Friday, June 20, 2014

Meringue, Icebox or just plain Lemon Pie

Whatever you call it, which ever way you prefer it, lemon pie is the perfect cool, tart treat for summer!  I remember growing up we always had Edwards' lemon meringue pies at family events. I loved the tart, smooth filling but ALWAYS peeled off the meringue topping. It was like eating some form of flotsam to me. The texture was just wrong.

This past weekend we were meeting as a family to celebrate Father's Day and to do a little praying for my grandmother. I asked my Pawpaw what kind of cake he would like for Father's Day.  He quietly replied he wasn't really a big fan of cake.  He's so funny. He finally mentioned that he really liked lemon icebox pie and he hadn't had a homemade one in years. I told him I'd do what I could to see that request through.
My first step in researching recipes was to try and determine the difference between icebox and meringue pies...appears that meringue pies used the leftover egg whites to make the meringue on top, while icebox pies don't necessarily have a topping, other than whipped cream.  Other than that, I really couldn't pinpoint a huge difference. I looked through about 50 recipes and determined it boiled down to 2 main methods: 1) make a custard-like filling on the stove or 2) a filling mix you bake then chill.

I really wasn't sure which vibe my Pawpaw was going for in his lemon pie so I decided I'd make 1 of each genre to determine which would be my go-to recipe. Read on for the verdict!

For both pies I made a basic graham crust:
(for two 9 inch pie crusts)
1   14-oz box Graham crackers, crushed
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
12 Tablespoons butter (1.5 sticks), super soft
mini vanilla wafers, optional

1. Preheat oven 350F
2. In a food processor, process graham crackers until they're very fine, like sand; you should approximately 4 cups of crumbs
3. Transfer graham cracker crumbs to a large bowl
4. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well, the mixture should look wet and clump together nicely.
5. Divide mixture and place 1/2 into each 9 inch pie pan. Press it out, up along the sides evenly. You can press mini vanilla wafers into the top edge of the pie crusts.
6. Bake 8-10 min, until fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For Pie #1 I used Dana's recipe over at Dana Made It.
The only alteration I made was I used 1/2 & 1/2 instead of milk.
The mixture took quite a while to thicken up. It did eventually after probably 20-30min of stirring constantly. It had a nice pudding like texture to it.  I am not sure about the sour cream mixed in, it certainly didn't taste terrible but I wonder about mixing in greek yogurt or whipped cream instead.

For Pie #2 I used Life Love Sugar's Lemon Icebox Pie Recipe.
It came together very easily and baked up perfectly. I made no alterations. The texture was so smooth and delicious!

I topped both with simple whipped cream with a bit of vanilla and powdered sugar added. I did add non-flavored gelatin so that it would maintain it's shape and texture better, longer.

So the verdict?  Most people preferred the baked one. It was almost completely gone before even 1/2 of the non-baked one was eaten.  That's why I only have actual pie pictures of the no-bake. I forgot to take pictures until the next day!

Both were very delicious and it was very difficult, at times, for me to determine my preferred pie; they were both honestly, so yummy.

The stove top one definitely took more time but was not any more complex than the baked pie.

One word of caution, if you choose to make the baked pie, do not place any sort of wrapping over the top once it has cooled or you'll mare the beautiful, perfectly smooth surface!

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