A tale of two pies…

September 16, 2011


Smooth…tart…airy…silky…crispy…that’s what I think of when I think about Lemon Meringue pie.  How many of you have made this pie only to cut into it and have the filling puddle out of the sides pooling in the void of the slice you have just removed?  Did you sneak down in the middle of the night to Bogart an illicit piece only to find your meringue has sweated and you have those beads of flavor weirdness sitting atop your pie?  UGH or soggy bottoms syndrome?  Or my personal favorite, you spend all this time making your smooth as silk filling all hot and lemon-y, looking mighty fine in all its yellow goodness only to turn your back for a second to retrieve your pie shell and when you come back your filling is now a scanky pea green. You know what I mean…OH you don’t?  Well let me tell you…

I had promised Allison I would put up an entry on pie crust a long time ago and totally forgot to do it.  So I decided to use this opportunity while photographing the crust process that I would make the mess I was making in the kitchen serve duel duty and fill my desire for Lemon Meringue pie.  Well while doing both the pie and crust I had my mind on a third item I was working in the kitchen which has been filling my cooking brain trying to work out a solution for the third recipe so I was not paying attention like I should.

One of the things  you learn quickly is to NOT cook a high acid item in a reactive pan ie. aluminum or cast iron…so I just grab a pan out of the cupboard and set to tossing my ingredients into it not thinking about which pan I was using.   I have 4 or 5 cast iron skillets and one (count them ONE) aluminum sauce pan. Which pan did I grab? Yup you’ve got it the aluminum one. With my mind distracted I didn’t even think of what the lemon juice would do when in contact with the aluminum.  Well I pull my lovely pie crust  out of the oven, set to beating my whites and turn back to the stove only to find my lovely lemon filling looking like it had a date with some swamp slime. ARRGGHH!!  There I stood making a rookie mistake all because I was distracted.  So what to do…this pie already had a home to go to…I tossed the filling into the crust and topped it with the meringue and into the firebox for browning of the meringue then feed it to The Husband…he will eat just bout antyhing.  I then start pulling the filling ingredients again to cook off another filling.  Thankfully I always make a double batch of pie crust so I didn’t have to start all over with that, just a roll and toss in the oven to brown.  Needless to say I was VERY careful to NOT use the same pan on the second batch of filling.

Moral of the story do as I say and not as I did…don’t be distracted…engage your brain, unlike I did.

Basil Lemon Meringue Pie

1 1/2 c Sugar

3 Tb AP Flour

3 Tb Corn Starch

Pinch of Salt

1 1/2 c Water

3 Eggs

2 Tb Butter

Zest from 2 lemons

1/3 c Lemon Juice

1  9″ Baked Pie Crust

10-12 Basil leaves (julienned)

Combine Sugar, Flour, Corn Starch, Salt stir with a whisk to combine the flour & Corn starch with the sugar.

Separate the eggs whites and yolks, if you still have the small white membrane attached to the yolk remove it or it will be a weird lump in your filling.  Stir the yolks to break apart.   Be sure the stainless bowl you put your whites into has NO trace of fat in it or your whites will not whip.

See the white membrane on the upper right be sure that is NOT in your yolk bowlFingers make for no sharp edges to pierce your yolks

Slightly beat the egg yolks with a fork.

Add in water and stir well leaving no lumps.

Cook over medium heat till bubbly, reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes.

Now for the tricky part…you need to temper the egg yolks so that when you add them to the hot filling in your pan they do not turn into scrambled eggs. To do this you will need to add some of the filling into the yolks, spoon out some of the hot filling and add it to the yolks as you are stirring the yolks to keep them from scrambling.

You want to add about a cup of the hot filling to the yolk, once you have the two combined then scrape into the pan with the rest of the hot filling stirring in the yolk mixture quickly.  Turn the heat to medium and bring to a gentle boil, once your filling is bubbling cook for 2 more minutes.

Add in the butter, lemon juice, basil and zest stir

There is the EVIL pan

Pour into  pie shell and top with meringue making sure you have the meringue touching the edges of the pie shell.  If you do not make sure the meringue is overlapping onto the pie shell when it cools and shrinks it will pull away like shown below.

All the way to the edge peopleShrinkage is not a good thing…

Bake in a 350 degree oven until the meringue is lightly browned.

To make Meringue~

3 Egg Whites

1/4 Ts Cream of Tartar

6 Tb sugar

1/2 Ts Vanilla Bean Paste (or vanilla extract)

In a stainless mixing bowl add all the ingredients and whip until you have stiff peaks.  If you whip your whites until the look dull and slightly crumbly start over as there is too much air whipped into them and they are only good for scrambled eggs.

Everyone in the pool

At the foam stage

Almost there…
I like my meringue when I eat it a bit softer than stiff peaks, the eggs should still be glossy

9″ Pie Crust~

1 1/4 c AP Flour

1/2 Ts Salt

1/3 c Frozen Butter or Shortening (COLD!)

5-6 Tb Water (ice-cold)

** I used frozen Butter in the photos

Blend together all the dry ingredients and add grated butter or cut the Shortening into the flour.

Add 4 to 5 Tablespoons of ice-cold water and start blending into the flour mix if it is too dry add another tablespoon of water.

You only want enough liquid to allow you to squeeze a hand full into a ball.

Squeeze test

Cover with plastic wrap and toss in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid and to allow the shortening/butter to get hard again.  Remove from Fridge and roll out one time.

Gently fold one side over half way, place your pie pan next to the crust and unfold the crust into the pie pan gently lifting and pressing down to be sure the crust is into the bottom of the pie pan.

Be sure to press crust all the way down into the pie pan

Gently lift and move if needed the dough is fragile

Trim with a board scraper or knife to remove excess.

Dock the crust & flute the edges and if you want, weigh it down with some uncooked beans to keep it from puffing up while you blind bake it.

Docking is poking holes in the crust with a fork

Bake at 350 until crust is lightly golden brown

Lightly golden brown-  remember its going back in the oven for the meringue

If you use a wooden rolling pin do not wash with water it will damage the wood just use a towel to removed any dough stuck onto the rolling pin.  By doing this it will keep your rolling pin from warping or splitting. Mine is over 20 years old but looks brand new because I don’t use water on it.

Yes this rolling pin is over 20 years old…

This is the failed green pie, puddled and 0ozing…sad sad little pie.

I hope you enjoy this pie as much as we do.

Now go play with your food.



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