Thursday, January 13, 2011

A triumph of a double-crust lemon pie


Over a year ago, my father suggested I make a double-crust lemon pie for the holidays. You might think this was a simply request.

You would be wrong.

Turns out that recipes for double-crust lemon pies aren't exactly abounding. The most popular option is the 'Shaker Lemon Pie', which has you thinly slice lemons, macerate them over night, and use that as the filling. I made this pie. And, then I made it again. Each time it was just shy of inedible. The rind, in spite of the maceration time, was bitter (which, I hear, there are ways around), and the texture also was off. There was none of that wonderful smooth lemon pie filling, just lumpy, grainy, lemon slices. A failure, to be sure.

So... gasp!... I had to come up with my own recipe. At least, kind of. I decided to take a recipe for lemon pie filling, adjust the quantities, and put it between two crusts. Finding the right quantity has taken some doing. But... like I said, this story ends in my triumphing over the double-crust lemon pie! Hooray!

The filling is perfect: not to tart, like lemon curd, but not too sweet either. You, of course, start with a bunch of lemons, 4-5.
Grate 'em
Juice 'em
Then, get everything else together in your mis en place.
Whisk everything, except the butter, together in a bowl.
Then, add the butter, and in a somewhat large sauce pan, slowly bringing it to a simmer. Be sure to whisk constantly, so nothing scalds.
Once it has come to a simmer, whisk for 30 seconds more, and remove it from the heat. It will be a lovely pale yellow color, and it will be thick, like pudding.
Then, using a spatula, press the filling through a sieve.
This will help you leave this sort of thing behind.
And, here you have it: wonderful lemon pie filling!
Cover it with wax paper, let it come to room temperature, then put it in the refrigerator to cool.
P.s. You can also just eat this filling with a spoon, like pudding. It will make you very happy.

But, if you are going the pie route... when you are ready to assemble your pie, roll out the bottom crust. Fill the pie with that gorgeous filling.
Put on the top crust, crimp the sides, use a knife to poke some breathing holes in the top, and pop it in the oven.
Just under an hour later, you have a lemon pie!
Like I said, a triumph!

Double-Crust Lemon Pie (adapted from Joy of Cooking and my trials and tribulations)
Lemon Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup water
1/2 cup strained fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:
Whisk together all the ingredients, except the butter, in a large saucepan. Then, add the butter. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and the corners of the pan to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Then continue to cook, whisking briskly, for about 30 seconds.

Using a spatula, scrape and strain the filling into a medium-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover the surface of the filling with a piece of wax or parchment paper, cool, then refrigerate to thicken. Stir gently if necessary before using; do not beat. This keeps, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

For the crust:
Pâte Brisée recipe, or whatever recipe for pie crust you like

For the pie:
Preheat oven to 425.

Roll out the bottom crust so that it is about 12-inches, and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the dough, so there is a 3/4 inch overhang. Pour the filling into the bottom crust, and level with the back of a spoon. Brush the overhanging edge with cold water. Roll out the top crust, and cover the pie. Firmly pinch the edges of both crusts together with your fingers to seal. Trim the double edge overhang to 3/4 inch, then tuck the overhang underneath so that the folded edge is flush with the rim of the pie pan. Crimp or flute the edge. Prick the crust with a fork or using a sharp knife, make three or four 2-inch vents.

Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake 20-30 minutes more. Let cool completely on rack.

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