Week 4: Lemon Chiffon Pie

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!”4 lemon

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.

4 goal

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
  • FILLING4 ingredients
  • 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.

4 crackers
Break the crackers into pieces
4 crust mix
The mix should be like wet sand after adding the eggs
4 crust
Press the mix into your pan

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.

4 lemon zest
Zesting the lemon

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.

4 pie
Going into 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!

4 wisking
Mix, but not for too long!

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.

4 finished
Actual finished pie
4 actual slice
Actual slice with whipped cream topping

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.

Week 3: Bring out the bacon

Bacon-Apple Pie

Here at 52 Weeks of Pie HQ, we debated whether or not to stick with “traditional” pies for some time before venturing out into more unusual or exotic recipes. After all, it makes sense to have the basics down before trying to get too cute or tricky. While bacon has become a ubiquitous part of our culture and cuisine (the pork industry has great publicists), it hasn’t been thought of as a traditional pie ingredient.

On the other hand, there is nothing more American than apple pie, right? While it certainly wasn’t invented in the USA (apples were brought to America by Europeans in the 17th century) it’s safe to say it’s quite iconic. It might be un-American to say this, but in fact, apple pie dates back to the 14th century.

Regardless, while we were tempted to bring you a regular, good ol’ American apple pie this week, we decided to step it up a bit with the addition of bacon. There are numerous recipes out there that incorporate bacon into the pie, some using bacon crumbles sprinkled across the top and others substituting a bacon lattice for the top crust. We went with the latter but really, basically, it comes down to making sure you have the good apples, some sweet flavorings, and the right amount of bacon.

Ingredients used:3 ingredients

  • 1 pie crust
  • 4 large Fuji apples
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 10 slices of bacon – preferably applewood smoked but any will do

Peeling apples has never been my forte but I was able to whip through these pretty fast. For my pie I used a sweeter apple (Fuji) rather than the more traditionally used tart apples, assuming that strategy would work well with the increased saltiness of the bacon. If you use Granny Smith, you might need more than the 4 larger sized apples I used.

3 mix
Dry ingredients before/after mixing

I tossed the dry ingredients together and pulverized the brown sugar with a fork until I had a sandy mix.

I had mistakenly chopped the apples rather than slice them but no matter, with the long cooking time, I assumed they’d cook through. I coated the apple chunks in the dry ingredients, getting them nice and covered before dumping the whole thing in a pie crust.

3 apples

The next part was the most fun. I arranged the bacon slices in a lattice framework across the top of the pie. This involved tucking them over and under the other slices. I felt like a little artistry was introduced with this method. I trimmed the edges that hung over the crust.

Just prior to getting a foil wrap and going into the oven

The pie was covered in foil and then baked for 1 hour at 350 degrees. I removed the foil and then baked for another 40 minutes. When I took it out of the oven, it was a thing of beauty! And it smelled pretty darn nice too. The bacon lattice work gave it a sort of a medieval look. I felt like I should dig in with my hands and use the tablecloth as my napkin.

3 finished 3 slice

It took awhile to cool down before I dared to slice in. However, it was the worth the wait. It met with universal approval among the taste testers.

My initial concerns about the mixture to coat the apples being too dry was unfounded. The pie was not even close to being dry, and in fact, was slightly more liquid-y than I expected. Chunks of apples, rather than slices, did not seem to affect the flavor negatively, though one tester said she’d prefer sliced apples. This one will be labeled a success!

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Week 2: Cherry Pie

With one pie in the books, the 52 Weeks of Pie committee was already getting requests and questions about a second week of pie. Whatever thoughts we might have had about being a one-hit wonder were eliminated by the volume of pressure from friends and family. We vowed not to be the Tommy Tutone of pies, and produce a second, equally substantial hit. [Confession: “867-5309 Jenny” is one of my favorite 80s songs!)

I cannot tell a lie: growing up, cherry pie was my favorite, and Mom made the best. I don’t know if she made her own 2 filling canpie crusts or not, but I’m sure the filling came from a can. There was nothing wrong with that. I remember the sheer joy of being able to use a spoon to eat any remaining filling that lined the inside of the can. I’m pretty sure I licked the inside of the lid too, sharp edges be damned!

