Sunday, January 27, 2008

Something Daring and Cheerful

In the Land of St. Honore’ the Yuletide has passed and the rains and snows of winter have settled in. The Queen of Hearts is having trouble waiting for February and her favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day.

So she calls for the Head Baker and says, “I grow weary of this poor weather and need a treat. Bake me something special, something sweet, something cheerful!”

The Head Baker returns to the kitchen and thinks and thinks and thinks. Then he begins to bake. Sugar, eggs and chocolate all are lovingly crafted into a beautiful dessert.

That evening, after the King and Queen and all the court in the Land of St. Honore’ have eaten their roast venison and root vegetables, the Head Baker grandly presented the dessert he had baked for the Queen.

She looked at the elegant ganache topping the chocolate layer cake with jam and fruit filling of the Sin City Cake and tasted it, then shook her head. “No, this is very nice, it is sweet and special, but it is not cheerful!” she said.

So the Head Baker returned to the kitchen and looked through his many cookbooks, looking for something special, something sweet, and something cheerful.

The next evening, after the King and Queen and all the court in the Land of St. Honore’ have eaten their dinner, the Head Baker hopefully presented the dessert he had made that day. It was Lemon Bars, dusted with powdered sugar. The Queen tasted one and shook her head. “This is sweet and cheerful, but it is not special” she said. “Bake me something special, something sweet, something cheerful. I grow weary of being disappointed.”

Well, the Head Baker knew what happened to people who made the Queen too weary, and he surely did not want to be one of those, oh no. Working for a royal pain, erm, person, was never easy. It was time for him to be daring.

So the next day he wrapped himself up in a warm coat and muffler and made his way to the home of Jen , the Canadian Baker. She took pity on him and shared her recipe for a dessert that is sweet, special and very cheerful. He worked all afternoon. The flour flew, eggs were separated, his arm almost fell off from all the stirring for the filling and he found that each element of this dessert was not too difficult, although the filling did weep a bit. It was such a delicate filling that as soon as a piece was cut and removed, the rest of the filling also started to gently slide toward the space where the piece had been. So he made another one.

That evening the Head Baker was quaking in his boots as he brought in the dessert after the dinner had been cleared.

The silver platter held a pie, crowned with puffs of meringue, made golden brown and firm in the oven. Hiding under that crown was a sunny, cheerful yellow filling, delicate, silky and sweet, but tangy with lemon. It was all held together by a delicious, flaky, buttery crust. The Queen took a bite of her slice as the Head Baker looked on anxiously. The Queen smiled, nodded, and said, “This is the perfect dessert for the winter. It is sweet, it is cheerful, and this gorgeous Lemon Meringue Pie is certainly special.”

The Head Baker breathed a sigh of relief and was pleased when the Queen passed a piece to him so that he could enjoy it, too. He only wondered what he would need to come up with for Valentine’s Day…but that’s next month.

To see what the other bakers in the Land of St. Honore’ have done with Jen’s recipe visit the other Daring Bakers using the Blogroll here. To see the recipe for this special Lemon Meringue Pie scroll down. Do try making this for your own King or Queen or Prince or Princess, or even for the local Firemen or Librarians. We can all use a little cheerful, sweet and delicious pie in the winter months.

The Head Baker used Meyer lemons picked from her very own tree by a dear friend, Pam. Perhaps that’s why the Queen found it so delicious, but it is probably just as tasty with any variety of lemon.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008
Host: Jen (Canadian Baker)

Makes one 10" pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ 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
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For 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 ⅛ 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 ½ 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.

For 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.

For 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

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.
You can make one pie or tartlets (in a tin or free-form)
You can compliment your pie with a sauce. For example, you can serve it with raspberry or white chocolate sauce.
You can use a piping bag to apply the meringue if you like.
Decoration is up to you - lemon zest or fruit are totally acceptable.

Pie recipe courtesy of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver, 2002
Tartlet recipe courtesy of Ripe for Dessert by David Lebovitz, 2003


Baking Soda said...

I like the word cheery for this dessert, it is! Well done

Anna Haight said...

All of the above sound good to me! And that Lemon meringue pie! Whooa!

kellypea said...

Wow -- I'm impressed with the story and smiled the whole time. Very creative -- and the photos are lovely! How nice that you had meyer lemons. Sigh...

Dharm said...

