Friday, April 12, 2013

A Cloud of Lemon

I have to confess:  I'd never tasted lemon chiffon pie before making this recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Under what rock was I living?

Biting into this pie... no, biting is too physical an action to describe the cool, melting sensation of this light, pillowy burst of lemon melting on your tongue... tasting this pie is like floating on an airy cloud. As you can see from the picture, most of the pie is a light lemon mousse, which tops a thin layer of tart and sweet lemon curd, all nestled in a thin, crunchy graham cracker crust.

Making this recipe wasn't too difficult, though it required several steps and resulted in a sink full of dirty bowls, saucepans, and spatulas. This isn't an everyday go-to kind of pie, but you don't need a culinary degree to put it together. And since it needs time to chill, you can definitely make it in advance. Think of it as something to top off a special dinner with friends. Otherwise, if it's just for you, you might end up polishing off the whole thing in one night.

Lemon Chiffon Pie

INGREDIENTS

CRUST
9 whole graham crackers
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

FILLING
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 tablespoons water
5 large eggs (2 whole, 3 separated)
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3/4 cup juice (4 lemons)
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, softened

INSTRUCTIONS


1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Process graham crackers in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds (you should have about 1¼ cups crumbs). Add sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add melted butter and pulse until mixture resembles wet sand.


2. Transfer crumbs to 9-inch pie plate. Press crumbs evenly into bottom and up sides of plate. Bake until crust is lightly browned, 15 to 18 minutes. Allow crust to cool completely.


3. FOR THE FILLING: Sprinkle ½ teaspoon gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in small bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Repeat with second small bowl, remaining ½ teaspoon gelatin, and remaining 2 tablespoons water.


4. Whisk 2 eggs and 3 yolks together in medium saucepan until thoroughly combined. Whisk in 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt until well combined. Whisk in lemon zest and juice and heavy cream. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and slightly translucent, 4 to 5 minutes (mixture should register 170 degrees). Stir in 1 water-gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove pan from heat and let stand for 2 minutes.


5. Remove 1¼ cups curd from pan and pour through fine-mesh strainer set in bowl. Transfer strained curd to prepared pie shell (do not wash out strainer or bowl). Place filled pie shell in freezer. Add remaining water-gelatin mixture and cream cheese to remaining curd in pan and whisk to combine. (If cream cheese does not melt, briefly return pan to low heat.) Pour through strainer into now-empty bowl.


6. Using stand mixer, whip 3 egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and slowly add remaining ¼ cup sugar. Continue whipping until whites are stiff and glossy, about 4 minutes. Add curd–cream cheese mixture and whip on medium speed until few streaks remain, about 30 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and, using spatula, scrape sides of bowl and stir mixture until no streaks remain. Remove pie shell from freezer and carefully pour chiffon over curd, allowing chiffon to mound slightly in center. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.

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