When Life Gives You Lemons…

17 Apr

So this whole college process has basically been one disappointment after another. While I was lucky enough to get into all the colleges I applied to, I found out that sometimes dreams are near impossible. I have spent most of this year falling head-over-heels in love with Trinity University and all it had to offer. At one point the Dean contacted me on Twitter and we emailed back and forth for a bit. Then I had an interview which went extremely well, and a month or two later I got my acceptance letter and I was over the moon. It’s when we got the financial aid letter that I realized how unattainable this dream of mine was. Basically, the payments we’d be paying on the loans would be more than the mortgage on the house. This made me realize that I had to let Trinity go and pursue the other colleges.

I wasn’t as upset as I would’ve expected when I made this realization. I did not shed a tear, and it took me less than a day to figure out my new dream school: University of Portland. The irony behind this choice is that I applied on a total and complete whim. I got a shorter application sent to me in the mail with the application fee waived, so I decided to apply as a backup. Boy, am I glad I did! If I hadn’t, I would probably be going to Washington State University this Fall, which is definitely not the right school for me. I knew I wanted a small school in an urban setting so I knew private was the way to go. The only problem once again, was cost. With only tuition and academic scholarships factored in, there was a $6,000 per year difference between Uof P and WSU. I set about making a list of extraneous expenses and a pro-con list of each school to help convince my dad. Little did I know I would need none of that!

April 9th, 2011 was the day I first visited the University of Portland. We had a president’s reception, lunch on the quad and presentations from the Social Sciences and Education departments. After all that, my dad and I decided to go off on our own and paid a visit to the financial aid department. Long story short, my dad decided that U of P was going to be a much better school for me and worth the extra $6,000 compared to WSU. I accepted my admission right then and there. We promptly went to the campus store so that I could get a sweatshirt, and my dad could get a sticker for his car. After that we went on our campus and housing tour while I was completely over the moon about the whole thing. I’m a proud member of the University of Portland’s class of 2015!

Knowing that a campus visit might provide my dad with enough evidence to let me go there, I made the decision to save this post until after I found out. I wanted to save it because I realized that life had been chucking lemons at me and I was trying to make lemonade but what I really needed to do was make lemon meringue pie instead. In other words, I didn’t get my first choice and I was being miserable about it (like everyone else who this happened to) when I should’ve seen the brilliant opportunity in front of me.

I got the recipe from my Williams Sonoma (who if you haven’t noticed by now, is one of my favourites)  Essentials of Baking book.

I used some leftover pastry that was in my freezer from the apple tart. (Instructions in the corresponding post) To make the lemon curd I started out by zesting and juicing 2 lemons.

Then I separated 6 eggs, throwing away 1 egg yolk. (6 whites and 5 yolks)

Then I dissolved the cornstarch in water. You know that gross goo that you made in middle school that acted like both liquid and a solid? Yeah, that was made from water and cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan I added the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and remaining water and whisked until combined. I then added the cornstarch mixture whisking constantly until the curd came to a boil (about 8 mins).

I let the mixture boil for about a minute or until it started to thicken and looked clear and shiny. I could definitely tell when it had changed because it suddenly became harder to stir, and began to look different.

I then stirred in the lemon zest until homogenized, poured the mixture into a glass bowl and placed a sheet of plastic wrap over the top touching the top.

I then made the meringue for the top using the bowl of egg whites I had collected, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, and 6 Tbsp superfine sugar. I beat the eggs and cream of tartar until soft peaks began to form and then added in the sugar and continued beating until stiff, shiny peaks formed. Once the meringue was made, I poured the lemon curd into the pie shell until it reached the top. Note: Mine was lumpy because I refrigerated the curd overnight. If you make yours the same day, it’ll still be hot so you can actually pour it rather than scoop it like I had to.

 I then took heaping spoonfuls of the meringue and scooped it onto the base. I used the back of the spoon to create the peaks. After about 15 minutes in the oven it came out looking like this:

Since lemon meringue is eaten cold, it needs to be refrigerated for at least 5 hours until it’s completely cooled.  Here’s the recipe:

Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking Lemon Meringue Pie

The filling:

6 Tbs cornstarch

1 1/2 cups water

5 large egg yolks

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

2 tsp grated lemon zest

for the meringue:

6 large egg whites at room temp

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

6 Tbs superfine sugar

Prepare the flaky crust and refrigerate to chill. Roll out the dough, line a 9-inch pie dish and prebake fully.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F.

To make the lemon filling, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and 1/2 cup of the water until the starch dissolves. In a saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and the remaining 1 cup of water until well blended. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking constantly (this is very important — so you do not scramble your eggs), about 8 minutes. Boil for 1 minute until the mixture thickens and looks clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the zest. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the filling to keep it hot and to prevent a skin from forming.

To make the meringue, in a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment or a hand mixer, beat on medium speed until the whites begin to thicken. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat just until soft peaks form. Slowly add the superfine sugar (you should be beating at the about medium speed at this point, and adding the sugar should take you at least 5 minutes — go slow) and continue to beat until stiff, shiny peaks form.

Remove the plastic wrap from the hot lemon filling and pour it into the prebaked crust (see below). Using the rubber spatula, distribute the meringue evenly over the filling, mounding it towards the center and spreading it to the edge to seal the crust. Use the back of a spoon to form peaks an swirls on the meringue. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned, 12-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 1 hour. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until cold, at least 5 hours. Serve cold.

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