Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Authentic Lemon Meringue Pie (Made from Scratch)

Lemon meringue pie is refreshingly tart yet sweet. It is the perfect summer dessert, especially when paired with fish, such as salmon, or light leafy and pasta salads. And a chilled white wine. And it is the perfect way to finish off a heavy dinner of roast lamb.

This recipe is from the vintage and classic Antoinette Pope School Cookbook, from Chicago, Illinois. I've made it many times and I especially enjoy its small size. I am not a believer in oversized pies. They are often underdone, especially in the center. And a large pie has a miscalculated mathematical and geometrical mismatch ratio of filling to crust. I like the crust. We all love the crust! That is why we like pie!

Look for small pie plates while at second-hand stores. They are usually inexpensive. I especially like those that carry the "Fire King" brand and are embossed with a design.

I once made this for a fellow artist and friend in Michigan. He absolutely loved it. One week, his mother visited and she made her version of lemon pie... LOL ... It was not the same. She used JELL-O pudding as the base. It did not even begin to compare (but her turkey and dumplings were to die for!).

Prepare a pastry crust recipe of your choice or buy the pre-rolled ones from the dairy section of your market (read carefuly and you will see they use LARD!), or prepare recipe that follows. Line a seven-inch pie plate and pre-bake according to instructions. Never mind all that nonsense about ceramic beans and tin foil, etc. Allow to cool. Then, move on ....

Or, you prepare a graham-cracker crust. It's your call.

If you can find it, use "super-fine sugar." And, if you can access them, use eggs that have almost orange yolks for a deep yellow color. Once, I did not have enough lemon juice, so I added some fresh-squeezed orange juice. It was delicious. My big sister still talks about that pie!

Makes one seven-inch pie. (A double recipe will make a ten-inch pie--if you must.)
  • 1 cup sifted granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks (save the whites [no politics intended])
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sifted cornstarch combined with 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1 and 1/3 cup very hot tap water
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice ( see notes below)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 good heaping tablespoon real dark yellow unsalted butter from grass-fed cows)
In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, combine all ingredients except lemon juice, lemon zest, and your authentic butter. Stir until smooth after each addition. Cook until thick and smooth over medium heat, stirring continuously. You don't want the bottom to scorch or thicken too quickly.

NOW, add lemon juice and rind, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add butter; stir until melted, cover tightly* and let stand while preparing Meringue Topping*

Meringue Topping for one 7-Inch Pie (for a 10-inch pie, double ingredients and bake 20-22 minutes)
  • 1/3 cup fresh egg whites (about 2 eggs)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon your favorite and incredible vanilla
  • 1/3 cup fine-sifted granulated sugar --- YES ... sift it!
Be sure egg whites are at room temperature. Place in a 7-inch bowl and, just before beginning to beat them, add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until they form a very soft meringue that still slides out of the bowl. If using a powerful mixer, use medium speed otherwise use high speed. This may take about one minute. Now start adding sugar, about 1 teaspoon at a time beat after each addition for a few seconds. After all sugar has been added, beat about 2 more minutes with a hand-operated beater or, one minute with an electrical beater, until peaks are fairly stiff and tips are only rounded. Do do overbeat. At this point, they should NOT SLIDE OUT OF THE BOWL.

Pour the hot lemon filling into the cooled, baked pie-shell and, at once without cooling filling, cover about 1/4 inch of outer crust with meringue to form a kind of glue, using a spoon or small spatula and pulling it inward towards center of the pie.  This will prevent the meringue from sliding off the center of the pie when cutting.

Note the soft peaks on meringue.

Heap rest of meringue onto pie filling, a spoonful at a time and, with the back of a spoon, make very slight indentations pulling up points slightly, keeping meringue a little higher in the center.

Place pie on bottom rack of a preheated 400-degree oven and bake about 15-18 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown (not tan). Keep a close eye on it. Now is NOT the time to check on laundry or water the plants. Remove from oven; place pie on a cake rack away from drafts until the bottom of plate feels cool. This may take several hours.

Then, store pie in refrigerator for at least two hours, preferably under a glass dome of some kind or a large bow. Do Not Skip this STEP! This will prevent filling from spreading when cut.

When cutting, dip a knife into hot water to prevent meringue from sticking to it.

Notes: I've had much success freezing individual slices placed on small pepper plates then placed in zip-lock bags. SimplybBring to room temperature to serve.

* Fresh whipped cream is a dream with this pie. NO baking. Cool the filling for several hours when added to crust.  Prepare whipped cream. Top and swirl. NO NO to Cool Whip**

Pie Crust
  • (Makes one open-faced 10-in crust or one two-crust for a 7 or 8-inch pie)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch or two of salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled fat (butter, lard, shortening or a combo)
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Place flour, baking powder and salt in a small food processor. Pulse to combine. Add cold fat and pulse just until combined and large lumps begin to form. Dribble water through top, pulsing as you go, until the dough masses into one lump and leaves the sides of the machine.

Remove. Knead just slightly with a bit of flour, if necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

To bake the crust for lemon meringue pie: line plate with crust and flute. Prick crust with tines of a fork along the bottom and on the sides. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes or,  just until golden. Check after five minutes and, if any bubbles appear, puncture with a fork to allow steam to escape. When cool, sprinkle with a bit of plain bread crumbs to fill in any "holes" from the fork tines.

Notes: I use a combination of butter/lard.


Unknown said...

I think this is one of my favorite desserts!

Gary said...

It's funny because when I make it people are taken aback at how good it is and they always say, "It doesn't take like lemon meringue pie." The reason: they've only had the kind made from Jell-O Pudding mix.... so funny!