For the past several weeks I have been eating very healthy. Well I always eat healthy, but I’ve been on a little bit of a kick. That is, until Wednesday.
For starters, it’s Girl Scout Cookie Season. Frankly, that should be all that I have to say. That should cover all of my bases and clarify any excuses I need to make.
But it doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday I was running errands in two neighborhoods which I rarely frequent. First I was on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It dawned on me that a well-known cupcake shop called Sprinkles was nearby. Now, personally I am a Crumbs devotee – a fantastic cupcake shop with locations throughout the City – so going to Sprinkles made me feel a little bit like an infidel. Seeing as I am rarely on the Upper East Side, I decided to try four flavors in order to get a full sampling: Red Velvet (it was delicious), Cinnamon (extremely dense and dry, something went wrong), Brown Sugar Praline (again very dense, but great flavor), and Peanut Butter Chip (so awful that I had to throw it out…moment of silence please, because I’ve never before thrown out a cupcake…why the heck did that thing taste like coffee?). I can now say with full conviction and personal experience that Crumbs cupcakes are bigger and considerably better than Sprinkles, and there is no reason to go to Sprinkles again. As an aside, you know you have been living by a New York standard for far too long when $14 for four cupcakes seems perfectly reasonable.
Mediocre Sprinkles cupcakes:
Next, I had to head downtown to NoLIta and the Lower East Side to meet a friend for dinner. En route, however, I walked right past my beloved Rice to Riches (which I mentioned in a post last year). Again, because I am rarely in this area I jumped at the opportunity to make a special purchase of my favorite rice pudding. I even got the “diva” size (basically kiddie size) to show my self-control. I was again reminded that you know you have been living by a New York standard for far too long when $4.75 for 6 oz. of rice pudding seems, if not reasonable, at least not highway robbery.
So, off I go to dinner, with 4 cupcakes and 6 ounces of rice pudding in tow.
I enjoy my meal and merrily head home with a satisfied belly. But oh my gosh. Oh. My. Gosh. Mere days ago I heard about a new churro spot that opened up in New York; I “pinned” it on my Pinterest board and promptly filed it in the back of my mind without even taking note of where it was located. It’s called Churreria and it is on the same block as where I ate dinner. I didn’t realize this at all, so clearly the food gods had this all planned very carefully. Have I mentioned I’m never in this neighborhood? So it would really be foolish of me not to patronize the place like right now even though I just ate dinner. Right? These churros are Spanish style (specifically Catalan) – meaning you dip them in hot chocolate. Only their hot chocolate isn’t like our hot chocolate, oh no no no. It’s thick, almost like pudding. And you stick your warm fresh-from-the-oven (er, fryer?) churro into the hot chocolate and devour. Clearly it would not be good to purchase your churro and eat it a day or two, or even an hour or two, later. You basically need to eat it immediately. After ordering, I discovered that their “Churros for 1” menu item could in fact feed a family of four. So, logically, I ate it all. By myself. Immediately after eating dinner. And it was really good.
Terrible picture but trust me it was delicious:
Let me summarize. I have had been eating really healthy. I had been tempering my consumption of Girl Scout cookies. However, an evening of errands around New York resulted in the unplanned purchase of the following: 4 cupcakes, 6 oz. of rice pudding, and enough churros and hot chocolate to feed a family of four. And I’m not sharing.
As if those sweets weren’t enough, I found that my local supermarket had some Meyer Lemons in stock and I decided to try some Lemon Meringue Pie. I had two noticeably different recipes so I made both and did some taste testing. I tried two techniques, two different recipes, and pulled the best from both to (hopefully) create a top-notch lemon meringue pie.
This recipe is for Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie. Meyer Lemons are smaller and sweeter than regular lemons, and some find a hint of orange in their flavor. If you can’t find Meyer Lemons, you can go ahead and use regular lemons. Also, be sure your butter and eggs have all been brought to room temperature before starting.
There are two major ways to go about making a lemon meringue pie. Some people swear by the method whereby you make the lemon filling, let it cool completely, and then you put the meringue on top and bake. Other people prefer to put the meringue on a very hot lemon filling. The reason for the debate is that heat and moisture can both ruin a meringue if they come together in the wrong way. If you’re putting meringue on a hot lemon filling, heat is hitting the meringue from all angles and some think that makes for a better meringue. Let me simplify it for you: the technique of putting the meringue on a fully set room temperature pie is easier for me. However, the specifics of your oven, your climate (heat and humidity), and who knows what else can make all the difference. So it’s really a matter of personal preference. Additionally, you will see that cake/donut crumbs are an option between the lemon and meringue layers. Some claim that the bread will absorb any undesirable moisture that would otherwise cause the meringue to fail. I used ¼ donut – you don’t want a full heavy layer, just a scattering of crumbs. You’ll never notice them when eating.
If you opt to put the meringue on a hot lemon filling, you need to have the meringue ready immediately. In other words, do the recipe below in reverse: make the meringue first and preheat your oven before starting on the lemon filling. This is critical.
Now, off we go.
Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie
1 9-inch pie crust, pre-baked and cooled . Brush the crust with lightly beaten egg white during the last five minutes of baking to seal it.
For the lemon filling
1 c plus one T granulated sugar
2/3 c cold water
½ c cornstarch
¾ c Meyer lemon juice
2 t finely grated lemon zest
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
pinch kosher salt
1 ¼ cups boiling water
Cake crumbs/donut crumbs (optional)
- Without using heat, in a medium sauce pan combine all the ingredients for the filling except for the boiling water. Whisk until the mixture is thoroughly combined.
- Whisk in the boiling water and then place the sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring gently with a spatula or wooden spoon. Then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for up to one minute and no longer, continuing to stir gently.
- Immediately pour the filling into your prepared pie crust.
- If you are doing a hot filling meringue, immediately top with your pre-prepared meringue as described below and bake. If opting for a cold filling, allow the filling to cool completely (several hours) and then move on to the meringue recipe below.
For the Meringue
4 large fresh egg whites, room temperature
1 T of cornstarch or flour
1/4 c water
½ c sugar
1/2 t cream of tartar
- REMEMBER: if you will be doing a “hot meringue” (putting it on a just cooked lemon filling) this needs to be prepared ahead of time. If you are reading this and your lemon filling is already done, you should resort to the cool method, which means you put the meringue on the set and room-temperature lemon.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and set a rack near the bottom of your oven.
- Combine the cornstarch (or flour) and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat, stirring constantly until it has thickened into a gel (about two minutes). Set aside.
- Using your electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add sugar in several increments.
- Beat on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Add the cornstarch gel and beat to combine.
- If desired, sprinkle either your chilled or freshly poured piping hot pie with crumbs. Top with meringue, spreading it to the edges of the crust. It is very important that you “seal” the pie completely by pressing the meringue against the crust and that no lemon is visible. Fluff or smooth the meringue however you like.
- Bake the pie for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
- For the chilled filling pie, allow the pie to stand for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. For the hot filling method, place the pie on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature before serving (several hours).
Calories: 380 (incidentally, most calories are in the crust, so if you have a low cal crust, or want to fiddle with a no-crust custard type thing, have at it! The filling and meringue combo is only 216 calories per person.)