lemon meringue. allergies. oh, and pi.
Combining my love for cooking and for a child with severe and a plethora of allergies has been a not-so-easy journey. Couple that with an international move to an area without the conveniences of gluten-free anything. It was tough. I remember when we moved into our first dark apartment in Oman, the tiny kitchen window made the prospect of home cooking ever more discouraging.
I went up and down strange grocery store aisles, desperately trying to understand new ingredient lists. I had to learn the French and German words for many of the allergens. I would spend hours at the store, trying to mentally mark what items were available.
Thankfully we've moved into a brighter space, and seven years later, the allergy-friendly items are more plentiful -- nothing like the U.S. or Italy, but doable. It's taken a while to fall back in love with cooking and once I did, I really didn't want to stop or let allergies stop my son. Sometimes I see a crazy recipe that does not have any traditional substitutions and I imagine what I could do.
And because its National Pie/Pi day, let's do the crazy thing and try something extraordinary: enter Lemon Meringue Pie. The memory conjured all the creamy sweet tartness and I thought "Why not?" First blog post, bright lemony flavors, felt right.
So pull up your chair and a big spoon. Let's dig in to a completely dairy and gluten free pie. First up the crust:
I ended up making a couple of adjustments to the King Arthur's version on this pie crust recipe. You are free to use theirs, too. No lemon skin off my teeth. So here's the recipe for the crust. Plan on making it at least a few hours before and possibly the day before. This will last in the fridge a few days or in the freezer longer.
1 1/4 cup of All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour
1 teaspoon of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of vegan cold butter cut into chunks
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
a couple of tablespoons of cold water (only if needed)
Cool everything down. Do this by mixing flour, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and placing it in the freezer. Take your vegan butter and cut into chunks. Place this on a saucer place in the freezer for five minutes. I notice that vegan butter tends to be softer anyway and the extra freeze time helps it to hold together well.
After five minutes, scrape the butter into the flour mixture. With the back of a fork or with a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour. This should look like a cornmeal consistency.
Add egg and lemon juice and form into a mixture. If it's too dry, add a tablespoon or two of cold water. Be careful how much you add here though; it can become too wet quickly.
Wrap in some plastic wrap and place in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use. If it's in the fridge, take out ten minutes before using. If it's in the freezer, give it a full hour.
Flour a surface and roll out the pie crust to a little less than 1/4 of an inch.
Grease a pinch-in pie pan and pinch the edges.
Blind bake for 15 minutes.
Remove the crust and brush some egg white on the bottom - this helps it from getting soggy with the lemon filling. Bake for 5 more minutes It's ready to use! *note the GF pie does not come out quite as browned as a normal pie crust. It will brown a little but not as much.
And now off to the pie filling!
5 large egg yolks - you will save the whites for the meringue
1 and 1/3 cups water
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1/3 cup corn flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
lemon zest from two lemons
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of cream of tarter
1/2 cup of sugar
*You want to prepare the lemon filling and meringue in a timely manner so when the meringue is placed on top of the lemon curd filling while its still warm. This helps set the meringue and prevents it from weeping and breaking down. With that in mind, get everything ready and prepared for both parts. I set up the egg whites, vanilla extract, and cream of tarter in a mixing bowl, ready to whip.
For the Filling:
In a non stick sauce pan, place water, corn flour, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt. Whisk periodically for 5-7 minutes on low heat until it becomes thick and clearer.
In the meantime, beat your egg yolks. We are going to temper the egg yolks so that the eggs don't curdle. It's not overly difficult, so don't worry!
When the sauce has thickened, turn it on low. Take a couple tablespoons of the thick lemon mixture and dribble into the egg yolks. Mix it up. Do it again with a few more tablespoons.
Now gently transfer the yolk mixture back into the thick lemon sauce. I pour from a moderate height with one hand slowly and whisk with the other. Doing this slowly will prevent the lemon filling to curdle.
Cook on low for another minute, while gently stirring. Pour the filling into warm pie crust. Off to the meringue!
For the Meringue:
With a standing or hand held mixture, beat the egg whites into submission ..... just kidding, until it at least doubles and starts to form peaks.
When you start noticing peaks, add the sugar in a few tablespoons at a time. Keep beating until those beautiful satin peaks form. If an unexpecting child is around, this is a great time to do the bowl over the head test. I'm not kidding about this one.
Gentle scoop out the meringue on top of (hopefully) warm lemon curd. You can make peaks, do a swirl, a spin, whatever you please.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 325.
Remove and chill literally and figuratively, because I know you want to dig in, but it only result in a hot unslice-able mess. This can take 2-4 hours. It's okay, we can do this.
because a slice through this beauty is worth it.