We've held some epic discussions about pie over on The Last Jar's Facebook page. From favorite flavors to the great pie crust debate, this is one topic that The Last Jar's readers love to dish about. And then this question came from a reader this morning:
"Tried to make a lemon meringue pie today. It was a miserable failure. Came out of the pan reasonably thick, so I thought it would cool/set up thicker after baking.
I was wrong.
When I sliced it, it was runny- like the consistency of half and half. I know there was a discussion a while back on The Last Jar about pie. Do you have a recipe I might try?"
And that's when I decided what to make for dessert today.
For the task I pulled out a 1976 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, and right there, in a little sidebar, were these words of advice:
"How to cook cream pie fillings: Both cooking time and temperature are important when preparing cream pie fillings. Under- and over- cooking cause runny fillings. Set a timer for exact minutes specified in recipe. Cook fillings over moderately high heat. Too high a heat cooks mixture too quickly; too low a heat results in excessively long cooking."
Gosh I love old cookbooks. Here's the recipe:
Lemon Meringue Pie from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1976 ed.
9-inch Pie Shell, cooled
Filling: 1 ½ cups sugar 3 Tbsp. cornstarch 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (for Gluten-free, substitute with cornstarch) Dash salt 1 ½ cups hot water
3 slightly beaten egg yolks 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine ½ tsp. grated lemon peel 1/3 cup lemon juice Meringue (see below)
In saucepan, mix 1½ cups sugar, cornstarch, flour, and salt. Gradually add hot water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over moderately high heat till mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Stir a moderate amount of hot mixture into egg yolks, then return to hot mixture. Bring to boiling and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add butter and lemon peel. Slowly add lemon juice, mixing well. Pour into pastry shell. Spread meringue over filling (no need to cool the filling); seal to edge. Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool before cutting.
Note: For creamier filling, cook and stir first 5 ingredients 8 minutes over low heat after mixture comes to boiling. Blend in egg yolks as above; cook 4 minutes after mixture boils.
Meringue : 3 egg whites ½ tsp. vanilla ¼ tsp. cream of tartar 4 Tbsp. sugar
Beat egg whites with vanilla and cream of tartar till soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating till stiff and glossy peaks form and all sugar is dissolved.
The pie turned out almost perfect, although a couple of peaks of meringue almost burned and we didn't wait for it to cool completely before digging in. I did replace the flour with cornstarch to keep it gluten free, so that helped with the setting up, I think.
Have you tried a lemon meringue lately? Any tricks or tips or questions?
“Mother could make a Banana Cream Pie from one banana. I don't know how she did it, but I can remember.”
My aunts Edna and Helen each tell this tale, recalling the thin slices that Lucie stretched into a shared memory over 60 years ago. Even though food was often scarce, Lucie could still create something delicious from that one banana, the rest of the ingredients ubiquitous to a farm wife with a cow and chickens in the back yard.
The legend has inscribed itself onto my own memory, even though Lucie left twenty years before I was born.
And none of her pie recipes are written down.
“Well no, because that’s something she just knew” is my aunts’ answer to this. In Lucie’s kitchen, pie was more than a recitation of ingredients; it was a gathering of experience: how to handle a crust just right, how much thickener to add, how to cook it through without burning the edges.
You don’t need to write down what you make by heart.
For a while I was disappointed that Lucie left no written record of one of her hallmarks. But then I realized the most important ingredients had been handed to me:
So in honor of Lucie I made a Banana Cream Pie this morning, with pieces of recipes from different authors, and with just one banana. My pie skills aren’t legendary, but I can pass down what I know.
1 ½ cups flour ½ tsp. salt ¼ pound cold butter 3 to 5 Tbsp ice water, as needed
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then cut in the butter, using your fingers or two knives, until it resembles coarse meal. [I use the pastry paddle on my mixer]. Lightly stir in the water a tablespoon at a time until you can bring the dough together in a ball. If crumbs remain on the bottom, add a few drops of water so that you can pull them together as well. Shape the dough into a disk and roll it out into a circle ⅛ inch thick. If the dough is so warm that it's sticky, refrigerate it for 15 minutes, then roll it out.
Becky's notes: Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough and crimp edges. Prick the bottom several times with a fork. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes. Cool at room temperature.
4 large egg yolks ⅔ cup sugar ¼ cup cornstarch ½ tsp. salt 3 cups milk 2 Tbsp. butter, softened 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup sweetened whipped cream
Beat egg yolks with fork in small bowl. Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
Immediately stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into egg yolks; stir back into hot mixture in saucepan. Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap onto filling in saucepan. Refrigerate until room temperature.
Slice 2 bananas [or one, in a pinch] into pie shell. Pour filling over bananas. Press plastic wrap onto filling. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until set.
Remove plastic wrap. Top pie with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with banana slices if desired. Immediately refrigerate any remaining pie after serving.
See more about my pie life here. Coming soon: Sue's first pumpkin pie.