Sunday, March 6, 2011
a pie problem
lemon meringue pie
Yes, I've tried a lemon meringue tart before, but never an official pie. The main difference between what I made and a traditional pie is that I used an Italian meringue (egg whites that are cooked by being whipped together with a sugar syrup) instead of a French meringue (egg whites whipped together with plain ol' granulated sugar). I like the smoothness of an Italian meringue. French meringues taste to much like eating cotton candy to me. Blech.
Chef is currently working on a lemon meringue pie at work to replace the long-running apple pie on the menu. There have been two main problems, though, with the meringue topping. First, the meringue has "weeped" or oozed down over the crust after it has been browned in the oven, making the crust soggy. Second, the meringue refuses to bond to the lemon curd filling and instead slips and slides all over the top of the pie. Lemon meringue is definitely not one of my favorite pies (meringue is just too sweet for me), but I found the problems intriguing and decided to give it a try at home.
There are two schools of thought when making lemon meringue pie. Some people think that the lemon curd filling should be poured into the pie shell immediately after the curd is finished cooking so that the piping hot filling will cook the underside of the meringue while the oven cooks the top of the meringue. Chef has been making her pies using this method. Theoretically, this method prevents the meringue from weeping by making sure the underside is cooked enough to stop any excess moisture in the meringue from leaking out. This method is obviously not full proof, because it has not worked on the pies in the pastry kitchen.
Other people believe that the filling should be cooled before adding it to the pie shell and topping it with the meringue. I decided to use this method at home, since Chef has not tried it at work. It's also a texture issue for me. I don't like the texture of the filling if you just let it set and then eat it. It's just too wobbly that way like some kind of messed up lemon jello. I prefer to let it cool then whisk it up before adding it into the pie shell so it is as smooth and creamy as possible.
I also changed the way I browned the meringue. At work, the pie was baked a few minutes in a 400 degree oven. Instead, I flashed mine under my broiler for a few seconds until it was golden brown.
And now for the results.
I loved my filling. After I pulled it from the broiler, I put it in the fridge for the curd to set up again. When I cut into it, it was firm enough to hold it's shape, but creamy enough to satisfy me.
Also, there was no weeping. I'm not sure if I should attribute it to less time in the oven or to the fact that I added some powdered sugar to the meringue. Chef had suggested adding it to the meringue instead of straight granulated sugar so that the cornstarch in the powdered sugar would help soak up some of the meringue's moisture. I went for half powdered sugar and half granulated sugar and it seemed to work beautifully.
However, I did still have meringue/filling separation issues. It seemed to be less than what I had seen at work, but the meringue was still not connected firmly enough to the filling (insert the appropriate expletive here).
Rome wasn't built in a day, I guess.