Published on March 10, 2020
The great pie conquest
Ever since my daughter was a toddler, I’ve always gotten her a “Tigger” birthday cake, so called because she was of the generation that spent significant time in a device that clamped over the top of door frame, attached by a bungee-type cord to a seat.
She would spend hours in that thing jumping, and when I held her, she would start bouncing with enthusiasm. Which is why we called her Tigger - after the Winnie the Pooh character.
do something different. In lieu of buying a Tigger cake, I set out to make her favorite lemon pie, using her fraternal grandmother’s recipe.
Mother, as she got older, assigned her go-to-recipes to index cards secreted in a metal file box. I’m not sure why she did this because when she cooked, she did it from memory, not the index card. I never thought about it much, but I hadn’t made the lemon pie in a couple of years and referenced the index card to make the pie.
And that’s how the comedy of errors began.
I premeasured all the ingredients and placed them in containers. I put the containers in the order they were to be added to the pie. I was all set and began the process of mixing dry ingredients to be added to boiling water and lemon juice.
I promptly knocked over the lemon juice container, and was frantically trying to clean up the spill and re-measure lemon juice at the same time. This was not the smoothest of moves I could have made, but it was one of the stickiest.
I finally got lemon juice added to boiling water and began mixing the dry ingredients. When they thickened, I was to add two egg yolks (which I had separated by hand with no problem). I promptly knocked over the container with the egg yolks. Fortunately, I had cleaned the countertop thoroughly and merely herded them back into the container, and added them to the mix. They then cooked for a minute, and I set them aside to cool. I now began the process of making a meringue.
Today’s large egg is roughly equivalent to a small or medium egg from the days of yore, as I sadly discovered. I used a hand mixer to beat egg whites until they stiffened and then added sugar while slowly beating the whole mixture.
They began to form peaks, and I added a little lemon juice and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. I now put all the meringue atop the pie and began spreading it to cover its surface. It was not very fluffy and not very voluminous. When I finished, it only provided a thin topping. I placed it in the oven to brown.
When it browned, I pulled it out and saw that meringue had not sealed to the edge of the pie. It was so thin that the filling pulled it apart when it jiggled. I did what all modern citizens do - I Googled it. As it turns out, I should have used cream of tartar instead of salt in the meringue, and I should have doubled the amount of all ingredients.
Better to know this later than never, although my new-found knowledge did not help the current situation.
I know that mother used cream of tartar; I just didn’t realize in which recipe. I have annotated her index card (and have stored it in the computer). I will be prepared next time I decide to make Granny’s lemon pie.
No harm done. It still tasted good. All’s well that ends well. All in a day’s work for Tigger’s birthday.
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