Friday, April 10, 2009

Lemon Meringue for Cheaters

So, the other pie destined to grace the dinner table this easter is the mighty lemon meringue... a tart and sweet treat with an untraditional crust and fluffy meringue to boot!
Now, I will admit at the moment that even though I usually make this pie from scratch, I have cheated this time all in an effort to produce the most baked goods in the shortest of time, I mean come on, I was baking french bread and saskatoon pie simultaneously... I needed a little break... So, in this ONE instance, lemon pie filling from the store will have to suffice.  I did add a twist in the crust to make up for it though! Already, I have deviated from a traditional pastry crust, a tactic employed by my mother-in-law that has beomce a basic favorite of my dear husband, and I have adopted the under-used graham crust for Lemon Meringue.  This time though, I went up-town on the crust!

Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 1 box of lemon pie filling
  • 4 extra egg whites (separate extra eggs or, use the convenient carton varieties that are so handy these days)
  • 1 3/4 cup graham crumbs or 24 - 30 graham crackers
  • 3 - 4 Tblsp. butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar (if using graham crackers) 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (for the meringue)
Start with the crust.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Measure 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs into a bowl.  If you have crackers instead of crumbs, fill a ziploc bag with 24 - 30 graham crackers and, using a rolling pin or meat tenderizer, crush the crackers into fine crumbs.  The odd large chunk is A-Ok! 

In a microwave proof bowl, melt the butter.  Once melted, add the butter to the graham crumbs.  Before combining, add the zest of one lemon, and, if using hand-crushed crackers, add the 1/4 cup of sugar to sweeten the crust.  Combine all the ingredients to form a damp but crumbly mixture. The lemon zest is the twist here and will provide some tangy, citrus contrast to the sweet filling.  

Firmly press the crumb mixture into a 9" pie plate.  Bake the crust in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until the crust is slightly browned and the scent of graham crackers has wafted through the house.

Cool the crust on a wire rack before filling with the lemon mixture.

To prepare the filling, follow the instructions on the package. 
Lemon filling from scratch to come...:)

Once the lemon filling has cooled slightly, pour the filling into the cooled pie crust and move on to the meringue.

In addition to the egg whites not used in the filling, I add up to 4 extra egg whites to the suggested 2.  This addition of extra egg whites ensures that I have a pie that is piled high with fluffy egg whites and that no part of the lemon filling is left uncovered. 

In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and the sugar and beat on high with an electric handheld, stand mixer or by hand until the whites have formed, stiff, shiny peaks.  At this point, top the pie with the meringue, without loosing too much air from the whites. Using a spatula, or flat wooden spoon, create peaks in the meringue for decoration. ( This can be achieved by pressing the flat side of the spatula or spoon into the meringue and pulling the tool straight up quickly to 'pull' the meringue into peaks.)  

Pop the pie into the oven for 12 minutes, or until the peaks of the meringue are golden and firm.  Remove the pie from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before chilling in the fridge. 


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