Improv pie

Piled in a bowl on the counter, the last of my homegrown Meyer lemons sit waiting for a worthy use.  The lemons found their way into marinades, dressings, lemonade, and endless cups of tea, yet a few lingered, growing thin-skinned and threatening to spoil.  Finally, inspiration struck this weekend, and I dispatched the last few, turning them into a  meringue-topped meyer lemon & coconut icebox pie.  It was an improvisational endeavor:  a crumb crust (thanks to leftover graham cracker crumbs), a key-lime style filling (I always have condensed milk on hand and found fresh yard eggs at the farmer’s market), a thin layer of Ancel grated, canned coconut (a donation from a diabetic who read the ingredients label and discovered how sugary it is), and fluffy, stabilized meringue (egg whites left over from the filling).

The stabilized meringue was a first for me:  I like soft meringue topping, but it can be a fickle thing, prone to deflating, weeping ugly brown tears in humid weather, or ending up a rubbery, chewy mess if baked too long.  Bakeries don’t seem to have this problem–witness the rows and rows of meringue-topped tarts crowding chilled pastry cases.  Good old Joy of Cooking came to my rescue, providing a recipe for stabilized meringue.  A cooked paste of cornstarch, sugar, and water (about 2 T cornstarch, 1 T sugar, and 1/3 cup water for 4 egg whites) is beaten into the egg whites at the stiff-but-not-dry stage, and the cornstarch prevents the meringue from falling flat, even if refrigerated.

Rather than bake the meringe-topped pie, I used my Bernzomatic propane torch to brown the meringue.  Why settle for the tiny “kitchen” torch when the cheaper, easier to refill hardware store model works just as well?  Bernzomatic=$20 or less at any store selling hardware, versus diminutive kitchen torches=$40 and up at specialty stores.

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