Life, Lemons, and Pie

It was on my mind to start a new sewing project yesterday. I'm still wanting to make a tote bag for my cutting mat and rulers, and it would be nice to have it finished for the class I'm taking on August 1st. But then I started making my grocery list, and I've had a longing for a lemon meringue pie. When I'm making dessert these days, I'm trying to limit myself to dessert for two...for obvious reasons. Maybe not obvious to you, but my bathroom scale keeps saying "neh, neh, neh" every time I step on it these days. So, if for no other reason than to piss off my scale, I'm mostly limiting myself to dessert for two.

Lately I've had this yen for lemon meringue. I blame King Arthur Flour for sending me an email about their own recipe for "mile high lemon meringue pie". Well, that's just rude, if you ask me. I wasn't particularly thrilled with their recipe...I forget why...probably because it didn't serve two. So I set about searching for a recipe for lemon meringue pie for two. I could find nothing that was, strictly speaking, a pie. There were a lot of little pies made in muffin cups (like a dozen of them...hardly a dessert for two). Some were in custard cups, and again, not for two. Finally, I took a combination of recipes and came up with my own concoction that I could bake in my own little 6-inch pie plate.

Even after working out all the calculations, it has taken me several weeks to pull myself together enough to actually get baking. 

Yesterday morning I was thinking I'd start a new sewing project, and then I decided...heck...why not today. And so...a pie was born. 

Pretty, huh?

I started with one of the crusts from the Dessert for Two cookbook by Christina Lane. Hers wasn't pre-baked and Cook's Illustrated seemed to think that was a good idea. They also liked the idea of rolling out the pie dough using graham cracker crumbs on the rolling surface, rather than flour. I was guessing at the amounts and the baking times, but the crust seemed to turn out okay.

Then there was the matter of the filling and the meringue, which were also made separately. Again, I was winging it, figuring about 2/3 of the amount for a whole pie. As it turned out the filling was just about right, but I ended up with a lot more meringue than I needed. That's okay because the filling took four egg yolks, and the meringue took four egg whites. You can see how that made sense to me. When you're separating eggs, you really want to use both parts of every egg. It keeps the universe in balance somehow. We here in the Northwest are gnashing our teeth about the Cascadia Abduction Zone right now and so balance is everything. And that extra meringue? You know what to do with that, don't you?

So I did all the baking in my toaster oven. When the pie came out of the oven, well...it nearly gave me the vapors, it was so beautiful. But then I had to wait all day to cut into it. I wondered if the meringue would stick to the filling or whether it would just slide off and go its own way when we cut into it. As it turns out, it was as beautiful when we cut into it as it was when it came out of the oven.

And boy, oh boy, was it yummy. I think I needed to pre-bake the crust a little longer...either that, or I need more graham cracker crumbs coating my pie dough when I pre-bake it. In any case, this recipe is a winner.

As I've said before, these pies for two will actually serve four. We ate half tonight, and we'll have the other half tomorrow. Wanna see the recipe I came up with? I've adjusted the baking times, but if you decide to give it a try, watch it while you bake it. Toaster ovens are different from oven to oven, and if you bake it in a full-sized oven, you'll get a different result. The filling and the meringue should be fine no matter what, but watch that crust while it prebakes. Here's my recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie for Two

Recipe By: Barbara Stanbro
Serving Size: 2

For the Crust:
1 Cup All-purpose Flour
2 Teaspoons Granulated Sugar
1/4 Teaspoon Table Salt
1/4 Cup Cold Unsalted Butter -- diced
1/2 Teaspoon Cider Vinegar
3 Tablespoons Ice Water -- May add up to 2 more tablespoons if the crust is dry
1/2 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs

For the Filling:
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
Pinch Table Salt
1 1/8 Cups Cold Water
4 Large Egg Yolks
2 Teaspoons Grated Lemon Zest And
6 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice -- from 2-3 lemons
1 1/2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

