This past week was number 6 for the semester as I continue to chug along at the Midwest Culinary Institute. We got a primer in making pie dough and, as one might expect, pies themselves. Aside from a tasty Quiche Florentine we made these lovely, and thoroughly delicious, miniature lemon meringue pies.
The lemon custard was yummy in its own right, but the French meringue was pure heaven. It was the first time I had ever tried an unbaked meringue, and found it to be totally different from what I was accustomed to eating on a typical lemon meringue pie. Normally I wouldn’t post my culinary school recipes, but these are too good not to share.
These recipes will assume that you already have pie crusts prepared, since adding that procedure will make for a much larger post, and they are scaled to make one full size 9-inch pie or about eight individual sized pies. So without further ado, here are your ingredient lists:
For the lemon custard:
- 14 oz. water
- 7 oz. + 2 oz. sugar
- 2 1/2 oz. egg yolks
- 1 1/2 oz. corn starch
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 oz. butter
- 3 oz. lemon juice
And for the meringue:
- 4 oz. pasteurized egg whites
- 4 oz. + 4 oz. finely granulated sugar
Just a quick note about the meringue ingredients: it is important to use pasteurized eggs if at all possible because this component of the dessert will not be cooked. Although the risk of salmonella is small from regular eggs, it is still there and could be particularly problematic for the elderly or very young children. Also, if you cannot find finely granulated sugar at your local store, you can put regular sugar into a food processor and get it to the proper texture very easily.
To make the custard, start by dissolving the 7 oz. portion of sugar in the water and heat in a saucepan to boiling. While that is heating up, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, corn starch, the remaining 2 oz. of sugar, salt and lemon zest to form a paste. When the water-sugar mixture boils, remove it from the heat and slowly ladle about half of it into the egg mixture, whisking as you do. This will temper the eggs so they don’t cook when you add them to the hot liquid.
Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining liquid, and bring it all back up to a boil, whisking constantly. As soon as it boils, get it off the heat. Whisk in the butter and lemon juice until they are completely incorporated. Transfer the custard to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap in contact with the top of the custard, and refrigerate it until well chilled. When the custard is cold, fill your prepared pie shell(s) with it. A piping bag works well but is not essential for this step. Regardless of how you get it in there, level off the custard with a spatula when you’re done.
Now it’s time to make the meringue, which only takes a few minutes. You will need a stand mixer with a whip attachment, but it is essential to make sure both are totally clean and free of any residual fat. Likewise, make sure no yolk gets into your egg whites when separating them. The presence of any fat at all will prevent your whites from whipping up properly.
Beginning by whipping the egg whites on high speed. When they get a little foamy, start to slowly drizzle in the first 4 oz. portion of sugar. The sugar will stabilize the whites and give them structure. Whip the whites and sugar until stiff peaks form, that is, when you lift the whip out of the bowl and the tail of meringue does not droop or bend when you turn the whip sideways. Now take the second 4 oz. portion of the sugar and fold it gently into the meringue with a spatula until fully blended, but do not overmix or you may deflate the meringue. Now you’re ready to cover the pie(s) with the meringue — you will get a prettier result with a piping bag and star tip. Lastly, if you’re feeling fancy, give it a quick shot with a chef’s torch to brown the tops, and you’re done.
As so often happens lately on the day after a baking class, I’m the most popular guy at the office because I bring in the results of my efforts and pass them around to my co-workers. Of course Lolly and I reserved one of these little beauties for ourselves, and munched it right down with a big happy grin on our faces. I hope you’ll get as much enjoyment in the making as in the eating. Until next time: Eat well, my friends!