Li’l Lemmy Pies

From: Food Network Kitchens (tweaked by me)

These miniature lemon merangue pies were so much fun to make! But also quite labor-intensive as far as baked things go, so fair warning to anyone who wants to try them. You should try them, though–they’re awesome!

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chilled, salted butter (two sticks)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 6-10 tsps ice water

For the filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsps corn starch
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 tbsps. cold butter, cubed

For the merangue

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt

Measure the flour into a medium mixing bowl. Using a cheese grater, grate the butter into the flour, then combine with your hands until it looks mealy (you still want random pieces of butter in there). Fill a small cup with ice water and almond extract, then add a couple tbsps at a time to the flour mixture and knead with your hands until you can shape it into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap, press into a disk, and refrigerate for an hour or so.

When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out. Using a 4 1/2 in biscuit cutter (or a small bowl or cup of a nearby size), cut the dough into rounds. Press the rounds into a lightly greased muffin tin and poke the bottoms of them with a fork. Cut pieces of foil into squares and press them in on top of each muffin slot, then fill with dried beans. Bake crusts until just brown around the edges, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute, then carefully remove the beans and foil. Place the crusts back in the oven for 15-20 minutes longer, or until the crusts are lightly golden brown.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a saucepan, whisking constantly over medium-low heat–and I mean constantly! You don’t want the eggs to scramble. This should only take a minute (but it’ll feel longer because of the constant stirring). When the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth, add the lemon juice and continue to cook, again whisking constantly and scraping the sides of the saucepan regularly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of sour cream (about 3-4 minutes).

Strain through a mesh strainer into a bowl. Whisk in the butter cubes a little at a time until smooth, then place this bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice water and continue to whisk every so often until the mixture is completely cool. (Are you beginning to notice a theme?)

While the lemon filling continues to cool, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Whisk the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt together in a mixing bowl large enough to sit on top of your saucepan. Place this bowl above the saucepan of boiling water and whisk by hand constantly. (You should have some nice muscles to show for your efforts at this point!) When the sugar dissolves, test the temperature of the mixture with a kitchen thermometer. When it reads 135 degrees F you’ll know it’s ready. Remove the bowl from the heat, and beat on low with an electric mixer. Yes, an electric one this time! Gradually increase the speed and beat until the egg whites get nice and fluffy and form stiff peaks.

Now you’re ready to assemble. Using a butter knife, carefully pry out the pie crusts. They should pop out very easily. Place these on a cookie sheet. Evenly pour the cooled lemon mixture into the cooled pie crusts. I love this part… the filling looks sunshiney yellow and lemony and happy! Now generously dollop the merangue on top of each lemon pie. Place on the top rack of your oven and turn on the broiler. You’ll need to pull up a chair and sit by the oven to keep an eye on these constantly. They can go from undone to overdone in the blink of an eye. When the peaks just begin to turn golden brown they’re done. You’ll know they’re done when you have your eye on that just perfect one that you can’t wait to pop into your mouth anymore.

Refrigerate for an hour or serve immediately, as desired.