There Is No Pie In Team

So far this winter I have made four separate arrangements with a babysitter so we could go out and enjoy ourselves like people with lives and social skills are wont to do, and I have had to cancel four out of four times due to illness of child. It’s frustrating, to say the least, so I’m giving up hope of going out and doing anything fun other than by myself until summer rolls around.

This weekend was made delightful for all involved by a very high fever that came out of nowhere and stayed just long enough to torpedo all of the plans for merriment—both adult-oriented and family-friendly—with which I had festooned the calendar. We divvied up the entertainment as best we could, going to things briefly and separately, missing one altogether (and unable to find takers for the tickets at that) and spending most of the rest of the time soaking washcloths in cold water, refilling glasses of juice, and snuggling. I did get to spend a lot of time reading The Two Towers aloud, complete with all the voices (which I do rather well, having an English father and an ear for accents) which we are both enjoying immensely. We read The Hobbit last summer, since we knew the movie was coming out, and once we finish the trilogy we’re going to have a three-movie marathon.

By Saturday evening the fever began to lessen; his appetite returned and he began making plans for Sunday, largely centering around playing Minecraft together via LAN and making this pie. While I was sick a couple of weeks ago, I secretly built him a vast and elaborate Minecraft world to explore, complete with a greenhouse, water slide, and a lavish mansion, then sprung it on him when he began to feel poorly. His enthusiasm is now redoubled with inspiration, and working on things together is great fun. It’s the Lego of the 21st century in many ways, though the dumb retro graphics chafe me a bit.

Anyway, this pie. After some deliberation between carrot cake, lemon meringue, and lemon cream, he decided on lemon meringue. The next morning, well-provisioned, we made it. Or I did, and he watched; he wasn’t strong enough to help, but he sat comfortably and kept me company while I blind baked the crust, made the curd, and whipped the meringue. I didn’t mention that I had no actual experience ever making this pie before.

I hate meringue, at least the dry kind. It hurts my teeth with its vile nails-on-a-chalkboard texture. Squishy is OK, though it’s a far cry from whipped cream, so that’s how I made it. We also had some blood oranges, which I love, and their flavor and color made this quite wonderful. I can’t give you a recipe, because I didn’t use one, but essentially the curd was egg yolks, meyer lemon and blood orange juice, cornstarch, maple syrup, and sugar all whisked over a double boiler and then poured into the browned crust once it was all thick and luscious. The meringue was the egg whites and a fat pinch of sifted confectioner’s sugar. The crust was my grandmother’s recipe, also known as the best in the world.

The real key to any citrus curd is to get the balance of sweet and tart just right. Whether in a simple tart or a more processed pie like this one, I tend to err on the side of tartness, since it’s a defining quality of fruit, and too much sugar is cloying and unhealthy. Salty, buttery crust—behold the flaky layers, bitches—bright, salmon-colored curd of perfect sweet/tart harmony, and a topping that was inoffensive to the point of actually being enjoyable: a fluffy foil to the rich curd and crunchy crust. A silver lining? Not really. But it feels good to know that I can bang out something I have never made before and do a decent job with it. I’m sure I’ll look back fondly on the Minecraft and LOTR time when he’s older and getting tattoos and wrecking my car. And I can make this pie to console myself after I’m divorced because I never took my wife anywhere.

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  1. Frank Ball
    February 12

    Love to know more about your grandmother’s pie crust formula/technique.


  2. Frank Ball
    February 12

    Thanks! All butter — the best!

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