British Pie Week: The Celebration Continues with Lemon Meringue

I know, I know – British Pie week should result in pastry concoctions housing mushrooms, leeks, chicken and other assorted savory goodies.  The way I figure it, if I’m going to eat calorie-laden crusts, I’m not going to bother trying to disguise it as something healthy by adding vegetables and meat.

And with that, I give you: Lemon Meringue!

Pie Crust: use the one from the Cherry Pie recipe.

Roll it out into a circle and plop it into your pie plate.  Make sure the circle is about 2 inches larger than your pie plate so you have lots of crust to flute.

Chill your crust in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Line your pie plate with foil and fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake your crust for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil and contents.  Pop back into the oven for 10-15 minutes and cook until it’s golden.

Filling

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (this really adds some nice zing!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  Add this mixture to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.  Return to the heat and cook over medium heat.  Keep whisking!  The mixture will start to boil and become very thick.  Don’t stop whisking!  Turn off the heat and take about 1 cup of this hot mixture and add it to the beaten egg yolks.  Whisk that until it’s smooth.  Keeping the whisking motif going, add the egg mixture back to the pot and whisk it all together rather vigorously.  Turn the heat back on and bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Then, remove from the heat and stir in the butter.  Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.  Voila!  Lemon filling, yum!

Pour that into the baked crust and move onto the meringue.

Meringue

Meringue can be tricky.  You can overwhip it.  You can add too much sugar too fast and end up with white goop.  Worst of all, the site of a pie crust filled with lemon filling makes it sad and it weeps (not really but I’m trying to avoid a boring paragraph about humidity, sugar and egg whites).  Weeping meringue is yucky.  It makes your pie crust all soft and in my opinion, it just ruins the pie.  To that end, I’ve read a lot about preventing meringue from weeping.

Some advocate that meringue must be applied to a hot filling and popped into the oven as soon as possible.  Others state this step isn’t necessary.  I’ve tried both and had failures and success with both.  Interestingly, I never used to worry about this and I never had a weepy pie.  Then one day something changed and as a result, I’ve adopted the process of adding a cornstarch mixture to my pie meringue.  Oh, and don’t try to use egg whites from a carton.  Trust me on this.  They just don’t whip up the same as a white from a whole egg. I converted this recipe from one that made enough for 2 pies and was all in metric so you’ll have to pull out your scale to weigh the sugar.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 108 ml water
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (approx 5)
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Immediately upon boiling, turn down the heat and add the cornstarch.  Whisk like crazy.  Cook for about one minute, until the mixture is translucent.  Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Whip the egg whites until they’ve tripled in volume.  Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Continue whipping and add the vanilla.  Add the cornstarch mixture, a wee bit at a time and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Put it all together

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Spread the meringue topping over the lemon filling.  Make sure the meringue contacts the entire crust, so as to seal it.  Feel free to make swirls and peaks and whatever you want (use a piping bag or get creative with spoon or fork; they all work).

Pop the pie into the oven and bake for approx 10-20 mins or until the meringue is browned. Note: if your peaks are thin, they may burn before the rest of the meringue browns.

Cool on a rack before serving.

British Pie Week! To celebrate: Cherry Pie!

I recently discovered it’s British Pie Week. Seriously. Check it out.  The website leads me to believe that it’s a celebration based on pre-made pie dough and fabricated by a company in order to sell more product but hey, who am I to criticize a nation celebrating pie?

I’m fairly certain that British Pie Week is meant to celebrate things like Steak and Kidney Pie, Chicken Pot Pie and Fish Pie.  While I won’t deny my Welsh roots, I will deny wanting to eat Fish Pie.  Ewww.  Instead, I give you Cherry Pie.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made this pie.  The funny thing is, I hate cherry pie.  Really.  It’s sour.  And cherry flavoured.  My husband on the other hand – he loves cherry pie.  His idea of a perfect birthday cake is my home made cherry pie.  Since I’m no connoisseur but he certainly is, I have it on his opinion that this recipe makes the best.pie.ever.

Go forth – make pie!  Celebrate British Pie Week.  I think we should follow it with Canadian Exercise Week to work off the calories 😉

Crust

I use a food processor.  I’ve had plenty of experience making pie crust by hand.  It’s a very romantic notion.  Practical? Not so much.  I hate how it gets under my finger nails, so I opt for the processor.

Recipe makes enough for a total of 5 single crusts (2 double crust pies and one single, 1 double crust pie and 3 singles – you get the idea).

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks – very cold!
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening – very cold!
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup ice water

Place flour, sugar & salt in bowl of food processor.  Pulse to mix.

Add butter and pulse 2-3 times.  Add shortening (it warms up faster than the butter, hence I add it after I’ve pulsed the butter a few times but you could add it at the same time) and pulse just until the fat is dispersed throughout the flour.  The pieces of fat resemble small peas.  If you’re not sure, it’s better to stop when the pieces are bigger rather than smaller.

Mix the egg into a bowl; add the lemon juice and the water.  I find this works best in a pyrex measuring cup.  Make sure these ingredients are cold in order to maintain the consistency of the butter and shortening.

Remove the lid of your food processor (make sure it’s turned off!).  Pour the water/lemon juice/egg mixture over the flour mixture.  Replace the cover and pulse just enough times that you’ve made a rough mass of dough.

Unplug your food processor; remove the lid and dump onto a lightly floured counter top.

Shape the mass into a log and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour (can be left for up to 3 days; can be tightly wrapped and sealed in a ziploc bag and frozen for up to 3 months).  I shape the dough into a log because then I can score 5 equal sections to make my pie crusts.  For this pie, you’ll need 2 crusts: a top and a bottom.

I like to make the pie crust a day in advance.  Once your pie crust is firm and you’ve got a section, roll out your dough to fit a 9 inch pie pan.  Stick it in the fridge while you make the filling.

Pie Filling

Whoa.  This is going to take all of 5 minutes to make.  Better get that oven preheated.  Crank it up to 425 F.

  • 5-6 cups of sour cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen – note that if you use frozen, you must defrost and allow enough time for most of the juices to be extracted or you’ll end up with a soggy mess)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • milk for glazing

In a large bowl, toss the cherries, cornstarch, flour, sugar and lemon juice together.  That’s it.

Put it all together

Pour the filling into the previously prepared pie crust.  Stick it in the fridge.  Roll out another pie crust (the top).  You can get fancy and cut it into lattice or whatever you want.  Remove the pie from the fridge.  Dip a pastry brush (or your finger) in the milk and run it around the edge of the bottom pie crust, where the top will sit.  You want to seal the seams.  Place the top crust on the pie.  Pinch the edges to seal the crust.  Trim the edges and flute or whatever you want.  Prick a few slits in the top with a sharp knife.  Using that pastry brush and the milk, glaze the top of the pie.  Sprinkle with fancy coarse sugar if you have any or just leave as is.

Bake the pie for 20 mins then reduce the oven temperature to 375 F and bake until juices begin to bubble, about 35-45 mins.  I like to keep a cookie sheet handy and slip it onto the rack  below the pie if the pie starts to bubble over.  Keep in mind that a cookie sheet will increase your cooking time as it absorbs some of the heat and blocks it from the pie.

Remove pie from the oven and allow to cool before eating otherwise those cherries are going to burn your mouth.  Badly.

Serves 6-8.  Or 2-4 if you’re my husband.  What can I say?  He likes his pie.

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