Let Them Eat Pie

Yesterday, it actually started to feel springy outside. Read: I was not wearing boots or socks, those things that have been glued to my feet for the past five months. Not only that, but I was wearing merely a raincoat (well, not ONLY a raincoat. There were clothes under there). Sure, I was a tad colder than I wanted to be, but stubbornness prevails and I am willing Spring into being. My name is April, after all. Wink.

No matter how early Easter falls, and it’s an early one this year, it seems to kick Spring into gear. And folks believe that and all the hoopla about Easter bonnets (was Easter ever at some other warmer point on the calendar?), as you see kids stuffed into billowy, chiffony, Easter dresses whether there is snow on the ground or not. It’s Easter bonnet day, darn it! The big downer is if you have to load on a winter coat OVER that billowy, chiffony Easter dress. Talk about a disconnect. Can we just move Easter permanently to a spot on the calendar that will guarantee good egg-hunting and light-clothes wearing weather? Honestly.

Weather aside, we celebrate Spring, Easter and all things new. Glorious. Gets the heart racing, the blood pumping and the spirits lifting. Bring on the buds and the peepers and the rays of warm sun. Ahhh.

To finish our week of celebratory recipes, I offer you a springy, sunny dessert. The almighty Lemon Meringue Pie. A pie that I thought was called “Lemon Maran” until I was about twenty-five years old, because that’s how my Lemon Meran-making grandma pronounced it. Enjoy, enjoy and most of all, enjoy the bites of this billowy, chiffony pie. Weather doesn’t dampen it.

Lemon Meringue Pie, courtesy of The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

1.5 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
6 large egg yolks
1 Tb. grated lemon zest plus 1/2 cup juice (3 lemons)
2 Tb unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces

1/3 cup water
1 Tb. cornstarch
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

1 recipe single-crust pie dough for custard pies, fully baked and cooled

For the filling: Adjust oven to middle position and heat to 325. Bring water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt to simmer in large saucepan, whisking constantly. When mixture starts to turn translucent, whisk in egg yolks, two at a time. Whisk in lemon zest and juice and butter. Return mixture to brief simmer, then remove from heat. Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep warm and prevent skin from forming (ew).

For the meringue: Bring water and cornstarch to simmer in small saucepan and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened and translucent. 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using mixer, whisk egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove plastic from filling and return to very low heat during last minute or so of beating meringue (to ensure filling is hot).

Pour warm filling into cooled, pre-baked pie crust. Using rubber spatula, immediately distribute meringue evenly around edge and then center of pie, attaching meringue to pie crust to prevent shrinking (we do not want shrinkage.ha). Using back of spoon, creative attractive swirls and peaks in meringue. Bake until meringue is light golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let pie cool on wire rack until filling has set, about 2 hours. Serve with a sunny delightful smile.

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