Hello Lemon Lovers!

Hello Lemon Lovers,

I just want to let you know that I am taking a short blogging break as I had Lasik surgery at the end of the week and the eyes tire easily on the computer.  That didn’t stop me from making my Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie on Sunday, though.  🙂  This time I used 6 Tbs. each of flour and cornstarch so that the filling would be thick enough to slice at room temperature.  The crust is so much more flakier when it doesn’t have to be refrigerated.   Yum!

While I have several drafts of lemony posts in the queue, including some great products to feature, for now allow me to share an entry written about a weekend trip to Portland, OR in order to give you the scoop on an independent bakery called Cupcake Jones.   I confess that their Velvet Painting Cupcake is my hands down favorite and one bite makes me swoon, but the “Lemoncello” Cupcake makes the heart-strings sing as well.  I could not believe how much it tastes like Lemon Meringue Pie!   Be sure to visit Cupcake Jones next time you are in Portland.   In the meantime, you can read a bit about the owners, Oregon natives Lisa Watson and Peter Shanky, and view their daily specials and monthly menus to inspire your desire.

 
 
 

♥An Anniversary Weekend in Portland♥

Anniversaries are supposed to be spent with, not away, from your loved one.  But after an anniversary weekend in Portland, Oregon, I guess I can’t complain…too much.  It was on this day, so many years ago, that I realized two of my dreams for the future: one, to see Macy Gray in concert and two, to fall in love.  It was the first time I saw Macy, and my beau, in person.  Neither of us, my beau and I that is, have looked back since.

One of the many endearing things about our relationship is that even though I can never remember the date or year we met, although I ask on a nearly monthly basis, he patiently tells me again and again.  Thus the “so many years ago” reference above.  I know this is the day, though, because I already received a Happy Anniversary email which I was supposed to sing to the tune of The William Tell Overture.  I will demand a serenading when we check in this evening by phone.

For now I will relish in the recent memory of our weekend, basking in the turquoise decor of The Nines, visiting the Portland Art Museum to view the work of Mark Rothko only to be swept away instead by the haunting genius of John Frame’s The Tale of the Crippled Boy, stumbling upon an open air swing dance exhibition, ogling at the mind-boggling wrap-around line of patrons waiting for their Sunday morning Voodoo donuts, sharing a red ale at The Rogue (where we also picked up a big pink bottle of their Voodoo Bacon Maple Ale) delighting in the decadent offerings of Cupcake Jones, walking and browsing and people watching in the Pearl District, trying on eyeliners and lipsticks at every girls’ candy store, Sephora, and picking out my first pair of non-prescription designer sunglasses in preparation for Lasik surgery.  Well, I did the last two and he tried to hide any impatience while offering a best guess when called upon to express an opinion.

And today, we are still as happy, even more so, than we were ever so many years ago. 

“And just how many years ago from today?” I ask again after he serenades me to the tune of  The William Tell Overture without any prompting.

“How many years ago from today what?” he teases.

“You know, for how many years ago from today have we been together?” I inquire sweetly.

“Less than ten, more than eight,” he indulges, sighing in what I know is mock exasperation. 

“Do you still have that concert ticket stub?” I ask, already knowing the answer.

Indeed he does. 

Voodoo Doughnut devotees wait in line. Locals and visitors alike can be seen walking throughout town on any given day proudly carrying the signature Pepto-Bismol pink colored box.  Maple Bacon Bars anyone?

Decadent delicacies from Cupcake Jones, Portland, OR. Back Row: Lemoncello, Chocolate Chip Cookie, and my favorite, Velvet Painting–a red velvet cake with a crunchy outer cake layer, moist inside, vanilla bean pastry cream filling, and soft cream cheese frosting topped with a hand candied rose petal. Front Row: German Chocolate, What’s Up Doc? (carrot cake with candied carrot slice), and Peter’s Chocolate Mint.

A stroll through South Park Blocks, Portland, OR, on the way to the Portland Art Museum.

Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie

There is nothing quite as refreshing as a chilled slice of tangy, lemon meringue pie.

A Slice of Lemon Meringue Pie for Breakfast

A slice of Lemon Meringue Pie for breakfast brightens up a grey, rainy Northwest morning.