For the Meringue:
1 Tablespoon Cornstarch
1/3 Cup Water
1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Large Egg Whites
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Make the crust: In a medium-size bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture with your fingertips or a pastry cutter. The butter should be evenly distributed and flecked throughout the flour. Stir the vinegar into the 3 tablespoons of ice water and add to the flour mixture. Stir to combine using a fork. If the dough is dry and won't come together, you may add up to 2 additional tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. It should clump together in your hands when squeezed. Form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Spread graham cracker crumbs on a rolling surface and roll out the dough to an 8-9 inch circle. Sprinkle more graham cracker crumbs while rolling out the dough, both over and under. Continue sprinkling additional crumbs, coating the dough heavily. Fit the graham cracker-coated dough into a 6-inch pie plate. Working around the circumference of the pie plate, ease the dough into the pan corners by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand, while gently pressing it into the pan bottom with the other hand. Trim the dough edges to extend about 1/2-inch beyond the rim of  the pan. Fold the overhang under itself; flute the dough or press the tines of a fork against the dough to flatten it against the rim of the pie plate. Refrigerate the dough-lined pie plate until firm, about 30 minutes, then freeze until very cold, about 15 minutes.

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375°F. Remove the dough-lined pie plate from the freezer, press a 12-inch piece of heavy-duty foil inside the pie shell, and fold the edges of the foil to shield the fluted edge; distribute pie weights over the foil. Bake, leaving the foil and weights in place until the dough looks dry and is light in color, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and weights by gathering the corners of the foil and pulling up and out. Continue baking until light golden brown, 5-6 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack.

Make the filling: Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at the beginning and more frequently as the mixture begins to thicken. When the mixture starts to simmer, whisk in the egg yolks, 1 at a time. Whisk in the zest, then the lemon juice, and then the butter. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to keep it hot and prevent a skin from forming.

Make the Meringue: Mix the cornstarch with the water in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally in the beginning and then more frequently as the mixture thickens. When the mixture starts to simmer, remove from the heat.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325°F. Mix the cream of tartar and sugar together. Beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Beat in the sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the cornstarch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue to beat the meringue to stiff peaks. Remove the plastic from the lemon filling and return to very low heat during the last minute or so of beating the meringue. (You want to ensure that the filling is hot.)

Pour the hot filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Using a rubber spatula, immediately distribute the meringue evenly around the edges of the pie first, and then the center of the pie (to keep it from sinking into the filling). Make sure the meringue attaches to the piecrust to prevent shrinking. Using the back of a spoon, create peaks all over the meringue. Bake the pie until the meringue is golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Best served the day it's made.

Aside from baking, I did some housework and pretty much took a day for myself. (Baking counts.) And my cat...he worshipped the sun while I scoped out recipes.

How did you spend your Wednesday?

13 comments from clever and witty friends:

Kate said...

Great. Now I really need tiny pie plates. Thanks a lot!

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Looks yummy, but I will still buy my pies from the bakery.

Quilting Babcia said...

I'll be trying this entire recipe when the stars align and all the ingredients are in the house at the same time. May take awhile though. Looks positivery yummy.

Podunk Pretties said...

Pass the pie! Wish I could make a meringue that stayed on the pie. The last one I tried slip off the pie as I was taking it out of the oven.

beaquilter said...

Delicious! my daughter and I have tried two different lemon pie/tarts so far this summer, all yummy. This morning a neighbor invited us to pick blackberries so we picked a TON and made a cobbler, waiting for hubby to get home with ice cream for dessert tonight!

Rhonda Casey said...

Can't wait to try your Lemon Meringue recipe. Lemon Meringue is my favorite pie.

gayle said...

Mmmmmm.... I love lemon meringue. And I do believe there are some lemons in the fridge...

Kate said...

It looks so pretty, it has to be tasty!

Dasha said...

Awesome pie there! I avoid pastry as I am on a Gluten Free diet and pastry just never seems to work. Cakes and biscuits I have worked out, and have a little repertoire, but pastry is always Yuk. Takes too much effort to have it not turn out. You are tempting me though.....

Barb H said...

Oh My God! That pie looks amazing! If I had an oven these days, I would make one and eat it all myself, bathroom scale be damned! Okay, I'd share it with Lily, I suppose, if I have to, I guess.

Kathy H said...

Oh, Barbara, yout pie looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing the recipe too. I have been enjoying your pictures from the show too.

quiltzyx said...

Such a beautiful pie! Lemon Meringue was my Mom's specialty pie, but she did NOT use a recipe & the time I tried to watch & measure just didn't work out.
What is a "non-reactive" pan? Stainless steel?
When I saw the picture of Smitty, at first I thought he was laying in a bowl! LOL

Kirsty said...

LMP is one of my all time favourites. Yours looks divine. I will definitely try your recipe. Loved seeing Smitty working up a sweat...yeah!