|JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF SWEET AND SOUR IN THIS PIE|
My Favorite Lemon Meringue Pie
A major advantage of living in the Arizona desert is the climate is perfect for growing our own citrus. Nothing compares with freshly picked, zested, and squeezed fruit for my favorite lemon meringue pie. The entire house is filled with the refreshing aroma from the lemon oils and juices every time I use our fresh fruit.
For this pie, I like a milk and egg based custard, or pudding, for the filling rather than traditional lemon curd, which has richer flavors and has better uses. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the filling and that includes time to run to the backyard, pick the fruit, zest the rind, and squeeze the juice
Ingredients for filling for two 9" pies: (One to eat now and one for later or to give away.)
2 cups sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 large egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
1 cup lemon juice
½ cup butter
1 Tablespoon lemon zest (use a microplane or zester on only the colored part of the fruit)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy sauce pan (don’t use an aluminum or acid reactive pan).
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks, milk, and lemon juice. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients in the pan and whisk over medium heat.
Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 1 minute.
Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the butter, lemon zest, and vanilla.
Refrigerate this custard, covered with plastic wrap, until almost cool. (Press the wrap onto the top of the custard so that no air gets to the custard.)
While the custard chills, make the pie crusts.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup cold butter, cut into ½" cubes
3/4 cup ice cold water (I use this amount in our dry Arizona, but in more humid areas, a little less water will do.)
Place dry ingredients In a food processor, pulse 2-3 times to mix. Add the cold, cubed butter and pulse 6 times. The butter pieces should be about the size of peas. Now with the processor running, quickly pour in the ice cold water. Pulse a few times and as soon as the dough just begins to ride the blade, STOP.
Place 2' strips of plastic wrap across your counter top.
Dump the dough onto plastic wrap. Divide in half, and form each half into a flat disk. Wrap in the plastic and refrigerate until ready for use. If your kitchen is warm, refrigerate this dough in plastic wrap for an hour before rolling out. If the dough is cold and your kitchen is cool, you can refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, and then roll the dough into two 12" rounds, about 1/4" thick. Note: I actually get 3 single crusts from this recipe as I like a thin 1/4" or less dough...just thinner than the refrigerated dough one can purchase at the grocery store such as refrigerated Pillsbury pie crust dough.
Transfer the rolled dough to glass or ceramic pie pans. Glass is nice as you can see when the crust is browned and well baked. (Nothing worse than a soggy pie crust.) Do not stretch the dough, but gently ease it into the pan, trim to just above the height of the pan bottom (kitchen scissors work great), and then crimp the edges. Prick the bottom several times with a fork.
Now, FREEZE THE UNBAKED CRUST FOR at least 30 MINUTES.
Then bake the crust for about 15-20 minutes in a 350^ oven–until it is golden brown. (You can egg wash the cooked, hot pie crust and then bake for an extra minute to seal the crust. This is a great idea for a single, pricked shell that will be topped with a filling that may separate a bit, such as this lemon curd or custard.) Freezing the The most beautiful crust comes from fully pre-freezing the crust in the pan, and then topping the frozen drust with parchment or light foil filled with beans (can be used over and over) or pie weights of some type. Pricking the dough is not necessary if good weights or beans are used.
While the crust is cooling on a wire rack and the custard continues to cool in the fridge, make the MERINGUE.
The 8 large egg whites from the above custard filling eggs (only the yolks were used in the filling) These whites should now be at room temperature. Good!
3 cups sugar
Note: If you blow it and mix the meringue too much, there is a fix. Add one more egg white and whisk for a minute or two. Like magic your mixture will be fixed and you can mix the meringue to desired stiffness.
Set your clean mixer bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add the egg whites and sugar. Whisk the whites and sugar over the heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Pinch some in your fingers, rub your fingers together, and make sure there are no grains of sugar...it should be all melted after a 2-3 minutes.
Now place the mixer bowl on the mixer with a whisk attachment and begin whisking on low for 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat 5-8 minutes longer, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
To assemble your pie, spoon the almost cooled custard into the crust (if the custard is cold, it will be set and difficult to reshape into your pie as a firm filling) and let rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Now spoon the meringue on top, styling it with your fingers by picking at it and pulling it up into fun spikes, or arrange it with a spoon back, also lifting the meringue upward into pointy spikes.
Then, put your pie under the oven broiler on a middle rack until the meringue topping turns golden brown. This takes about 1 minute, but watch very closely. When it starts to turn, it will go to “burned” very quickly...be ready to pull the pie out of the oven immediately when it is at the desired doneness.
But, a more fun way to brown the meringue is with a kitchen torch. Hold a lit torch 2 or 3 inches away from the meringue and move the flame slowly around all the meringue until it is browned all over.
The pies should be used within hours of assembling. If you want to save your 2nd pie for “tomorrow”, add the custard to the crust and refrigerate. For best results “tomorrow” is the best time to add the meringue to the pie top.
Note: As the lemons hang on the trees well into Spring, the juice becomes sweeter and a little more watery. An extra 1/4 cup of sugar may be necessary depending on when your fruit is picked.