Tag Archives: Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie = Chemistry in the Kitchen

lemon-meringue-pieHello and happy day to you. I hope that the weather is just as spectacular in your neck of the woods as it is for me. I thought I would take a break from being outside to share a recipe with you that I tried for the first time two weeks ago. It was MIL’s birthday and to celebrate, I thought I would try making one of her favorite desserts, lemon meringue pie. I was a bit hesitant at first because I had heard that these pies can be tricky to make, so I decided to hedge my bets by also making a chocolate cream pie. That way, if the meringue didn’t work out, I could pretend that it never happened and still have a tasty dessert to share.

I started by baking the pie crust – all was well at that point. Next came the ingredients for the lemon filling. I poured the agave, cornstarch, water and egg yolks into the saucepan and stirred continuously while heating. At first, the ingredients swirled in the pan like an odd assortment of messy debris. I looked away for a moment to mention something to SensitiveHusband, and when I turned back I saw a smooth, glistening, even-colored vision of dessert. It was a fine hour for chemistry in our kitchen!

The last piece to make was the meringue topping. Into my stand mixer went the egg whites and agave. I set the mixer to high and watched the mixture slosh around for a bit. After a short time, the liquid turned into a fluffy, voluminous meringue. I stood there, amazed for a moment, and then turned off the mixer. Another score for chemistry in our kitchen!

lemon-meringue-pie2This pie is actually fun to make, especially cool if you ever enjoyed science class, and everyone who sampled it that evening really enjoyed it. Of course, we all had to also try the chocolate cream pie since no dessert should go to waste. It’s a very summery treat for the season.

This recipe calls for only three eggs, which is a good thing since the price for wholesale chicken eggs increased 84.5% from May to June. This increase was the largest single-month jump since 1937, when the first records were started. Why the price increase? It’s because the Avian flu killed 49 million chickens during the past winter, according to CNN, thereby reducing the supply.

This recipe is adapted from Gluten Free & More‘s April/May 2015 issue, to remove all of the refined sugar.

Ingredients
3/4 cup light agave syrup
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup cold water
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
zest of 1 (or 2) lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 (9-inch) pie crust*, baked
3 egg whites

*If you are looking for a ready-made crust without refined sugar, Pillsbury has a refrigerated version. For a refined sugar free homemade crust, try my graham cracker version. If you are looking for a gluten free pie crust, there are many store-made products and homemade recipes available.

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup agave and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Stir in egg yolks.

Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat and boil one minute. Remove from heat. See the chemistry!

Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and butter.

Spoon hot filling into baked pie crust.

In a small bowl with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer, at high speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup agave and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Chemistry again!

Spread meringue evenly over hot filling, sealing to the edges of the crust.

Bake pie 15-20 minutes or until golden.

After cooled, refrigerate until served.

Sugar Free! Key Lime and Chocolate Cream Pies

Two PiesOnce you have the sugar free graham cracker crusts prepared (see my previous blog post for the recipe), you can fill them any way you choose. I tried making key lime and chocolate cream pies because they are such sweet treats for the summertime, and I wanted to take on the challenge of making them sugar free.

For the key lime pie, I started with a Cooking Light magazine recipe that is a healthier version than many other recipes I reviewed. The trick with a key lime pie is to get the right consistency without using sweetened condensed milk. My online research found that heating evaporated milk with agave nectar could work as a good substitute. Adding Greek yogurt to the filling provides some tang and a thick consistency. This pie takes a while to bake and it will continue to thicken once it is out of the oven and cools. Fresh key lime juice tastes great in this pie although fresh lime juice will work just as well.

Ingredients for Filling:
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh Key lime juice (or fresh lime juice)
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
3 large egg yolks
1 (14-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup agave nectar

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine evaporated milk and agave nectar in a small saucepan. Cook on low heat for approximately 10 minutes. Use approximately 14 ounces (or 1 2/3 cups) of the resulting mixture in the filling in the next step.
3. To prepare filling, place yogurt, lime juice, lime zest, egg yolks, and milk/agave mixture in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 350° until set, about 35 minutes. Cool pie completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely, and chill at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream.

