Friday, July 26, 2013

Mile High Meyer Lemon Pie

Piled High

If you have the opportunity to pluck Meyer lemons the size of a chihuahua's head from a tree bowing to breaking from the weight of so much juicy fruit, may I suggest you stuff at least ten of those babies in any available satchel or pocket?

I did just that and ran back home to make a pie.

In its first incarnation, it's a Tarte au Citron.  A simple sweet tart shell filled with a smooth lake of deep yellow, sweet and tart bliss.

Tarte au Citron, Meyer Lemon Addition

If you want to gild the lily, as my father would describe it, why not pile it high with meringue?  I did.

MILE HIGH MEYER LEMON PIE

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

1/4 pound / 1 stick unsalted butter.  Slightly cooler than room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of half a Meyer lemon
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

For the filling

10 Meyer lemons, juiced to make 1 1/4 cups
1 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
8 eggs
5 egg yolks
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional)
pinch salt


For the meringue topping

10 egg whites
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
generous pinch salt

OPTION

•Graham cracker or Nilla wafer crumbs, a few tablespoons.

PROCEDURE

For the crust

•Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cream until light and fluffy.

•Add the egg and mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add the vanilla and zest.  Mix again to combine.

•Add the flour and salt.  Mix until the dough starts to come together in small chunks.

•Transfer the dough to a large piece of plastic wrap.  Knead it gently to incorporate any errant flour blobs.  Refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

•Spray a 9" tart pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Crumble half the dough onto the bottom of the pan and pat down.  Take small pieces of the remaining dough to press against the sides of the tart pan.  Tightly wrap any remaining dough for later!  This stuff makes the best cookies as well.

•Dock the dough with a fork and freeze the dough lined tart pan and freeze for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350º.

•Bake the crust for 20 minutes or until completely baked through.  Allow to cool completely.

For the filling

•Melt the butter in a very large saucepan.  Add the sugar, juice, zest and salt, and stir until the sugar is completely melted.

•In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and yolks.  Continue whisking and add a cupful of the warm butter/juice mixture to temper.  Add the tempered mixture to the saucepan, whisking all the while.  Continue whisking the mixture over medium/low heat until the filling thickens to the consistency of ketchup.  This can take a very long time.  I'm not going to lie.  Give yourself a nice half hour to slave away whisking.  It's worth it.

•Take the filling from the stove and sprinkle the gelatin over the top of the hot filling (if using, it really helps set the mixture).  Allow to sit for a minute and then whisk the gelatin into the filling until completely melted.

•Pour the filling into the cooled tart crust.  Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.  At this point, you already have a beautiful Tarte au Citron.  Serve it just like this and you'll be a star.  If you want to make this completely off the chain, keep going...

For the meringue

•Once the filling is cool and set, combine all the meringue ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

•Place the bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar is completely melted and a candy thermometer reads 160º.

•Transfer the bowl to the stand mix and whisk on high until stiff peaks form and the bowl is cool to the touch.

Piled mile high.

To finish

•NOTE!!!  Remember the Option ingredient up there of cookie crumbs?  This is a little trick for meringue pies.  If you've ever experienced a meringue topping that slippery slides off the filling, which happens most often with a filling like this, or if it weeps on you (another reason I "Swiss" the meringue over the simmering water, to take out extra moisture and set the meringue), this little trick will help.  Before piling on the meringue, sprinkle the top of the filling with a light layer of cookie crumbs, ground as finely as you can manage.  This will create a moisture barrier for the meringue.

•Preheat the oven to the BROIL setting.

•Plop the meringue on top of the filling carefully and using the back of a large spoon, swirl the meringue on top of the filling, anchoring the meringue on to the edge of the crust along the way.

•Brown the meringue for 10 to 20 seconds under the broiler but BE JOHNNY ON THE SPOT AND WATCH THE ENTIRE TIME, until the meringue is just browned.  One extra second and you can char the top.  So just a few seconds.