Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's Meringue Day!

Don't mind Remy in the picture... he saw the way the pie came out and had to come down to investigate and beg for a piece.

Yes, it's meringue day at my house today as my father is visiting and it's his birthday. He specifically requested a lemon meringue pie instead of a birthday cake. And the minute my child heard the word "meringue", she begged me to make her some meringue cookies. I will be posing recipes for both at the end of this narrative. P.S. These are recipes you just can't modify to make healthier, because Splenda is a vile substance and it won't incorporate into the meringue properly anyway.

Lots of people I speak with are totally intimidated by the thought of making meringue. I think it gets a bad rap. Honestly, it's really not too hard as long as you treat the meringue carefully. By using the tips below, I get a perfect meringue every time.

My Meringue Pointers:

1) Let your eggs come to room temperature before you separate them. Not only will it make separation easier, but the meringue will come together faster.
2) If you have a copper pot in which to whisk the meringue, all the better - the chemistry of the copper also allows the meringue to come together faster.
3) Separate the eggs one at a time, and pour the whites for each egg into a bowl immediately after separating. That way, if you screw up on egg white separation number 5 and some yolk gets in there, you don't end up wasting the other 4 whites.
4) Add the sugar gradually.... and whisk it for one minute in between additions. That gets all that sugar dissolved and incorporated.
5) If you want to use cream of tartar, you can... it's optional. The cream of tartar can provide extra stability to the meringue when finished. It's not a requirement, though.
6) The whites are ready when stiff peaks form. If you are not sure what a stiff peak looks like, it is when you can turn your whisk over and the whites are standing up straight and pointy from the whisk.
7) If you can use a mixer to do this, it will save you a lot of time - one of the many reasons I love my KitchenAid.

That being said, on to the pie recipe.

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tbsp melted butter

Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, until well blended and press into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.
Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes and let cool completely.

For the filling:
2 packages My-T-Fine lemon pudding mix
1 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups water (separate)

Combine pudding mix,1 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup water in saucepan. Beat with a whisk and add egg yolks and an additional cup of water. Keep whisking and cook over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and leave in the pan, stirring once. Pour into crust and let cool completely.

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
6 tbsp sugar
pinch cream of tartar (optional)

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, continually beating the mixture. Add cream of tartar while beating. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Spoon meringue over pie and cover completely, sealing the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Cool pie for 30 minutes on wire rack and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to set.

Meringue Cookies

2 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
(Note you an substitute different flavored extracts to make the cookies any flavor you like. If you want to make chocolate chip meringue cookies, fold in 1/4 cup crushed chocolate chips at the end before you spoon onto baking sheets).

Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny. Fold in extract and any chocolate chips.

Drop with spoon onto foil lined baking sheets. Place in the oven and turn oven OFF. Leave cookies in for a minimum of 4 hours. Peel off foil when done.

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