Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie (Kurt’s favorite)

Makes one 9 inch pie
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and Husband-Tested in Alice’s Kitchen

When our son, Kurt, comes home to visit, this is what he always requests. I've tried different lemon meringue recipes, but I always go back to this one. I think it has the best contrast between the tart lemony filling and the sweet meringue. This recipe comes from my very first cookbook. The book is old and worn with pages covered in food stains. I thought maybe I'd better get this recipe typed up before I completely ruin my cookbook! You can get lovely local eggs at Lost River Market & Deli.

1 (9 inch) baked pie shell, cooled to room temperature (See recipe and directions below)

3 large egg yolks, room temperature, slightly beaten
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 ½ cups water
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (yellow part only)
½ cup fresh lemon juice

3 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
6 Tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400°F.

For the filling: In small bowl, beat egg yolks with fork. In 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch; gradually stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. (This mixture will be almost a grayish milky white color. As it thickens, you’ll see little dark specks. It’s okay, keep going.)
Immediately stir at least half of hot mixture into egg yolks; stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 2 minutes; remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour into pie crust.

For the meringue: In medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Beat in vanilla. Spoon onto hot pie filling. Spread over filling, carefully sealing meringue to edge of crust to prevent shrinking or weeping. Bake 8 to 12 minutes or until meringue is light brown. Cool away from draft 2 hours.

Perfect Pie Dough
(From the kitchen of Martha Stewart and tested in Alice’s Kitchen)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled
½ cup ice-cold water

(The secret to making perfect pie dough is to make sure the ingredients and then the dough itself are very cold. Baking the chilled pie dough in a hot oven makes the butter melt so that it creates steam inside the baking dough. That makes the flaky crust we all want!)

Measure the flour and salt into a food processor with the blade. Cut the ice-cold butter into pat-sized piece and add to the flour mixture. Press the pulse button on the processor until you see pea-sized pieces of butter mixed in to the flour. Don’t over mix. Press the On button of the processor and slowly drizzle the ice-cold water into the feeding tube. When the dough becomes a ball, stop the machine.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. (The dough won’t be smooth. It’ll be sticky. That’s okay.) Place each piece of dough on plastic wrap and press into thick disks. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and chill for at least a half hour before rolling it out. (The dough can be frozen at this point. Thaw in the refrigerator before rolling out.)
Lightly flour the counter. Starting from the center of the disk, gently roll out the dough into a circle that is about 2 inches larger than the dish you plan to use. Lightly sprinkle with flour as you roll out the dough. Before placing it in the dish, brush the excess flour off with a pastry brush. (Too much flour on the dough makes it tough.) Fold the dough in half and place it in the dish. (Do not stretch the dough because that will make it really shrink.) Fold the extra dough under or over the edge and crimp. Prick the dough with a fork on the bottom and sides of the dough. Place the plastic wrap back over the dish to keep the dough from drying out. Put the dough in the refrigerator while the oven is preheating.
Preheat the oven to 450F degrees. Remove the dish from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Place a piece of foil that is larger than the dough inside the dish and then pour about 2 cups of dried beans into the dish over the foil. Place the pie dough in the hot oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. (The weight of the beans keeps the dough from puffing up.)
When the timer beeps, carefully remove the foil and beans from the dish. (Keep the beans in a glass jar and reuse them as pie weights.)
Place the dough back into the oven and continue baking until it is golden brown all over. Since ovens vary, you will need to check every two minutes or so.
Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on a baking rack.

When the pie dough is cooled, fill it with the lemon filling and top with the meringue as directed.

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