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Runny Lemon Meringue Pie

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
I don't know what happened but maybe someone has an idea. I made the following recipe for a lemon megingue pie and although it looked like it has set up, I guess it didn't.
The recipe was : 4 egg yolks, 1/3 cup cornstarch, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 3 tbls. butter , 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 tbls. finely grated lemon zest.
It cooked up just fine...although I made it with extra large eggs. Could that have been the problem?
I poured it into my pie shell and after it had cooled to room temp. I put it in the fridge. I was serving it the next day.
I made Swiss Meringue (the day of serving) instead of the usual because it had been requested by the "Birthday Girl". Could that have been the problem? I took pie out of the fridge, put on the meringue, toasted the peaks with a small propane torch and then put it back in the fridge. I took it out about an hour before service to bring it up to room temp and cut into it to see that the lemon had not set up....anybody got any ideas? Thanks for any input.....
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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post #2 of 30
Sounds like you should have baked it after to me ,I would guess 55 mins in a moderate oven that would be the norm for a lmp.
Steve www.masterchefinfrance.com
post #3 of 30
It sounds very much like you may have cooked it too hot/too long. Cornstarch will degrade and fail to thicken if boiled more than a minute or so. I remember this happened to my mom when I was little (she isn't much of a baker), and it drove her to tears.

What was your technique?

Also, since the yolks act as a thickener/emulsifier, I doubt their size was an issue. Did you temper the yolks (gradually add small amounts of hot mixture to yolks before adding them to the overall mix)?

I must respectfully disagree with chef about baking the pie. I've never seen a recipe for lemon meringue pie that called for baking, at least not the American version, other than the 10-15 minutes necessary to brown the meringue.
Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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post #4 of 30
Hi LPool,
I will move this to the pastry forum where it might get more attention.
post #5 of 30
Thread Starter 
Chefinfrance, I don't think that baking it would have done the trick as this recipe didn't ever call for baking it and I've never baked a lemon meringue pie before. The lemon is always cooked in a saucepan and then poured into the pie shell to set up. So I don't think that is the answer. But thank you for your insight.
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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post #6 of 30
Thread Starter 
Rouxtheday, maybe it was cooked a bit too long...here's what I did..I put the cornstarch, water, sugar and salt in the suacepan. Put it on the burner at about medium and brought the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. I boiled it for 1 full minute removed it from the heat and added a little of it to my egg yolks that I had in a seperate bowl. Kept adding a little of the cornstarch mixture to my egg mixture until I had put in about 1/2 of it and then put it all back into the saucepan, turned the heat down to low and cooked it for another minute. Took it off the heat and stirred in the butter, lemon juice and zest and then poured the whole mixture into the pie shell. It looked like it was setting up nicely when I put it into the fridge after letting it cool to room temp. Didn't really pay any attention to it when I took it out of the fridge the next day to put on the Swiss Meringue and it didn't appear runny when I put the meringue on....that's why I wondered if the meringue had something to do with it....it was still a little bit warm when I put it on...could that extra moisture from the heat of the meringue had something to do....I guess I'll try it again and see what happens...that's probably the only way to know for sure....Thanks again for the insight....
One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well. unknown
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post #7 of 30
I didn't notice you did a Swiss meringue until just now. You may have under or overcooked the meringue. And how long was it refrigerated? Mergingues tend to break down in the fridge -- especially on a lemon pie -- they're not really designed for long-term storage. The combo of improperly cooked Swiss meringue, along with too long in the fridge may have caused enough weeping to make the custard runny.

Also, there's a very good chance your eggs weren't sufficiently fresh. This would cause problems with both your custard and, especially, your meringue.

Next time, I'd try making sure your eggs are ultra fresh, ensuring your meringue is properly cooked and fully cooled before topping the pie, and not topping the pie until you're ready to serve. If you must hold it over, keep it at room temp.

Good luck!
Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.
-M.F.K. Fisher
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post #8 of 30
I had this problem when I made one for my cooking class. I found out that my problem was I don't like science in cooking and added a 1/4 cup of extra lemon juice because I like mine sour.

Speaking of which, would there be another way to get more lemon flavor in a pie other than adding more juice?

