Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Found Love

I Found Love by The Free Design
Sometimes things in the universe collide and bring inspiration.  That very occurrence is what has led to today's post.  You will remember my sweet friend, Erin, who came over during the holidays to learn how to make pie dough and we ended up sharing a lunch of Christmas Quiche.  Well, I recently heard, via her mother, that Erin became engaged shortly after returning to school!  There's a very lucky young man out there named Jordan who's a genius because he recognized a great catch when he saw one!  Congratulations to you both!  Along with this happy news, I started seeing the appearance of little bags of Meyer lemons at the store!  This always makes me want to raise my hands in the air and give a little dance, right there in the produce department!  Sweeter than a lemon, yet more tart than an orange, these little beauties make winter bearable!  I wanted to think of something to make that would mirror just how happy I was inside for all the great news I was enjoying!  I needed a skippy song.  I needed a song that sings about things like "sunlight and flowers," "tootsies tapping," "soft summer showers," and "fingers tingling."  Even if it IS January!  

About the only thing that can tempt me away from chocolate is lemon - namely Lemon Meringue Pie.  Like my grandfather, I adore this pie.  

Alas, I'm trying really hard to stick to my resolution about curbing those calories.  All together now - "UGH!!!"  I know you all feel my pain.  So what to do when you see these beautiful lemons on the shelf and you just HAVE to have pie or something delectable!?

Why, you have it!  Only a smaller portion of it!

As I was pondering my quandary I remembered this mini-cheesecake pan I'd purchased awhile ago but had yet to use.  It has little removable plates on the bottom of each cup for easy removal.  So, a cheesecake then?  No.  I really wanted my pie!  So I started looking through the pantry and found these ginger wafer cookies and some almonds.  I realized I could make tiny little pie-lets with a crumb crust. Minimal baking.  A little time over the stove - but well worth it for a taste of my precious favorite!

I knew the filling would be lemon curd so I just needed to figure out how I was going to top it off.  I opted to use a meringue topping so it would be as close to a real pie as possible.  However, if making the meringue kinda scares you, go ahead and opt for whipped cream.  You can even purchase the lemon curd, I guess, but then you'd be missing out on what brought us to this point - the Meyer lemons!  Be brave!  It's not difficult at all!  And you'll be putting it through a strainer so any lumps will be gone forever when you're done!  Come on!  One of these little cuties awaits!  Let's get crackin' . . . . eggs!  Ha!

Meyer Lemon Pie-lets
makes 12 small pies
Printable Recipe Card
Ginger Crumb Crust:
1 sleeve ginger wafer cookies (or use grahams, about 1 1/2 - 2 c. crumbs or 24 crackers)
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 T. sugar
pinch salt
1/4 c. butter, melted

Place the cookies, almond, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until an even crumb.  Add the melted butter and pulse until well mixed and the crumbs compact when pushed between your thumb and finger.

Lightly spray a mini cheesecake pan with removable bottoms with cooking spray.  Place 2 T. of crumb mixture in each round and tamp down.  That tamper in the photo is one I bought from a Pampered Chef party but you could use the bottom of a lid or a small glass or even a pill bottle!

Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

Lemon Curd:
2/3 c. butter (150 g)
1 c. sugar (180 g)
6 fl. oz. lemon juice, fresh
zest of 2 lemons
7 egg yolks (140 g)

In a saucepan (not aluminum) combine half the butter, half the sugar, the lemon juice, and the zest.  Stir gently and bring to a boil, making sure to dissolve the sugar.

Place the remaining sugar and the egg yolks in another bowl and stabilize using a moist towel or a rubber mat.  Whisk to combine.

When the lemon juice mixture has come to a boil, remove from heat and very slowly add to the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.  When you've added about a third of the liquid, whisk contents of the bowl back into the pan with the rest of the lemon mixture and continue cooking, stirring constantly with the whisk, until it comes to a boil.  Stir in the rest of the butter.

Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl, working it through with a spatula.  Spoon the curd over the cooked crust, filling until it's almost to the top of the opening.  Cover and chill.  If you have any curd remaining, place plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd and refrigerate.  This keeps a "skin" from forming.

Meringue topping:
7 egg whites
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 t. cream of tartar
2 t. almond extract

Create a double boiler by placing a large metal bowl over top of a large pot which has about 1 - 2 inches of water in it.  The bottom of the bowl should not touch the surface of the water.  Bring the water to a simmer.

Combine the egg whites and the sugar in the bowl that is to sit on top of the large pot and whisk together.  When water begins to simmer, place the mixture over the top of the pot and, using the steam from the water, whisk constantly and heat the egg and sugar mixture until it reaches 140 degrees.  The sugar will be dissolved and the mixture will begin to froth and foam.

Empty contents of bowl into the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment.  Beat the egg white and sugar mixture on high until mixture starts to thicken.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Add the almond extract and beat just until blended.

Place meringue in a pastry bag and, when ready, pipe onto the top of the little pies.  Toast the top by placing under the broiler for just a couple minutes.  Keep a close watch on them - they tend to want to burn!  Push each pie out of the mold, remove the bottom disc, and enjoy!

Chill pie-lets and serve with toasted almonds and more lemon zest!  I found love - and so will you!

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