Monday, April 11, 2011

Birthday Lemon Meringue Pie

We now take a break from our standard Meatless Monday recipes for a belated birthday sweet recipe.  A few weeks was Carole's, my friend and co-blogger, birthday. On more than one occasion when we have chatted she has mentioned that one of her favorite desserts is Lemon Meringue pie, she admitted even to loving the Shiriff Lemon Meringue Pie mix.  I try to go out of my way to make something special for my friends on their birthday's and aim to make their favorite.  While I'm not completely opposed to mixes for desserts, it just doesn't seem special enough for a birthday.

I have had quite a few lemon meringue pie fails in the last few years, so I was a bit nervous to attempt this one.  Either the lemon doesn't set up or the meringue is just lame or the crust doesn't quite bake right.  I consider myself a pretty excellent fruit pie baker, but anything with a custard type filling makes me a bit nervous.  But this is for a birthday, so I was hellbent on getting it right.  I found a basic-sounding recipe on Epicurious that I tweaked a bit based on other user's comments and decided to give it a go. Lucky for me the Boy has an iPad and let me download the Epicurious App onto it.  If you have an iPad, this app is great for cooking with, you have access to their whole library and don't need to futz around with your laptop or printing out a recipe.  Both the Boy and I use it all the time.

Lemon Meringue Pie
adapted from Epicurious
makes 1 9"pie
printable recipe

(makes 2 crusts)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 Tbsps sugar
1 cup butter - iced cold and cut into cubes
1 cup iced cold water

1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsps freshly grated lemon zest

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1/2 cup sugar

1.  Whisk together the dry ingredients from the crust.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until there are pieces no larger than a pea.  Mix in about 1/2 cup of the iced cold water and add more a little at a time just until a dough forms. Break the ball of dough in half, flatten into 2 discs and wrap well in plastic.  Place one for the pie in the fridge for 1 hour and the other into the freezer for another use.
2. Preheat the oven to 400F.  Once the crust has chilled remove from the fridge and roll out on a lightly flour surface to fit into a 9" pie plate. Transfer to plate and prick all over with a fork.  Line with foil or parchment and fill with pie weight, rice or dried beans.
3. Bake crust for 10 minutes, then carefully remove foil and weights. Return to the oven and bake until golden, about 12 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Lower hear to 350F.
4. In a heavy saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Gradually whisk in the water and milk, whisking until the cornstarch is dissolved. Whisk together egg yolks in a separate bowl. Cook the milk mixture over medium heat, whisking until it comes to a boil.  Temper the eggs with 1 cup of the warmed milk, a few Tbsps at a time.  Then whisk the eggs back into the pot with the rest of the milk mixture.
5. Simmer mixture for 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, lemon juice and zest.  Whisk until butter is melted.  Cover the surface of the filling with plastic wrap and set aside while preparing the meringue.
6. In another bowl beat egg whites, cream of tartar and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar in a slow stream, beating until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
7. Pour filling into the shell and top with meringue, either spreading with a spatula and pulling into peaks or piping in peaks. Bake in the middle of the oven until the meringue has browned, about 15 minutes. Remove to wire rack and let cool until to room temperature, a few hours.

I was thrilled with the look of this pie and couldn't be happier to give it to Carole, my only fear, and why I'm not a fan of trying new recipes to give to people, was whether or not the lemon had properly set up.  Those fears went out the window when I saw how excited Carole was about the pie.  I later found out she hadn't had a birthday lemon meringue pie in almost a decade, making me even happier that I made it for her.  It's why I like to make people's favorites for their birthdays.

What is your favorite birthday treat?  I grew up on Carvel Ice Cream cakes until I was 21.  The Boy likes  Apple Blueberry Pie for his birthday.  Do you make anything special for loved ones on their birthdays?


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