Per usual, January is dragging her feet and we have been playing this game of tug-o-war where I pull for the days 'til spring to go by faster and she pulls it the other way with days of immense fog and chilling cold.
So, I make pie.
Actually I made this in November, the week before Thanksgiving on a peaceful Sunday afternoon where a friend and I made three of these pies. We juiced a lot of yuzu which yielded so much more juice than the ones from last year and waited forever for the crust to fully bake (it could have used more time, though) and I whisked a triple of the below filling until my shoulder and bicep ached but my stomach rumbled from the tart smell of citrus.
I've always loved making this pie, although more traditionally in its classic lemon form. Pretty much every time I went to visit Popo, we'd make this pie. As a kid/young teen I struggled to do all of the tasks at once. I would shyly ask Popo if she could make the crust because I was always afraid of it and equally afraid of making the filling and accidentally curdling the eggs. Hint: The key is to whisk fast and to make sure that you temper the eggs with half of the thickened cornstarch mixture so they don't go in cold and turn scrambled. Placing the egg yolks in a 2 cup measuring cup or heat proof bowl helps with this.
My favorite part was zesting and juicing the lemons and lastly whipping the meringue until stiff peaks formed. Stirring the cornstarch mixture always felt like it took ages. Be patient, it will get there.
Best of all was sealing the filling in with the meringue until it just reached the edges of the crust where it was then time to create many dramatic peaks and valleys. And of course, watching the top as it browned.
But then you got to eat it which is an all sensory experience. First, there's the smell. It's sweet and tart at the same time and practically makes your mouth salivate. Cutting into it is often as sticky as honey which means you know there is some sweetness in there. If you waited patiently to cut it, it should have stayed intact and cut like butter until reaching the crust which makes a satisfying thunk when you slice all the way through it. And visually, it's just dang pretty with the dramatic layers and textures of lemon filling and light and fluffy meringue. All rolled into one bite, there's buttery crust, zingy lemon filling with bits of zest and the meringue which just squishes in your mouth with a satisfying squeak.
Yuzu is a rather eccentric citrus in which case lemon would be the automatic next choice. I've never made it with anything else but I am intrigued by the idea of lime or mandarin meringue pie. And for a non-citrus option, passion fruit. But, I want to convert anything lemon-y into passion fruit like these Lucy's Lemon Squares.
This pie is special to me in many ways. It is the pie that I would make if I was feeling down and needed cheering up or was happy and wanted to feel the extra joy. It was the star in the final project for my first photography class where I realized my love of photographing food. It's an anytime of year, anytime of day kind of pie. The kind that you wake up and do a double take because you can't resist eating. The kind that you want to sneak a slice of right before bed or want to share only with the people who would appreciate it. I know it's my pie because I illustrated it and screen printed it on a poster which hangs above my bed so I can dream of it before sleeping.
Kidding. Kind of.
Even in the middle of the Harsh California Winter, it reminds me that things will be better as long as there's pie.
Yuzu Meringue Pie
Yield: one 9-inch pie
Blind baking the crust causes it to shrink so keep in mind to let the edge of the crust go as far out as it can!
one 9-inch baked pie crust
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 1-1½ cups sugar (depending on level of desired sweetness)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups water
- 4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- ¼ cup yuzu or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons yuzu or lemon peel
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Blind bake pie shell by piercing the bottom with a fork to release steam. Place rice, beans or ceramic pie weights inside a piece of foil in the crust to prevent it from rising and doming over. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown and baked. Set aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugar and salt. Gradually add water, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. Quickly stir half of hot mixture into egg yolks, mixing well. Return to saucepan, continuing to blend well and return to boiling. Boil for another minute. Remove from heat. Stir in yuzu or lemon juice, yuzu or lemon peel and butter. Pour immediately into pie shell.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when beater is raised.
Spread meringue over hot filling, carefully sealing to edge of crust. Decorate with peaks and valleys as desired. Bake 7-9 minutes or just until meringue is golden. Let cool on wire rack at least 1 hour before serving.
Best eaten within 3 days of baking.