Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons - Lemon Swiss Meringue Pie

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and we only had 2 pies.  Mom made a Huckleberry Tart, and I had made a Pumpkin Chiffon.  OH, HECK NO! not in this pie-centric family.  That's a recipe for disaster. A Pie-mergency, a Pie-tastrophy, A-pie-calypes Now!! So, I threw together my version of Lemon Meringue Pie.

Lemon Meringue is one of those weird pies.  It's really simple, but really difficult at the same time.  Then again, I tend to make things difficult for myself all the time.  It's just my nature.  I have never been happy with a raw French Meringue on my Lemon pie. (just beating sugar and egg whites to stiff peaks)  It shrinks, it weeps, it separates from the lemon filling and has a slightly funny texture to me.   I much prefer the smooth and somewhat velvety texture of a Swiss Meringue.   Thus the difficult part of the pie making process. 

You will see what I am talking about as I go through this recipe. 

Lemon Swiss Meringue Pie

1/2 recipe Pâte Brisée, pre-baked in a 9-inch pie plate 
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 cups Water
1/3 cup Cornstarch (I actually prefer Arrowroot Powder, but I was out)
1/3 cup Water
4 large Eggs, Separated
1/2 cup Lemon Juice
1 TB Butter
Zest of 1/2 a Lemon
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 tsp Cream of Tarter

OK, so you need to have a pre-baked (not par-baked) 9-inch pie shell.

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup Sugar and 1 1/2 cups Water, then set it over medium flame.

Bring this to a boil.

In the meantime, combine 1/3 cup Water with 1/3 cup Cornstarch in a small pitcher, mixing well to form a slurry; then set aside.

Separate the eggs, setting the whites aside for later, and beat the yolks.

Squeeze the lemons and add the juice to the yolks, stirring well to combine.

By now the Sugar/Water mixture should be boiling, so add the cornstarch, whisking constantly.

Continue whisking until the mixture bubbles and is clear.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the Lemon/Egg Yolk mixture, again, whisking constantly.

Return the saucepan to the heat and continue stirring and cooking until it begins to bubble again.

Remove from the heat again and stir in the Butter and the Lemon Zest.

Pour into the pre-baked Pie shell.

OK, now that was the easiest part... Now for the fun part.

Preheat the oven to 325F degrees.
Place a saucepan of water on high heat and bring to a simmer.
Place the Egg Whites in a heat safe bowl, and add the 2/3 cup Sugar and the Cream of Tarter.

Set the bowl over the simmering water and begin whisking until the sugar dissolves.
Once the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites begin to get foamy, grab a temperature gauge and continue whisking and cooking until it reaches 145 F (62 C) degrees.

Remove the bowl from the simmering water and pour the contents into your stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment.

Now is the time to "put the spurs" to the Egg Whites.  (Whip them until they cool and form stiff peaks)

Spread the Swiss meringue all over the warm filling (the hotter the lemon filling, the better the adhesion) being sure to seal the meringue down to the crust edge.

I like to make mine all spiky looking.

Place the entire pie in the oven for about 20 minutes (or longer if you like darker tips)

Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

There you have it, a simple recipe made more difficult by yours truly.  :)

Incidentally, Lemon Meringue Pie should NEVER be placed in the refrigerator.  I don't care what type of Meringue you make, French, Italian or Swiss, the damp air of the refrigerator will make Meringue weep.  (as you can see on the slice above, after it spent 6 hours in the refrigerator)  Lemon Meringue pie is really meant to be eaten within 4 hours of making it. 

Look at it this way, everything is cooked at this point, the Egg Yolk were cooked when making the filling, the Egg Whites were actually cooked twice. Once to 145 degrees and then again in the oven when browned.  There is plenty of sugar and/or acid in both parts to arrest any bacteria growth for at least that long.  So keep it at room temperature and consume fairly quickly.  :)

Happy ThanksGiving to all, and to all a Good Appetite!

1 comment:

Patti T. said...

My very favorite pie, now I know why mine weeped. I am about the only one in my family who likes lemon meringue so I have to refrigerate, here I thought I was doing something wrong. I make my meringue just like you. Pssst, pass me a slice, please?