Monday, May 14, 2012

Birthday Pie!

Coming Back To Life by Pink Floyd
This is my favorite song by my favorite band - it's nice when those two favorites collide like that.  And seeing as how today is MY birthday, I can pretty much do as I want, right?!  Actually, this song goes perfectly with my recipe as well.  It's a song about getting over the hurts in life, not holding grudges, taking the bitter - or sour - with the sweet.  The way life is geared, it's impossible to experience it and only have happiness and good all the time.  Would we even appreciate the blessings if we didn't have the trials around to help shine the spotlight on them?  I don't think so - although I still find myself daydreaming "if life could just stay as great as it is right now!"  I like to take the advice of Pink Floyd and focus on the wonderfulness that is my life.  I don't ignore the negative but I try to digest what it is that I'm supposed to be learning from it and move on.  I haven't always been able to do this - aging, though, does have it's perks and the mellowing of one's heart is the biggest perk of all.  Life is fragile - we need to give it the respect it deserves - ALL of it!  I adore, swoon, and sigh at the opening notes of this song.  Pretty much my response to Lemon Meringue Pie!  It's life in a pie.  You have the tartness of the lemon curd countered by the sweetness of the Swiss Meringue all held together by a flaky crust!  It's magic!

I used to have a birthday cake on my birthday - just like everybody else.  I was happy with that option.  To tell you the truth, though, it never occurred to me that I even had an option.  Cake is the official birthday food, right?  The only debate was concerning the type of cake - but cake it would be!  

I have never felt picked on because I had to have cake - I have now had 52 birthdays and everyone of them have been keepers!  Cake has been invited to over half of those.  It's just that I had a revelation years ago and it changed my birthday scenario from that point on.

I was visiting with my maternal grandmother on one of my visits back "home" to Pennsylvania.  She and I got to talking about foods we loved.  I don't remember anything else from the conversation other than what happened when I shared with her my love and adoration of Lemon Meringue Pie.  She just got this little smile on her face.  "You DO?" she asked.  I stated again that, yes, indeed, I loved me a good Lemon Meringue Pie!  She replied, "Did you know that that is your grandfather's favorite pie as well?"  It pleased me to no end to know this.  I was just tickled beyond belief to know I had this connection with him.  What she said next is what really got me thinking, though.  She said, "Every year he wanted Lemon Meringue Pie for his birthday, not a cake!  So I made it for him every  year!"

WHAT????  You can DO that?  You can single-handedly mess with cultural traditions like that?  Birthday PIE?  Oh, I was loving what was going on in my head in those few moments right after that revelation.  This is how it went -  "Well, why not?  It is YOUR day, right?"  "You are supposed to be able to do what you want."  "You get to pick what you have for dinner, why can't you pick what you want for dessert?" Hmmm.  "Can candles stand up in a Lemon Meringue Pie?  What do you do about the candle issue?"  "If I had to choose between the ritual of blowing out the candles and eating pie, which would I choose?"  "I'm pretty sure I'd choose pie over candles - oh yeah, definitely pie over candles!" 

My grandmother watched as I ingested this new info.  I'm sure she wasn't surprised in the least when I announced that from that day on I would have birthday pie - just like Grandpa!  I made sure my husband knew as he has planned the majority of the birthdays in my life - (and he always does a magnificent job, I might add.  Friends are a little jealous - but I just happen to have a thoughtful husband.)  Now, I appreciate the difficulty this added to his preparations each year because Lemon Meringue Pie is not as easy to come by as a cake - but he has managed to pull it off and get his hands on that pie year after year. 

This year I am making my own pie.  It is not a labor at all.  I get the keenest of joys in each step of this beautiful creation - salivating throughout the whole process.  I envision the end product.
I am never, ever disappointed.  Some results are prettier than others, but they all taste fabulous!
This birthday is already off to a terrific start as I was greeted first thing this morning by a young man who calls me Grandma and belongs to these fabulous legs:
He brought his mom and sister up for a visit and, while they were still sleeping, he and I had a wonderful time as he "helped" me with my final pie preparations this morning.  He insisted I stop what I was doing and don my chef hat and the lensless 3D glasses from the toy box.
He was right.  Everything did go better after that point!

