Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lemon Custard Pie

Something about summer just screams lemon meringue to me. I'm not typically a huge lemon fan, but I really enjoy lemon meringue when the weather is hot. Light, airy and cool -- it's an ideal combination. While I love the burst of citrus, I'm not so fond of the giggly, translucent Jell-O-like substance that is typical of lemon pies at most diner-type establishments. So, I went in search of something better.
I found this recipe, which is more custard than gelatinous. It was heavenly! There was just enough lemon to give me that burst of citrus that I love, but the sugar and milk really toned down the acidity to yield a delightful dish that I loved serving to friends last night. Like usual, I didn't follow the directions exactly as I found them. (Who wants to bother with a double-boiler anyhow?) And with that, I give you ...

Lemon Custard Pie
1 9-inch baked pie shell
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest

1. Bake pie crust according to directions and cool.
2. Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in heavy saucepan. Turn heat to medium-low and slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Increase heat to medium-high and continue stirring until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. (Turn heat down if mixture boils more than an occasional bubble.)
3. Cover, lower heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Gradually add 1/2 cup of mixture to 3 egg yolks, stirring constantly so the eggs don't scramble. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pot and stir until blended. Cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Remove from heat and add butter, lemon juice and zest. Stir until fully incorporated.
6. Pour into separate container and lightly press plastic wrap on the top of the custard so a film doesn't form. Stir every 10 minutes until cool.
7. Pour into prepared pie crust when cool. Refrigerate until serving. Top with whipped cream and serve.

Lessons Learned: I served it with whipped cream instead of meringue because A) it was easier, B) I didn't feel like making a meringue, C) I didn't want to turn the oven on, and D) who doesn't love having an excuse to buy a can of whipped cream, which can eventually be shot straight into the mouth when no one is looking! The meringue would have been pretty, but the whipped cream was just as good.
The cook who posted this recipe on a Cooking Light message board (no, I don't think it's a light recipe) said it was very time consuming. I didn't think so. I was done with it in less than an hour.
If you want to make it lighter, go with fat-free milk. I did half fat-free and half whole since I don't like the thin, wimpy flavor of fatless milk. I also didn't use the full amount of butter.
The end result was a soft yellow and definitely opaque custard that spooned beautifully into my pie crust (which was store bought since I can't figure out how to make a decent crust to save my life!). I would never dream of adding food coloring to this custard. I have another pie crust in the freezer. I think I'll have to make it again in the near future since I obviously forgot to take a picture before we ate this one.
Last thought, you really should stir constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go, so you don't get lumps.