Monday, August 15, 2011

lemon meringue pie and playing favorites

I like to consider myself a pretty open-minded individual: I like to try new things; I want nothing more than to travel all over the world and experience different cultures, languages, and people; I enjoy all sorts of movies, music, and literature; and if I could have it my way, I'd spend the rest of my life in university, majoring in any and every subject possible.

But that's not to say that I don't play favorites. On the contrary, I do. Quite a lot. If "new things" involves anything with tentacles or shells, I will more than likely shy away from it [mainly because I have this irrational fear that if I eat something with tentacles, it will miraculously come to life in my stomach and take revenge on me by squeezing my lungs to dust]. I prefer indie folk over most other genres of music. I like contemporary satirical fiction, particularly if the author is Kurt Vonnegut. My travel location of choice is heavily influenced by what I'm interested in at the time [needless to say, the current dream destination is London]. And by "majoring in any and every subject possible," I'm excluding most of the sciences and math.



Well, I would consider human biology. But that's an exception.


Anyway, my point is, I like tons of things, but I love a few things. As I'm getting older, it's becoming more and more apparent to me what I love and what I like. Which makes sense, I suppose. Didn't someone famous say that college is when you learn who you are? Or something similarly cliche? [My money's on Bono.]

Okay, so, maybe I don't totally buy that [ridiculously cheesy and over-generalized] sentiment, but it does apply in some cases. And as of late, it's been dessert.


Now, I've baked an enormous variety of dessert. I've consumed even more. I love it all, of course, otherwise I wouldn't constantly be contributing to the obesity epidemic that is my future. But recently, I've begun to realize that nothing really beats pie.

At all.

It's the crust, I think. Flaky, crunchy, not-too-sweet but absolutely necessary alongside a sugary filling. And, if you're lucky, you get an incredible filling to boot. But even then, a mediocre filling still makes for a good pie. A great pie. I'm not even sure there's such a thing as a bad pie. Those two words - two, small, three-letter words - just don't seem to fit together. A crime against the English language.


I realize that I may be admitting to playing favorites with dessert. Which just seems so...sacrilegious. But I can't help it. Ever since that cherry Bakewell tart, I've had pie on the brain. And so when I came home this weekend, I knew I'd be baking some.



...to be honest, this recipe is kind of half-arsed. Mainly, I'd had quite a bit of lemon curd sitting happily in my freezer, waiting to be used up. And I figured, after two months of neglect, now was the time to do it. So I brought it home with me [a fresh batch has taken its place as of Friday] and settled on lemon meringue pie. Pâte brisée, lemon curd, meringue topping. Easy peasy, and rather delicious. If you feel so inclined as to bake some for yourself, I'll give you the recipes for the pâte brisée and meringue here. The lemon curd I used is my go-to lemon curd recipe, which you'll find via clicking the link.


Lemon Meringue Pie

For the pâte brisée, you'll need:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 10 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup cold water

For the meringue topping, you'll need:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

To prepare the pie crust, combine flour, salt, and butter in a food processor. Pulse on low speed until the dough has the consistency of bread crumbs. Still on low speed, add egg and egg yolks, one at a time, and pulse until incorporated. Slowly pour in water until the dough comes together. You may not need to use all of the water. Roll the dough out into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Once dough is chilled, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, butter a 9-inch pie pan, and roll dough out onto a floured surface. Roll until the dough is about 1/8-inch thick and 11-12 inches across. Place the dough into the prepared pan. Trim off any excess dough and press it against the sides of the pan, as to thicken the sides of the pie crust. Using a fork, poke holes on the bottom and sides of the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden-brown. Let cool completely.

Once the crust has cooled, spoon the lemon curd into the pie and level it with a spatula. Refrigerate the pie for at least 3-4 hours, until the lemon curd has set completely. If you're not serving the lemon meringue pie the same day, cover the top of the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day. Do not top with the meringue until you're about to serve the pie.

To prepare the meringue, whisk the egg whites on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer until frothy. While the mixer is still going, gradually add in the sugar. Once sugar is incorporated, add in the cream of tartar. Continue to mix on high speed until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Gently spoon the meringue onto the chilled lemon curd. Torch the top of the meringue, and then place pie back into the fridge and chill for about 30 minutes before serving.


I prefer pâte brisée as the crust for this particular pie because it holds up well against the filling. Pâte sucrée would work just as adequately, I'd imagine, but since the filling is so bold, I like a more neutral crust. Also, a glass of milk works brilliantly alongside a slice of this.


My next goal is to perfect the deep dish apple pie. I can never get mine just right. The crust always gets soggy, the flavor isn't as vibrant as I'd like, and it lacks the general homeliness I associate with good apple pie. Still, since apples are moving into season, I foresee quite a few trips to the orchard in my future.

I also foresee quite a few epic failures, but what's life without a little adventure, eh?


In other news, this was my first weekend spent in the now-furnished new home. It was kind of a surreal experience not to be driving back to the house I'd lived in for the past 11 years, and yet at the same time totally natural. It's much larger than our old house, and still smells like wood polish and new paint, but seeing familiar furniture scattered about, and my mother's decorating touch subtly permeating every room, it's been easy to adjust.

And though I've only lived in it for a day and a half, I can say, with relative certainty, that the kitchen is shaping up to be my favorite room in the house.

I'm pretty good at playing favorites, after all.

15 comments:

  1. Wow! Now that's a spectacular lemon pie. I agree with you that there's almost so such thing as a bad pie. I've yet to find a really awful pie and I hope I never do. I also agree 100% with your feelings on eating things with tentacles. I simply cannot do it. Cannot, will not, won't!! :)

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  2. @Jane: I'm glad I'm not the only one with an aversion to tentacles! I always feel like such a bad foodie for it!! Thanks so much for the kind words hon :)

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  3. Looks delicious! I'm glad you are confirming the amazingness of pie. I don't think I've ever had a well-made pie I haven't liked. The meringue in particular looks wonderful on this one!

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  4. I can relate to this post so very much. Firstly, I currently am studying animal biology (inc. human), secondly indie folk - yes please, and thirdly PIE! I love all desserts really, but if you offer me anything with pastry it will win out for sure :) throw lemon in there and you essentially have be summed up in a pudding, gorgeous, bookmarked and so will be made :)

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  5. I totally agree that pie is amazing - and your one looks gorgeous! I'm sure I would eat it far too quickly.

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  6. What a beautiful pie. You did a fabulous job. :)

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  7. @Jess: Thanks so much, sweetie :)

    @Procrastobaker: Your comments always brighten my day; you just understand me so well! If you bake it, do let me know how it goes :)

    @Lucy: Thank you so much!

    @Christina: Thank you!

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