Monday, July 25, 2011

lemon meringue pie (gluten free)

This pie made me feel like a rock-star. I made a crust by intuition. I tempered eggs. And then, I piled a meringue on top. All of this, by the way, happened simultaneously, and in a 105 degree kitchen. It was Iron-Chef-esque. I'm not kidding.

I was in need of some fancy baking, since I've been pretty absent from the food blogging world lately. Texas is experiencing the hottest, driest summer in the history of the Earth. (Every summer I say this, and every summer it seems true.) I've been hiding out between the hours of 10am and 8pm, surviving on frozen waffles, peanut butter, and iced tea.

Then I saw the new issue of Bon Appetit, with that towering meringue pie on the cover. I thought about that soulful experience, making pie from scratch. Citrus custard and browned meringue. Graham cracker crust. My thoughts were fairly one-tracked from there.

If you're in the market for some leisurely pie making, this is a two-person job. But if you're feeling more like this guy, go ahead and tackle the project yourself. It'll make you feel cool.

Adapted from Alton Brown

2 cups gluten-free graham cracker crumbs*
1/3 cup melted butter
2 1/2 tbs sugar

4 egg yolks (save egg whites for the meringue)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbs lemon zest
3 tbs butter

4 egg whites
pinch of cream of tarter
3 tbs sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and sugar. Using hands, press into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Raise the oven temperature to 375.
Separate egg yolks into a large, heat-proof bowl and whisk until smooth.
Combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Allow to boil for 1 minute (keep stirring.) The mixture will start to thicken into a custard-like consistency.

Take the mixture off the heat and add a little of it to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Gradually add more of the cornstarch mixture, still stirring. Do this until you've added at least half of the cornstarch mixture.
When you've added half of the cornstarch mixture to the egg yolks, return the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for one more minute. Remove from heat, and add in the lemon juice, zest, and butter. Add the mixture into the pie crust.

Quickly, make the meringue. With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks (1-2 minutes.) Gradually add in the sugar, until the egg whites have reached stiff peaks (about 1 more minute.) Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, while the custard is still hot.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the meringue is browned. Let cool completely before cutting (at least an hour.)

* For the graham cracker crumbs: I used kinnikinnick crackers and ground them in a food processor.

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