6:30pm (Strawberry Lemon Basil Meringue Pie)

August 2011

It is a work in progress, but I have this habit of trying to do it all and cramming in everything possible.  On this particular Saturday, “all” meant a lazier start to the day, picking out French pastries with the Sig Fig, sharing said pastries with our newlywed friends, who had the coffee waiting for us at the perfect temperature, lounging and showing them the ridiculousness of Children’s Hospital and then nearly buying out the remains of the farmer’s market.

By the time I returned to my kitchen to complete my main goal for the day- a meringue pie- the afternoon was waning.  The other pastry/coffee loungers and myself had been invited to wine and dine with the founder or our day job in honor of the newly weds.  Wanting to play my Martha Stewart houseguest card, my vision was to arrive at the household with an impressive pie of substantial, meringue height.  Well guess what, it just didn’t happen.

Sig Fig:  “Quelcy, be ready by 6:30pm.  We’ll pick you up outside.  Be at the street because J- wants us to come a little earlier to have time to drink a really good bottle of wine before the dinner reservation.”

Moi:  [panic]

We were supposed to be there at 7pm originally!  7pm!  I was already cutting it really close planning on 7pm, hoping to leave at the very last minute from my house to arrive on time.  Sans that extra twenty minutes of cramming, my Martha visions ended on a cooling rack.  The pie was just too hot to transport, and I feared an utter meringue flop.  My frenzied baking also made me question whether or not this pie was worth presenting.

I sadly left the pie cooling on the dining room table at exactly 6:30pm and met my ride, only to arrive and find our host slightly unprepared for us and shocked to see us so early.  As it turned out, the pie was not missed.  We partook in the delicious dessert offerings of the Brasserie.  More importantly, I still had a pie, and as it turned out, it was a pretty successful failure at that.

Give yourself some time on this one, folks, and you’ll be a much happier baker than I was.

Strawberry Lemon Basil Meringue Pie

Makes a 9” Tart

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ice water
1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon organic almond extract
Fresh Basil, finely chopped

For the Crust

Place a medium, mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

Cut the butter into cubes and place refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the cream cheese and rub with your fingers to blend the cream cheese into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.

Add the butter using a pastry cutter.

Sprinkle the mixture with the water, vinegar and almond extract.

Use the pastry cutter to combine to the consistency of coarse meal.

Add the chopped basil as the dough begins to come together.

Finish forming by hand, do not overwork.

Form into a disc, cover with foil or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and turn dough onto a floured surface.  Roll until large enough to fit the tart pan.

Press into the tart pan.

Place the tart crust in the freezer while preparing filling.

The Filling Endeavor

Lemon Curd Ingredients

1 cup organic lemonade
3 large eggs (local/free-range)
3 large egg yolks (local/free-range)*
*Use the egg white for the meringue
¾ cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon organic lemon extract

Strawberry Compote Ingredients

1 cup fruity red wine
½ cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
3 cups local strawberries, cut in pieces
1 Tablespoon corn starch

Meringue Ingredients

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup organic evaporated cane juice sugar
2 Tablespoons local maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Lemon Curd

Stir lemonade, eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl.

Set the bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch water)

Whisk until mixture has thickened and your muscles have been toned, about 15 minutes.  The curd should leave a path when lifted with the whisk.

Stir in the lemon and vanilla extracts.

Add the butter to the curd, one tablespoon at a time, whisking to blend between additions.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap or tin foil and chill for at least 2 hours.  Can be made two hours ahead.

For the Strawberry Compote

Bring red wine, sugar and ½ cup water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over high heat; reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to ½ cup, about 20-25 minutes.

Let cool.

Add the sliced strawberries, and fold gently to coat.

Spread the cooled compote in an even layer over the crust.

For the Meringue

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (vintage style in my case).  Beat the whites until soft peaks form.  Set aside.

Stir sugar, maple syrup and ¼ cup water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to medium-high and boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a spatula or pastry brush, about 6-8 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 238 degrees F.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Beat in the salt.

Slowly pour the hot sugar mixture down the side of the mixing bowl and beat until meringue is firm and glossy.  Continue beating until cool, about 4 minutes.  Set aside.

Bringing It All Back Home
(As Bob Dylan would say)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bake the tart with the compote layer for about 30 minutes.

Add the lemon curd and return to oven.

Bake until the curd begins to set, about 20-30 minutes more.  Cover with tin foil if the crust begins to darken too much.

Remove from oven.  Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

Spoon the meringue over the lemon curd layer, leaving about a 1” border.  Use a spoon to sculpt decoratively.

Return to oven.

Bake until the meringue is toasted in spots, 3-5 minutes.

Chill before serving… to yourself.

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