Lemon Meringue Pie is the perfect dessert, whether following a light luncheon on a hot summer’s day or a rich, five course meal.  It is no accident that three of my friends made it their dessert of choice for Christmas dinner.  You would have thought that after a meal of prime rib, twice-baked potatoes, crescent rolls, ambrosia salad, and butternut squash, we would have not been able to manage dessert.  But that’s the beauty of the versatile Lemon Meringue.   It has the capacity to make you feel lighter after a full meal and is the perfect refreshment, whether served with a hot cup of coffee or a glass of chilled, sparkling Prosecco.

For years, I used my mom’s traditional recipe, but always thought I could improve upon it (Sorry, Mom!).  I love a deep, lemony filling and a hint of vanilla in my meringue.   My original recipe, below, has more filling than most and is sure to please lemon lovers.   Enjoy!

Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie

One 9-10″ deep dish baked pastry shell (Alan’s Pastry Crust is my current favorite pie crust recipe)

 Filling

2 c. sugar
6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
6 Tbs. cornstarch
5 eggs
4 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. freshly grated lemon peel
3/4 c. lemon juice
Meringue*
5 egg whites
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
8 Tbs. granulated sugar
Preparation
1. Set out eggs and butter and bring to room temperature.
2. Prepare a single pie crust using your favorite pie crust recipe, in a 9-10″ deep dish pie pan.  Prick holes on bottom and sides of crust with a fork.  Bake at 425° for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Remove baked pie shell and place on cooling rack.  Reduce oven temperature to 35o° and adjust oven rack to the middle position.
3. While pie crust is baking, grate lemon peel until you have 1 Tbs.  Next, roll lemons on counter to release juices inside.  Juice lemons (3-5, depending on size) until you have 3/4 c. lemon juice.  A bit of pulp is fine.
4. Separate egg yolks from the whites of 5 eggs.  Put whites into a medium mixing bowl and yolks into a small, heat proof bowl.  Beat egg yolks slightly with fork.  Set aside.
5. Prepare meringue, following directions below, so that you are ready to spread it over hot pie filling.
For the Meringue
In a mixing bowl, combine room temperature egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar.  Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually add in sugar, 2 Tbs. at a time, beating on high-speed until stiff, glossy peaks form and sugar dissolves.
For the Filling
In a large saucepan, whisk together sugar, flour, cornstarch, and a dash of salt.  Over medium-high heat, gradually stir in the 2 1/2 c. water, a little at a time, to avoid clumping.  Continue to stir and cook until thickened and bubbly.  Reduce heat, cook and stir for an additional two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Gradually whisk  hot filling into the beaten egg yolks until about half the filling is added.  Return all to saucepan, stirring continuously.  Bring to a gentle boil once again.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Remove from heat.   Add zest and slowly stir in lemon juice until fully integrated.
To Assemble
Pour hot filling into baked pastry shell.  Spread meringue over hot filling, taking care to seal all the way to edges of pie crust to prevent shrinkage.  Use the back of a spoon to draw meringue up into peaks or, try my technique, swirl and lift using your pointer finger.
To Bake
Place pie on center rack and bake for 12 minutes at 350° oven or until meringue is a golden, toasty brown.  Watch carefully to make sure meringue doesn’t burn.
Michelle's Lemon Meringue Pie

My Mile High Lemon Meringue Pie

Cool on a wire rack.  Slice when completely cool.  Store at room temperature.

*There are forums on the web to address what some consider the issue of a “weeping” meringue.  Some eschew covering or refrigerating the pie.  If you must cover though, pinch foil into a tent and place over pie so as not to touch meringue.

Personally, I don’t worry about a meringue that weeps.  As a young girl, the little drops of golden nectar that formed in the nooks and crannies of the snowy peaks and valleys fascinated me.  I thought their amber beads added beauty and mystery to the meringue.  Guess the perfect meringue is in the eyes of the beholder!

What do you think?  Does a weeping meringue represent tears of joy or tears of sorrow?  Share your tips and techniques for baking this classic American dessert!

A Sea of Meringue on a Rainy Day

Later in the afternoon, we visit Nonna and her husband, who  has not been well.  In spite of how hard she works to care for him, Nonna  greets us at the door looking elegant as usual.  Today she is stylishly dressed in a lemon yellow V-neck cashmere sweater and buttoned-down Oxford shirt.  It was almost as if she knew that in addition to fried chicken, cole slaw, and potato salad, we brought the rest of our Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert!  We had a lovely visit full of laughs and, of course, lemons. Nonna decorates an antique trough with lemons and rustic finds.

Lemon Cashmere Nonna