A Daring Baker Challenge…A little late, but I did it!

I have just joined a great group of bakers affectionately dubbed the “Daring Bakers”, who once a month are given the challenge of a new recipe to try. They are given the secret recipe at the beginning of the month, and by the end of the month, all on the same day, they are each required to post the pictures and outcome of the recipe. It is a great excuse to try new recipes, ones that you may not typically make. And none of the challenges are easy. They are all multi stepped, some require chilling, or overnighting (things like this irritate me because when I am in the mood, I am in the mood and taking a time out is an aggravation) But anyway. Back in January, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make a batch of Lemon Meringue Freeform Tartlets. Let me first start by saying I have never made a tart, much less a tartlet. I have never made a “real” pie. I have never made a crust. I have never made pie filling. Oh, and I have never made meringue. So this really was a challenge for me. But why not today?

So, when Jon got home from work I set about to making the tartlet crusts. Daunting on paper, as the recipe called for using tools I didn’t have (food processor) and the other tool I had never even heard of. I think maybe they made it up to confuse me. But I prevailed by mixing the crust ingrediants with my hands. It worked, and though it was a bit messy, it cleaned up nice. I patted out the six crusts into 5-6 inch disks and stuck them in the fridge to CHILL as I worked on the filling. Good God, the filling. When the recipe says “the mixture will be very thick”, I did not imagine myself panting and cursing and praying for the damned pot to just boil already. Nor did I think ahead to how many lemons are required for 3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Christmas Day! I was squeezing lemons upon lemons, (which hurt terribly, by the way, because I cut myself on a can yesterday while making chicken pot pie…talk about lemon juice stinging) and then, with my poor atrophied biceps I had to zest 2 lemons to get enough for the recipe. I haven’t worked out that much since two years ago (okay 4) when I worked out at the gym.

Moving on, the filling was chilling and it was time to bake the crusts. These little gems turned out perfect. Couldn’t have been more perfect, actually. While they cooled I whipped up the meringue (gotta remember to use a bigger bowl next time as this makes a LOT of meringue)…added the filling to the crusts, plopped on and peaked the meringue, stuck in the oven for 5 minutes and voila, Perfect Tartlets! These are really great…the perfect size to give away. Much easier to give a little tartlet than to cut a couple of pieces of pie and say “here friend, enjoy the pie” and a much better presentation. Oh, wait. Not only do they LOOK divine, they TASTE divine, too! A little tart, but not like I was expecting after reading other foodie reviews. Yumm-O…I am super proud of my results and can’t wait to make it again for other friends and family! Out of the 6 pies, I gave away 4 already…and we ate one, so only one left in the fridge for tomorrow. No, I am not making more tomorrow. Really. Good Lord, I almost forgot. In the middle of all this baking, I was also making a roast for dinner. A ROAST? Yep. Here’s the proof.
Here’s the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from “Wanda’s Pie in the Sky” by Wanda Beaver)
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

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:
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.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). 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). 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. 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. 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.

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. 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.
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.
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