At 52 Weeks, our pie would be slightly different. I’m pretty sure anyone can dump the contents of a can into a store bought crust so we upped the ante a bit by using frozen sweet cherries. I’d have loved to use fresh cherries but it’s the wrong time of year. To give the pie some tartness, we used a cup of cranberry-cherry juice. Additional flavors would come from cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg.

The ingredients:

  • 1 pie crust2 ingredients
  • 4 cups frozen pitted cherries
  • 1 cup cranberry-cherry juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

I mixed the cornstarch, sugar and juice in a saucepan, bringing it to a boil to give it a slightly more thicker consistency. From that, I added the cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg and extract and tossed it all together. I prepared the premade pie crust and poured the mix into the crust.2 pie filling

I added the second layer of pie crust and tried to make it look neat by folding the edges together and pinching them into a sort of scalloped edging.

I baked the pie at 425° for 10 minutes. and then reduced the heat to 375° for 45 more minutes. 2 in oven

After 15 minutes I added aluminum foil to the crust to try and keep it from getting too dry. This was very difficult because the pie plate was so darn hot and it is not easy to wrap the foil around just the edge. I got it on as close as I could. When I told someone else this, she suggested I start with the foil on and remove it for the last 15 minutes of baking. Genius! Or so it would seem. I’ll try that next time.

The pie came out looking pretty and smelling great. I ate two pieces the first night. After the first piece, I wanted more. After the second piece, I felt sort of ill. Later, the family dug in and gave feedback. Some helpful criticism I received was there was too much cinnamon flavor. I personally thought the crust was too dry and crumbly. The filling was good but a bit runny; I’d like the cherry mixture to be thicker next time.2 slice

A good pie, but not a great pie. It wouldn’t wow most people but it wasn’t the pits, either. I learned a little and will use that info in the future. I am sure to revisit cherry pie again down the road!

2 jenny

Week 1: Banana Cream Pie


banana cream pie goal

The first pie I would attempt to bake was banana cream, which is definitely an old favorite of mine. My thinking was, since this is not a double crust pie, it would be easier. Just mix the ingredients and pour them into the crust layer. Easy, right?

Not so easy. While the recipes I looked at promised baking times of 15 minutes, the prep work was actually considerable longer considering I didn’t have any experience on what order to do some of the tasks.

One of my daughter’s found this recipe. I promised to be a great “old fashioned” style of banana creme. I’m not sure what the new style is – maybe kale and flax seed. Or gluten-free.   Anyway, here are the ingredients:

1 pie crust (baked)
2-3 bananas
1 cup sugar ingredients
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups 2% milk
​2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped


I began by baking the crust. I knew this needed to be done before I could proceed to pour the filling into the pie. Since I am a beginner, I used a pre-made crust. We’ll get to real homemade crusts later!


Combining the ingredients was simple, once I had them measured out. It did take awhile to bring the custard mixture to a boil because I kept the heat too low. I was afraid of burning it, but it turns out you can have the heat surpmixturerisingly high for the milk/sugar/cornstarch mixture. After that,I added the eggs and vanilla extract and cooked for a couple more minutes before pouring it into a bowl to stick inside the fridge. In hindsight, I could have saved time by cooking my crust at this point since the custard needed to be refrigerated for 30+ minutes. Instead, I rested and watched a half-hour sitcom.

Eventually, it was time to whip the cream, admittedly, something I have hummed along to while Devo sang about it but not anything I have ever personally done. Using a mixer and a really deep bowl, I used a few tips from a pro and before long, I had a frothy cream to put on top of the pie. I added half the custard to the pie crust, and applied a layer of sliced bananas before pouring on the rest of the custard. I slathered the cream across the top and garnished with a few leftover banana slices. I put the pie in the fridge overnight and ate it the next day.

Finished pie


Was it good? I have to be honest, it was darn good! Family members agreed – and it seemed genuine, not just a “tell him what he wants to hear so he bakes more pies” sort of way. If I made it again, I’d add more bananas to the middle layer. Or some sort of banana liqueur to the mix into the whipped cream.

actual slice


It may not look just like the recipe picture but do they ever? Those pictured pies aren’t even always edible! Anyway, live and learn. And that’s one pie down, 51 to go!

Thanks for reading!

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