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Get Ready For Pie-a-Day This Summer!

| July 4, 2012
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Pie-tastic public radio host Evan Kleiman. (Credit: Bryony Shearmur)

Yes, you like pie, but do you loooooove it?

Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food looooooves it. So much so, she’s been making and eating a different pie every day for three, soon-to-be four summers. On July 5th, Kleiman will launch her 4th Annual Pie-A-Day project/journey/exploration, in which she makes a pie a day, sweet or savory, then posts about it on her blog.  She also does various pie segments on her weekly radio program.

As per usual, this year’s Pie-a-Day will culminate with a pie competition at the end of the summer.

In an interview with The California Report, Kleiman says pie-a-day has become a Thing, pulling in pie mavens, amateur and professional, from all over the country. In fact, when the accomplished chef comes across something she can’t suss out, she has simply to issue a call-out on her radio program, and the advice comes pouring in like so much fruit filling.

California is, of course, a Garden of Eden for fruit pie lovers. These are the pies Kleiman grew up with, but thanks to the Pie-A-Day project, she’s learned to appreciate the wisdom of our Eastern baking cousins. Take for instance, cornstarch. While many may eschew this ingredient as a holdover from the 1950s, Kleiman has learned that “it lets the sweetness shine through,” as opposed to flour.

She’s also developed an appreciation for crème pie, something she didn’t grow up with. “It’s pudding in a crust, and who doesn’t like homemade pudding?”

I didn’t grow up with pie myself. My Mom was an acolyte of Julia Child, so it was dutifully made flourless chocolate cakes for our birthdays, no matter how much we begged for 31 Flavors. My grandmother thought dessert was something you bought at Canters Deli – - which is to say, babka or apple strudel. Not that I’m complaining, mind you; Kleiman says we must all forgive our grandmothers their pie failings and be the pie baking grandmother we wish we had: the Ur-Grandmother.

Is there a pie Kleiman doesn’t appreciate? I couldn’t get her to admit to one. But she has fought with the meringue of lemon meringue pie fame. You, however, don’t need to fight. Grateful? Share the love! Make this for others…

Lemon Meringue Pie with Almond Crust

Crust

2 cups almond meal (I prefer natural unblanched available at TJs)
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar (dark if you can find it)
3 oz salted butter, melted or melted coconut oil (if using coconut oil add pinch of salt)

Mix almond meal and sugar together in bowl. Add pinch of salt if using coconut oil. Mix. Add melted fat of your choice and mix.  (I just mix it all up with my fingers.)  Crumble the mixture into your pie pan and press it in making a neat edge. Bake the almond crust in a preheated 350° oven for 15 minutes or until the crust is beginning to brown.  Nuts burn quickly so watch it.  Set the crust aside to cool completely before you add the hot filling.

Filling
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons potato starch
1 cup lemon juice
5 egg yolks
2 whole eggs

Meringue
5 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Start meringue first:

Use a small heavy saucepan to make the sugar syrup.  Put the sugar, water and lemon juice in the pan. Do not stir. Cover the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the cover when the sugar is completely melted and the mixture is at a lively boil. Put your candy thermometer in the mixture. The syrup will be ready to pour into the soft peak egg whites (see below) when it is at soft boil stage or a tiny bit above, 235 – 241°.  I tend to go to the higher temperature or even 242°

Meanwhile, put the room-temperature egg whites in the bowl of your mixer and over low speed let the egg whites beat until they are foamy.  Add the cream of tartar.  Turn the mixer up to medium speed and continue to beat until they are at soft peaks.

When the sugar syrup is ready (a soft boil on candy thermometer), turn on the mixer to medium again.  Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites.  Try to focus the stream in between the beater and the side of the bowl.  When all the sugar syrup is poured into the whites turn the mixer to high and let the whites beat until the mixture froths up into thick, glossy, very stiff peak clouds.

To Make Filling
Whisk sugar and potato starch together in a medium saucepan.  You want the dry ingredients combined with no lumps. Don’t get crazy about it, but no big lumps.  Add lemon juice and whisk until blended with sugar – potato starch mixture.  Add yolks and eggs.  Whisk well.

Place over medium heat and alternately whisk and stir with heat resistant spatula being sure to sweep the bottom of the pan with the spatula.  First the mixture will thin out and it seems that it will never thicken, then as the mixture heats up it will begin to bubble around the edges and thicken quickly.  Keep whisking/stirring so you don’t get scrambled eggs.  When the mixture is obviously thickened and has come to a boil remove it from the heat and pour into your prepared pie crust.

As soon as the filling is in the pie crust turn your attention to the meringue.  If it has been sitting for a couple of minutes then beat it again.  In order to avoid weeping you need to seal the filling completely with meringue.  I start with the edge, using a thin pastry spatula or dinner knife to spread meringue so that it covers the seam where the crust meets the filling.  Once that is done you can spoon the rest of the meringue on the pie and go to town making big pillowy swirls and peaks.  The more swirls and peaks, the more browning you’ll have.  Once you’re done playing with the meringue pop it in the oven for 15 minutes or until the meringue is set and browned to your liking.  Let it cool then refrigerate until ready to serve.

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About the Author ()

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness. Reach Rachael Myrow at rmyrow@kqed.org.

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