May 10, 2014
This weekend is not only Mother’s Day, but also my oldest daughter’s first communion. I love the timing because it means that I get to spend the weekend with my mom and my daughters.
It’s also turned into a time overloaded with sentimentality. Easter weekend my mom showed up with my first communion dress. The dress is not the fluffy creations that are popular today; it’s old school style. To our surprise my daughter gleefully ran to her room to try it on and came out exclaiming, “Mom, it’s perfect! It’s sooooo beautiful!”
Which leads to the big meringue (stay with me, there is a destination on this journey). It’s been eleven years since my wedding dress has seen the light of day, a dress that was aptly nicknamed, “The Big Meringue” in homage to Four Weddings and a Funeral. Tucked in the dress box is a short veil I wore to our wedding dinner. We pulled it out and it worked perfectly with first communion dress to complete the vintage look. (There’s also a long, handmade, Belgian lace mantilla-like veil in the box that I wore for the ceremony, but they’re going to have to wait to wear that one!)
So, the “Big Meringue” leads us back to my mom. Lemon meringue is my mom’s most coveted and craved pie. When she was pregnant it was the one thing she would send my dad to go out and fetch. I thought it would be a fitting dessert for the weekend that has become a celebration of these intertwined memories and connections — I told you we would get there.
I like a lemon meringue pie that has a zesty filling, crispy crust and a meringue that is light over eggy (and unbroken!). With all these opinions you would think I’ve made a few of these, but no, I just jumped right in, had a hotline to Elizabeth and came up with this treat for mom. (Confession: it took two tries to get this right, but that second time it was much easier. Remember mom telling you practice makes perfect?)
Meyer Lemon Pie with Swiss Meringue
Makes 1 pie
Note: No matter how I try, my pie crusts never turn out picture perfect. I ended up making this pie in my tart pan. This is a brilliant recipe for hiding my deficit since I get to cover the whole thing with all that luscious meringue.
1 pie crust (bottom only), my standby is Elizabeth’s perfect pie dough
1/3 cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups of water
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh Meyer Lemon juice (about four Meyer’s)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out the pie crust so it covers the tart or pie pan and goes about 1″ over the top. Tuck the edging under so you have a nice thick crust. Using a fork make about eight tine marks on the dough. Cover the pie dough with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes; remove the parchment and beans and bake an additional 10 minutes until completely cooked.
While the pie crust bakes prepare the lemon filling. Mix the cornstarch, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until bubbling and thick, about eight minutes. You’re basically doing this to thicken the filling and cook the starchy taste out of the mixture. In a medium heat-safe bowl whisk egg yolks and then pour cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks in a steady stream. Return the whole caboodle to the saucepan and cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon 1-2 minutes. Next, add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Turn the heat off and add butter pieces one tablespoon at a time, waiting for it to dissolve before adding the next. Pull off the heat and let cool in the saucepan on a wire rack 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and kosher salt in a heatproof bowl (use the bowl of your stand mixer.) Fill a saucepan a quarter full of water and heat to a simmer. Using an electric hand beater beat the mixture over the simmering water until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved. Once this happens put the bowl of the mixer on the mixer stand fitted with a whisk attachment and whip gradually increasing the level to high until stiff and glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
Assemble when the filling and crust have completely cooled and the meringue is made. Add the filling to pie crust then mound on the meringue; I use an offset spatula to create dips and waves. Place under the broiler for one to two minutes, that is all it takes, don’t you dare answer the phone! If you have a kitchen torch you can use that in lieu of the broiler.