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In Cookwise, Shirley O. Corriher gives the following advice on lemon pie:

Rolland Mesnier the White House pastry chef, sprinkle some fine cake crumbs over the hot filling just before he spoons on the meringue. If there is any leakage, the crumbs absorb it. I tried this. When I peeked under the meringue on my slice of pie, I could not see a single crumb and there was a fine dry interface between the meringue and the pie.

I include some cornstarch in all my soft meringue. Starch performs the same magic on meringues as it does on custards. It prevents egg whites form over coagulating just as it prevent eggs from curdling. Meringues with their high sugar content keep all the water tied up, so it is necessary to dissolve the cornstarch in water and heat it before beating it into the meringue, This lets the starch absorb water and swell before it goes into the meringue where no water is available to it. Meringues with starch are tender, cut beautifully, and do not shrink as much or overcook as easily as meringues without. They are picture perfect.

Note: she adds a bit of lemon zest to her meringue and the crust.


What this recipe shows:

Thickening the starch mixture before the lemon juice is added prevents acids from interfering with starch’s swelling and thickening.

Reheating the filling after the eggs are added kills alpha amylase, the enzyme in yolks that can thin starch custard. Eggs will not curdle during this reheating because of the presence of the starch.

Egg yolks provide emulsifiers for a sensuously smooth filling.

Lemon Filling

1/2 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons bleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups water
2 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons fine cake crumbs

Prepare the filling by stirring together the cornstarch, flour, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Stir in the water and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from the heat. Wisk in the egg yolks together in a medium bowl and stir in several tablespoons of hot filling to warm the mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the hot filling and return to the saucepan to the heat. Bring back to a boil and cook for three or four minutes, stirring constantly, to kill rnzymes in the yolks that can thin the pie. Remove from the heat and stir in salt, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla.

Pour the filling into the prebaked crust. While the filling is piping hot, sprinkle with fine cake crumbs and cover with some meringue. Take care to spread the meringue so that it touches the crust all the way around. After you have covered the hot filling well, pile on the rest of the meringue and make decorative swirl with the back of the spoon. Bake until the meringue begins to brown lightly, about 30 minutes at 325°F. Refrigerate uncovered for several hours before serving.


Safe Meringue

6 large egg whites
2trablspoons water
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup cool water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

What this recipe shows:

Diluting egg whites with water and adding sugar will enable careful heating of the whites to 160°F, the instant kill temperature for salmonella.

Swollen starch added to the beaten whites produces a tender, smooth-cutting meringue that does not shrink or bead easily.

Meringue made with egg whites heated in this manner is an excellent stable meringue.

Stir the whites, water, cream of tartar and sugar together well to break up the whites (try not to create foam since it cooks at a lower temperature) in a medium-size stainless steel bowl. Heat one inch of water to a simmer in a medium skillet and turn the heat off. Run a cup of hot tap water, place an instant read thermometer in it and place it near the skillet. Place the metal bowl of egg whites mixture in the skillet of hot water and scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl constantly with a rubber spatula to prevent the whites from over heating. After one minute of constant scrapping and stirring, remove the bowl of egg whites from the hot water and place the thermometer in the whites, tilting the bowl so that you have about 2 inches of white covering the thermometer. If the temperature is up to 160°F, beat until peaks forms when the beater is lifted. If necessary place the bowl of whites back in the hot water and scrape constantly in 15 second increment until the temperature reaches 160°F. Rinse the thermometer in the hot water in the skillet (to kill salmonella) and replace it in the cup of hot water after each use.

Sprinkle the cornstarch into a small saucepan, add the cool water, and let stand 1 minute. Then stir well. Bring the water and cornstarch to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick and slightly cloudy. Let it cool for a couple of minutes, then whisk 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch mixture into the meringue and continue adding and beating in until all is incorporated. Whisk in the salt, vanilla and any other desired flavouring such as lemon zest. Set aside while preparing the pie filling.


P.S. I never tried this recipe since I am not fond of lemon pie.
 
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