My idea worked great other than the river of lemon juice, I had a delightful pucker.
It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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It's a wonderful thing to be spoiled in the way of food.
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post #9 of 30
did you actually cook it ?? it doesnt seem like it was
heres a great recipe to try

Lemon Meringue Pie

Note: These recipes use NZ measurements. 1 c = 1 cup = 250 ml. 1 T = 1 tablespoon = 15 ml. 1 D = 2 teaspoons. 1 t = 1 teaspoon = 5ml. If you're in America, you may find you need a little extra baking powder in recipes that use it.
170g Sweet Short Pastry
3 eggs, separated
1 c water
Juice and rind of 2 medium lemons
1 c sugar
1 T butter
4 T cornflour
4 T castor sugar
1/2 t vanilla essence

Roll pastry and line a 23cm pie dish and bake at 200C for 20 minutes – cool.
FILLING: Into a small pot place yolks of 3 eggs, water, lemon juice and rind, butter and cornflour. Heat until very thick and cook another 2-3 minutes. When quite cold pour into baked pie shell and top with meringue.
MERINGUE: Beat egg-whites until stiff then add the castor sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then finally beat in the vanilla. Spread meringue well over to the edges to seal. Cook at 200C for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.



got the recipe from this site here

Lemon Meringue Pie. Wickham family recipes.
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
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post #10 of 30

I had the same problem today.  Earlier this week I made the same pie.  Before chilling it looked and tasted fine; but upon serving it separated into liquid under the meringue.  I also used a torch to brown my meringue.  Still, I cannot figure out what went wrong.  However, there are recipes that do not require cornstarch but require baking.  I will try these out the next time.

post #11 of 30

Too much heat and/or too much acid destroy the thickening power of corn starch.  If you want to know why the filling for lemon meringue thickened, but turned runny later -- that is ALWAYS the reason. 

 

In Gummy's case, too much acid.  She can make her pie more sour by using less sugar.  For you other two ladies, too much heat.  That's a matter of technique, not ingredients.

 

There's a "no fail" technique for making the lemon filling involving tempering.

 

Whisk your filling mixture off the heat in a saucepan, with 1/3 to 1/2 of the total water, cold.  Meanwhile bring the remaining water to the boil  When the water boils, whisk it into the mixture until fully combined.  Put the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden or heat proof "rubber" spoon until it boils.  Immediately, reduce heat to medium low and stir for exactly one minute, and remove from heat.  

 

It's a very simple technique, but you must pay attention and respond to the temps -- especially when the mixture comes to the boil.  If you answer the doorbell or phone, the pie will fail.  Out of spite, if for no other reason.  Inconsistency in the temps you set on your stove, and/or the way you handled the mix as it came to the boil are most likely the reasons your results are inconsistent.

 

The problem is certainly not the torch.  In fact, a torch is the gentlest way to handle meringue on top of this type of filling.  Using Swiss meringue to top an American lemon meringue didn't cause your filling to break.  More, you certainly do not have to make a baked filling for a successful lemon meringue pie.  You can make a good pie that way, surely; but it's a different pie. 

 

You'll get less separation, less shrinkage, and less weeping if you pour the filling into the shell when it's still hot, and cover with meringue when the filling is still warm.  If the weather's particularly humid, you may want to try sprinkling a little corn starch on top of the filling before covering it with meringue.

 

Hope this helps,

BDL


Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/3/10 at 10:12pm
What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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What were we talking about?
 
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post #12 of 30

Too much acid, huh?  That explains it - the extra shot of triple sec.

post #13 of 30

Lemon juice is an acid and it tends to break down a starch, as does anything alcohol based.. I also believe the first recipe does not have enough corn starch to liquid ratio. Also try adding a little albumin powder to the fresh egg whites , this will act as a stabilizer and it will hold up without weeping. Could be you did not cook the starch enough or eggs did not have enough heat to set. Biggest enemy of this pie is age , the longer held the more separation of liquid to solids.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 30

Based on other recipes I've seen recently, I would tend to agree with the Retired Chef.  The first recipe he references appears to have similar proportions to Emeril's recipe for the same dessert.  It is a massive recipe where he adjusts all the ingredients upward.  I would never make a lemon meringue pie that large.  Furthermore, although he uses lemoncello in his version, I will not use neither that nor triple sec again!

post #15 of 30

add more corn flour

post #16 of 30

It may be you've thought of this, but lemon extract or lemon zest,  I use both (and other flavors) in whipped cream, pie fillings and a touch in the crust believe it or not.

post #17 of 30

BDL & Others, I tried today substituting lime juice 1:1 for the lemon -- no further adjustments to recipe -- rendering "the other LMP".  Started to set, refrigerated for a couple hours after it cooled on the counter.  Cut into it & gushed into the empty space of the pie pan.  Luckily I had baked up some peach pie w/raspberry whipped cream to serve the masses as well.  Son who's usually all over complimenting my cooking said "DAD what HAPPENED?!?!?" Response: I don't know, Nick.  I will have to find out though and redeem myself!

