Monday, April 19, 2010
Lemon Meringue Pie
Spring is here! This is the time when color comes back into the world and back on our plates; when the days get longer, and the food gets lighter! I love the use of yummy ripe fruits in some of our favorite salads, and especially desserts. I don't think there's a dessert that says "springtime" any better than a fresh Lemon Meringue Pie! Every year around Easter I will make one (or two!) of these and share with family and friends. It's always a hit! This recipe is one of my husband's very favorites along with Nana's Apple Pie. This is actually another one of Nana's wonderful recipes, and one that Heath was delighted when I began to make for him after we married. My mom also grew up loving lemon meringue pie that her mom (my Granny) made her. In fact, it was her very favorite dessert; so of course I love it, too!
Nana calls this recipe Lemon Ice Box Pie, but I've always called it Lemon Meringue. Honestly it doesn't really matter when it tastes as good as it this recipe does! This time I made it in a new tart pan that I just bought. I couldn't wait to use my new pan, so I thought this would be the first recipe I would make! I wasn't sure if the crust and filling would hold and stand up after taking it out of the tart pan, but it did and it's so pretty! It looks more elegant and pretty to see all the layers of the pie (when you make it in a tart pan), like the buttery graham cracker crust, the tart yet sweet lemony filling, and the light and airy meringue. Beautiful and delicious, this would be so pretty for a bridal shower! Otherwise, using a traditional pie pan is just as great and would be better for a tall meringue. There's nothing more Southern that seeing a perfect, tall meringue on a pie!
This recipe is a pretty simple one. It consists of three things: the crust, filling, and meringue. The crust is a graham cracker crust that really complements the lemon, I think. The filling is the best one I've ever had. I always use some of the zest of the lemon along with the juice to give it even more lemon taste, and that from-scratch look that makes the filling even more appealing. While we're talking about the filling, I will tell you that this time I used a special kind of lemon. I'm excited about this, because neat food just makes me happy! In my Easter basket this year, my husband also gave me some Meyer lemons to make this pie. I've always heard of Meyer lemons and how good they are, so I was surprised and excited to use these for this recipe! They have more of a orange-yellow color that made the filling beautiful, and they were so juicy and a little bit sweeter than a regular lemon. (Thanks, Honey, for my lemons!) This brings me to the point: while you can use any type of lemon, always use fresh squeezed lemon juice. The kind in the bottle or fake little lemon is just not good in this recipe. Sorry, but it's worth the extra minute to squeeze them! I think it's kind of fun too, just remember to squeeze them over a small sieve or pick out the seeds.
So, the meringue is a tricky thing that I'm slowly but surely mastering. Forgive the meringue in the picture, because when I made it this time I used out-of-date cream of tartar, so it didn't fluff properly -- although it still tasted good! I won't lecture on this, because you just have to practice and have patience for a good meringue. But I will say that letting the egg whites sit at room temperature (after separating) for 30 minutes with make it fluffier, and always use a very clean bowl and beaters. If you use a hand mixer then get ready for some arm exercise! Meringue is a bit of work, but I think the results make the pie extra special.
I really hope this will inspire you to try this perfectly spring recipe of Lemon Meringue Pie (or tart), and share with your family and friends on a warm spring day!
1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs
1/3 c. butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
Melt butter with sugar and add the graham cracker crumbs. Stir together well, and press in the pie or tart pan. Bake at 375˚ for 10 minutes
2 large egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Stir together the ingredients well. Let the crust cool first, and then add the filling. (Add the zest here too if you use some.)
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
6 Tbsp. sugar
Let the egg whites rest for 30 minutes. Put in a clean glass mixing bowl with vanilla and cream of tartar. Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form and start adding sugar on tablespoon at a time. Once the sugar is in, beat on high for 4 minutes until stiff peaks and the meringue is glossy. Spread over the filling on the pie and push to the edges. Bake at 350˚ for about 10-12 minutes or until light brown.
Let it cool and serve!