Sunday, November 6, 2011

Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

Picnics and Pie Don't Mix

Another picnic. Another pie.

It seems like the perfect solution: Want to practice the Art of Pie. Need to make something for the potluck picnic. Make one pie to satisfy both.

Sounds simple enough.

But it's not.

Invariably, I end up making my pie the morning of the picnic and there isn't enough time and I end up rushing and things take longer than expected and then something goes wrong and then we need to leave and somehow I make it work and then time is up.

Another rushed pie. 

This happened with my Gluten-Free Key Lime Pie too. Now, it was happening to my Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie. Drat.

After making this pie, I called my grandma, the Queen of All Pies. This is according to my mother, who has never bothered to try to compete with Grandma's pies. At 91 years old, Grandma still knows her stuff.

And she didn't waste any time letting me know it, either.

I asked her how cool each step (crust, filling, meringue) needed to be before adding the next part. She told me. Boy, did she ever tell me.

"Well, by the time I get to it, the previous is completely cool."

Completely? Great. I didn't have time for that.

"Um... my picnic is today. Like, now. We need to leave right now."

"Oh, well, then I would have made it the day before."

Um... too late for that now. Wonderful.

"Hmm... okay. And then you refrigerate it overnight?"

"Oh, no. I would leave it out, but covered, overnight. I would make it ahead of time, for sure."

Double drat.

Today's lesson: Don't let your friends picnic and pie. At least, not all in the same day.

Gluten-Free Lemon Meringue Pie

I decided to go back to our favorite pie crust, but make it for a sweet pie this time.

The filling is from my grandma's recipe, which is labeled "Grandma's Lemon Pie". I think that means that her grandmother made this pie. That would be my Great-Great Grandmother.

Whew! That pie's been around a long time!

Um, I mean recipe. That recipe has been around a long time.

Anyways, I used the food processor to make the crust, as I've been doing for the last couple of pies.

2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp tapioca flour
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar

To the flours, I cut in the 6 Tbsp cold butter. Note that I put the butter in the freezer for 15 minutes before adding it. This keeps it in small chunks and not melting. We don't want melted butter here!

Then I added the already combined large egg and 1 Tbsp cider vinegar and pulsed 8 to 10 times with firm hand.

Then I scraped all of it out into a bowl and worked it with my hands.

Then I wrapped it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated it for a half hour.

I rolled it out between floured pieces of parchment paper. Here is the result.

Then I flipped this into my buttered pie plate.

Doesn't look so hot now, but just you wait. Some gentle persuasion and baking it at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes turned that into this.

Then I made the filling, starting by mixing:

2 cups water
4 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour (Grandma's recipe just says "flour", which I read as "gluten-free")
3/4 cup sugar

and then putting that on the stove and bringing it to boiling. Along side of this, I mixed

1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs yolks, slightly beaten
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp salt

in a separate bowl. Then I slowly wisked the hot mixture into the yolk mixture. This is not the time for scrambled eggs. Combine the hot liquid with the egg yolks slowly and while whisking continuously.

Then I returned it all to the heat and cooked it 5 minutes more.

Then I poured this hot mixture into the cooked and cooling (but not yet completely cool) pie crust.

Look at that beautiful lemon filling! It actually fills the crust! Right up to my fluted edge.

Then I started making the meringue. I was hurrying and I forgot to take a picture of it whipping. Four egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar, whipped on high speed. Add the sugar slowly, after the foam starts to form. Whip until stiff peaks form.

Next was to get the meringue onto the top of the pie. I smoothed and swirled it, but again, I forgot to take a picture.

Then I put the whole thing into the oven for 15 minutes.

Here it is hot out of the oven.

It's gorgeous! It's perfect! I was thrilled!

And then I looked at the time. I needed this pie to be cool enough to transport it to the picnic. So, I put it in the refrigerator.


After a bit of time in the fridge, I started to see little bubbles appear on top of my beautiful meringue. I knew this wasn't right. Those bubbles weren't supposed to be there!

That's when I called Grandma.

"No, I don't know what you are talking about. I've never seen anything like that on top of my meringue."

See what I mean? Little bubbles on my meringue. I was so disappointed.

But I still had to try it, so that I could evaluate it on all levels.

The filling sagged a bit and was harder to serve than it should have been.

But the taste? Oh, that lemon filling was good. Really good. Outstanding. Fabulous!

The Girl loved the crust, but said she didn't like the meringue.

So, I asked her, "Have you ever had meringue before?"


Well then. No need to worry about the taste of the meringue. Just those pesky bubbles.

And on the way home, I was thinking about the filling. While making the filling that morning, I had a few distractions in the kitchen. These distractions happened to take the form of some mutant, small humanoid forms.

And then it hit me:  I must have forgotten the two tablespoons of sweet rice flour that was also supposed to go into the filling. That's it! Those two tablespoons would have been enough to firm up the filling just enough for it to stay together.

Ah ha! I have the explanation. And a plan for my next gluten-free lemon meringue pie: be sure to include all specified ingredients and exclude all distractions, even the mutant humanoid forms!

But taste is nine-tenths of the battle and it tasted right. Oh, how nice it is to share a tasty pie at a picnic!

If you can bake it the day before.

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