I love lemons. Love them. I like them as recipe additives and flavorings. I like the smell, I like the trees they grown on. I have often said something along the variance of, “I’m not sure who invented the lemon but that guy was a friggin’ genius.” Often, the rhetorical statement elicits a response such as, “Duh, God!”
Technically, the lemon is a hybrid fruit, like nearly every citrus we enjoy today. Some dude somewhere a long ways back, probably in Asia near today’s India, made a hybrid from a citron and a sour orange and came up with the lemon, which is the only additive needed for perfect, refreshing iced tea (no sugar or sugar substitute needed, thank you. Just extra lemon).
At 52 Weeks of Pie HQ, the thought of making a lemon pie was intriguing . However, I’m not a huge fan of meringue, so the lemon chiffon pie was a much more attractive recipe, and I do have the final word.
The challenges here are:
1) Create a powerful lemon flavor
2) Create a topping that is not dense but not soupy or runny
For the first, using lemon zest in addition to lemon juice will give it that extra burst of tart flavor. For the second, rather than relying on just gelatin or just corn starch for the whipped topping portion, this recipe will use both in moderation. Additionally, a graham cracker crust will give contrasting flavor and crunch.
The ingredients needed:
- 9 graham crackers
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 4 tablespoons water
- 5 large eggs (2 whole, 3 separated)
- 1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3/4 cup juice (4 lemons)
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened
This was the first pie of the series where I made a crust from scratch. Graham cracker crusts aren’t too tough. The key is to get the crackers pulverized to a fine texture. Then I added the other ingredients to get a wet sand-like consistency. I pressed it into the pie plate. It wasn’t perfect but looked like it would work. The crust was baked for 15 minutes at 325 degrees.
For the filling, I started by prepping the gelatin by adding half to a couple tablespoons of water in two different bowls. Finding gelatin in the grocery store was a challenge. I looked for awhile and had to have two different employees help. It was near the Jell-O brand, which I expected, but it was small and easy to miss without guidance.
I whisked 2 eggs and 3 yolks together in a medium saucepan and then whisked in 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well combined. Next, I whisked in lemon zest and juice and heavy cream. I cooked over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and slightly translucent ( about 5 minutes). I then stirred in 1 water-gelatin mixture until dissolved and then removed the pan from heat.
I took 1¼ cups curd from pan and poured it through a fine-mesh strainer set in bowl. I sort of had to push the custard through the fine mesh, which is fine. You don’t want the lemon zest in the pie. That was then transferred to the pie shell and placed in the freezer.
I added the remaining water-gelatin mixture and cream cheese to the remaining curd in pan and whisked it up, then pouring through strainer into now-empty bowl. And by pouring, I mean cramming. It was thick!
To finish the topping I mixed the 3 egg whites until foamy (about 2 minute,s) and then added the remaining ¼ cup sugar. You want the whites stiff and glossy. Then I added the curd–cream cheese mixture and whipped with the idea of eliminating the streaks. In retrospect, I whipped too long. This should have been about 30 seconds but I kept going, convinced I needed to get everything thoroughly mixed. This created a “flatter” topping.
Undaunted, I removed pie shell from freezer and carefully poured the chiffon over the curd, allowing it to mound slightly in the center. I then popped it into the fridge overnight.
So, how did it taste?
The lemon flavor was definitely not weak! It had a bold flavor. The graham cracker crust was good too, though I thought it was too thick. My taste testers said the crust was fine, but I’d still go lighter next time.
The topping was the part I was least enthused about. Next time I will definitely whip it less to try and keep it light and fluffy. The flavor was good though. We added a new taste tester this week – neighbor Daphne St. Louis. Her input was well received and DSL should be allowed back for future judging panels.