No, this is not a running story, for a change. This is a “simple as pie” story, built to share with any of you who have been hopelessly inept at “whatever”. We all have skeletons, right?
I’ve never been a big pie fan. And, although I certainly know my way around a kitchen, can serve an army for most any occasion, and have become fluent in (most) culinary languages, the “simple” pie has always alluded me. Simple, my eye!!!
I have the genetics: my Mom and Aunts rocked them all. Mom was huge on citrus varieties like lemon, key lime, chiffon variations…from scratch. My Aunts produced fruit pies that would wow Martha herself. But for me…crusts were always a real pain in the ass to make, I never particularly liked them and, well, going vegan (a decade ago) pretty much stopped that charade.
So, I went and married a man who literally worships lemon pies. His Mama was rumoured to have made The Best Lemon Pies on the planet. Every birthday I felt the peer pressure to produce a masterpiece. So, I tried. Over and Over and Over … until the time came in our relationship that I said “***k that” (nicely, and way more lady-like, of course) and found the best pro baker around (damn the cost) to get the deed done.
But…it’s always slightly bugged me. And, I have found – of late – that good lemon meringue pies are very, very, hard to find! I’ve gone to several hot-stuff bakeries (like Pure Bread – need I say more) and they basically do not even attempt to go there. Lemon bars, lemon loaves, lemon cakes … but hell … I’ve got those covered already.
So the mission was on again: find a recipe that works, works well … and is vegan. Here is the kicker: And that no one can tell is vegan.
First attempt (well, actually probably my 100th attempt, but first at this one):
I know, right? Friggin’ magnificent! I was so excited I almost called the press. While making the yellowy lemon stuff, however, I turned my back on the mixmaster and meringue was so fluffy it was spewing out of the bowl.
The yellow stuff , however, was giving me a bit of a headache: I was missing lemon extract, so was trying to decide if I should add more lemon and if that decision would completely derail the attempt. So, I decided to add extra lemon juice, then started to worry that it would not thicken up. Then I added some thickener. But, at the wrong time (of course) so I had to deal with lumps. Shit.
So, anyway, I was still pretty excited about the meringue. I piled it on, crossed my fingers and into the oven it went.
I forgot to mention that it was my Dear One’s Birthday and that two of his COVID biking buddies were coming over for dinner that night. Our bubble has been pretty small with COVID, but we figured we could easy back in with these two mellow men. Easy crowd: male, hungry, lots of booze, so if it didn’t work out, at least there were no real witnesses 😉
But…alas…the meringue fell, just as I forecast it. Michael found me scraping the slop off the slop-catching sheet, and he graciously suggested we serve it up anyway. Candles can cover up most screw-ups right? Especially along with fine wines.
Even the guys laughed. My beloved commented that he could hardly taste the lumps. And the other two just changed the topic and choked it down. With wine. Lots of fine wine.
Two days later, I was back at it. I knew I was close. Could feel it. For runner friends, here is an analogy: imagine getting lost and timing out at 95 miles into a 100 mile race. Yep, that feeling. You just canNot wait to get back out there and fix your broken ego.
I did my research and came upon four KEY factors:
- Do NOT over whip the meringue. Ooops.
- Make sure the meringue touches the crust and is “sealed” all the way around.
- You do not need a boring, icky, regular pie crust. Go cookie or graham cracker! If YOU don’t like it, why bother to make it.
- You do not need lemon extract. Add 4 tablespoons of extra lemon juice and just keep stirring for a few more minutes over the heat.
So, there you go: the morale of this story is that it may take years of failure, it may take bludgeoning repeated humiliation, but if you keep on trying … SCORE!!!
BTW … I would never tell his Mama, but guess who he said makes the Best Lemon Meringue Pie ever!? ;D Wise Man.