Friday, February 12, 2010

In Loving Memory - Lemon Meringue Pie

The past two weeks have been extremely emotional for me and my parents. Last week, we lost Billy "B" Miret, one of my parent's best friends. B was a best friend to so many, and I've always looked up to him. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to say goodbye to him and let him know how much I loved him, even though he wasn't able to respond back. That night I told him that I know that his love and support made me into the person I am today. He watched me grow up, and it's hard to imagine life without him. That being said, B would never want us to be sad; in fact, he'd only want us to remember all of the great times that we had together (having a bad time just wasn't possible if he was around).

Since baking clears my head, I tried to bake something the day after B passed. B and his lovely wife George Ann (whom I consider my "other mother") have spent almost every Thanksgiving with us since we've lived in Georgia. Grandma Wanda makes B's favorite dessert each year - Lemon Meringue Pie. So, just for B, I made the pie. I'll admit I was scared that it would fall, weep, not set, etc., just like Grandma Wanda warns that it could. While I was making the pie though, I had a great sense of calm; if it didn't turn out, I would just toss it. No big deal. But I didn't have to throw it out. It was a perfect pie. The lemon was perfectly sweet yet tart, the meringue whipped into perfectly browned peaks. My only explanation is that B was looking over my shoulder helping me bake the pie. I think he would have been proud of it. He may not have been great at making pie, but he sure was great at eating it.

I'll miss you, B.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted from Baking Illustrated

Lemon Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated zest and 1/2 cup lemon juice (I actually used 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part lime juice)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cornstartch
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 pie crust recipe, baked for ten minutes and cooled (Let me suggest Grandma Wanda's recipe, or Pillsbury Pie Crust, which you can find in the refrigerated section near the biscuits/rolls)

For the Filling: Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at the beginning of the process and more frequently as the mixture begins to thicken. When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, whisk in the egg yolks, two at a time. Whisk in the zest, then the lemon juice, and finally the butter. Bring the mixture to a good simmer, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat; place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to keep it hot and prevent a skin from forming.

For the Meringue: Mix the cornstarch with the water in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally at the beginning and more frequently as the mixture thickens. When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, remove form the heat.

Adjust an over rack tot he middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the cream of tartar and sugar together. Beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy. Beat in the sugar mixture, one tablespoon at a time, until the sugar is incorporated and the mixture forms soft peaks. Add the cornstarch mixture one tablespoon at a time; continue to beat the meringue to stiff peaks. Remove the plastic from the lemon filling and return to very low heat during last minute or so of beating the meringue (to ensure that the filling is hot).

Pour the hot filling in to the pie shell. Using a rubber spatula, immediately distribute the meringue evenly around the edge and then push to the center of the pie to keep it from sinking into the filling. Make sure to push the meringue to the edges of the piecrust to prevent shrinking. Use the back of a spoon to create peaks all over the meringue. Bake the pie until the meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

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