We’ve tremendously enjoyed visiting friends in Monterey, CA this week. We started the trip with a slow, meandering drive up Highway 1, stopping to see elephant seals and pick up fresh lemons from a roadside farm. Our close friends Brian and Anna welcomed us into their home with open arms. Their four precious little girls embraced our daughters and they all immediately ran off, playing on their bikes, reading together, and constructing crafts.
It’s been a wonderful week watching the kids play, visiting the Aquarium, taking long walks, and enjoying great meals and conversation around the table.
We celebrated our daughter’s 9th birthday with a specially requested lemon meringue pie instead of cake. Wow, 9 – probably half of her time in our home is gone. Just like that. I remember my days caring for a toddler and newborn thinking I’d never get a minute to wash my hair. Now the kids run off for hours playing and giggling, giving me time for experimental cooking. Their growth continues as we watch and enjoy, marking the transitions. She’s grown into a sweet young girl.
Anna graciously allowed me to commandeer the kitchen and cook for everyone. As I pulled out the ingredients for the pies, I decided to make one following the original recipe and one with honey and unrefined ingredients. After our oldest blew out the candles, we served the kids’ slices and I asked the adults to taste-test with me. I honestly didn’t think my organic version was going to be a success. Surprisingly, my recipe won a unanimous decision! The fluffy and light meringue covered a deep yellow custard of bright, sweet, intense lemon flavors. Our stop at a California coast roadside farm yielded a birthday treat for the ages in Monterey.
Lemon Meringue Pie
It’s best to use a light honey for this recipe.Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. Makes one 9-inch pie
1 pie shell (click herefor the recipe)
For the filling:
1 cup honey
1/4 cup arrowroot
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2-3 lemons
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the meringue:
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup honey
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position. Generously sprinkle work area with 2-3 tablespoons of flour. Place dough on floured work surface. Roll dough into a 13-inch disk and then transfer to 9-inch pie plate. Tuck overhanging dough under so the dough is even with the edge of the pie plate. Using your index finger and thumb, press a dent on the outside of the dough and repeat all the way around the pie shell. Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and line the pie shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is set. Remove the foil and weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes until crust is golden brown. Adjust oven to 325 degrees.
For the filling: Whisk together honey, arrowroot, salt, and water in a large nonreactive saucepan. Simmer mixture over a medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture begins to thicken. When the mixture begins to simmer, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Whisk in zest, lemon juice, and then butter. Bring mixture to a simmer while whisking constantly and continue to simmer for 1 minute until mixture is very thick. Remove from heat and place a round piece of parchment paper directly on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming.
For meringue: Whisk 1 tablespoons arrowroot with 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer and thickens. When mixture turns translucent, remove from heat. Set aside.
Whisk honey and cream of tartar together in a small bowl. Beat egg whites and vanilla in a large mixing bowl until frothy. Whisk in honey mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time until incorporated. Add arrowroot mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time until meringue forms stiff peaks.
Remove parchment paper from lemon filling and pour into baked pie shell (mixture should still be hot). Pour meringue on top and using a spatula, spread meringue out evenly on top of filling. Bake for 20 minutes until meringue is golden brown. Cool pie to room temperature and serve.
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