You know those phrases that start with, “My mom made. . .”? They’re an instant discouragement to trying whatever it was that was made, aren’t they. I have one of those. My mom made an incredible lemon meringue pie when I was a kid. The filling was fantastic, but the meringue was what stands out in my mind. It climbed for miles with peaks and valleys, beautifully browned on the outside but pristine white when cut into.
It’s that memory that’s kept me from trying a meringue pie; until today. The reason I go through magazines is to challenge myself; to push myself out of my comfort cooking zone and stretch my experience level.
Welcome to my first meringue.
Which proves that if I can do it, anyone can. In fact, this recipe is found in a section of the magazine called, “Here’s How To. . .” There are a half dozen recipes that include step-by-step instructions, including how to make a Mile-High Meringue.
First though is the filling, since the crust is whatever single-pie crust you choose (I always go with Crisco’s classic recipe….it hasn’t failed me yet). The butterscotch custard is simple and classic. Dark brown and granulated sugar are heated with cornstarch, milk and egg yolks until the mixture is very thick.
Constant whisking is important while the custard is developing so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Also, the instructions will say that the mixture comes to a boil and it should be allowed to do so for three minutes. What it doesn’t tell you is that while the mixture thickens, the bubbles start looking like little mouths popping open and spewing projectile boiling custard towards the unwary hand. It’s fun to watch, but be careful because the stuff burns; I know.
When it’s done, remove the pan from heat and add butter and vanilla. Stir to combine. Another side note. There is only one tablespoon of butter in this butterscotch. Is that normal? Is this really Paula Deen? The custard is poured into the prepared shell and attention is turned to the meringue.
Start by beating the egg whites to a froth. When they’re bubbly but not peaking, add the cream of tarter and beat to soft peaks. At that point, start adding the sugar in small amounts, beating at high speed all the while, until stiff peaks form and the meringue is glossy and beautiful. Add the vanilla and beat just a little more until it’s blended.
Dollop the meringue on the cake and then spread it around. One thing I didn’t do exactly perfect was make sure that the meringue was totally flat on the pie. You can see from the picture below that there are little air pockets. Try not to do likewise, ok? Use the back of a spoon to make the “cresting wave” look. Put it in the oven and you’re done.
There was much anticipation at the dinner table tonight, knowing that this would be dessert. Hubby is a huge butterscotch fan so he was the most happy. Dudette thought that the meringue was all whipped cream so the reality of meringue was a bit of a letdown. It’s sweet; very sweet. I would prefer this type of dessert straight out of cold refrigerator, but we ate it at room temperature because it was recommended. Hubby still downed his and a good portion of Dudette’s (she ended up not liking it much). I like it but look forward to trying it after refrigeration tomorrow. It’s so, so very sweet (have I mentioned that?).
It’s a good recipe. Is it my favorite kind of pie? No, not at all. I prefer fruit pies.
Best Butterscotch Pie
from Paula Deen’s Best Dishes 2011
1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch prepared pie crust, baked
Mile-High Meringue (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 325.
In a large saucepan, mix together the sugars and cornstarch. Add the milk and egg yolks. Stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for three minutes, continuing to whisk constantly.
Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and stir until incorporated fully. Pour the custard into the prepared pie crust.
Spread the Mile-High Meringue over the hot filling with the back of a spoon, sealing to the edges of the pie crust with the meringue.
Bake for 23 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack. The pie is best served the day it is baked.
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
10 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract*
In a metal or glass bowl, beat egg whites at high speed with a mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating at high speed the whole time, until stiff peaks form and the sugar dissolves, 2-4 minutes. Add the vanilla, beating until just blended.
*Regular vanilla extract may be substituted but it will make the meringue just a bit darker when you bake it.