Elle! What a lovely write-up and what a lovely pie too! I'm glad it turned out so well for you. Well Done!

Peabody said...

The head baker is very lucky to have a friend with a Meyer lemon tree!!!!
Lovely pie.

Maryann said...

Wonderful DB post, as usual :)
I wish I had Meyer lemons growing in my fields.

Annemarie said...

Oh hooray, I really like the visits to the land of St Honore. :) Your meringue looks perfect and cloud-like.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

And Elle this is a wonderfully sweet, wonderfully special and wonderfully cheerful post!
Your pie looks like all of those and good to eat!

Jerry said...

Looks lovely Elle! It's an actual pie unlike mine!

Dianne's Dishes said...

I love your write up about the pie! You definitely made me smile on this cloudy winter day! :)

Veron said...

Wise choice by head baker to use meyer lemons for the pie. The should be really pleased. It is one beautiful pie!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Pie looked wonderful. Great Pictures!

Meeta said...

Love the story and love the pie. Simply awesome!

Deborah said...

I love your stories!! And you have the right idea with the meringue - I love how much is piled on top of your pie!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Beautiful pie! As always, I just loved your post. Very clever!

karen said...

Fun read! And you made it twice, wow. The end product looks yummy!

Katie said...

Your tart looks great. You have amanaged to get the meringue topping wonderfully even brown.

DaviMack said...

Oh, how envious I am of your Meyer lemons! I was wishing for them, thinking to myself, "I could slice them really thinly, and just line the bottom of the pie with them ... and the DB's wouldn't have to know, or it could count as decoration...."


Mary said...

Nice job Elle! I always look forward to your stories from the Land of St. Honore! =)

Tablebread said...

Great job! It looks like you really nailed this one - your meringue looks wonderful :)

Quellia said...

Clap, clap, clap! Horray for the wonderful story from the land of St. Honore!

culinography said...

What a lovely story... and a lovely pie! Great job! :)

Augustina said...


Brilynn said...

Love the story! Special indeed!

SweetDesigns said...

Your Pie looks wonderful!! I love all your pictures!

Claire said...

I always love your "stories!" Pie looks great. And the picture of that lemon...I love it.

glamah16 said...

Another lucky DB with a Meyer Lemon Tree!Great job.

Andrea said...

I am so envious of your Meyer Lemon tree! Your pie looks great!

Sweet and Savory Eats said...

Meyer lemons are the best. I love your story -- so creative.

Mindy said...

love the storybook telling Elle!

Your writing and photography draw me in more and more each time I visit your site... thanks

Kim Stone said...

Love the story! Your pie certainly was not disappointing. Great job.

eatme_delicious said...

Mmm looks good. And made with meyer lemons! I still haven't tried those.

Cheryl said...

That was the cutest story. Well done. Your pie came out wonderfully.

Shandy said...

Now, if we can just print your beautiful stories for the challenge in a book and publish it, the book would be a *best seller*. I just love reading your stories that go with a challenge. In fact your story is as beautiful as the end result for the LMP! My Mom has a lemon tree but I didn't think of asking her to send me some and I think that a dessert is even more special when it comes from your own tree =D

Dolores said...

I'm so glad you continued the 'fractured fairy tale' approach to documenting the January challenge Elle. I've gotten to the point that I'll miss them if you take a month off!

Foodie Froggy said...

Love your writing too ! And the pie : yummy !!

zorra said...

What a wonderful post! And your LMP looks great!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

All rise for the Queen!

Looks good Elle.

Mer said...

I love your writing style. How fun! :0)

Thanks also for posting a comment on my blog with words of encouragement.

Kelly-Jane said...

Your pie looks great well done :) Your lemons are so fresh, I can dream!

Lunch Buckets said...

Your lemon pictures are beautifimous!

wmpe said...

What a creative write-up. Your photos are fantastic. The Meyer lemons must have made the pie taste wonderful. Just lovely. Wendy

Cynthia said...

auElle, I particularly like that first photograph.

Bellini Valli said...

I have yet to see a Meyer lemon up here in British Columbia. I can only imagine their flavour. I think a food stylist would LOVE your pie. Look at that meringue!!!!

Lis said...

Awww what a sweet story!! I'm glad the head baker finally got it right. hahahahaa :)

Your pie is almost as pretty as the lovely gal who baked it.


creampuff said...

Nice pie!

Aoife said...

It looks delicious -- and I do love a happy ending!