Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Half Mile High Birthday Pie

"Don't fear the meringue!" The gauntlet thrown, I set out to conquer the eggy, fluffy stuff. My motivation?  It happens to be birthday boy Michael's favorite pie. I can count on one hand the number attempts I have made to tame this beast, everyone one of them a failure. Arrrggghh....

Not to be deterred by pie anxiety (pun intended), I poured over tons of recipes, found one that looked perfect and as I started to prep, began feeling a bit like I was lost at sea, (I know, I know, it's only a pie) so I phoned a wonderful mother who has a merit badge in pies...I swear. She sweetly talked me off the ledge and stayed with me on the line as I pulled it all together. The pie turned out to be a delicious creamy balance of tart and deep lemony yummy-ness that made all the worry worthwhile. Topped with clouds of fluffy melt-in-your mouth meringue, made us swoon. Thanks Mom.

Happy Birthday dinner of steak and lobster and Lemon Meringue PIE!!

This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook called "Meringue" by Linda Jackson and Linda Garner. I am slowly working my way through this magical journey of egg whites, sugar and air!

I adjusted the meringue in their recipe (brave of me, no?) I just wasn't ready for a mile-high steps.

Good thing looks aren't everything. This is the next day and still oh so tasty!
Half Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie
Gently borrowed from Linda Jackson and Linda Garner

Pie Crust
I just couldn't tackle a home-made pie crust (another nemesis) AND the pie, so I used store-bought. Next time though!
Follow package directions for pre-baking the crust...let it cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Filling
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt (not kosher salt)
1 1/2 cups water
4 egg yolks, placed in a small heat-proof bowl, slightly beaten (save egg whites for your meringue)
2 to 2 1/2 Tablespoons grated lemon zest (I used four medium organic lemons)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used two medium organic lemons)

4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of salt (not kosher)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (you can make your own by grinding regular sugar in a food processor)

Lemon Filling

In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually stir in the water. Bring to boil over medium heat, (watch the heat!!) stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute; mixture will be thickened and translucent.
Remove from heat. Add a little of the hot mixture to the egg yolks in a small bowl, whisking constantly; pour tempered egg mixture back into saucepan and add the lemon zest.
Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils again, about 1 minute. 
Remove from heat and add butter, stirring until melted.
Gradually stir in lemon juice. Pour into center of cooled pie crust. Let cool while making meringue.

Meringue: Heat oven to 375°

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
Add salt and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form.
Add sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, and continue beating on high until peaks are stiff and glossy.
Note: Now, this all sounds super easy, which it is, but take heed: Make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are spotless and dry. When you separate the eggs, careful not to get of speck of yolk mixed in with the egg whites, if you do...toss them, really.  Most importantly, egg whites must be at room temperature.
Also, do not over-beat...whatever that means...what? does it turn to butter?

Assemble the Pie

With a teaspoon, place meringue in mounds all the way around the outer edge of the pie where the filling meets the crust to form a seal. This will prevent the meringue from shrinking and pulling away from the crust.
Pile remaining meringue in center and spread to cover entire surface of the pie. Using the back of your spoon, form decorative swirls and peaks.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.
Make sure the bottom of the pie is at room temperature before slicing. Store any leftover in the refrigerator.
Bon Appetit!

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