Lemon is perfect for spring

A slice of lemon meringue pie. PHOTO: Commons

When I think of spring, I think of lemon. Fresh, vibrant, crisp, tangy and  bright yellow, its sunny colour signifies life. It is the perfect flavour to welcome in this season, going well with spring greens, lamb, ham and poultry and certainly a must at the Easter feast.

When it comes to dessert, lemon gives chocolate a run for its money. In fact, there are many who would say that lemon surpasses chocolate in popularity. It certainly adds a light but distinctive tang to a rich meal. I hope this classic pie will be a finishing touch to your springtime celebrations.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Probably one of the most popular pies, its classic sweet-sour taste is a perfect ending to a special meal, but there are some tricks to create this ethereal confection. For best results eat the entire pie the same day as baking. Read on for more clues to the solution of the perfect lemon pie:

If making pastry strikes fear into your heart, then take heart and buy a frozen pie shell, preferably a deep dish 9 inch (23 cm) pie shell; otherwise, follow these directions for perfect pastry.
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) shortening
1/4 cup (50 mL) ice-cold water

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until like coarse meal. Drizzle water over all and stir with a fork until mixture starts to clump together. Using hands, form into ball. Flatten pastry slightly with hands and roll out between two pieces of waxed paper always rolling away from yourself and rotating the waxed paper as you need to shape the dough into a circle. Use the 9 inch (23 cm) pie plate (preferably pyrex as it browns better) as a template roll pastry about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) larger than the circumference of the pie plate. Gently remove top layer of waxed paper from dough. Replace; then quickly flip dough over; loosen this piece of waxed paper and discard. For easy cutting and removal of pie, spray pie plate with baking spray. Invert the pie plate onto the pastry being careful to centre dough then quickly flip dough into pan. Gently remove and discard remaining waxed paper layer. Loosen the edges of the pastry against the sides of the pie plate to allow the dough to slide down the sides of the pie plate without stretching the dough. Crimp edges or neatly trim excess pastry edge with knife. Prepare to bake the pastry blind.

Baking Blind: This term means that the pie shell is baked empty without a filling. To do this successfully so that the pastry does not bubble up, prick the bottom of the pie shell all over with the tines of a fork. Preheat oven to 425˚F (220˚C). Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill the pie with about 2 cups of pie weights (these are weights bought specially for this purpose or use dried beans or rice (you cannot eat the beans or rice once used for this purpose but keep them in a jar to have on hand for other baking blind jobs.) Bake the pie shell on a rimmed baking sheet about 15 to 18 minutes or until edges begin to brown; let cool on a rack about 30 seconds then carefully pick up the edges of the parchment paper with pie weights and remove from pie shell. Pour weights into jar and reserve for other use. Discard parchment. Reduce oven to 375˚F (190˚C) Return pie to oven and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Cool on rack.

Lemon Filling:
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) granulated sugar
6 tbsp ((100 mL) cornstarch
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
2 cups (500 mL) water
5 eggs, separated (save egg whites)
1 1/2 tbsp (22 mL) grated lemon rind
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup (50 mL) butter

In a heavy, non-reactive saucepan such as stainless steel, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually whisk about 1/4 cup (50 mL) water into sugar mixture until smooth then gradually whisk in remaining water so that there are no lumps. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for about three minutes or until mixture is thickened and glossy. Remove from heat. In separate bowl, whisk egg yolks then whisk in 1/4 of the thickened sugar-cornstarch mixture into egg yolks; whisk back into pan Cook over medium heat, whisking two minutes or until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat. Gently whisk in lemon rind, lemon juice and butter until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature at least 30 minutes.

5 reserved egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1/2 cup (125 ml) superfine sugar (fruit or berry sugar)

In mixing bowl using clean beaters, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time until stiff and glossy peaks form. Pour lemon filling into cooled crust, smoothing top. Starting at pastry edge, spoon dollops of meringue over surface of lemon filling all the way to the crust’s edge. All of the lemon filling must be covered by the meringue and the meringue must be anchored to the pastry edge. Make decorative peaks with the back of the spoon. Bake the pie at 400˚F (200˚C) five to six minutes or until the peaks begin to brown. Let cool on rack about five hours to allow the filling to set. Cut and serve the same day.

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