseach I learned that to make perfect meringues you should add your SUPERFINE sugar and wait five minutes before continuing to beat to make sure all the sugar has dissolved*

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.

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Daring Bakers Extra Challenge: Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from “Ripe for Dessert” by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.