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Lemon Meringue Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie.

1 9-inch pie shell, homemade or premade (we used a store-bought refrigerated crust and followed package baking directions for single-crust pie)
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (about 1/3 stick) butter
Grated rind of 1 lemon -- both yellow and white parts
Meringue topping, recipe below

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

If using homemade pie crust dough, line a 9-inch pie pan with the rolled-out dough, prick all over with a fork, then press a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil snugly into the pie shell. Bake for 6 minutes, remove foil, and bake for about 10 minutes more, until light brown, dry and crisp. Follow package directions if using store-bought crust.

Mix sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the water. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice and yolks together and beat with a fork until blended. Add the yolk mixture to the sugar mixture in the saucepan, and stir in the salt.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and translucent. From this point continue to cook, stirring, at least 3 more minutes -- the mixture will plop off the spoon in clumps. Remove from heat and add the butter and grated lemon, stirring to blend. Cool for about an hour, stirring occasionally. When cooled, spread in the pie shell.

Best-of-All Meringue Topping

For a 9-inch pie.

5 egg whites (about 2/3 cup)
8 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a large electric mixer bowl or in a non-plastic bowl if using a hand-held beater. Place over a pan of barely simmering water and stir briskly until the mixture is slightly warm to your finger. Test after 15 seconds: if it feels faintly warm and the sugar has dissolved, remove from the pan and place on the standing mixer if using one. (If the mixture does not feel as described, continue to stir over the pan a little longer.)

Beat at high speed until the meringue forms and holds a peak -- about 1 1/2 minutes. Don't overbeat or the meringue will be hard to spread.

Spread the meringue over the pie filling, touching the edges of the crust all around to seal and making peaks and deep swirls with the back of the spoon.

You can either broil or bake at this point.

To broil: Place the pie under the broiler element. Don't leave it for a moment -- the browning only takes a few seconds. The meringue should be lightly browned but don't overdo it; there should be just a few golden streaks on the meringue peaks to give the topping a lovely finished look.

To bake: Lightly brown in a 375-degree oven. (We prefer this method since it gives you more control over the browning.)

Serve at room temperature, but store in the refrigerator if not serving within several hours.

"The Fannie Farmer Baking Book" by Marion Cunningham

Thursday, December 09, 1999

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