Bottomless Lemon Meringue 'Pie'

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This is my husband's favorite pie but he prefers it without a bottom crust. As I prefer the texture and flavor of lemon meringue chilled, which doesn't do wonders for a flaky pie crust, and graham cracker crust is not my favorite, I decided to turn the 'pie' into a 'pudding.' I like to use a light (meaning lower than usual in sugar) Italian meringue for the topping as it holds up better than an uncooked meringue and is almost as light. It only needs to bake for 5 minutes and then broiled very briefly. I was delighted to discover that my countertop Breville oven switched instantly from bake to broil and within seconds browned the meringue exceptionally evenly. Breville BOV800XL Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven with Element IQ I made it for Mother's Day which was the first day of the year warm enough to eat dinner on the porch. The lemon meringues were just perfect! Recipe Follows

Individual Lemon Meringues

Serves : 8

Oven Temperature: 350°F/175°C
Baking Time: 5 minutes Special Equipment (8) 8 ounce ramekins Lemon Filling

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Make the Filling: In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, (don't use double boiler as it won't boil and won't be thick enough), combine the cornstarch and sugar and gradually whisk in the water until smooth. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with the whisk until thick, smooth and translucent, about 5 minutes. (A thermometer will register 190°F/88°.) Whisk a few spoonfuls of this hot mixture into the egg yolks and then add the yolks to the remaining mixture, whisking constantly. Check the temperature. An instant read thermometer should read 160°/71°C. If it is lower, return the mixture to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it reaches temperature. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the salt, lemon juice, and butter until the mixture is smooth. Scrape it into the ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap to keep hot so that the bottom of the meringue sets.

Note: It is essential that the egg yolks reach the proper temperature to ensure that the mixture will not thin out on cooling. If not using a thermometer, it is safest to bring the mixture to just before it starts to boil. If it should lump, press it through a fine sieve.

Make the Italian Meringue: Have ready a 1 cup heat-proof glass measure. Set the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk beater. In a small heavy saucepan, preferably with non-stick lining, stir together the 1/2 cup of superfine sugar and the 2 tablespoons of water until the sugar is completely moistened. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring and turn down the heat to the lowest setting. (If using an electric range remove it from the heat.) Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Increase the heat and boil the syrup until a thermometer registers 236°F/113°C. (This is lower than usual but higher will not be stable as the meringue will be heated further when baked and broiling.)

Immediately pour the syrup into the glass measure to stop the cooking. If using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the syrup into the whites in a steady stream, avoiding the beaters to keep the syrup from spinning onto the sides of the bowl. If using a stand mixer, pour a small amount of syrup over the whites with the mixer off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. With the last addition use a rubber scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the measure.

Continue beating on high speed for about 2 minutes or until the outside of the bowl is no longer too hot to touch comfortably. Spread the meringue on top of the filling, starting from the edge of the ramekin. Use a small metal spatula to make attractive swirls and peaks. If desired, for extra crunch, dust the meringue with powdered sugar. Bake the pie for 5 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and brown the meringue for 20 seconds to 1 minute, watching carefully to prevent burning, until the meringue is golden.

Cool in a place away from draughts and refrigerate for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Serve chilled. Store: Uncovered: Refrigerated, 1 day to 2 days.

Note The cornstarch protects the egg yolks from curdling but if overheated, and they become slightly lumpy, it is fine to pass the mixture through a fine strainer which will return them to a perfectly silky consistency.