Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lemon Meringue Pie

by Shanna Hatfield

I don't know what it is about spring that makes me crave the sweet, tart flavors of lemony treats, but it does.

One of our favorites is lemon meringue pie. 

According to food historians in the know, lemon custards, puddings, and pies have been tantalizing taste buds since Medieval times. Renaissance European cooks sometimes used whisked egg whites in dishes, it wasn't until the 17th century that meringue was perfected. 

Lemon meringue pie as we know it today is a product of the 19th century. 

Elizabeth Coane Goodfellow is credited for introducing lemon meringue pie to America in her shop in Philadelphia where she created any number of delicious treats, elegant cakes, and scrumptious cookies in the first half of the 1800s.

Goodfellow started one of the first cooking schools in America, too, teaching classes for thirty years. Wealthy families often sent their daughters to her classes as part of their education to prepare them to enter society. 

Goodfellow's recipes and techniques were passed on for future generations when one of her students, Eliza Leslie, began writing cookbooks. 

Although this is a modern take on the recipe, I'm sure Elizabeth would approve. 

The burst of flavor, the fusion of sweet and tart, was positively wonderful. Not to mention the euphoric state created by zesting the lemons. The scent was beyond divine and delightful. I was afraid Captain Cavedweller would come home to find me still melted in a puddle across the kitchen floor.

Here are the ingredients for the pudding. You will also need cream of tartar and 1/2 cup of sugar for the meringue as well as a pre-baked pie crust for the pie.
Start by zesting your lemons. Rinse them off well then whip out your microplane and go to town. You need 2 tablespoons of zest. By that time, the amazing scent will have weakened your knees and made you a bit giddy.
Go ahead and juice those lemons. I used three and it came out to be right at a 1/2 cup of juice. Run the juice through a strainer before using to get out all the pulp and seeds. Squeezing them by hand is great therapy!
Next, whip up the meringue. You need 1/8 tsp. of cream of tartar for every egg white. I used three egg whites so I needed 3/8 tsp. of cream of tartar.
Beat until soft peaks form then add in your sugar. I added 1/2 cup to the three egg whites.
Continue beating until stiff peaks form and the meringue gets all lovely and glossy. It is beauteous!

Now we start on the pudding. Mix the cornstarch and sugar together then whisk in the milk.
Add beaten egg yolks and mix well, then add lemon zest and salt.
Place over medium heat and cook, stirring until your arm feels like it might fall off, er... I mean until the sauce is thick.
Add lemon juice and butter, stirring well, then pour into prepared pie shell.
Immediately top with meringue. You want the pudding hot to help cook the inside of the meringue.
Place in pre-heated oven and brown for about five minutes.
Let cool completely and refrigerate before serving. Then slice and enjoy! I added some lemon zest and a juicy strawberry for garnish.
Lemon Meringue Pie 
 1 pre-baked pie crust, cooled

 3 egg whites
 3/8 tsp. cream of tartar
 1/2 cup granulated sugar

 To start with, make sure your bowl is completely grease-free. Any oily residue will ruin your meringue. Go for a glass bowl if it all possible. You need 1/8 tsp. of cream of tartar for each egg white. Sprinkle on top of egg whites and beat with mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add in sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff peaks forms and the meringue is glossy and lovely. You will want to whip up the meringue before you start cooking the pudding.

 3/4 cup granulated sugar
 1/4 cup cornstarch
 2 1/2 cups milk
 3 large yolks, lightly beaten
 2 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest pinch of salt
 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
 2 tbsp. butter, softened

 NOTE: Three fresh lemons gave me plenty of zest and came out, when squeezed by hand, to be right at 1/2 cup of juice. Do yourself a favor and squeeze your own juice. The flavor is amazing! Also, separate your egg whites from the yolks and put the whites into a large mixing bowl. You’ll use them for the meringue.

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

 Place sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Whisk to combine. Gradually add milk, whisking until smooth. Add egg yolks. Stir in lemon zest and salt. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thick. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice and butter. If you don’t want the zested lemon in your pudding you can run it through a fine mesh strainer at this point. If you are like me and don’t care, pour the pudding into the prepared pie crust.

While the pudding is still piping hot, spoon on the meringue and bake in oven for about 5 minutes or until top is lightly browned. If you want mile-high meringue, double the recipe for the meringue. I’d recommend baking it at a lower temperature longer to make sure the inside gets cooked – 325 for 20 minutes or so. Let cool completely before serving. Then enjoy!

After spending her formative years on a farm in eastern Oregon, hopeless romantic Shanna Hatfield turns her rural experiences into sweet historical and contemporary romances filled with sarcasm, humor, and hunky heroes.
When this USA Today bestselling author isn’t writing or covertly seeking dark, decadent chocolate, Shanna hangs out with her beloved husband, Captain Cavedweller.
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