Friday, May 30, 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

The tree is doing well enough to pick a couple of lemons for this.  I found out the reason there aren't as many lemons as I thought there were is because squirrels have been stealing them.  Really?  They like lemons?

I've never made lemon meringue pie, and I've only had it a few times.  It does a wonderful job of using up cornstarch, and is much easier than it looks.  I researched a few fancy recipes, but the Bible's seems more standard in the way it uses the eggs.  There are an even number of yolks and whites, a much more efficient way to work with them.  The recipe also gives amounts for both standard 8" pies and 9" deep-dish.  I'm using the latter because that's the size crust I bought.  The only modification I made to the recipe was reducing the sugar because the lemons on my tree are mild and because that sounded like an awful lot of sugar to put in the meringue.  Feel free to raise the amounts to 1 cup for the custard and 1/2 cup for the meringue if you prefer.

I decided to go all pastry bag on this one, but that isn't necessarily the best way to top a meringue pie.  The very act of placing the meringue in the bag deflates some of it, and more bubbles are popped as you squeeze it onto the pie's surface.  I just thought it looked cool, and Roommate Smurf was highly impressed by the effect.  Spooning it on and spreading the meringue with the spoon or a spatula is the traditional method.  Whichever way you do it, make sure the crust edge is sealed so the filling doesn't bubble out.
1 9" pie crust, baked and cooled
1/3 C cornstarch
1-1/2 C lukewarm water
1/2 C lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
grated peel of 1 lemon
4 eggs, separated
1 Tb butter

1.  In a 2-quart saucepan, stir together cornstarch, 2/3 C sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt.  Stir in lemon peel, lemon juice, and water and allow to dissolve while you're separating the eggs.  If the cornstarch isn't dissolved before you turn on the heat, you may end up with lumps.

2.  Bring mixture in saucepan to a boil over medium heat, stirring almost constantly.  Again, you want to make sure the cornstarch doesn't lump or stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.  As it comes to a boil, it will develop a thickened, gel consistency and turn somewhat translucent.  Remove from heat.

3.  In a small bowl, beat egg yolks slightly.  Add about 1/2 C of hot lemon mixture to eggs and beat together to temper the eggs so they don't curdle.  Return to pot and stir in yolks thoroughly.  Return saucepan to heat and cook only until thickened further.  Do not boil again, or eggs will curdle.  Turn off heat and stir in butter until melted and incorporated.  Pour hot filling into pie crust.

4.  Preheat oven to 375º.  Beat egg whites with 1/4 tsp salt until soft peaks form.  Gradually add 6 Tb of sugar and whip into firm peaks.  Don't over-beat, or the meringue might break.  Spread meringue over filling, touching pie crust all around.  It's a lot of meringue.  Feel free to heap it up tall in the middle if you want.  Decorating the pie is up to you.  You can go for the smooth look, or swirl it up in places to make points.  Warning, the points will cook faster than the flat places.  If you decide to do the pastry bag, use a big tip, fill the bag gently, and try not to squeeze any harder than you absolutely have to.

5.  Bake pie until the meringue is the color you want, at least 10 minutes.  Check every 2 minutes after that.  Mine came out a touch darker than I expected.  The color comes from the sugar.  If you want to cook the meringue longer to make it more stable, use less sugar.

6.  Cool to room temperature before refrigerating, or the meringue might fall or get stale.  Serve chilled. Meringues don't last long.  They start to deflate within 24 hours.  They are still safe to eat, but they get a watery look from the uncooked egg whites at the bottom returning to their natural state.  Boo-hoo, you have to eat the pie fast.

Makes 1 9" pie, about 6 to 8 servings

Difficulty rating :)

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