Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lemon Meringue Tart

I finally cooked something else out of my cookbook!  However, I'm not sure it turned out right.  Heath was craving something lemony, so while he was at work I thought I would try and whip something up.  It was a  lot harder than I thought.  I didn't want to make a pie crust so I bought some premade dough that you just unroll onto your pie or tart dish.  Seems easy right?  Well, it was...until I burn the crust.  You precook it for 9-12 minutes, so at 9 minutes I looked at it and thought it could use just a minute more.  Big mistake.  I got busy juicing lemons and 3-5 minutes later I smelled smoke.  Sure enough, the pie crust was black.  Thankfully the package came with 2 crusts so I quickly cooled the tart pan and rerolled the dough out.  But having sat in the freezer for a few minutes it didn't form to the pan as well and actually cracked in the bottom.  I tried to smooth it all out and patch up the holes, but when I pulled it out of the oven after 9 minutes exactly, the cracks had reappeared.  At least it was nice and golden brown!
Knowing that I would have to whip everything together quickly with the custard and meringue parts I got all my ingredients out ahead of time and even measured them into individual little dishes that my mom got me for Christmas. The recipe calls for 4 eggs, separated, so I tried my luck at moving the yoke back and forth between the two halves of the shells to separate them (since I didn't have an egg separator).  And it worked!  I didn't break any of the yokes or get little shell pieces in them or anything.  I felt very proud of myself.  I made the lemon custard and I believe I was able to cook it correctly.  Though when the directions said simmer until thick I wasn't sure just how thick it needed to be, but I definitely got it thicker than it was when I put it in the pan to simmer.  Then I put it in the cooked pie crust and went to make the meringue.
Now comes the hard part.  I have heard in the past that making a meringue topping is difficult...and now I believe it.  The instructions simply stated to whip the eggs until foamy, whip in the cream of tarter until it forms soft peaks and slowly add in the sugar. So on my first attempt (yes, there were two) I beat the eggs until they looked foamy to me, and then added in the cream of tarter and beat....and beat...and beat...and it wasn't getting firm, so I added the sugar and continued to beat.  It was getting nowhere.  I set it aside and started over.  Separated egg whites, measured out the ingredients, etc.  This time the eggs quickly got "foamy" and I added the cream of tarter and it got much thicker.  Thinking I was along the right path I checked to see if there were "soft peaks" and to the best of my knowledge there were.  So I slowly added the sugar.  But as I was adding the sugar it seemed to be loosing its firmness.  I didn't have enough eggs to start again so I called it good and put it on top of the custard filling.  Next was to put it in the oven for around 12 minutes or until meringue was lightly browned.  Well after about 6 minutes or so it was light brown and I didn't want it to burn like the crust had, so I took it out.
Since it needed to cool completely I set it on a wire rack and went upstairs.  When I came back down the meringue had separated from the edge, even though I had made sure it touched the edges.  There was clear liquid in the areas where the meringue had separated. I had to go to work so I just put it in the fridge.  I hope that it at least tastes good since it now looks kind of funny.
Not sure I will attempt a meringue pie again for awhile.  Two plus hours of work and the result was not very appealing.  I'm just hoping the taste makes up for the look. 

This is what I WISH it looked like:
If anyone else has made a lemon meringue pie I would love some tips!  I assume I still didn't beat the meringue long enough, I just didn't want to over do it.  I'll be sure to post how it turned out and maybe some pictures of the funny looking result. =]

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