Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie

Every summer the State of Iowa for one week the State of Iowa is home to the annual RAGBRAI- the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. The Des Moines Register, the city's largest newspaper, has hosted this annual event for close to fifty years, and it's famous for attracting people from all over the world, of all athletic abilities, and everyone who absolutely loves biking and pie. Seriously. Ask any RABGRAI participant and they will have a pie story from every stop along the way.

A table full of classic- apple, strawberry rhubarb, Dutch
apple and key lime pie.
Last summer the ride began in Glenwood and ended, six days and just over 400 miles later, in Muscatine. Every town along the route gets in the spirit and welcomes riders with carnival-like celebrations, live music, a place to pitch a tent for the night, food and drink, partying, and of course, pie. Do a quick Google search if you don't believe me- "RAGBRAI pie" and you'll see exactly what I mean. Each town along the route assembles an army of volunteer bakers and servers to meet the pie demand of the visiting riders. No store bought pie will do for these folks either. Hand rolled crusts, fresh berries and fruits or handed down recipes for creamy fillings, baked with love. Cut and served by volunteers to keep the hungry riders full of pie.

I decided in my quest for the perfect pie to try and master the perfect meringue. This was more of a challenge to me than I expected. I am not a huge fan of meringue on a pie. Crispy meringues, sure, I'll eat those all day, like crunchy meringue cookies that are baked at low temperature and left to dry in the cooling oven. I love those. Meringue on a pie though, it's soft and squishy and eggy and a little like marshmallow and I am more of a crispy flaky crust kind of person. Pie crust I mastered long ago so I accepted the challenge and decided to make a couple classics, a key lime pie and a lemon meringue pie. I really love the tangy lemon filling, and homemade is so easy and fresh. Don't forget to give your lemon a really thorough scrub as you will be using the zest from one whole lemon to add incredible lemon flavor to your filling. Invest in a good quality rasp-style zester and you'll get all the delicious zest without the bitter pith underneath.

The Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie

4 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons butter- NOT MARGARINE!!!!

4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

One baked pastry shell, 8 or 9 inch

For the meringue, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time while eating until firm peaks form and sugar has completely dissolved. Check by rubbing meringue between fingertips- you should not feel any graininess. Set aside.

For the filling, beat the yolks with the sugar. Add the remaining ingredients except the butter. Cook over medium low heat until mixture bubbles and thickens. Whisk constantly!!!! Stir in the butter.

Pour the filling into a baked pastry shell. Immediately cover with meringue, spreading to edges and sealing against the crust. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven until the meringue browns slightly. Cool completely before serving.

Besides the tangy lemon meringue pie I also made a key lime pie at the same time. Key limes are teeny tiny limes sold by the bag full and if you are going to juice your own you'll need quite a few. You'll also want to zest several of them- you usually want a generous tablespoon of shredded zest for your filling.

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