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If there is one thing that I can make reliably and excellently, it’s lemon meringue pie. This is my culinary claim to fame, and I’ve been waiting for this day to come up in the food calendar for most of the year. And while there is some small part of my mind that thinks I should protect my secret, I’m going to ssh that brain-bit and share my recipe with you. Warning – this is not the fastest pie to make in the world…there are many less complicated. But there aren’t any that taste better. So put in the time, you’ll be happy you did. The recipe that follows makes one 9″ pie plate.
First, some tips:
+read this all the way through – you can’t really stop once you’ve started as you need to put the hot filling in the warm pie shell, and have them still be hot when the meringue is made… in other words, get as organized as possible. Also helps to do things like juice and zest the lemons, separate the eggs, measure stuff out, etc before hand.
+Seems to cook better in pyrex for some reason, but a metal pie pan will do if you don’t have the glass.
+For this entire recipe, much depends on fresh ingredients. The eggs can’t be more than a couple days old, the lemons should be the nicest you can find (and since you’re using the peel, organic), fresh spices, etc.
+It usually takes me 4 -6 lemons to make this recipe, but you may want to get a couple extra, b/c running short would suck.
+ be REALLY careful not to get any egg yolk in the egg whites when you are separating them. Yolk will ruin the meringue (however a little egg whites in the yolks won’t hurt the filling). Also, it’s really important that there is no oil on the bowl, beaters, etc that you will use to make the meringue.
-the egg whites have to be at room temperature. gotta plan ahead!
#1 – make the crust
preheat oven to 350.
mix with a fork until everything is moistened (will look a little crumby, but not chunky): 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 6 tbsp melted butter, 1/4 c white sugar, 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg (<–this is one of my secrets!)
Spread the mix evenly in the pie pan. use your fingers, or I like the bottom of a juice glass, to press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan until it’s pretty firm. Bake for 10-15 min, until lightly browned.
#2 – make filling
turn the oven down to 325, and move the rack to the top third of the oven. If you haven’t done so already, prep materials in part three, below, before making this filling
whisk in a med saucepan:
1 1/4 c white sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
whisk in, blending well:
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 c strained lemon juice (fresh squeezed from the lemons– pulp is OK, seeds are not))
4 teaspoons lemon zest
Whisk in until no yellow streaks remain
4 large egg YOLKS (not the whole eggs!) (save the whites for the top)
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into little chunks
Put this pot on the stove, and STIR CONSTANTLY (scraping the bottom), with a wooden spoon or rubber/silicon spatula, while bringing to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, cook for 1 minute. The filling will be very thick. remove from heat, and if there are any lumpy bits (which happens if you overcook it slightly) whisk the mixture vigorously for 20-30 seconds to make it smooth again.
Pour into the pie crust and immediately press a sheet of saran-wrap directly onto the surface of the pie. You’re trying to stop it from steaming, and hold as much heat as possible while you whip the egg whites. When you put the meringue topping on, the heat from the filling will cook the meringue from the bottom and the oven will cook it from the top.
#3 – meringue!
Prep: measure these ingredients out BEFORE making the filling:
1/4tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c berry sugar (finer than regular sugar)
1/2 tsp vanilla
Once the filling is made and is under the saran:
In a clean, grease free metal or glass bowl beat 4 large egg whites (at room temperature) on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until soft but definite peaks form. Very gradually ( one tablespoon at a time) beat in the sugar. Once all the sugar has been added, begin to beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Beat in the vanilla.
Immediately peel back the saran off the pie filling, and drop the meringue by the large spoonful onto the pie, going around the outside edge of the pie first to anchor the meringue to the pie-crust. make fun swirls and loops.
Immediately bake for 20 min, until the meringue is a nice light brown. Let cook completely on a rack – tastes best a room temperature.
Eat, drink and make merry.