An Epic Fail in the Kitchen

I’ve been on a roll lately.  As I’ve taken tried and true recipes and altered them to be gluten free, dairy free and soy free, I’ve had success.  But last week, I tried something new.  Not only was it new from an ingredient perspective, but it was something I’d never even made with the normal ingredients.  And it failed.

I wouldn’t normally blog about a recipe failure.  But Tim suggested it would be a good blog topic and maybe all of you would have some tips for me especially because I don’t think it’s the recipe, just how I executed it.  So, instead of including a recipe this time, I’m sharing my story.

A new recipe

I was so excited.  It was my mom’s birthday and I was going to make her favorite dessert – lemon meringue pie.  I had never made one before but how hard can it be?  I knew I would have to make it work for both my mom and dad, so I had to adjust the ingredients.

I decided to go to the old standard – my Better Homes and Garden Cookbook.  I have two versions, both which claim to be “new”.  The first was published in 1968 and the second in 1987.  I guess everything is new at some point!!

The recipe seemed easy enough.  I was using a frozen pie crust that contained no gluten, dairy or soy.  I made the filling using gluten free flour and dairy and soy free “butter”.  I had everything organized – my filling station, my meringue station, the crust pre-baked and ready to go.

The process

I took pictures along the way as I knew I would want to blog about my great experience making my first lemon meringue pie.  I was using some of my favorite kitchen gadgets and thinking about how I’d like to talk about those in a future blog post.  It was going great.

As I was working on the filling, I wasn’t sure if it was doing what it should.  You add ingredients in stages and bring it to a boil with each stage.  In the last stage, it’s supposed to come to a “soft boil” and then you cook it for two more minutes. 

I think I was overly cautious and didn’t have my burner on high enough.  It took forever and even then I wasn’t sure if I’d achieved that soft boil.  I finally decided it was good, especially after I tasted it.  I poured it into the pie crust and started on the meringue.

Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve ever made meringue before.  I had my egg whites at room temperature and all the other ingredients ready to go.  It whipped up nicely into the stiff, glossy peaks I was expecting.  

I spread it across the pie, careful to adhere it to the edges of the crust, as the recipe emphasized the meringue would shrink and expose the filling if you didn’t.  It looked great!!

I baked it for 15 minutes, per the recipe, and achieved a nice brown color on my meringue.  The directions said to let it cool on a wire rack for an hour before covering it and putting it in the fridge to chill.

After an hour, I could see that some of the meringue did in fact shrink in some places.  It allowed me to see the filling, which looked a little runny.  I thought “oh, it will set up once it’s chilled”.  So, I put it in my Tupperware cake/pie carrier and in the fridge.  I didn’t look at it again, assuming it was doing exactly what it should.

The end result

When we unveiled it for my mom’s birthday, I was horrified.  There were spots of moisture all over the meringue.  (A classic case of weeping meringue!!)   It had completely shrunk and the filling underneath was soupy.  I wanted to cry!! 

I’d even brought my camera so I could take a picture of a perfect piece of pie.  Needless to say, I didn’t take any pictures.  (Now I kind of wish I had, so I could share that with you as well.)

What went wrong?

We tried to determine why it didn’t turn out well.  My mom grabbed her very old cookbooks, saying they would have the answers.  I checked the internet.  And while I think I did get some good tips (add the meringue while the filling is piping hot, cover it loosely with foil after it cools), some of the information was conflicting.

The old cookbook said to use boiling water when making the filling while the internet recipe said to use cold water.  The recipe I used didn’t specify either – just to use water.  That’s a big range of options, just for one ingredient.  So, which is the correct way?  My mom said to trust the old cookbook.

Keep trying?

I may try the recipe again, exactly the way I made it, but this time with the normal ingredients.  It would be too easy to blame it on the dairy/soy free “butter” or the gluten free flour and/or pie crust.  I’m not convinced it was the substitute ingredients that failed me so I want to prove that. 

However, I realize if I also make other changes, e.g., the temp of the water, that could influence the results too.  No, I’m going to make it exactly the same way but with the normal ingredients.  We’ll see what happens.  😉

By the way, we did eat it.  And it tasted great.  Now I just need to figure out how to make it look great too.  🥧

4 thoughts on “An Epic Fail in the Kitchen”

  1. I too, read the title as Epic Fall! I’m glad it wasn’t a fall! And I’m glad it still tasted good – that’s the important part. But, of course, it would be something you made for someone else that fails! I would be suspicious of the butter – not that I’m an expert by any means.

    1. Yea, I’m not sure about that “butter”, except it’s worked just like regular butter in other things. But it may not be the right thing for this recipe.

  2. I read this as an Epic FALL in the kitchen. Sorry, i have no experience in this department and I haven’t had a really good lemon meringue pie since my aunt pass away in 1982! However, i can recommend watching the Great British Baking show, they make lots of meringues.

    1. I’m glad it wasn’t a fall!! I do need to check out that show. My problem didn’t appear to be my meringue. The filling was soupy. I don’t know, maybe it all works together and better meringue might have made a difference. I’m not giving up!!

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