Thursday, April 19, 2012


I grew up with a lemon tree in my backyard.  There were summer days when my friend Myra from down the street and I would pluck a lemon off the tree, cut it in half, dip it in sugar, and eat it...until my mother caught us and told us we'd rot our teeth out of our heads.  I set up my fair share of lemon and lemonade stands over the years, and made a good amount of change at it.  I watched my mother make many a lemon meringue pie, and they were absolutely heavenly, even if the meringue separated from the crust.  For these reasons and more, I LOVE lemon.  I love cooking with it, I love drinking lemonade, and I absolutely love baking all things lemon.  My dentist hates me for it.  Here are some lemony favorites that you might like too:

Some lemon meringue pie secrets:  First of all, make twice as much meringue as the directions tell you to.  That will allow you to spread the meringue thicker and more effectively all the way to the edge of the crust.  And second of all, brush the crush with beaten egg white BEFORE you spread the meringue on.  The meringue will stick to the egg white and stay put.

Lemon Meringue Pie (from the Pillsbury Family Cookbook with some pointers added by me)

Crust for an 8-9 inch pan
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
3-4 Tablespoons cold ice water
Crust Directions:
Sift four and salt into a bowl.  Cut in shortening until the size of small peas.  Sprinkle with water, a little at a time, while tossing and stirring until dough is just moist enough to hold together.  Form into a ball.  Flatten to 1/2 inch thickness and smooth the edges.  Roll out on a floured surface into a circle 1 1/2 inches larger than the pie pan.  Place crust into pan and pat out the air pockets.  Fold the edges to form a rim.  Flute the edges.  Prick generously with a fork.   Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool before filling.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold water
1 1/3 cups hot water
1 teaspoon freshly ground lemon rind
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
Filling Directions:
Crack eggs and beat yolks slightly.  Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan.  Blend in the cold water.  Add the hot water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a long-handled wooden spoon, until thick and clear (5-8 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Stir in lemon rind and lemon juice.  Cook for two more minutes or until thick again.  Blend 1/2 a cup of the hot mixture into the eggs.  Pour the eggs into the hot mixture and cook two minutes, stirring constantly until very thick.  Blend in the butter.  Cover and cool in the freezer or refrigerator to lukewarm.  Pour into the baked shell.  Cool to warm before topping with meringue.
Meringue (This meringue recipe has already been doubled, as suggested above)
6+1 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
12 T granulated sugar

Meringue Directions:  
Beat 6 egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar at highest speed until soft peaks form.  Add sugar gradually, beating continuously until stiff peaks form.  Beat the 7th egg white, then brush it all over the edges of the cooked and filled crust.  Spread the meringue over the cooled filling, sealing it all the way over the edges.  Use the back of a spoon to create points in the meringue (push the spoon's back down flat into the meringue, then lift up) Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes (or 400 degrees for 6-8 minutes), watching closely to make sure the tips' points are brown but not burned.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Lemon Bar Torte (my recipe!): This dessert looks beautiful and is about the simplest dessert you can make and it tastes so darn lemony.  I made it up when I was in a pinch.  Here's how:  Buy a box mix for lemon bars.  I like the Krusteaz kind, but whatever kind the grocery store has is fine.  Make the crust as directed, but put it in a pretty tart pan with fluted edges or a pretty pie dish instead of in a square or rectangular pan.  Now for the filling.  Make it as directed, except instead of the water it asks you to add, use half water and half fresh lemon juice (or the stuff in the plastic squeezy lemon if that's all you've got).  If you really like lemon, use all lemon juice and no water--it'll be tart but that's how I love it.  Add in 1/2 cup shredded coconut, and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts (optional).  Bake as directed. When mostly cooled, sprinkled powdered sugar over the top by putting it into a sieve and shaking that over the tart.  It looks like a very fancy lemon tart, yet it only took you 5 minutes to put together!

Two minute frozen lemonade (my recipe!): Blend together in a blender until silky smooth- 2 cups ice cubes, 1/2 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, 1/2 cup clear soda (sprite, sierra mist, 7 up, or whatever).  Garnish with a slice of lemon or a lemon-slice-shaped candy, and serve immediately with a straw.  Makes one tall 16 oz serving.  Pictured here. You could add one drop of yellow food coloring before blending if you really wanted to.

My grandma's amazing lemonade: My grandma, Hester Dieter, was an amazing cook.  (She was also an amazing cake maker, secretary, member of the Navy Waves, Sunday school teacher, mom, and grandma) and this is her recipe.  This is REALLY GOOD stuff.  It's pretty concentrated, so when the ice all melts, you'll still have lots of flavor.
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
4 lemon RINDS, cut into pieces
Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Boil about 7 minutes.  Pour it all into a large (one gallon) pitcher.  Add to the pitcher 2 cups of lemon juice (about 4 cubes of lemon juice made in an ice cube tray).  Add  8 cups of ice water. Serve over more ice. Remove the rind pieces if you are going to store it overnight.

Pitcher of Pampered Chef's Lemon Drop Martinis: I had one of these at a Pampered Chef party and probably bought more kitchen gadgets than I should have because of it.  Deeelish!  This recipe makes about 15 servings.
2 (12 oz) cans frozen lemonade concentrate
24 ounces citrus vodka
1 cup sugar
juice of 4 lemons
15 lemon heads
Mix all ingredients except the ice and the lemon heads.  Put ice into the glasses and one lemon head into each glass. Pour over, then serve immediately.

My mom's lemon bars: These taste like home to me. Yuuuummmm.  Not sure where she got the recipe.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Mix with a fork to make into a pie crust and press into an 8 x 8 pan.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
1 cup sugar
4 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3 T flour
Mix together and pour over the crust.  Bake for 20 mins at 350.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar while still a little warm.  Easier to cut into bars when cool.  Makes 9 bars.

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