Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Lemon Meringue Shabbos
So we had halibut this Shabbos, which was nice because it meant we could make a dessert without the onerous constrains of pareveosity. However, there was the onerous constraint of Rebecca's freak husband, who hates chocolate, of the fact that we couldn't have cake because we had just eaten an entire strawberry shortcake at Baby Simon's first birthday party (more on that later), and of Sarah, who decided that she really really wanted to make meringues. So dessert could possibly be dairy, have meringue and not be chocolate or a cake? Why, lemon meringue pie, of course!
This pie comes courtesy of Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts, which seems to be out of print, but if you are a novice baker (or even if you aren't) it's a really great book, because she gives incredibly detailed instructions for every recipe, and it also has a lot of tips and tricks to make anyone handier around the kitchen.
Despite all this hand-holding, I still managed to mess up the crust. It just wasn't coming together properly, and that combined with the lack of pie weights made for a very...interesting crust. So the next time I make this pie, I will probably use a different recipe. However, I would like you all to know that as of today, the Baking Sisters are proud owners of pie weights! And silicone mats! Hooray for Zabars!
As for the actual pie, it came out quite well, though everyone else seemed to like it better than I did. I think that's because I prefer a thinner, harder layer of meringue (this one was quite voluminous), but that's easy to fix based on your preference. I thought the sweetness of the meringue was not too sweet and the tartness of the lemon filling was not too tart, and that they balanced out really well. Also, on a superficial note, this pie is really pretty; even if like me you aren't particularly adept at making meringue all swirly and professional-looking, this is a crowd-pleaser that elicits oohs and aahs when you bring it out. Just be sure to store it in a safe place without any wind before you serve it (we used the bottom oven, because the top oven was still hot from the baking). Since the book is out of print, here is the lemon meringue recipe, from page 164:
1 9-inch baked pie shell
Finely grated rind of 3 lemons
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
4 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringues)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1.5 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1.5 cups warm tap water
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the rind and juice and set aside. Place the yolks in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
Place the cornstarch, sugar and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and stir to mix. Gradually add the water, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Place over medium heat and stir gently and constantly until the mixture comes to a low boil. Boil gently, stirring with the rubber spatula, for 1.5 minutes. (Blogger's note: Don't be alarmed if your mixture looks like particularly gloopy rubber cement at this point. That's supposed to happen.) Add the butter and stir briefly to melt.
Remove from the heat. Add a few large spoonfuls of the hot cornstarch mixture to the yolks, stirring well to mix thoroughly. Then pour the yolk mixture into the cornstarch mixture, stirring gently. Also stir in the lemon rind and juice.
Return to moderate heat and stir gently until the mixture comes to a boil again. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Immediately pour the hot mixture into the pie crust and begin to make the meringue. (The filling should not be completely cool when you cover it with the meringue.)
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Place the whites, salt and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed until the whites hold a soft point when the beaters are raised. Reduce the speed to moderate and gradually add the sugar, adding 2 tablespoons at a time and beating about 20 seconds between additions. Then increase the speed to high again and beat only until the mixture holds a firm point when the beaters are raised — it should be stiff but do not overbeat.
It is essential that the meringue touch the crust all around the plate or the meringue will shrink away from the crust when it is baked, so use two spoons to pick up gobs of meringue and seal the crust all around. Then gradually place the rest of the meringue over the center, and smooth and swirl as you like. (Blogger's note: I tried to make mine all swirly but in retrospect I think it would have looked even nicer if I had just left the meringue the way it was. The two-spoons methods leaves very attractive-looking peaks that needn't be messed with.)
Bake the pie immediately but only until the meringue is lightly colored on the peaks — it will take 7 to 9 minutes.
This pie can be refrigerated, or not, but the filling becomes firmer when refirgerated.