This pie recipe has gone through several iterations, refining it for maximal citrus flavor. It is not to be taken lightly, as it employs many more difficult aspects of cooking science. I highly recommend attempting it, only if you are well-versed in baking, or pies in general. And by this, I do not mean eating pies. You may eat as many chocolate cream tarts as you like, it does not make you proficient at baking.
- pie pan
- several glass bowls of varying sizes
- standing or hand held mixer/ whisk and considerable endurance
- microplane or cheese grater
- plastic wrap
- fork or pastry cutter
- metal wisk
- silicone spatula (for scraping)
For the crust:
- 1 1/3 c flour
- 1/4 c. butter flavored vegetable shortening (You may use lard if you can find it, but for most, it can be quite difficult. However, this is the ideal element.)
- 1/4 c. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp of ice cold water
For the filling:
- 4 very large eggs (six small)
- 1 c corn starch
- 1 c. water
- 1 1/3 c. sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 1 c. lemon juice (I highly recommend Mayer lemons)
- 1 Tbsp zest (You may use the zest from the lemons, or add in some more interesting zest from another citrus relative, if you wish. Buddha’s Hand has a lovely floral note.)
- cream of tartar and extra sugar (for the egg whites)
- I know this seems strange, but separate your eggs, placing the whites into a large bowl in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 425°
- Mix flour and salt for the crust in a bowl, forming a small well in the center.
- Cut the shortening and butter into small cubes, keeping them as cold as possible.
- Place these into the well, and then incorporate flour with fork or pastry cutter until mixture resembles the texture of peas. Do not use your hands as the heat from them will melt the shortening, causing the pastry to be “heavy”, not light and flaky.
- Once mixture is the right texture, add the ice water and combine with a fork. It may appear as if it needs more water, it does not. Quickly gather the dough into a ball and flatten into a 4-inch-wide disk. Wrap this in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Remove dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable.
- Using a floured rolling pin, roll the disk on a lightly floured surface from the center out in each direction, forming a 12-inch circle. Please recall that if it falls to pieces, this means that the pastry will be flaky. If you wish it to hold together more, simply work it more, however, this increases its chewiness.
- To transfer the dough, carefully roll it around the rolling pin, lift and unroll dough, centering it in an ungreased pie plate. (Or you can fold dough in quarters, then place dough point in center of the pie pan and unfold, whatever is easiest for you.)
- Prick the dough all around with a fork. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool before filling.
- Gather your filling ingredients and begin by whisking the yolks in a small bowl. Set these aside.
- In the saucepan, combine your water, sugar, corn starch, and salt. Heat this on medium until comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute or until it thickens into a translucent sludge.
- Ladle by ladle, add ½ of filling mixture to the bowl of egg yolks, whisking it furiously as you do so.
- Once incorporated, add this egg mixture back into the pot of remaining filling mixture. This is called tempering, and prevents the eggs from cooking, and turning into egg chunks
- Heat this on low heat for another minute more, then stir in the butter, lemon juice, and zest, incorporating fully. If this mixture is too runny (not the texture of a thick pudding) then you may need to play with chemistry a bit more. I advise taking a tablespoon or two of corn starch and making a rue in a cup, with as little water as possible. Add this to the pie filling mixture, stirring constantly, and heat until it begins to thicken. Immediately remove from heat and stir until it is cool.
- Add this to your cooled pie shell and set aside
- In your icy bowl, or in the bowl of your standing mixer, beat the egg whites, adding pinches of sugar and cream of tartar as you go, until they form stiff peaks. What does this mean? Try turning the bowl upside down. If it falls out, it is not a stiff peak. However, you cannot magically make this happen. If you have been at this for several minutes, and the peaks simply refuse to rise, add a bit more sugar, and if this doesn’t work, resign yourself to a flat but tasty meringue.
- Shovel this atop your pie, being careful not to smash it down. Picture a fluffy cloud. Use the back side of the spoon to create the little points by allowing the meringue to stick and pulling upward.
- Place this in the oven at 375 for about 12 minutes, or until the meringue has become a toasty brown at all its highest points.
- Cool before serving
This pie is tart, and very lemony. I suggest plating with a sprig of mint, and pairing it with gin. It is excellent as a breakfast dish, minus the gin, of course.
In this image, you can see that I have made the pies smaller. It is identically the same recipe, doubled, and rather than bake the pie shells in a pie pan, I have merely made them in a greased cupcake tin, paying careful attention to their condition, as they baked.