As for the chocolate cream pie, I again started with a Cooking Light recipe as the base. I substituted the coconut palm sugar for the cane sugar, and used grain sweetened chocolate (Endangered Species or Sunspire are delicious cane sugar free options) instead of the usual store-bought sugary brands. This pie is delicious and had a light and rich texture.

Ingredients for Filling:
2 cups fat-free milk, divided
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 ounces (cane sugar free) chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated (cane sugar free) chocolate

Preparation:
1. To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup milk, 2/3 cup palm sugar, and next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup palm sugar through egg) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
2. Heat 1 1/2 cups milk in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat. 3. Gradually add hot milk to sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Return milk mixture to pan. Add chopped chocolate; cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared crust; cover surface of filling with plastic wrap. Chill 3 hours or until cold. Remove plastic wrap; spread whipped cream evenly over filling. Sprinkle with grated chocolate.

Pi PlateServe your favorite pie in a pie plate – or in my case – a pi plate! Pi (pronounced “pie”) is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter, which is the same value no matter the size of the circle.

Step 1 for Sugar Free Pies – Graham Cracker Crust

Two PiesGood day! I hope that this blog post finds you doing well. I have been trying some new recipes over the past few weeks and trying to keep up with all of the CSA produce that I receive each week. The weather this summer seems to be conducive to leafy green vegetables, which always make my day. Now that the temperature is heating up, corn, tomatoes, and beans are plentiful.

I have also been working on a baking project – how to make pies without refined sugars. The fillings can be challenging because it can be tricky to get the correct consistency. And I have not been able to use any graham cracker crust recipes because virtually all call for crumbled store-bought graham crackers – and I have not been able to find a brand without sugar. So I had to take a more proactive approach in order to bake a sugar-free crust.

SensitiveHusband recently purchased a lovely cookbook for me called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. The author has made dozens of popular foods and calculated how much it costs to create them homemade, and then compared the cost of similar store-bought items. Based on the difficulty of the homemade preparation and the cost, the author then recommends either making the item or buying it. Fortunately she includes a recipe for honey graham crackers. According to her calculations, homemade graham crackers cost approximately $0.18 per ounce, Honey Maid Cinnamon Grahams are $0.23 per ounce, and Annie’s organic graham crackers are $0.53 per ounce.

I adapted the recipe to remove the refined sugars by replacing with coconut palm sugar, and figured out how to roll into two crusts rather than shape into crackers (although you could still use this recipe for crackers). This recipe yields the lightest and tastiest graham cracker crust – the best I have ever sampled. SensitiveHusband agreed that this crust is terrific.

Step 1 for baking pies is having a great crust, and the recipe delivers. This is definitely more labor-intensive than purchasing a box of graham crackers, but the taste of the homemade version is worth it.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup honey

Preparation:
1. Stir together the flours, wheat germ, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl.
2. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and stir well. Turn the dough onto a floured surface, knead once or twice, then flatten into a disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
3. Cut the dough into two portions. On a floured surface, roll one portion of the dough into a circle that is about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a pie plate and remove any dough that hangs over the sides. Prick the dough with a fork in a number of places throughout the dough. Repeat this process with the other portion of remaining dough.
4. Bake the two crusts in an oven that has been preheated to 350 degrees F for about 12 minutes or until very lightly browned. Make sure the crusts are completely cooled before moving onto creating your pie fillings.

Honey-Sweetened Pumpkin Pie

I am a big fan of pumpkin. It is a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals – plus it tastes great in cookies, breads and pie. My FIL created this pie, which starts with a basic recipe and switches the refined sugar with honey, does not use molasses (also made from cane sugar), and unsweetened evaporated milk (as opposed to condensed milk which has a lot of added sugar). This pie is tasty with a light a fluffy filling. Pair it with a glass of milk for a most satisfying dessert.

Ingredients:
1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pure pumpkin
1 (12 fluid ounce) can unsweetened evaporated milk

Directions:
–Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
–Combine honey, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and honey-spice mixtures. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
–Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

I am sharing this recipe with Sweet as Sugar Cookies.