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Mr Man requested lemon meringue pie the other day. Do I have a recipe for it? I do, that’s not the problem. The problem is that I have too many recipes, taking many paths to the same destination.

And so I set out to make the pie, but also to reduce the stack of notes, hand-written adaptations, and other modifications into the One.

Here’s a snapshot of just some of the recipe pile:*

Does not include all of the many, many online references I used to triangulate the final recipe, but you get the idea.

* * *

So here we have it, the One Pie To Rule Them All (if you lIke lemon, that is).

The recipe looks a bit complicated but it’s really just a quick crumb crust, a batch of lemon curd, and whipped egg whites.

This works for me, and uses ingredients I can easily access. (I also do things like ignore milliliters and weigh everything in grams.) If you aren’t as into tangy citrus or can’t find Biscoff, modify at will!

The One.

* * *

Lemon Meringue Pie

Ingredients


Crust

  • 250g Biscoff or graham cracker crumbs 
  • 57g butter, melted

* If using graham crackers, you can boost the flavor by adding a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and a pinch of salt.

Filling

  • zest of one lemon, chopped v. fine (optional)
  • juice of ~6 lemons, 200g
  • 50g water
  • 25g cornstarch
  • 175g superfine or caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25g butter

Meringue

  • 4 egg whites
  • 112g superfine or caster sugar
  • 1/4 t. cream of tartar

Directions


Crust

  1. preheat oven to 350F
  2. crush Biscoff into fine crumbs with food processor or rolling pin
  3. mix in melted butter
  4. press into 9” pie plate (the bottom of a cup measure works well)
  5. bake for ~18 minutes, remove and lower oven to 325F

Filling

  1. mix lemon zest, juice, water and cornstarch until smooth
  2. stir sugar and egg yolks together in a non-reactive pan, place over medium-low heat and add cornstarch mixture and butter
  3. stir frequently until it just simmers and thickens like custard, about 5 minutes for me (taste and add another teaspoon+ of sugar if you fear the tang)
  4. pour into crust and top with meringue

Meringue

  1. combine sugar and cream of tartar in a small bowl
  2. in a larger bowl, whip egg whites to soft peaks
  3. add sugar mixture one tablespoon or so at a time, whipping between, until stiff and shiny
  4. spoon or pipe over filling, touching meringue to crust edges to prevent shrinkage
  5. bake 15 minutes until golden

* * *

Bonus: Lemon Syrup

Because I had organic lemons, I was also able to use the peels for this lemon syrup:

Stop Throwing Lemon Rinds Away! Make This No-Cook Syrup Instead

“True” lemon syrup, to distinguish it from the bottle of spiced white wine and lemon syrup I also have in the fridge right now.

I let it steep for about four hours. I don’t have a great citrus press so I strained the peels, then put them in a plastic bag and used a rolling pin to extract the rest of the juice. The result is sweet with a touch of bitterness to ground the flavor, and perfect with seltzer and fresh mint on a hot afternoon.

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* * *

* I have attributions for some of these recipes but not all. That can happen when I’m away from home and trying to put together a recipe for the in-laws on the fly, with a kitchen and equipment not my own. Thanks for ideas for what to do (and not do) go out to Stella Parks, Mark Bittman, Alton Brown, and many bakers and commenters online.

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Today, a recipe!

I decided to take this year off from birthday cakes, but I did make the delicious bite-sized treats that are madeleines. Reminiscent of pound cake but more flavorful, these French cakes have been one of my favorites for years. Now I’ve got the recipe down. Good thing, because they don’t last long!

***

This is a simple recipe with terrific results. The only real surprise is the amount of chilling time, so plan ahead. Also, I was fortunate enough to inherit a set of traditional European madeleine pans, and with the liberal application of butter and flour they work well. That said, if you don’t happen to have these single-purpose pans, I’ve had decent luck making them in cupcake liners. The shape is different, of course, but the edges pick up a small flute from the liners. The darker cupcake pan made the bottoms cook a bit too fast, but cut baking time by a minute or so and it should turn out fine.

On ingredients:

I use organic unbleached all-purpose flour (thank you, Costco) but you don’t have to. I also use granulated sugar that’s been toasted to bring out a caramel flavor that’s subtle but noticeable. If you have the time to do this, I suggest making a big batch so you have extra. It’s great in everything. As a note, I toasted a batch of organic sugar but pulled it after an hour. Turns out the higher molasses content means it’s faster to melt and burn, so keep an eye on it if you go that route. Still tasty!)

On rise:

There’s also a whole debate around whether to baking powder or not to baking powder. The traditional approach is most definitely (and defiantly)not, but it’s up to you. I am still haunted by a pre-teen angel-food cake debacle (pancake, meet actual cake, also tears and a lifelong dislike of recipes that rely solely on whipped egg whites for volume). I use the baking powder. It worked well, even when I let the batter sit in the fridge for 6+ hours, and tasted fine. Just be sure your baking powder doesn’t contain aluminum.

On lemon flavor:

like love the flavor of lemon but am not fond of chewy, waxy, dry lemon peel. I leave it out here, but if you find yourself with a nice, thin-skinned organic lemon on hand, I say use the zest. I also boosted the amount of glaze because the smaller amount in the original recipe didn’t quite stretch far enough. (I also use all lemon juice because I’m crazy like that, but the water will help it flow. Adjust as you like. Or use lime juice. Or 2T. orange concentrate, 1T+ water.)

***

And as a bonus for Mr. Man’s father and all who love writing, a taste of literature:

An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings … my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it.
— Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu

I prefer lemon glaze to a tea dip but the choice is yours. Whatever you do, have fun:) Also, here’s a picture for you, showing the perfect amount of browning. It’s not my picture as I ate all my madeleines before I thought to get a shot (because delicious:).

***

Lemon-Glazed Madeleines
Makes about 24 cookies
Adapted from this recipe (in The Sweet Life In Paris by David Lebovitz)

Cake:
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar, toasted
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
zest of one small lemon (optional)
9 tablespoons (120g) butter, melted and cooled to just above room temperature, plus additional melted butter for the molds

Glaze:

7/8 cup (175g) powdered sugar
3 T. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 t. water
pinch salt, to taste

Prep pans and batter:

1. Thoroughly brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer. (Haven’t tried this with non-stick spray because it weirds me out but I imagine that works too.)

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened. (Don’t have a standing mixer? use the regular kind, because honestly.)

3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift over the batter in batches, using a spatula to fold in each batch of flour. (This is a little tedious but worth it.)

4. Add the optional lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter a few spoonfuls at a time, while folding each time to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

Wait, then bake:

6. To bake: preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

7. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4’s
(you’ll have to eyeball it, but it’s not brain-surgery so don’t worry if you’re not exact; I used a rounded 1 1/2 t. cookie scoop) Do not spread it.

8. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set (10 minutes for me with baking powder; the tops will be light but the fluted base should be a light-to-medium brown). While the cakes are baking, make a glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, water and salt until smooth.

9. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a rack. The moment they’re cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife. After dipping, rest on the rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up.

Storage:

Glazed madeleines store well uncovered or loosely-wrapped. They can be kept in a container for up to three days, if necessary (but, yeah, they won’t last that long. Unless you are a saint. Are you a saint? I am not). These also froze fine in a plastic bag, then defrosted on the counter. Emergency madeleines for the win!

 

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