If you are a pie lover as I am, you might want to consider joining those of us who have birthday pie instead of birthday cake.  I have discovered that there are many of us out there and we hold no shame in bucking tradition!  Pie lovers unite!  Now, you'll excuse me if I have a breakfast of some pie and kick back while I listen to Mr. Gilmour.  Ahhh!  I feel myself "coming back to life!"

Lemon Meringue Pie
Printable Recipe Card
1 single crust pie shell, baked and cooled

Roll out dough and place in a pie plate.  Prick pie dough all over with a fork and add pie weights or dry beans to the shell to keep the dough from puffing up.  Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes until golden.  Cool.

from Martha Stewart
1 c. sugar
1 T. lemon zest
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice, about 4 large lemons
8 egg yolks
1/4 t. kosher salt
1 c. water
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (10 T.), cut into small pcs.

Place a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, zest and egg yolks then whisk in the lemon juice and salt.  Mix the cornstarch and water together and add to the mixture along with the pieces of butter.

Place pan over medium-high heat and whisk constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture has become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Do NOT boil.  Bubbles will just start to form around the edge of the pan.  This will take about five minutes.

Remove from heat and pour through the strainer and stir, working the curd through the strainer and into the bowl, capturing any lumps in the process.  Immediately pour the strained lemon curd into the prepared pie shell.  Press plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until set - about 3 hours or overnight.  The plastic wrap keeps a film from forming on the surface.

8 egg whites
1 1/2 c. sugar
pinch of kosher salt

Prepare a double boiler by placing a glass or metal bowl over a larger pan with an inch of simmering water.  The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt in the glass or metal bowl.  Place over the simmering water and whisk continually until the sugar has melted.  The liquid will start to get frothy and you won't be able to feel grains of sugar when you rub some of the mixture between your fingers - about 120 degrees.  At this point, place the mixture in the bowl of your mixer and beat on high for about 5 - 8 minutes until you have a very stiff peak.  The meringue will be like satin.

Spread or pipe the meringue over the top of your pie, spreading completely to the crust.  Place under the broiler to toast the top.  You can also use a handheld torch if you have one.  Watch closely as the meringue burns very easily and quickly!


  1. MMMMMMMMMmmmmmm!

    1. Ha! That's exactly what I said!! A lovely breakfast - AND dessert after dinner as well - all in the same day!

  2. Found your blog through Lara...Happy belated Birthday! Christopher is a pie guy and we always have pie on his birthday. Lemon meringue and strawberry-rhubarb are our top two favorites. Looks heavenly!

    1. Hi there, Jen! I'm glad to hear that Christopher is a pie guy! I'll have to find out when his birthday is! Strawberry-rhubarb is also a favorite of mine. It's the same sweet-tart tango going on. Oh my, I'll have to be making that soon now, too! Ha!

  3. I just want to eat those little legs up!! Seriously so jealous right now!

    1. Well, Unknown, those little legs are all mine! For the next couple weeks, anyway! It's been a great day! Thanks for reading!

  4. I adore all kinds of pie. Why have I never made birthday pie? I just don't know which one I would choose. Banana cream? Pumpkin? Lemon Merenge? Strawberry rhubarb? Pecan? I have until august to decide, but I will be having pie, which I love WAY more than cake!

    1. Jeanne, You can choose a different one every year! Or do what I'm considering doing - divide my birthday into quarters and make a different pie each quarter! I love every pie you mentioned! Welcome to the birthday pie club!

  5. Speaking of Grandpa's Lemon Merenge, do you have the recipe for Grandma's pie. I have it if you don't. Just one of few things I got.
    Aunt Linda

    1. Thanks, Aunt Linda! I'd love that!

  6. My email is
    I have the card with Grandma's Handwritten Recipe. I'll scan and send to you. It actually is called
    Lemon Chiffon Pie
    Aunt Linda

    1. If you can scan that and send it to, I would appreciate it so much! Is this the one she made for Grandpa then?