Happy Pi(e) Day!

“The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi“.”

I’ve never been much of a mathematician, but I do like to bake, and 3/14 (aka “pi day”) seems as good of an excuse as any to indulge in some delicious pi(e). It’ll be a chance for me to teach K some geometry and chemistry, right? Yeah…that’s why we’re making pi(e)….

I have a bowl of frozen lemon curd just waiting for me in the fridge. And thank’s to K’s snacking preferences, I have plenty of graham crackers on hand to make a crust. I think I can hodgepodge something pretty darn delicious together.

Step One: Defrost my lemon curd.

I made this last month when creating my Mom’s birthday cake – a from scratch lemon cake, with lemon curd filling, and creamy vanilla buttercream frosting. Mmmm. I used a recipe from one of my all-time favorite pastry chef’s: Joanne Chang

Her cookbooks, Flour and Flour, Too are staples in my collections.  Seriously, I have yet to try one of her recipes that isn’t awesome. She clearly loves what she does and provides impeccable details to the home cook wanting to replicate her delicious masterpieces. Joanne Chang always steers me in the right direction.  My favorites include Homemade Oreos, Apple Snacking Cake,  Holiday Sugar Cookies,  and Intense Chocolate Brownies.  Both are available for purchase on Amazon and are totally worth the $23.

Here is her recipe for lemon curd:

1 cup fresh lemon juice (6 to 7 lemons)
1/4 cup unsalted stick butter
2 tbsp heavy cream
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium pan, combine the lemon juice, butter, and cream.  She recommends medium-high heat, but I found it easier to start it on low-medium for my particular stove.  Heat until just under a boil.  In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks, then whisk in the sugar.  Take the lemon mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture as you continue to whisk.  Once combined, put back in the saucepan on medium heat.  Keep stirring with a wooden spoon so you don’t scramble the eggs.  Do this for 5 – 8 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  Joanne recommends to test, draw your finger along the back of the spoon.  If a trail holds for a second or two, it’s done.  Strain through a sieve and then cover tightly and refrigerate.

For my crust, I made a simple graham cracker crust.  I could have crushed the graham crackers with a food processor, but where is the fun in that?  K was more than happy to smash the graham crackers into “crumbly bumblies” using a large ziplock  bag and my trusty rolling pin.  Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

8 full sheets of graham crackers
6 tbsp melted butter
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Smash the graham crackers, then mix with the butter, sugar, and salt.  Press into your pie plate and bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes.  The crust should brown a little bit.  Then let cool.

Now that I have my cooled crust and defrosted lemon curd, it’s time to start assembling and creating my meringue.  For this, I’m taking a page from my dear old friend, Betty Crocker.

True confessions time.  I am impatient.  An impatient baker who doesn’t always like to fully read instructions before I dive in.  I admit this rarely serves me well but I was able to pull this one off thanks to my Kitchen Aid Mixer.  I should have let the egg whites come to room temperature. (I didn’t.)  I should have waited to add the sugar.  (Again, didn’t.)  It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r for my meringue to hit hard peak stage as a result.  But I did prevail.  Sort of.  I wouldn’t say my meringue looked particularly “fluffy” heading into the oven, but it tasted just fine.

For the meringue you’ll need:

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
6 tbsp sugar (super fine sugar if you have it)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar with your mixer.  After it gets frothy, slowly start to add the sugar one tbsp at a time.  Let it whip on high speed until stiff, glistening peaks form…this took about ten to fifteen minutes.  Add your vanilla.  Make sure you leave it in the mixer long enough; you don’t want to under beat the egg whites.  Spread over the lemon curd and then bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes.  Look for the meringue to be a nice light brown color.

Now typically, you aren’t using defrosted, cold lemon curd, you are using hot lemon curd that helps to bake the bottom of the meringue.  This was a bit of a misstep on my part, but again, I put this together with ingredients on hand much more quickly than if I’d followed a traditional lemon meringue pie recipe.

IMG_4858

The verdict?  UGLY BUT DAMN TASTY!  The meringue tasted like a soft, pillowy, fresh marshmallow.  The lemon curd ended up being a bit runny and overall the pie was really sweet, but it was still really good.  Not bad for throwing together some stuff from the freezer and my pantry.  And K had fun, too.

Wishing you a happy Pi(e) day!

 

 

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