Recipe: Chez Panisse Lemon Meringue Pie

Ahh the Lemon Meringue Pie. I was first introduced to this pie when I was a little bugaboo. On occasion, my parents would swing by Marie Callender's to pick up a pie for dessert, and 9/10 times, it was Lemon Meringue. It didn't take long for it to became one of my favorite pies- it in fact just took one slice and I was hooked. I love the different textures it has- the smooth tangy lemon custard paired with the melt in your mouth sweet meringue, which is exactly like eating a cloud. Exactly.

This week, I wasn't flying solo in the kitchen- I was able to bake with my favorite baking partner in crime: mi madre. We chose this recipe simply because it's by Chez Panisse, one of the best restaurants in the bay area, 'nuff said. Solid recipe, but it does have a million steps in three part increments, so I recommend reading each step a few times because laaawwwrrd it was confusing. We double-downed and made two of these pie friends, and with our powers combined, they were both a success. #humblebrag

Lemon Meringue Pie
Recipe by Chez Panisse
Yield: 1, 9 inch pie

For the Crust
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, cut in several pieces
3 1/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in several pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 tablespoons ice water (a bit more or less may be needed)

For the Lemon Custard
2 lemons (Meyer or regular, we used regular)
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter, cut in 3 pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 3 pieces

For the Meringue
3 egg whites, at warm room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
6 tablespoons superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Crust
1.  In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and sugar.
2.  Using a processor, a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the salted butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add unsalted butter and shortening and cut them in until the lumps are the size of peas.
3.  If you have been using a processor, transfer the mixture back to the large bowl. Sprinkle on the ice water a little at a time and toss with a fork until the mixture comes together in lumps and holds together when pressed. If necessary, add more ice water, sparingly. Avoid kneading the dough.
4.  Gather the dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least four hours. Pro Tip: We didn't do this! We were antsy-pantsy. The dough is more pliable if you chill it though.
5.  Roll into a 12-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick, and fit gently into the pan. Trim the edge a half-inch beyond the rim, fold under and crimp or pinch to make a decorative edge. Prick the bottom with a fork. Freeze the shell for 20 to 30 minutes. Pro Tip: We also didn't freeze it! Shrug. #livingontheedge
6.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper, weight with beans or pie weights and bake for 20 minutes, or until set and dry looking.
7.  Remove the weights and foil, turn the heat down to 350 and continue baking until shell is golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool slightly, but leave the oven on.

For the Lemon Custard
1.  Grate the zest from the lemons into a small bowl. Strain in the lemon juice, then press through as much lemon pulp as possible.
2.  In a heavy saucepan, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until just mixed. Stir in the lemon juice and pulp, then the six tablespoons of butter.
3.  Cook, stirring constantly, over low to medium heat, until the mixture comes together and thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat, allow to stand five minutes, then whisk briefly to smooth. 
4.  Spread the prepared filling in the shell and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove pie. 

For the Meringue
1.  Bump oven temperature up to 375
2.  Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tarter and continue beating until rounded peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla.
3.  Spread the meringue over the filling, making sure it meets the edges of the crust to make a seal. Swirl in a design with a knife or spatula. 
4.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.
5.  Allow to cool completely, from one to two hours, but do not refrigerate until it's come to room temperature.

Pro Tips:
• How does one store the pie? Make a tent over the pie by using toothpicks and plastic wrap before popping it in the fridge. BOOM.
• If you're short on time or feeling like a lazy sack, buy and use Pillsbury® Refrigerated Pie Crust. It tastes pretty much like the homemade version.