Ever since I was a teenager, I've had this obsession with making lemon meringue pie, and making flaky pie crust. My "other mother", affectionately known as "Momma 2", was instrumental in my obsession. I think a lot of teenagers have "other mothers"... you know, the kind you can go talk to when you feel like your own mom is speaking a foreign language. "Momma 2", also known as Cheryl (Serago) Barclay, interpreted that language for me, and helped me to understand why routine, responsibility, and continued education were so important. She was also my introduction to the wonderful world of Greek cuisine.
Cheryl would pay me to clean her home, as well as to babysit her 3 kids now and then. What I loved most though is her letting me use her kitchen to experiment in. She'd pull out all her cookie recipes at Christmas time and let me make them all for her- I was in heaven! My favorites were the Birds Nest cookies with the red or green cream cheese filling...
But during a summer back about 1981, she asked me to make her a lemon meringue pie. I was excited to make a pie, but I I had never made a lemon one before. So I poured over recipe books... back then of course there was no such thing as the internet to quickly pop up a recipe. After all the searching, I paired 2 recipes together, in part because of available ingredients in the cupboard, and my love for a lot of lemon.
I still keep in touch with my "Momma 2", Cheryl, to this day. She was a guiding force that always encouraged me to "think down the road" before I made any rash decisions in my life. I haven't seen her in awhile, but when I do, I think I'll have to make her this pie. I think everyone needs a Momma 2 to make a pie for...
In my opinion, a flaky pie crust is key to an amazing pie. I haven't found one as simple, and as flavorful, as Pate Brisee. You can try all sorts of tricks and a million ingredients to get a flaky crust, but for me nothing does it better than good ol' unsalted pure butter. Although the recipe shown below uses a food processor, I love to make it by hand. I use a an old fashioned pastry blender, sturdy bowl, and my hands. I absolutely love the feel of pie dough!
Another thing that I prefer, is to add a small amount of HOT simple syrup to my meringue. While I will not guarantee that it will pasteurize your egg whites, it does give me a little comfort knowing that between that and the oven browning of the meringue, more of it is cooked than not.
(as found on MarthaStewart.com)
Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- to 10-inch pies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month.
Using 1/2 of the dough, roll out on floured surface and place in pie pan, fluting edges as you desire. Dock dough (prick with fork on bottom portion) Place a sheet of foil in pan over dough, and place pie weights or smaller pan on top. Place in 375 degree oven and blind bake for about 25 minutes, until crust is light golden brown and cooked thoroughly. Let cool.
1/3 c cornstarch
1-1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-1/2 c cold water
4 egg yolks (save whites for meringue)
1/2 c lemon juice (approx 3-4 lemons)
Zest of all juiced lemons
3 Tbs unsalted butter
In small saucepan combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and cold water. Over medium heat, while stirring constantly, bring to a slight boil. Turn down heat to low and cook until mixture is slightly clear and thick. Add lemon juice, cooking for another minute. Remove from heat.
Remove one cup of the cooked mixture, and add to egg yolks while whisking quickly, to temper the eggs so they do not 'cook'. Return yolk mixture to the saucepan, and continue cooking on low for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon zest and butter. Set aside and let cool.
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 c HOT simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves)
3 tablespoons sugar
Beat the egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add the cream of tartar and sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until firm peaks form but are not dry. Then gradually add the hot simple syrup until peaks stand on own and do not fall.
To assemble: Pour lemon filling in cooked crust. Take 1/3 of meringue and completely cover lemon filling, completely covering, sealing filling to edges of crust. With remaining meringue, using a pastry bag (or spoon) make decorative peaks over entire surface of pie.
Place in 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, watching carefully, until meringue is nicely and evenly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack. Pie is best served when cold.