Friday, 13 April 2012

Big Little Lemon Meringue Pies - Anna Olson

Sometimes a picture does not do a creation justice. These are the prettiest little lemon meringue pies. They are piled high with gobs of meringue and the lemon is wonderfully tart and sweet. You gotta make this! Don't they look like pies in wedding dresses!

This recipe is for my friend Lisa who's husband John loves a lemon meringue pie. Lisa asked me recently if I had a favorite lemon meringue pie recipe. I have tried lots of different recipes and they are all very similar but, this one stands out! This is a recipe from Anna Olson's book Another Cup of Sugar. Anna is a host for several shows on the Food Network in Canada and this was from her series called Sugar. I think this recipe is exceptional for a couple of reasons. First, she adds lemon juice and an egg instead of water to her crust. Secondly, she uses a 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice in her pie which is a good amount and she doesn't add the juice until after the custard is made. By adding the juice off heat you retain it's freshness. Lastly, she adds a bit of cornstarch in her meringue to help it from slipping off the pie. Really good additions to perfecting a classic! I can say without any doubt, this is my favorite Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe. 

Funny thing, I am going to a cooking class this May at my at my favorite store Lepp Farm Market. Anna Olson will be the teacher that night and I just might have to tell her how much I love this pie!

 If you have a chance to take a cooking class in your area you should do it.It's lots of fun, you get to ask questions and they let you eat everything they make. How bad is that!

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups/375 ml - all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml - sugar
  • 1/2 tsp/ 2 ml - fine salt
  • 2/3 cup/150 ml - unsalted butter, diced and chilled 
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml - lemon juice 
  • 1 1/4 cups/300 ml - sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups/375 ml - water
  • 5 tbsp /75 ml - cornstarch
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml -  finely grated zest  (I added 2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup/125 ml - fresh lemon juice (do not use anything except fresh squeezed!)
  • 2 tbsp/30 ml  - unsalted butter
  • 5 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 5 tbsp/75 ml - sugar
  • 1 tbsp/15 ml - cornstarch

Step 1: wash and zest lemon to get 1 tbsp (or 2 tbsp if you like it tart) then squeeze all lemons through a strainer to catch seeds over a glass measuring cup.

Step 2: Anna gives instructions for making the crust by hand.(click on the link to her recipe above for directions) I made mine in the food processor. Add flour, sugar, salt and pulse a few times. Add cubes of very cold butter (can even be frozen) and pulse about 7-8 times until its a rough crumble. In a small cup whisk egg and lemon juice. Add liquid to crumble and pulse 7-8 times until starts to come together in clumps. Turn out on counter and just incorporate until creates a rough dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F

Step 3: after the dough has chilled for an hour remove from fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Roll to just less than 1/4 inch thickness. You can make this as one pie by sprinkling a light dusting of flour on pan and then place dough in. Do not stretch the dough in place but by draping it into corners and then pressing gently into place. 

*since making this recipe I saw Anna's new show Baked and she divides the dough into 3 balls and rolls each of them into a circle which is a much better idea than rolling into one and cutting into 3. Thanks Anna.

 I chose to make 3 little 5 inch pies and used foil tins bought at any grocery store/dollar store. I used a plastic lid as my measure.(larger than the size of the tin) Put pie crusts in freezer for 10 minutes.

Step 4: Take frozen shells and line with foil. Then take some pie weights and fill crusts (I use the same old beans I have been using for years) Allow foil to hang over crusts. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Then turn down heat to 375 degrees and bake another 10 minutes. Then remove the foil (you can do this without burning your hands as the foil doesn't get that hot just lift from the edges. Return beans to jar and bake the crusts uncovered for a final 10 minutes.

Step 5: let crusts cool completely before filling.

Step 6: separate egg yolks and whites (make sure no yolk gets into the whites) It's best to pour the whites out in a small dish to make sure there are no yolks and then dump that into the larger bowl with all the whites. Keep egg white covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to make meringue. If they are room temperature they whipped better.

Step 7: make filling. In a large saucepan whisk sugar, water and cornstarch. Whisk in egg yolks and salt. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes whisking constantly. 

Step 8: Increase heat to medium and continue to whisk until it just starts to boil and in a second it will thicken. You need to immediately remove from heat once you feel it and whisk hard to get a thick custard like this. Do not walk away from the pot while doing this. Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer. You want to capture any bits of egg that might be left.

Step 9: add butter, lemon juice and zest and stir until smooth and butter has melted.

Step 10: Pour into cooled shells. Put in fridge to completely chill 4 hours. I like this because you can make the pies in the morning up to the meringue part and  then make meringue and serve at night.

Heat oven to 350 degress F

 Step 11: In a medium bowl add cream of tartar to the egg whites. 

Step 12: Beat until foamy. With the mixer on gradually add all the sugar whip on the speed just below the maximum speed of your mixer.

 Step 13: Beat until you just get stiff peaks. This means when you stop the mixer and lift up the blades you get peaks that hold their shape.

Step 14: Finally, take a fine mesh strainer and sift in the small amount of cornstarch and whisk in with the mixer for a few seconds.

Step 15: Take out pies from fridge and pile on all the meringue. You will think you have too much. Keep piling high and then with a knife or spatula pull the meringue into curls or your favorite design.

Step 16: Bake 10 minutes to brown tops lightly. Let pie cool completely and serve.

I love the little pies because I could keep one for us and I gave the other two away. The little tins mean my recipients don't have to return a plate to me!

How gorgeously yummy. Perfect for 2!

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