On the menu for Week 3:  Lemon Meringue Pie and Pumpkin Pie

My Art of Pies class at George Brown College has been proceeding quite nicely. Our third class was dedicated to lemon meringue pie and pumpkin pie.

We began with the crusts for both our pies which were a very basic pastry crust made with vegetable shortening. For single crust pies in particular, I prefer to make butter crusts, but overall I thought the crusts turned out nicely. For the lemon meringue pie, we pre-baked the crusts, while for the pumpkin pies we were able to put the filling into the unbaked pie shell.

The lemon meringue pie consisted of two components besides the crust:  the filling and the meringue. For the filling, we began by making a syrup of water, sugar and salt which we brought to a boil. In a separate bowl we combined cornstarch, lemon juice, a bit more water and eggs. We tempered our mixture with a bit of the hot syrup and then poured it into the pan with the remainder of the syrup. We cooked the mixture until it thickened and we had a lovely curd. We finished it off by stirring in a bit of butter.

Dscn4638We put our lemon filling aside to cool and began making the meringue filling. The type of meringue that we used for our pie is called Swiss Meringue. This type of meringue involved cooking sugar, egg whites and cream of tartar until it reaches a certain temperature. The mixture is then put into the bowl of a stand mixer and whipped until very firm. We whipped our meringue for about ten minutes.

To assemble our pies, we poured the filling into the baked crusts and then used piping bags to pipe the meringue onto the filling. We baked the pies in a hot oven for about ten minutes to give the meringue some colour.

Overall, I liked this pie. The filling could have had a bit of a stronger lemon flavour. I would probably have added more lemon zest to accomplish this, but it was still a nice, silky filling. I liked the meringue as well and there’s no question that the pie looked impressive out of the oven. I have an unbelievable lemon meringue pie recipe that I make all the time and I’d have to say that the one we made in class didn’t really measure up, although it was good. I’ll have to share my lemon meringue pie recipe with you one day soon!

Dscn4641The pumpkin pie was a breeze to make and I almost questioned why we were making it in this class. But as the instructor stressed the importance of quality ingredients, I realized that even a pumpkin pie can be messed up. Our instructor recommended making your own pumpkin puree by roasting a pumpkin and then blending the flesh until smooth. In class we used canned pumpkin, but I must say it was an excellent one. It was pure pumpkin puree with no additives and the taste was wonderful.

We mixed our puree with brown sugar, eggs, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, heavy cream and butter. The result was a rich and tasty filling. Our pies baked very quickly and once out of the oven proved that it does not take a lot of effort or time to make a truly beautiful pie.

The flavour was pure pumpkin with a nice hit of spiciness. I loved it!

On the menu for Week 4:  Boston Cream Pie.

Dscn4711Never a fan of the Boston Cream Doughnut, I was a bit hesitant about making this "pie" in class. It actually consists of sponge cake, pastry cream, chocolate ganache and fondant.

We began by making a very basic sponge cake that consisted of eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and flour. We baked our cakes in 9-inch pans. This is the sort of basic recipe that you can use for so many desserts, you can even enjoy just on its own. And believe me I was tempted!

Boston Cream Pie has a pastry cream filling so while our cakes cooled, we set about making the pastry cream. Again we used a very basic recipe that turned out beautifully. Our pastry cream consisted of milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract and butter. We brought milk to a boil in a pan. In a separate bowl we mixed sugar and cornstarch and in a third bowl we whipped our eggs. We added the sugar/cornstarch mixture and some more milk to the eggs. We added a bit of the hot milk to the egg mixture to temper them. We then poured the entire mixture back into the pot and heated it until it had thickened. We brought the mixture back to our work stations and added the vanilla extract and butter. We whisked until smooth and then spread our pastry cream out on a baking sheet to help it cool quickly.

Dscn4715For the chocolate ganache, the instructor prepared that for the entire class. I’m guessing he used a pre-prepared chocolate icing (found at cake supply places). He also provided fondant which is also used in cake decorating.

To assemble our Boston Cream Pie, we spread pastry cream on one layer of sponge cake and then topped it with the second layer. We poured the ganache over the top of the sponge and spread it around making sure to have ganache fall over the sides to coat them nicely. We used fondant to create a nice design on the top of the cakes.

While there were a lot of steps to this particular pie, I have to say I enjoyed the results. The sponge was fresh and moist and the pastry cream was fantastic. I wasn’t too thrilled with the chocolate ganache as I suspect there wasn’t a lot of real chocolate in there. At home I would definitely use the real thing. But I did enjoy decorating with fondant which is an important part of cake decorating.

And I can’t lie. This pie was delicious and there’s no question that it’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most thus far. See you next class!