Top 100 Cake Blog

Top 100 Cake Blog

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is Pie the New Black?

I've been reading a lot about pie lately, how its popularity is soaring. A lovely new bakery, specializing in pies (appropriately named Four & Twenty Blackbirds) opened not far from my house.  And there was even a pie contest last month in  hipsterville Brooklyn, aka Williamburg, and *only* the first 50 pies would be judged.  Who knew that there are so many pie bakers that the contest needed to be limited to 50.  (I also can't believe that so many people want to run the NYC Marathon that tickets need to be won in a lottery, but that's another story.)

I couldn't enter the pie contest because I was working that Sunday, but I did decide to try my hand at lemon meringue pie. (The winning pie was a Shaker lemon pie.)  I made it twice in the past few days.  The first was gorgeous, but a failure as the filling never quite set, so we all *enjoyed* meringue-topped lemon soup.  The second pie was much better, but I overbeat the egg whites rendering the meringue a bit tough.  Plus, I had a fight with my pie crust and in retaliation, it shrunk in the pie pan.

I'm posting the second recipe I used, which was far superior.  The filling was easier to make and was smooth and custard-y.  Ironically, the pie soup recipe was published in a c. 1955 cookbook (where recipes, often subject to testing, are usually more reliable) but the successful one was hand-written in a composition book belonging to Ida Mai Van, a cooking school student in 1935.

To pre-bake the pie crust, line it with parchment paper or foil and fill with beans to keep it from puffing up.

The crust with lemon filling.

The meringue is pure white before baking for 8 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Don't overbeat the egg whites!

Pie soup.


  1. It does seem like pies are attempting to overtake the cupcake, a new pie shop is opening here in our midwestern town. Good for me as most pies involve fruit, thereby eliminating all temptation. Do love a good lemon curd though! Can you explain the appeal of meringue? Could it be a poor man's whip cream or something? Any history on this?

  2. Now I really want something lemony...

  3. You just gave me the perfect idea on what to make for dessert! I missed making meringue, too! I got so used to whip cream that I almost forgotten how my eldest loves meringue. I think he'll be excited to help out on this one. I bet he missed it, too! He's only 7 but he really enjoys hanging out in the kitchen with me. :)

  4. @Anonymous: I'd say that lemon curd is superior to the lemon filling in traditional lemon meringue pies. As for meringue, it's one way to use up the egg whites left over from the pie filling and, unlike whipped cream, does not require refrigeration. In fact, refrigeration breaks down the meringue. Plus with it's golden top, it's much more attractive than whipped cream, no?
    @Sophie: Yes, lemon is the perfect antidote to these mid-winter blues.
    @pie recipe: I'll bet your son would love the process of meringue and the transformation in the oven. Let me know how your pie turns out!