After our Building A Better Pantry series on dairy products, I thought it fitting to expound upon the cheese plate. Even if you don't care to make cheese of your own, I'm sure most of you still...
After reading Ashley English's recently published book, A Year of Pies, not only was I inspired to...well...make more pie, I was compelled to contact her to write a guest blog. Her approachable and down-to-earth style and incredible pie ideas are downright inspirational. Take a look at Ashley's blog, Small Measure, and her books for budding homesteaders. And by all means, make this pie.
Meringue. Sometimes just the word alone is enough to deflate the confidence of even the most courageous, intrepid baker. At its core, meringue is nothing more than a big pile of bubbles. Beating egg whites alters their inherent proteins, creating films that fold over the bubbles and get locked into position as they’re hardened and firmed up by sugar. This billowy confection is temperamental, it’s true, but, given the right coddling and hand-holding (along with some insider tips), meringue mastery will soon be yours!
*Use room temperature eggs. Cold whites won’t whip as quickly as will eggs that are around 68-72 degrees F.
*Use eggs that are several days old. Older whites provide fully, fluffier, more voluminous whites.
*Don’t allow any egg yolk to mix with the whites. The fat in the yolk will prohibit the whites from foaming up properly.
*Be sure your mixing bowl and utensils have no water on them. Moisture is the enemy of meringue.
*Add the sugar in increments, not all at once. Sugar is hygroscopic, pulling moisture into itself, which you don’t want to happen suddenly with meringue (remember, moisture is the enemy).
*If at all possible, don’t make the meringue on a rainy or especially humid day. Keep all that moisture at bay.
*This pie is best served the same day that it’s made. As the meringue is subjected to temperature fluctuations, it will begin to deflate, ooze, and weep.
Reprinted with permission from A Year of Pies © 2012 by Ashley English, Lark Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
You will need
1/2 recipe Basic Pie Dough (recipe follows)
9-inch pie pan
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
5 large egg yolks
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup Limoncello
Grated zest of two lemons
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Prepare the crust.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into the 9-inch pie pan. Trim the crust overhang to 1 inch and crimp the edges decoratively. Prick the bottom of the crust 6 or 7 times with a fork, then place the crust in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, leaving the oven on.
Remove the dried beans or pie weights and parchment paper from the crust, and return it to the oven. Bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until the crust is golden.
Cool completely before filling.
Prepare the filling:
Combine the water, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium-size saucepan. Whisk until fully blended and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, cook for 3 minutes. Turn the heat to low.
Remove ½ cup of the cooked mixture and temper it into the egg yolks in a small bowl, whisking constantly until well combined.
It’s essential that you take your time when adding the cooked mixture to the eggs, otherwise they’ll curdle.
Return the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan on the stove. Whisk in the lemon juice, Limoncello, lemon zest, and butter. Beat until the butter is melted, the mixture is fully combined, and the filling thickens. In order to ensure that the filling sets up properly when cooled, bring to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is very thick, about 3 minutes or so.
Remove the pot from the heat and pour the filling into the prebaked crust.
Prepare the meringue:
Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat the egg whites with the vanilla and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form.
Assemble the pie:
Pile the meringue over the filling, mounding it in the center and covering the filling completely. Make sure you touch the edges of the crust all around, to prevent the meringue from shrinking.
Using the lowest broiler setting of your oven, evenly brown the meringue topping for about 1 minute. Or, if you have one, use a handheld culinary blowtorch.
Place the pie in the refrigerator and keep chilled until ready to serve.
Basic Pie Dough (All-Butter Version)
This all-butter crust is unrivaled in terms of flavor. It’s also quite flaky, despite having no shortening. The secret is to work with very cold butter. I keep all of my butter in the freezer, transferring it to the refrigerator overnight or several hours before I intend to make pie dough. Work quickly, with cold hands on a cool work surface, and you’ll end up with a crust that’s as flaky as it is scrumptious.
Makes: Dough for one double-crust pie
You will need
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
¾ cup ice water
Mix the flour and salt together in a medium-large bowl.
Using a pastry blender or two forks, incorporate the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal (you should still have some rather large bits of butter when you’re done).
Slowly drizzle in the ice water. Stir with a large spoon until the dough begins to clump.
Transfer the dough onto a floured work surface and, using your hands, fold it into itself until all of the flour is incorporated into the fats. The dough should come together easily but should not feel overly sticky.
Divide the dough in half, shape it into two balls, and pat each ball into a ½-inch thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Proceed according to the pie recipe instructions.