Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

 Since I get so many requests for "anything lemon", I figured it was about time I found a good recipe for lemon meringue pie. One would think that they're all pretty much the same, right? You have your baked pie shell, your lemon filling and then your fluffy meringue on top, right? Wrong!! Nothing could be further from the truth! I found TONS of variations and all kinds of debates on how the perfect lemon meringue pie is made. Who knew?? So I tried a couple different ones, and I think I've finally found one that fits my idea of what a recipe should be: Easy to follow, simple ingredients, and delicious.
  Now, I know many people find the idea of making a lemon meringue pie to be a little intimidating, but all you have to do is just remember a few key rules about making meringue, and it'll turn out beautifully! I promise!

1 tbs corn starch
2 tbs cold water
1/2 cup boiling water

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
tiny pinch of salt

1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tbs)
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 9" prebaked pie shell

Before you start, here are just a few things to remember when making a meringue. Now don't panic!! It's just a few rules!! Ok here we go:

-Always make the meringue first, then the filling.
-Always use an immaculately clean glass or metal bowl and immaculately clean beaters or whisks. Even the tiniest trace of grease/fat/oil will prevent the whites from whipping properly. So clean them extremely well, and be sure to dry them equally as well with a clean towel.
-When separating eggs, don't use the method of cracking the egg into your hand and letting the whites slip through your fingers. You don't want to touch the egg whites because even the oil in your skin will affect them. Just use the old "back and forth between halves of the shell" method.
-Older eggs whip up to a higher volume.
-It's easier to separate eggs when they're cold, but they whip better when they're at room temperature. So separate them as soon as you take them out of the fridge, then let them sit out for about 30 minutes before whipping them.
-Once you start making the meringue, don't stop in the middle of it. You need to do it all in one go.
-Egg whites don't like moisture, so make sure everything is completely dry, and if it's a really humid day or if it's raining outside, consider choosing a different recipe to try.

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the meringue:
 In a small sauce pan, mix together 1 tbs corn starch with 2 tbs cold water. Add 1/2 cup boiling water. Cook until thickened and clear. Remove from heat. Set aside in fridge to quickly cool completely.
  In a large CLEAN glass or metal bowl, with CLEAN beaters or wire whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, 1 tbs at a time, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. To make sure the sugar has completely dissolved, feel the meringue between your thumb and index finger. If it still feels grainy, whip it just a bit more. Reduce mixing speed and gently mix in the corn starch paste, the vanilla, and salt. Set meringue aside.

 For the filling:
 In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick, about a minute. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.

 Spread some of the meringue over hot pie filling, sealing the edges at the crust. Pile or pipe the rest of the meringue on top, making a pretty design. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown on top. Cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge before cutting.
Yes, yes, I know there's a great debate on whether or not you should cool the filling before you cover it with meringue. I don't cool it because I think the heat of the filling cooks the underside of the meringue. If you're worried about liquid forming between the filling and the meringue, try sprinkling a light layer of cake crumbs or soft bread crumbs over the filling before spreading the meringue. The crumbs will absorb any unwanted moisture, and they'll also keep your meringue from sliding off the top of the filling when you slice it.
 To make a really pretty meringue (if you don't have a piping bag), you can simply use a knife or the back of a spoon to make lots of peaks over the surface of the meringue. When the pie bakes, the peaks will brown first, and you'll have a lovely picture perfect pie.

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