Once May arrives, all of a sudden it's late spring. Freak snowstorms are a thing of the past (hopefully), we are drawn outside more and more with less and less layers of clothing, I am looking forward to the day swim pools open for the summer season, and CSA's begin their first weeks of deliveries with a lot of greens.
On the last day of April, after waking to a few inches of blinding white snow, I helped put together a baby shower for a dear friend. I made my grandmother's lemon meringue pie in miniature portions. It's a pie that is dear to my heart, a staple at our family's Thanksgiving celebrations. It's a task not given to just anyone. Only the most experienced and attentive in the family are allowed to provide granny's lemon meringue, which is why I've never done it and this was my first time making anything like it on my own. I may have to submit my name into the lemon meringue lottery this year though, I think I did a pretty good job even if it wasn't exactly like hers.
I made mini versions with phyllo dough for the crust. They were sweet, dainty, and I loved the light crisp texture the phyllo dough added, although I would suggest a good butter crust instead. The phyllo crusts got a little soggy after an hour or two.
mini lemon meringue pies in phyllo cups
1 package phyllo dough, thawed in refrigerator overnight
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups natural cane sugar
6 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 - 2 drops lemon oil
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
5 Tablespoons natural cane sugar
drop of vanilla
for the crusts:
Lay out phyllo dough onto a cutting board, cover with plastic wrap, then a damp towel. Roll the towel back far enough and cut the phyllo dough into squares big enough to fill your mini muffin cup. I cut it along the shorter length first, then cut that into thirds.
You can brush each layer with butter, or like I did just stick the dough in the muffin cup a few layers at a time, then fill with a mini square of parchment and a few dried beans.
Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for about 5-8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove parchment and beans, allow to cool completely on a baking sheet.
for the filling:
Bring 1 cup of the milk to a low boil over medium low heat until bubbles begin to form along the sides, just to scald. Remove from heat.
In a separate bowl sift the sugar, flour and salt, then add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Beat the egg yolks, then add them to the flour mixture.
While whisking the scalded milk, add this flour egg yolk mixture to the scalded milk. Don't stop whisking. Put it back onto the heat, and whisk continually until thickened.
Add the lemon juice and lemon oil, then continue to whisk until thick again.
Pour into another bowl, and allow to come to room temperature. After it's cooled down, you can stop at this step, put some plastic wrap over the top of the pudding, pressing it onto its top, and assemble the pies the next day.
for the meringue:
With a hand beater on medium high speed, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Add the cream of tartar and sugar, beating until stiff peaks form (it can hold its shape well).
Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit.
Spoon a bit of lemon pudding into the prebaked phyllo crusts, followed by a dallop of meringue. Bake for 5 minutes or so, until the meringue is nicely browned. Be careful not to let it burn!
People say meringues are infamously difficult. Just give it a try without distraction or a time commitment, (and maybe with a veteran meringue maker's # available) I promise it will be beautiful. If you don't have such a resource, email me. not that I'm a veteran..