Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lime Meringue Pie

I have never made a meringue pie before. Of course, the qualinty of the finished product hinged on the "cook until thickened" issue. One is supposed to be able to cut a pie with a knife, not have to slop it onto the plate with a spoon. Although my guests were enthusiastic about the pie, and it was really good, although I didn't have food coloring so it wasn't kelly green, it wasn't what it was supposed to be.
I made the pie in Mrs. Curtiss's well-equipped kitchen because I don't have an electric mixer down in the green garage. The great French chefs of the 19th Century might have been able to whip egg whites in a copper bowl with a whisk, but the Berkshire Farmer cannot. I made the mistake of bringing the dog up with me, thinking he might like the company. He whined incessantly, and finally messed on the floor. I gave up and pushed him out onto the lawn where he barked intermittantly for an hour.
I had gotten a gluten-free pie crust from the Co-op in Great Barrington, and used Bob's Red Mill Gluten free Flour for the flour, so I could eat the whole thing without adding to the growing twinges in my hip. For the first step, when one is to combine all the dry ingredients and boiling water and cook until thick, I thought it was thick. I would say, on hindsight, thick means like library paste. Thick means you should be able to hold the pan at an angle over the sink and nothing comes out. Thick means when you spoon the contents out of the pan, the hole where you dug in will remain.
Truly, I should make this again to perfect it, but I never promised you three readers a rose garden. This isn't the New York Times test kitchens.
What I thought Hewlett meant was just, you know, thicker. More like spaghetti sauce and less like water. Hence the slopping the pie out of the pan.
I rooted around in her extensive pine cupboards to find the blender. She has one on a stand. Some poking and pulling was required until I got the knack of having the blender part stand up so one can take the beaters out of the bowl. I never did find the switch for the bottom, to make it rotate so the bowl rotates.
I dumped the egg whites in the bowl and started beating. It seemed kind of nonresponsive. Horrors! Had there been fat on the beaters? It's possible. When one is nearly 90, one does not use one's kitchen equipment as much as in former years. The recipe called for a pinch of cream of tartar, which I had neglected to buy. Cream of tartar makes the egg whites beat better, so I decided to look around in the cupboards. When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I was intimately familiar with those cupboards because it was where Mrs. Curtiss kept the chocolate chip cookies. Always a rapacious (and shameless) child, I would nag Mrs. Curtiss for something to eat after she stopped at her house to let her kids off after driving the carpool. If it had been me, I would have taken me home first and saved the food budget. But she was nicer than I am.
In the cupboards of those who live alone, the spices are often dodgey. Five year old oregano. Eight year old cinamon. That type of thing. But I did find a half bottle of cream of tartar, and figured since it is a chemical, it couldn't go bad. The egg whites finally whipped, although they stood in mounds, not peaks.
I spread the egg white-sugar mixture on top of the pie and put it in the oven. It came out a gratifying brown on the hills of the topping. I left it to cool in Mrs. Curtiss's kitchen, thinking that a pie and a dog, even a crippled dog, were not great driving companions. I ended up driving the 100 yards back to her house to get it around 5:30, imagining all kinds of pie related disasters involving stumbling over a hole in the ground if I carried it back to my place.

Lime Meringue Pie

4 tablespoons flour
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups plus five tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
3 eggs separated
grated rind of two limes (Grate the limes first before you cut them and squeeze them.)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice. (My limes produced a half cup.)
2 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 baked nine-inch pie shell
Pinch of cream of tartar

1. Combine the flour, cornstarch, one and one-half cups of the sugar and the salt in a heavy saucepan and mix thoroughly with a wire whisk. When well blended, add the boiling water gradually, stirring with the whisk. Bring gradually to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is thickened (see above) remove from the heat.
2 Beat the egg yolks until they are light and lemon-colored. Spoon a little of the hot mixutre into the yolks, then stir the yolk mixture into the sauce. Cook, stirring, two minutes over low heat.
3. Stir in the lime rind, lime juice and food coloring if desired. When all is well blended, pour the filling into the pie shell. Let the filling cool in the shell.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Add the cream of tartar. Continue beating until whites stand in peaks, and gradully add the remaining sugar. When whites are thoroughly stiff, spread them roughly on top of the pie filling, leaving peaks. Make certian that the meringue touches the pie shell all around to prevent shrinking of meringue as pie bakes.
6. Bake pie until meringue is browned on top, whichw as about 8 minutes

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