Friday, July 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Recently I got a new toy.  Kitchen torch!  I had been wanting one for awhile, not because I am a creme brulee addict, but because I like torched meringue so much better than baked meringue.  I have such issues with meringue under the broiler.  It shrinks and dries out and is just plain icky.  A friend of mine had even more trouble with the broiler.  Her meringue caught on fire!  So a kitchen torch it is.

I decided as my first dessert using my new toy to make lemon meringue pie, one of my husband's favorites.  I like to use lemon curd for my pie filling, I love how the tartness is offset by the sweet meringue.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

Lemon Curd  (about 2 cups) adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes
8 egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract or zest from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy pan mix the egg yolks and sugar together.  I read in Rose Levy Beranbaum's book The Cake Bible that mixing the egg yolks and sugar together helps to keep your curd from curdling.  After mixing the egg yolks and sugar together, add the lemon juice and mix together.  Heat over medium heat until mixture thickens to where it coats the back of the spoon.  Do not let the mixture boil or really even almost boil or you will have curdling problems too.

Once the mixture thickens, remove from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted.  If curdling occurred (i.e. there are little bits of scrambled egg in your curd) strain through a fine mesh strainer.

If you are concerned about calories and cholesterol, this version uses fewer eggs than the above version and is still tasty.  

Meringue
3-4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat egg whites and cream of tarter with whisk attachment until foamy.  Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all incorporated.  Beat until stiff peaks form.  Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Crust (This recipe makes a lot of crust.  You can cut it down or wrap it well and freeze the leftover)
1 pound 4 ounces pastry flour (I use 1/2 all purpose and 1/2 cake flour. Pastry flour has a slightly lower percentage of gluten then all purpose, but higher than cake.  The combination leads to a lighter crust.)
13 ounces lard (you can use shortening if you are afraid of lard or are vegan or just plain don't like it, but the taste is different
5 ounces cold water
.4 ounces (2 1/2 teaspoons) salt
1 ounce (1/8 cup) sugar, optional (I use it in sweet pies like this one but I ditch it for savory pies)

I like to make my pie crust in my food processor.  It helps me not to over agitate the gluten and I find it tedious to cut the lard into the flour.  My friend who is a pastry chef and who gave me this recipe told me to rub the lard into the flour with my fingers until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  She does make a mean pie crust, but I am lazy and the food processor is faster.

Put flour, sugar, and salt into food processor.  Pulse for a few seconds to get everything mixed up and aerated.  Add the lard to the food processor.  Pulse until mixture resembles cornmeal.  Add just enough cold water so that it comes together.  The dough should not be wet, it should just stay together when you squeeze it.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface.  Roll out and place into pie pan.  Dock (poke) dough with fork to keep from puffing during baking.  You can also fill the middle of the dough with parchment and beans, however, I find this a delicate dough that rips easily and just docking usually does the job.  Bake crust at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes.

Allow to cool completely.  Fill with lemon curd and pile the meringue on top.  Take kitchen torch and brown the top of the meringue.  Alternately, place pie under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the top.  Watch carefully!  

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