Thursday, January 20, 2011

Evil Meringue tammed

So I do a lot of baking from my Grandmother's recipes. Years ago when I asked her about making meringue she said, "use cool whip," and that was the end of it from her. This is VERY unlike my g-ma! She is usually Very excited to con me into a day to hang out with her. So, I did use cool whip for a long time.
Then, two years ago my husband volunteered me to bake a lemon meringue pie from scratch for a co-worker. Without doing much research (in hindsight, this was stupid!) I tried "winging it." The pie crust I have down - not an issue.
The homemade lemon filling actually went very well
It was the meringue that MISERABLY failed! Again, keep in mind that I had not done any research, and I did not really get the concept of meringue. what little I had read said to whisk the eggs until frothy. I thought this meant bubbly; I was wrong. Needless to say, I did NOT beat the eggs strong or long enough. However, I thought they would "magically" rise (cakes do - why not eggs) once in the oven. They of course did not. So I then had raw eggs slightly browned atop my lovely pie. Somehow or another (I think I tried turning the broiler on since the oven wasn't magically making the meringue work) and caught the eggs on fire. Oops. I got them out of the oven, down the garbage disposal, and it was the most successful part of the day!

I avoided meringue for the next 2 years.

Once again my fantastic hubby volunteered me to make ANOTHER homemade lemon meringue pie. After I laughed and screamed inside my head, I decided to stop avoiding the mean eggs and figure this thing out. I did some research this time (meringue for dummies, common meringue mistakes, fool proof merginue, etc types of google searches) and I started to understand better. Apparently the keys are:
**NO OIL or fats. Use a metal bowl, metal whisk, wash well and dry with a fresh towel without touching with bare hands (oil from the skin will ruin it).
**USE A STAND MIXER - not all sites say it is allowed, but it is Very worth it!
**Use Fresh eggs
**when the eggs are cold, separate yolk from whites (the yolks hold together better and are less likely to break when they are cold). Separate one, add to a clean bowl, separate the next into a different dish (this way if some yolk does get into the white you only have to toss the one egg and not all of them. **DO NOT JUST SCOOP OUT YOLK and still use the white. if ANY of the yolk gets in - get rid of the whole thing - it really will make a difference in the end. Do your best to avoid touching the whites when you are separating them (I have a metal spoony-weird thing from pampered chef whose job it is to hold the yolk while the white slips through.
**let the white come to room temperature (about 30-45 min usually) before you try to beat them
**turn the mixer on to low and beat until you start to see the eggs froth (little bubbles all over). Then turn it up to medium and add the cream of tarter. Leave it on medium until you start to see the eggs turn white and expand. If after about 5 min there is no white and no expansion, oil or fatty acids from the yolk likely contaminated your whites and you are out of luck - keep trying.
**once the eggs form soft peaks (if you pull the beater out of eggs and flip upright, the white egg matter should be pulled by gravity and fall downward. This means this is time to add the sugar.
**Add it SLOWLY! the slower the better. I often will add it a teaspoon at a time!
Then let the sugar dissolve completely - continue beating until stiff peaks are formed (now when you pull the beater out and turn upright, gravity will be no match for these eggs!)
**top pie filling to the Very edge - get a good seal on the pie - crust to crust to crust.
**bake in oven (350) for about 10 minutes and Voila.

**NOTEWORTHY: you can/should wait until the morning to add meringue if the pie is for the next day. Meringue and the fridge do NOT get along! weeping (water droplets on the meringue) and/or grand canyons (cracks in the meringue) are common after refrigeration.

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