Pie #42 – Butterscotch Meringue Pie

And so today is 9/11/2011. Ten years ago I worked at an ad agency called Foote, Cone and Belding. On that day, as I was getting ready for work, I checked my email and a friend had just posted an email to our email list. It said simply, “Plane hit WTC. On fire.” I turned on the TV and couldn’t really process what I was watching. My first reaction was “is this some kind of joke?” I called a co-worker and asked him if he was watching TV. He handed the phone to my boss who told me that the office was closed for the day. I watched everything unfold and then rode my bike into downtown San Francisco. It was practically empty. I just sat on a bench on Market Street, took in the mental pictures of that day, where I was, and tried to rationalize. No rationalization came. Still hasn’t.

I find that after 10 years there’s still a lot of things I can’t watch in relation to the attacks. It’s still upsetting, unnerving, unsettling. It was one mindf*ck of a day. And so much has changed, on so many levels.

On this anniversary, it is also week one of the NFL football season. So I’ve spent my day watching games, buying supplies for pie number 42 and typing this. Today I made a butterscotch meringue pie. So much for low carb or vegan. The sweet is back. On the anniversary of a day that is anything but.

The crust!:

One pre-made graham cracker crust (Today is lazy-time)

The filling!:

1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
2  tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water
2 egg yolks (slightly beaten)
This recipe can also be used (without the pie crust, of course) to make butterscotch pudding.

Butterscotch Meringue Pie

Combine sugar and flour in the top of a double boiler. I used a glass bowl as the top of the boiler, with a spaghetti pot filled 1/4 full as the bottom. Bring water to a boil. Add remaining ingredients in order given, adding the water and eggs last. Mix the egg yolks with 2 teaspoons of water before adding. Cook until mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. About 20 minutes. Remove from heat.Pour the mixture into a prepared 9-inch pie crust.

Meringue Topping!:
Beat 3 egg whites until stiff. While beating, gradually add 6 tablespoons of white sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat well after each addition. Add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, all the way to the edges. If you don’t spread it to the crusts to seal, the meringue may shrink.

Put the pie in a preheated 375F oven until the meringue has browned. Let cool to room temperature. Eat and enjoy.



Pie #36 – Grapefruit and Coconut Angel Pie

Greetings and Happy August. It’s still hot in Texas. Pie number 36 comes courtesy of my wife Tammi, and The Gourmet Cookbook, by Ruth Reichl. This one is unique for its pie crust, which is originated, if you will,  from coconut meringue. The recipe was mildly complex, so I leaned into the making of it.  Now my back is sore:) I didn’t want to take anything to chance so I spent some time studying the recipe before baking, and while I was creating it. I didn’t stretch because I didn’t realize it was going to be an exercise. And, action…

The crust!:

4 large egg whites left at room temperature for about 30 minutes

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp.  cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

1 cup sweetened flake coconut

3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Place rack in center of oven and pre-heat oven to 250F. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the salt until they are foamy, beat in the cream of tartar, and beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time, beat the meringue for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is stiff and glossy and the sugar dissolved; fold in the coconut.

Brush a small amount of the melted butter along the sides and bottom of your pie pan and place in fridge for about 3 minutes. Remove and brush your remaining butter along sides and bottom of pie pan.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the meringue evenly around the edge of a 9.5 inch pie plate, spreading the meringue with the back of the spoon to form the side of the shell, and spread the remaining meringue evenly over the bottom of the pie plate. Bake the shell in the middle of a preheated 250F. oven for 1 1/4 hours, or until meringue is firm and very pale golden, turn off the oven, and let the shell cool completely in the oven with the door ajar, about 45 minutes.

The filling!:

Grapefruit and Coconut Angel Pie

1 envelope (about 1 tbsp) unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup strained fresh grapefruit juice

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup well-chilled heavy cream

2 cups fresh grapefruit sections (cut from about 3-5 large grapefruit), cut into 1/2-inch pieces and drained well

fresh grapefruit sections for garnish if desired

Using a sieve over a medium size bowl, remove grapefruit from peel and membrane and place in sieve to allow collection of juice. This is going to take you a while. I enjoy making pie; it was still a pain in the butt.

In a small bowl sprinkle the gelatin over 1/4 cup of the grapefruit juice and let it soften for 1 minute. In a small saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar, add the remaining 1/2 cup grapefruit juice, the gelatin mixture, and a pinch of salt, and cook the mixture over moderate heat, whisking, until it registers 160F on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, cook about 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the yolk mixture to a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and whisk it constantly until mixture is thickened to the consistency of raw egg white but is not set. Remove the smaller bowl from the bowl of ice and cold water and reserve the bowl of ice and cold water for later use. In another metal bowl with an electric mixer beat the cream cheese until it is light, fluffy, and smooth, scraping down the side, add the yolk mixture, a little at a time, beating, and beat the mixture until it is smooth and joined well.

Set the bowl containing the cream cheese mixture in the reserved bowl of ice and cold water and whisk the cream cheese mixture until mixture is thickened and forms a peak when you remove whisk. In a bowl beat the heavy cream until it holds stiff peaks and whisk about one-fourth of it into the cream cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream gently but thoroughly and fold in the grapefruit pieces.

Pour the filling into the shell, smooth the top, and chill the pie, uncovered, for 3-4 hours, or until the filling sets completely. (If the pie will be chilled for more than 4 hours, cover it with plastic wrap or wax paper.) Just before serving garnish the pie with the grapefruit sections if desired.