 

My question is, is there anything ingredient-wise (lime vs. lemon) that may have caused this, or does it point more to technique?  

 

Thanks, Steve


Edited by sjmilone - 10/27/11 at 11:52pm
post #18 of 30

Sjmilone, a lemon has slightly more acid in it than a lime does and not really that much to be honest, so it should not have been the reason your LMP did not set up. It had to be some part of your technique that failed. 

 

Cornstarch can be a fickle thing some times, and like the other chefs keep saying it doesn't like too much heat or acid and also over stirring once its bonded with the liquid. Food scientists tell us the best way to make LMP is to add the lemon juice "after"  the corn starch, other liquids and eggs have been thoroughly cooked and have slightly cooled.  

 

This is the way Alton Brown does it.

1. Whisk egg yolks in medium size mixing bowl and set aside. (That denatures the yolks and gets them ready )

2. In a medium saucepan, combine cornstarch, (cold ) water, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Turn heat on "medium" and, stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute (No More than that). Remove from heat and gradually, one whisk-full at a time, add hot mixture to egg yolks and stir until you have added at least half of the mixture (then mix in the rest).

3. Return egg mixture to saucepan, turn heat down to "low" and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute.

4. "Remove" from heat and "gently" stir in butter, lemon juice, and zest until well combined.

 

 

 

 

post #19 of 30

Thanks for your reply, tasquah.  It's funny you should demonstrate using AB's technique, that is what I was attempting to follow in the first place.  Even remember commenting "what the heck is a whisk-full" when I was reading it.  Think I figured it out though, should have made the meringue before the filling.  Instructions said to top with meringue "while filling still hot" and by the time I made the meringue, the filling was barely tepid, so I reheated it, not giving a thought to the chemistry of the corn starch, nor the instruction about no more than a minute...  Live and learn.  Salvaged it though:  Turned it into a frozen margarita:  freeze the pie, torch the meringue just to soften a bit, sprinkle lightly with Black Hawaiian Sea Salt & chase with Tequila shots.

post #20 of 30

 

Quote:
 I boiled it for 1 full minute removed it from the heat and added a little of it to my egg yolks that I had in a seperate bowl. Kept adding a little of the cornstarch mixture to my egg mixture until I had put in about 1/2 of it and then put it all back into the saucepan, turned the heat down to low and cooked it for another minute. 

Herein lies your problem.

Eggs contain an enzyme (extra-large have more than large) that, over time, will destroy the network of starch strands that thicken a pudding. Cooking the egg/starch mixture at a boil for 2 minutes will kill this enzyme and your custard will remain thickened.

The same hold true for the process of making pastry cream. The tendency when making starch-thickened custards is to worry about curdling the eggs with too high a heat. That will happen if you don't stir it constantly with a whisk during the short boiling time. 

Alas, if you don't bring the temp up high enough to cook out the enzyme, runny custard will result.

 

Shirley Corriher explains this process and the science behind it very well in her book BakeWise.

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post #21 of 30

Lpool,

     When you are making a Lemon meringue pie using a meringue (egg whites) as a topping you must bake the pie otherwise you would be serving raw eggs to people. It only takes a few minutes but is an important part of the process. To keep the meringue from separating from the pie after cooled and cut you should apply the meringue immediately after placing the filling into the crust. Then place in oven to cook the meringue and help seal things. When you take it out of the oven you need to let the pie sit at room temperature for approx. 1 hour before placing in the fridge (which also helps seal and reduce the possibility of the meringue leaving water droplets). After approx. 1 hour place it in fridge for approx. 5-6 hours before serving. As far as it being runny, it could be that you did NOT cook the custard long It must be thick enough before placing it in the crust. Also, be sure to blind bake (pre-bake before adding custard) your crust to keep it from getting soggy from the custard. Hopefully this helps somewhat. Also, I use milk instead of water cause it helps to keep it from being so runny and adds a wonderful smooth texture.

post #22 of 30

LPool, also, I forgot to mention that since you are using an italian meringue you cant possibly bake it but should adhere to all the other methods.

post #23 of 30

My pies keep coming out runny, too and after reading all this, I'm convinced its my cornstarch or the heat after adding the eggs.  The very first time I made LMP, it was perfect and after the second and third attempts both came out runny, it came down to what did I do different?  And the only difference was after adding the eggs on the first pie, I had to go somewhere last minute kinda thing so I turned everything off right there.  After more than a couple hours, upon return, I picked up where I left off, bringing the now way-cooled filling start back up to add the lemon juice and zest and then butter.  That was the best pie, and I don't really care for LMP, and I really just don't like pie, but that one was the best.  I've yet to try it that way again, maybe next time.thumb.gif

post #24 of 30

I have an old betty crocker cookbook, 1950s.  It's the best.  Nothing i've made in the desert area (cakes, pies, etc) has EVER come out bad. 

