You’ve spent time and effort making a chocolate meringue pie. Then you cut a slice and find you have a chocolate soup! The filling is runny. This is such a disappointing experience. However, there are ways to avoid this.
A chocolate meringue pie will be runny if the egg yolks are not tempered. This means beating the egg yolks in a separate bowl and slowly adding just enough warm liquid to the yolks to warm them while constantly whisking. Then gradually pour them back into the hot liquid while whisking.
Let’s examine why tempering is vital to prevent a chocolate meringue pie from being runny. We’ll also cover some crafty tempering techniques that effectively achieve your desired goal. The result will be a delicious pie!
Which Ingredients Are Essential for a Firm Pie?
Your filling needs to be firm enough to hold its shape when cut and served. It relies mainly on the coagulation or thickening of the proteins in the eggs to provide that structure. The egg yolks will supply the “glue” to help the filling remain in shape and form. When added to the hot filling, they help to thicken it.
Flour or cornstarch is added for additional structure as it’s also a thickening agent.
Making the Pie Filling
The first stage in making the chocolate pie filling usually involves heating some of the ingredients in a saucepan. First, mix the dry ingredients (sugar, salt, flour, or cornstarch). Ensure the items are thoroughly mixed so that the sugar particles break up the flour and avoid lumping.
Add the required milk or liquid to the dry ingredients and keep stirring. Cook the pie mixture over a medium to medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until it is thick and bubbly.
Cooking over low heat takes too long. Cooking over a high heat may scorch the filling. The higher the heat, the more thorough you must be when stirring.
The next stage is adding the egg yolks, and they need to be tempered first.
Tempering the Eggs:
Place a ladle or large spoon and whisk on the counter.
Place the egg yolks into a bowl that’s big enough to hold at least a cup of liquid and can accommodate a whisk. Whisk the yolks until combined.
Once the liquid in the saucepan is simmering and hot, use the ladle or a measuring cup to scoop out spoonfuls of the hot mixture. Pour them very slowly into the egg yolks, constantly whisking them. This will warm the egg yolks to prevent curdling and lumping when poured back into the hot mixture.
Use your finger to test if the egg mixture is warm. If it’s very warm, you’re good to go. If it’s not, keep adding liquid until it gets there. You don’t need to add all the liquid: only add enough to warm the egg yolks.
Now slowly whisk the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the rest of the hot filling in the saucepan. Keep whisking. The filling will thicken and will start to boil gently. Big bubbles begin to break the surface.
Cook for about two more minutes. This cooking will cause the protein in the egg yolks to thicken. The yolks coagulate (or gel) at about 320 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) and create a firm pie filling. Do not overcook. Overcooking will weaken the protein structure.
Tips for Smooth Tempering:
One hand is ladling the hot mixture into the yolks, and your other hand is whisking. What happens if the bowl starts to move or slide, and you don’t have a spare hand to steady the bowl?
It helps to stabilize the bowl before you begin. Place the bowl on a wet towel, or use the towel to form a little nest for your bowl.
Roll up the towel, shape it into a hollow ring and rest your bowl inside. That will keep the bowl in place. That way, you can whisk with your dominant hand and pour with the other one.
As with most baking, it’s also best to use eggs at room temperature. That involves taking them out of the fridge at least half an hour before you use them.
Preventing Other Problems
Another problem is weeping. This is when a watery liquid develops between the meringue and the filling.
The weeping occurs because the meringue has not been cooked thoroughly. This won’t happen if you ensure that the filling is hot when covering it with the meringue. The bottom of the meringue will be cooked from the heat of the filling and will be less likely to leak or shrink.
It’s best to prepare the meringue before you make the chocolate filling. That way, the meringue is ready to be spread over the filling while the filling is still hot. Work quickly when you spread the meringue.
Hints to Ensure No Weeping, Shrinking, or Beading:
Follow our handy hints on how to keep your pie firm!
- The weather is a factor. A meringue pie baked on a rainy or particularly humid day is sometimes prone to weep more readily.
- If the sugar you beat into the egg whites wasn’t completely dissolved, the meringue also tends to weep. Remember to beat the egg whites to the soft peak stage first and then add the sugar slowly, beating after each spoonful.
- If you dip your finger into the meringue and rub it between your thumb and index finger, it should feel smooth with no grittiness. If it doesn’t, continue beating.
- If you bake your chocolate meringue pie too long, the egg whites will shrink, and drops of liquid are released. You’ll see sugary beads of water on the surface of the meringue. Check on how your pie is doing at the minimum baking time.
- If beads of liquid condensation are visible on the meringue while it’s baking, that’s a sign that your oven temperature is too low.
A chocolate meringue pie is a special treat that the whole family enjoys. With the techniques of tempering mastered and the other issues dealt with, you’re sure to create a winner!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.