The grapefruit is subtle in the taste of the pie, as is the cream cheese. Good balance. The texture of the grapefruit, coconut and the meringue crust is something I like. Tam likes it which is saying something considering she’s not a big pie person. The kids pooh-pooh it though. They aren’t fans of the grapefruit.  Ah well, adult scale is positive, kid scale is fail.  I’m also happy for the selection. It was a good one. Thanks honey.

Pie #25 – Outrageous Orange Custard Pie

Today’s selection comes courtesy Divaliscious in Dutchess County, New York. The recipe was located and attempted courtesy of GroupRecipes.com. Dutchess County just sounds like the kind of a county that would make really good fruit pies. This pie doesn’t have orange slices but is an orange flavored custard with a meringue topping.

The crust!:

1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 stick chilled unsalted butter cut into 1/4 inch cubes

2 tbsp. sugar

pinch of salt

3 tbsp. or more of ice water

Blend the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor using on/off turns. Add 3 tablespoons of water and mix until moist clumps form. Add additional water by teaspoon if the mix is dry. Remove from processor and form into a ball. Flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Let set in the fridge a minimum of 3o minutes. Once cooled, roll out to 13 inch diameter disk and transfer to a 9 inch pie pan. Trim edges and use extra dough to patch any holes or thin spots. I usually have a lot of those:)

The filling!:


2 eggs, separated

1 egg whole

1 cup white sugar

4 tbsp. sugar for meringue (goes with 2 egg whites you saved)

1-2/3 cups evaporated milk (12 oz. can; The Divaliscious recipe called for 14.5 oz. but no such can seems to exist in Austin, TX. Besides, 12 oz. = 1 2/3 cups. Not only can I convert measurements but I can lift heavy things too.)

1-1/3 cup orange juice (with pulp is best)

3 tsp. grated orange zest (I used 4. Hope it’s not a deal breaker.)

1 tsp. pure orange extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and have shelf placed on the lower level in the oven. Separate two of the eggs – beat egg yolks and 1 whole egg well in mixer. Add sugar and blend well. Add evaporated milk, orange juice, orange zest and pure orange extract. Continue to mix until blended. Pour into pastry shell and bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes until custard is firm and knife comes out clean. Cool pie slightly.

While pie is cooling, beat 2 egg whites and 4 tablespoons sugar to make meringue. Remember people, make sure the meringue is blended until it forms stiff peaks. Top pie with meringue and bake in moderate oven (325 degrees) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

The pie came out looking like it hadn’t fully baked. I realized afterward that I put in 1/3 cup too much orange juice. So this pie is going to be outrageously juicy. I also burned the crust which is never good. I need to put tin foil collars on these when they bake at 40 minutes.

The pie tastes good but it’s not, as the name suggests, outrageous. It’s got a nice  balance to it, but it’s also soggy. Not my worst but not one of the better pies either. It’s mid-range.

Pie #7 – Lemon Merin Pie (didn’t quite make it to Meringue)

Lemon Merin Pie:)

I have to re-think my schedule. I’d initially thought I’d bake these on Wednesdays but sometimes things get in the way (like life or laziness). I plan on doing my baking, moving forward, on Saturday or Sunday. It’s easier and a bit more relaxing than doing it on a weeknight when I’m usually late from work.

I had a couple of challenges this week; I forgot to add butter to the pie crust recipe so I had to do the pie crust again. File under lack of attention to detail. I also didn’t whip the meringue long enough so it wasn’t as stiff as it should have been. Not epic, but slight pie-fail.

The Crust:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel

1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

2 tbsp. (or more) ice-cold water

Blend flour, sugar and lemon peel in a food processor. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Unsure of what a “coarse meal” resembles, I winged it. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of ice water and mix with fork until moist clumps form, adding more water a tablespoon at a time if mix is dry. Gather dough into ball and then flatten. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator a minimum of 20 minutes.

Roll dough out on a lightly flowered surface to 12-inch around. Gently roll up the dough on a rolling-pin and unroll into a 9 inch diameter glass pie dish. Fold the excess dough overhang under, even with the edge of the pie dish. Crimp dough edges decoratively. Freeze your crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Line the frozen crust with aluminum foil and dried beans or pie weights. Pie weights? I have never seen or heard of these… Bake until crust sets, about 15 minutes. This will keep the bottom of the pie crust from bubbling up, forming a dome. Remove the foil and beans and continue baking until the crust is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so. Remove the crust from oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F. Let the crust cool while you prepare your lemon filling.

Your lemon filling:

1 cup sugar

4 tsp. cornstarch

2/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 large egg yolks

1 tbsp. finely grated lemon peel

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a medium sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the lemon juice. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the lemon peel. Whisk constantly over medium heat for 10 minutes until the filling comes to a boil and thickens. Spoon the warm filling into the crust and smooth out the top.

And now for the Meringue (or in my case, the Merin):

3 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

Using an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Check. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating the mixture until stiff and glossy. Glossy, check. Stiff, FAIL! It was, ummmm, semi-stiff. I didn’t mix it long enough and while it was able to hold some form, definitely not enough for the big peaks one would hope for.

Using a silicone spatula, spread the meringue over your warm filling, covering to the crust edge and creating peaks and swirls. My wife needed to step in here and rescue the top by adding the swirls and what she could of the peaks. For that I am grateful.

Bake until the meringue is pale golden, about 15 minutes. Cool pie completely and serve.

The lemon filling really pops with sweet/tart. The meringue has a nice texture and the crust is nice and flaky. I’m just not pleased with the presentation and will probably try this one again.