They say in it that too much lemon juice makes the cream break down and become runny, and that if you want a stronger lemon flavor, use more lemon zest. 

 

this recipe is guaranteed foolproof. 

make your crust fully baked blind  - it will only cook a bit later to brown the meringue

 

mix in saucepan:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 1/2 tbsp  cornstarch

stir in gradually

  • 1 1/2  cup cold water

cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  boil 1 minute. 

Stir a few tbsp of the mixture into

  • 3 egg yolks broken up with fork

stirring as you do (you don;t want to cook the eggs but mix it with the entire mass of eggs

then pour back into the pot with the hot base, beating as you do. 

blil one minute longer, stirring constantly. 

Remove from heat

add

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice (no more!)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp grated lemon rind (yellow part only)

 

Pour into baked shell

 

Preheat oven to 400F

make meringue:

 

beat

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

until frothy

add a little at a time while beating:

  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp flavoring if you want (i use vanilla)

beat till stiff and glossy. 

place blops of this on top of the cream in the pie dish, all around the edge at first, making sure to push it towards the crust so there are no holes.  Keep blopping the meringue on next to the other meringue and smoothing it together to cover all openings.  Finally, with the back of the spoon make nice swirls and points, turning the spoon and lifting

 

bake 8 to 10 minutes

 

This recipe has never failed me.  Try it. 

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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post #25 of 30

My lemon meringue pie is runny also. I disagree with someone telling another person who had the same problem that they should 'bake' it longer. I have never heard of anyone baking a lemon meringue pie....except for browning the meringue after it is put on the pie.

post #26 of 30

never tried making this, but I'd roughly guess, the lemon filling is some sort of a lemon curd? if it is, I have never made a lemon curd with water and starch. I always make lemon curd with yolks, lemon rind, sugar (beaten together until ribbon stage) then add butter and lemon juice, then cook slowly over bain marie until thick. I hope this helps. but just a suggestion, you might want to try substituting corn starch to regular all purpose flour, it might be me but I'm a little picky with my desserts especially that starchy taste I get from cooked starch... :)

Information w/o testing and validation is just data.

Information comprehended w/o testing and validation is just opinion.

INFORMATION COMPREHENDED WITH TESTING AND VALIDATION IS KNOWLEDGE.

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Information w/o testing and validation is just data.

Information comprehended w/o testing and validation is just opinion.

INFORMATION COMPREHENDED WITH TESTING AND VALIDATION IS KNOWLEDGE.

I don't just read/write recipes and try them out; I study, analyze, test, validate and revalidate them. :)

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post #27 of 30

My question exactly - how much lemon juice is in a medium lemon?  This would effect the outcome as has been noted in other postings.  I always learned a standard lemon produced 4 Tb juice....and baking recipes/formulas should state exact measurements because there is science involved.
 

post #28 of 30

So much for scientific, I learned 3 tablespoons per medium lemon, then again, most recipes specify the amount of lemon juice as tablespoons or ounces, not lemons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TJBT View Post...  I always learned a standard lemon produced 4 Tb juice....and baking recipes/formulas should state exact measurements because there is science involved.

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #29 of 30
I too have the same problem,although my recipe is the Barefoot Contessa recipe for Lemon Meringue Tart,no cornstarch only butter,sugar,eggs, lemon zest and juice. It thickened well and then I refrigerated it to use later in the week. Made the tart and cooled it. Added the filling, then made a large meringue, 8 egg whites,sugar,cream of tarter. Baked at 400 for 5 minutes then reduced heat to 325 for 20 minutes. The meringue was perfect, no weeping underneath,but the filling was runny on the bottom. I am wondering if the heat from cooking the meringue caused the filling to separate. The meringue is not the Barefoot Contessa's recipe and in her recipe you only bake the meringue for a few minutes. I will try this the next time,but I really love this meringue!
post #30 of 30

What i've read is that the acid of the lemon juice can make it runny, and so most of the flavor has to come from the zest.  

"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
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