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This pie is one of America’s top three flavors (right after apple, and before chocolate). Why do we like THIS version? Its filling is perfect: not too tart, not too sweet, bursting with lemon flavor. And the crust is made with vegetable oil rather than butter or shortening; use a very mild olive oil, and you’ll be treating yourself to a heart-healthy "good fat."
1 1/3 cups (5 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) vegetable oil
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cold milk (nonfat is fine)
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
6 tablespoons (1 7/8 ounces) cornstarch
1 1/2 cups cold water
3 large eggs yolks (reserve the whites)
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) butter
Grated peel of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lemon juice (juice of about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites (reserved from egg yolks above)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons (2 3/8 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
To make the crust: Whisk together the flour and salt. Whisk together the oil and milk, and add to the dry ingredients, stirring till cohesive. Roll the crust on a silicone rolling mat with a piece of plastic wrap on top (between crust and rolling pin); or between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper. Roll it about 12" wide, and drape it carefully into a 9" pie pan. Don’t worry if it tears a bit as you work with it; this is a very easy crust to patch, and no one will ever see your mistakes! Press the edges gently with the tines of a fork, to flatten. Prick the bottom of the crust 6 to 8 times with the fork, to keep it from puffing as it bakes.
Bake the crust (no need for pie weights) for 12 to 15 minutes, until it’s beginning to brown. Remove it from the oven. Reduce the oven heat to 400°F. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling.
To make the filling: Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Stir in the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, then constantly as it gets hotter, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil, stirring, for 1 minute.
Put the egg yolks in a small bowl. Stir about 1 cup of the boiling sugar mixture into the yolks. Return the hot yolk mixture to the saucepan, and boil gently, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and add the butter, grated peel, juice, and vanilla, stirring till the butter melts. Spoon the filling into the crust.
To make the meringue: Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl, and beat till foamy. With the beater going, gradually add the sugar, beating until the mixture holds a stiff peak; when you lift the beater out of the meringue, the meringue will stand straight up, with just its top curling over. Add the vanilla at the end.
Spoon the meringue atop the hot pie filling, bringing it all the way to the edge of the pan (and covering the crust). Bake the pie for 8 to 10 minutes, until the meringue is as golden brown as you like it. Remove it from the oven, and allow the pie to cool for several hours before serving. Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings