Practically perfect in every way. Except for always being early.

Because You Know Better Lemon Meringue Pie

Many people assume they dislike lemon meringue pie because they’ve never had one done well. Mine, wouldn’t you know, happens to be a prime example of this classic American dessert at its most stately. Why anyone would forgo freshly squeezed lemon juice in favor of a bottled extract is beyond me, yet a disheartening number of diners and bakeries misguidedly boast sickly-sweet, cough-syrup-reminiscent pudding-pie bastard cousins of our refined and tasteful heroine. I consider a graham cracker crust to be essential, but then again, I refuse to acknowledge a marriage between custard and pie crust. If you must go with pastry, at least have the dignity to make a decent pat
é sucrée.

While I take enormous pride in my lemon meringue, I’m duly ashamed of releasing it so inappropriately early in the season. My current craving situation is similar to that of Ray in Ghostbusters when he summons the Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man; any dessert I picture materializes immediately (or as soon as I can get to the market and back). I’ve been eating cakes as fast as I can to make room for the new ones that haunt my dreams, and I’ve distracted myself with the previous four posts, but my fever for the Citrus Siren refused to be quelled for another week. I’m a little worried that I won’t properly sate my desire with this particular unit, since I’m making it for a meet-the-baby get-together with some friends, and it’s in rather poor taste to take food back from a new mother. Still, I may be able to sneak away unnoticed into the garage with the plate for ten minutes at some point…

The Crust:
1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp butter, melted

Set your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Once the butter has moistened all crumbs, press the mixture into a glass pie plate or similarly-sized springform, as far up the sides as is worth the effort. Bake the unfilled crust for about 7 minutes, then let it cool while you prepare…

The Filling:
1 1/4 C sugar
1/3 C cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C room temperature water
4 lg egg yolks, beaten
1/4 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp butter

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan, then stir in the water. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil while stirring frequently. This takes a while, but eventually it will thicken up quickly; just keep stirring and you’ll avoid a bad case of perma-lumps. Once thickened, remove the pan from heat and carefully scoop out a quarter cup of the goo. When I tell you this is hot, I mean that getting even a splatter on your hand will ruin the rest of your day. Whisk that into the beaten yolks, then whisk the yolk mixture back into the pan full of goo. This prevents the eggs from heating up too quickly and scrambling disgustingly.

Put the pan back on medium-high heat once you’ve whisked everything into an even consistency and color, and bring it to a boil again to further thicken. Once bubbling, stir in the lemon juice, zest and butter, and keep cooking and stirring for 2 more minutes. Go ahead and pour it into the crust, leveling it around with a rubber spatula. And now we move onto…

The Meringue:
5 lg egg whites
1/4 tsp cream or tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar

Throw the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer and kick it into high. Once soft peaks form, slowly pour in the sugar over the course of about a minute. Once she holds a nice sharp point, pile the meringue onto the lemon filling, and use a fork to fluff it up proudly, as high as your cake-saver will allow. Bake it at 350 for 5 to 7 minutes, until you get a nice golden-brown on just the peaks of the meringue. Chill it for at least 3 hours, but aim for consumption within 24, as meringue tends to seize up unattractively over time.

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