Lemon Icebox Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream PieOver the years, I've made quite a few lemon pies and tarts, trying to make the perfect lemon pie, but none have made it onto this blog, except for a lemon cream cheese tart in a shortbread crust.  The tart was wonderful, but still a little more complicated than what I was aiming for in an "everyday" lemon pie...

I've futzed around with stove-top-thickened custards, which are then baked in the crust, but which tend to crack while cooling, not to mention the twice-cooking method is just too many steps.  I've cooked rich lemon curds which are lightened up a bit with whipped cream, and while I love lemon curd, you have to make a whole lot of it to sufficiently fill a pie crust.  And in my years of research, I think the most bizarre recipe I saw was one that called for blending all the filling ingredients (including whole lemons) in the blender - I can't imagine blending up the seeds and all that bitter pith into the pie filling.

This lemon icebox pie, though, is exactly what I've been wanting - a pie that mixes up easily and bakes quickly, then sets up to a perfectly tart, sweet and creamy lemon filling when chilled.  Icebox pies are nothing new - I'm sure all our grandmothers had their own tried and true recipes - and the lemon icebox pie is very similar to the ingredients and cooking method of a key lime pie, which basically cooks itself in a very short amount of time due to the reaction of the acidic juice combined with the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks.  I upped the lemony goodness in mine with plenty of fresh lemon zest, and added a few more egg yolks for extra richness and a bit of sour cream to cut the sweetness of the condensed milk.




Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie




Since you are only using the egg yolks for the filling, you'll have six whites leftover which you can certainly whip into a meringue topping, if you like.  However, I've said it before that I greatly dislike meringue, so I save the whites to add to scrambled eggs (or to whip up a white cake) and top my pies with lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream.  There's nothing better than real whipped cream to top a cream pie.

When I was 24 and completing my third year living in China while teaching English at a tech university there, I had a coworker and friend from the UK who used to talk about how much he missed his mom's lemon meringue pie.  Anyone who has ever lived overseas for an extended amount of time can relate to how much you miss certain things from your home country - family Christmas get-togethers were at the top of my list, along with my mom's homemade pound cake, shoes that weren't just made for Chinese women's tiny feet, and good cheese and peanut butter that didn't cost a month's salary at the foreign specialty markets.

So, one weekend I decided to surprise him and a few other friends with a homemade lemon meringue pie.  I wasn't much of a baker at that point in my life, but I found a recipe online that I followed, and strained the muscles in my arm whipping meringue by hand since I didn't have a mixer.  The resulting pie was so pretty, and I was so proud of what I'd made.  And then he let it sit in his refrigerator, untouched, for over a week, until the meringue looked sad, wet and droopy, and the pie had certainly spoiled.  He said he was "saving it", but I was so hurt and angry that all my effort had been wasted trying to make something nice and familiar for a friend who didn't understand that a pie was meant to be eaten and enjoyed right away, and that a cream pie, especially a meringue-topped one, certainly doesn't improve with age.  Even 15 years later, the memory still irks me.

Fortunately, I come from a family who suffers no such inhibitions about enjoying their dessert, and a pie like this would be unlikely to last more than a day in our house.  After all, there's no shame in eating a piece directly from the pie pan with a spoon, after everyone else has gone to bed.





Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Icebox Pie, Lemon Pie, Lemon Cream Pie





Lemon Icebox Pie
printable

Crust.
  • 1 1/2 cups finely crushed graham crackers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Filling.
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 large lemons or 7-8 small lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
Topping.
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Crust.
Preheat the oven to 325.  Combine the graham crackers and salt, then drizzle with the melted butter and use a fork to combine until all the crumbs are moistened.  Press evenly against the bottom and up the sides of a deep-dish pie pan.  Bake for 8 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly while you make the filling.

Filling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest and egg yolks for one minute.  Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and the sour cream until smooth.  Carefully pour the filling into the crust.  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes; the filling should appear set around the edges and wobbly in the center, but it will set up as it chills.  Let cool on the counter for about an hour, then refrigerate uncovered overnight.

Before serving, whip the cream with the powdered sugar to top the pie.  Garnish with fresh lemon slices or lemon peel.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

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