Because everything's more fun with FIRE.

Because everything's more fun with FIRE.

I do not pretend to understand people who are all “Pie? It’s ok, I GUESS.” I think if they had a slice of lemon pie with brown sugar meringue, they would change their minds but fast. Of course, this is the opinion of the woman who, in the early days of her marriage, would hear statements like “I don’t like mushrooms” and say awful things like “Oh, that’s because you’ve never had them cooked right.” Choose between the following for greatest miracle: a) that I’m still married or b) that he honestly does like mushrooms now. (The secret? Everything – EVERYTHING – tastes good with enough butter and/or garlic.)

But I digress.

This pie is a mind-changer. There’s a solid inch and a half of almost-too-tart gooey lemon, topped with smokey sticky almost-too-sweet brown sugar meringue. I make a gluten-free pie crust, but if you can handle the gluten, a purchased pre-baked shell will work just fine.

Lemon – Brown Sugar Meringue Pie

Filling  (adapted from The Classic Cookbook — this is a fantastic book. The only downside is its extreme hugeness, but I’ve probably made 50 different recipes from it, and not one’s been a clunker. It’s out of print, but you can pick up used copies for next to nothing.)

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. When it starts to turn translucent and simmer, add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking gently but constantly. Keep a sharp eye and if the mixture starts to look clumpy, yank the pan off the heat – your eggs are starting to scramble. (If that happens, don’t panic – you can always push the mixture through a strainer before you pour it into the pie shell.) Next, add the lemon juice and zest, and bring the mixture back to a simmer, still whisking. The mixture will be very thick. Take it off of the heat, stir in the butter until it melts, strain if necessary, and pour into a pre-baked pie shell. Chill for at least two hours, until firm and cool.

Brown Sugar Meringue (adapted from a recipe in a long-ago Fine Cooking magazine)

  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup egg whites, at room temp (about 6 eggs)
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Put brown sugar in a small, deep, heavy based saucepan and cover with water, place on medium to medium-high heat.  Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment.  When the syrup gets to around 225F (the bubbles will start to get tiny, and there will be less steam), start whipping the egg whites on high speed until very foamy and just starting to gain volume, about 30 seconds.

Look for tiny bubbles and diminishing steam. And please, be careful. This is not a comic book. You will not get super powers if you are dunked in molten lava sugar. Just scars.

Look for tiny bubbles and diminishing steam. And please, be careful. This is not a comic book. You will not get super powers if you are dunked in molten lava sugar. Just scars.

Once the syrup reaches 245F, keep whipping egg whites, remove thermometer and slowly pour about 1/3 of sugar syrup into mixing egg whites (it plops out in drops), avoiding the whip.  Add the remaining sugar syrup in a faster, steady stream.  Continue whipping the whites until they become voluminous and form firm but not stiff peaks, about 3 min; the meringue should still be warm.

Mound the meringue on top of the pie. Make spikes in the meringue by slapping it with the bowl of a spoon, and then pulling the spoon quickly away.  Work fast, as the meringue will start to stiffen as it cools. Once the meringue looks appropriately swirly-spiky, brown it with a kitchen torch or stick it under the broiler. Put back in the refrigerator until party time.

Serve the same day – kept overnight, the meringue will start to weep and slump. Still tasty, not as pretty.