Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie #17

For me this pie was full of surprises.

Surprise #1: Though a very common pie, I realized while I was making it that maybe I've never even tasted one before. So...I don't really know what a meringue is supposed to taste like except maybe airy and crispy (but maybe not, since that assumption is derived from a dessert my mom made LONG AGO)?

Surprise #2: This shouldn't be a surprise because each and every time I make candy (or something similar to candy) I forget that:
sugar + moisture + high heat = an enormous amount of bubbling
Why do I ALWAYS put that combination in too small of a pan? And why am I surprised when it boils over?Surprise #3: Besides that whole sugar boiling over fiasco this was a much easier pie to make than I anticipated. Amazingly the meringue was forgiving enough to come to life after all of those crispy spoonfuls of sugar I mixed in there also I was happy with how it looked; it was kind of like a pie of peeps, which seemed pretty appropriate for Easter.

Surprise #4: The real Easter surprise was finding out that lemon meringue pie is quit heavenly. I thought that the flavors went well together. I liked the crispy edge and the brown sugar flavor of the meringue. And as far as the main attraction goes--the lemons--I loved the how the filling blended with the creamy meringue.

I would say that the crust was the only thing that didn't really leave me in some delightful state of awe. Based solely on taste, it was good. The lip of the crust had a great flavor and flake, but the bottom was mushy (which is never good). In retrospect, I should have par-baked it for a few extra minutes without the beans and parchment paper...maybe 10-15 minutes more?

Let me know what happens if you try this crust, but for now I'm still a little baffled by that sogginess...

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Filling
6 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Italian Meringue
4 Large egg whites
3 tablespoons water
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Sweety Pie Crust
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of cold unsalted butter, cubed
3 tablespoons of cold heavy cream
1 egg yolk

(Start this pie about 24 hours before serving)

The Crust: Mix flour and brown sugar together. Cut cold butter cubes into flour mixture until it resembles small peas or coarse meal. Add cold cream and the egg yolk and stir with a fork to break the yolk and coat the flour mixture. Use hands to combine dough and form into a disc (if crust is too crumbly or won’t combine, add a bit of water or cream). Wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400F

Roll out dough, on a lightly floured surface, to form a 12-inch round. Drape the dough over a 9-inch pie crust. Trim dough and fold to make decorative edges.
Line dough with tinfoil or parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights to hold crust in place. Par-bake pie for 15 minutes, remove and let cool while combining the lemon filling

Lemon Filling: Preheat oven to 300F

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Mix in the cream and strain the mixture into a bowl. Add the zest to the strained mixture.
Place the pie shell on a lipped baking sheet and put them on a rack in the oven with the shelf pulled out slightly. Carefully pour the filling mixture directly into the crust and slide the rack into the oven gently. The pie will be very full, so be careful not to slosh it.

Bake the pie for about 1 hour, or until the filling barely jiggles when the pie is given a little shake. Let the pie cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then refrigerate it uncovered for several hours or overnight (covered) before making and adding the meringue to it.

Meringue: Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer but do not mix them yet (make sure that no yolk is in the egg whites).

Pour the water into a heavy saucepan and add both sugars; do not stir. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the sugar syrup reaches the hard-ball stage, approximately 253F, remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg whites on low speed briefly, then on medium speed, until they are frothy and have increased in volume. Add the cream of tartar. Pour in a little of the sugar mixture with the mixer off and then quickly turn it on medium-high to combine the syrup. Continue in batches this way. When all the sugar syrup is added, turn the mixer to high and continue mixing until the whites develop stiff peak (demonstrated by a peak that when pulled with the back of a spoon, takes a strong shape and does not slump back down afterwards). The meringue will cool as it gets there but will still be slightly warm.

Scrape the warm meringue onto the chilled pie and use a spatula to shape it into a smooth dome, pushing gently. Be thorough when spreading meringue on a pie and make sure you form a seal between the meringue and crust all the way around. Otherwise, if there is any exposed filling the meringue will “weep,” or release moisture, creating a water mess. Use the back of a wooden spoon or spatula to pull the meringue up into peaks. Style away until the meringue topping is covered with curvy, pointed peaks. Work quickly, before the meringue cools and sets.
Use a propane kitchen torch to evenly brown the meringue. Point the flame slightly above the peaks to avoid flare-ups. If you don’t have a torch, place the pie in a 400F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until the peaks brown nicely.

Cut and serve the pie immediately or chill it until needed. If storing it overnight or longer in the refrigerator, use toothpicks to prop up plastic wrap to cover the pie. The meringue will definitely get weepy once the pie has been cut and stored, but it is fine. It will last up to 3 days refrigerated.

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