Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pie Pilgrimage: Lemon Cream Pie

So, Kevin made good on his Valentine's Day gift to me last night.  He promised to make dinner and clean up the kitchen afterwards any night of my choice.  There was an asterick next to the offer*.

*I had to plan the meal. 

Being the good wife that I am and not wanting my kitchen to be turned into a war zone, I planned a very simple meal for him to prepare.  How difficult can it be to boil some water, dump in the frozen Market Day ravioli, heat a jar of pasta sauce, steam some broccoli and pop some garlic bread in the oven?

Still, it's the after-dinner clean-up that I truly enjoyed the most.  I really resent how after we are done eating, night after night, everyone runs off to do as they please and there I am alone in the kitchen with the dirty dishes and leftovers and Glee music blasting on my iPod.

I digress.

I've been wanting to get a pie put together and today offered me enough time to do just that.  Especially since I knew I didn't have to put any effort into dinner!

Have I mentioned how much I hate making pie crust and how this year will truly be a year of learning and developing and honing a craft that has eluded me all of the days of my life?  Have I mentioned that before?  If not, you're probably pretty caught up by now. 

Today's pie crust rolled out beautifully.  I was feeling confident.  I was feeling good.  Then I came to the step where the crust needed to be partially baked before adding the filling and it all went down-hill from there.  I really do need to invest in some pie weights.  Yes, I have rice in the house.  But I love my brown rice and it's expensive and I didn't want to waste it on this.  So I guess it's my fault.  It all sort of just slid down into the pie plate.  On the positive side, the filling seemed to bake up nicely after it came out of the oven and I was so happy knowing that I would be piling a bunch of whipped cream on top to hide the many flaws of my crust. 

Kind of like putting fruit on top of a cracked cheesecake.  What?  You've never done that? 

And bless his heart, when Evan came home from school and I told him about my crust issues and that it didn't look very nice, he said, "It doesn't matter what it looks like.  I just want it to taste good!"  He'll make a good husband someday. 

Without further delay, I give you...

Lemon Cream Pie
Here's What You Need:
1 single pie crust recipe (whatever is your favorite)
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Topping:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Here's What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  With the pie crust in the pie plate, line it with foil that overlaps over the edges of the crust.  This is where the pie weights or rice or dried beans come in very handy.  If you have such items, fill the foil-lined crust with either of them.  Bake the crust on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes.  Remove weights and foil from pie crust and continue baking for 5-10 more minutes.  Cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, sour cream and salt.  Grandually whisk in the lemon juice. 

And friends, if at all possible, please do use freshly squeezed lemon juice.  I know lemons are a bit pricey this time of year in Ohio but they are so worth the investment.  The flavor is so much better than the convenient bottled kind and your hands will smell heavenly afterwards!  There's my 2 second promotion for the Florida Citrus Growers.

Pour the lemon mixture into the crust and carefull place the pie on a cookie sheet.  Put it in the oven and bake until barely set.  This basically means there it just jiggles a little bit in the middle.  Kind of like me because I've been eating too many desserts and I've given birth to three children.  I digress.  It should take about 25 - 35 minutes.  Cool completely.

To make the whipped topping.  Place 2 Tablespoons of cold water in a very small saucepan.  Sprinkle the unflavored gelatin on top and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Place the saucepan on the stovetop and turn on the heat to low.  Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Set it aside to cool.  While the gelatin mixture is cooling, measure the sugar and whipping cream into a mixing bowl and whip to soft peaks.

I was texting back and forth with my friend Cindy while I was doing this (she was giving me a wine review) and my whipping cream turned into stiff peaks.  Not a huge deal, but still.  (Not your fault, by the way, Cindy.  I'm usually a much better multi-tasker.)  Slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the mixing bowl with the mixer on low. 

Here's the scoop on the gelatin.  It's not necessary.  In fact, I've never seen a recipe that calls for this step when whipping heavy cream.  But, I will tell you this.  I will definitely do it this way again in the future and here is why.  The gelatin helps the whipped cream hold its shape.  So if you are making your pie ahead of time, you don't have to whip the cream at the last minute in order for it to hold up and if you want to take the pie to someone's house for a potluck or dinner party, you can.  The gelatin acts like hairspray for the whipped cream.  Sure, you could always go the super convenient route and just buy Cool Whip.  But if you can, show some whipped cream love and do it up right!

Once you spread the whipped cream on top of the cooled pie, stick it back in the fridge for at least one hour before serving.  Leftovers should be put in the fridge too.

This recipe comes courtesy of Martha Stewart from her Pies and Tarts Cookbook. Or as Jenna calls her, "Queen Martha."

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