Saturday, March 26, 2016

"The Original Betty's Pies Favorite Recipes" (Betty's Pies is located in Two Harbors, MN) - Lemon Angel Pie for "Pi" Day 2016

Date I made this recipe:  3/14/2016 – "Pi"  (Pie) Day

The Original Betty's Pies Favorite Recipes by Betty Lessard
Published by:  Lake Superior Port Cities, Inc.
ISBN: 0-942235-50-9; © 2011
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  Lemon Angel Pie – p. 43

Betty, Betty, Betty...Betty.  Sigh.  And no, I don't mean Betty Crocker, I mean Betty Lessard, she of the venerable Betty's Pies, located just north of Two Harbors, MN on Minnesota's famed "North Shore."

Betty is a legend in this state and no trip up the North Shore is complete without a stop at Betty's.  Factoid:  to drive along Minnesota's North Shore is to drive Highway 61 and yes, it's the same Highway 61 from the Hibbing, MN native Bob Dylan's song of the same name.

Now, this will likely shock and appall many of you but I was never a huge fan of Betty's Pies.

I know, right?  What am I saying? 

It's just that Betty's pies are okay, but not great.  I'm pretty sure though, that half the people who stop at Betty's do so because it breaks up the long-haul trip to Grand Marais, MN, which in turn is practically in O, Canada!

According to Betty's Pies website – – Betty started making baked goods to sell at her dad's fish shack in 1956 and by 1958, she converted the shack to Betty's Cafe.  In 1974, Betty changed the name to Betty's Pies and in 1984, she wisely sold the restaurant and retired.  Smart move, Betty!  (PS—Betty passed away in 2015 at age 90.)  Betty's Pies is still in business and still continues to crank out her pies which are now available online!

Another smart move was sharing her recipes in the form of this cookbook – The Original Betty's Pies Favorite Recipes – because as lovely as the drive up Highway 61 is, it's still a long haul and one I'm not making just to get my hands on a slice of blueberry heaven.  Estimated drive time is 2 hours to Duluth, turn right (!) and then drive about another hour or so until you get to Two Harbors.  If your final destination is the picturesque Grand Marais (a/k/a the best town along the "Scandinavian Riviera"), then tack on another hour and thirty minutes.

Now then, when this year's "Pi" (Pie) Day came along, I perused Betty's recipes and then quickly settled on the Lemon Angel Pie because it sounded refreshing during a somewhat harsh weather week (We went from 70 and sunny to 30 and freezing overnight.  Welcome, spring?).  Plus it was easy to make.  Or was it?

Betty (Betty, Betty, Betty...Betty), I appreciate the simplicity of this pie, I really do.  But I feel like you left a few things out.  Let's parse this recipe:

Step one is to beat the 4 egg whites well, add cream of tarter, then sugar and the "spread" this into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan.

If this concoction should have resembled something fluffy, ala meringue, this was a fail.  And I even had my egg whites warmed up to room temp just like a good baker should!  Oh, the humanity!  Anyway, I have a feeling that there was more to the "beat the 4 egg whites well" story than Betty let on.  My mixture never fluffed up to meringue consistency and I will never know if that was a good thing, a bad thing or the expected thing.

And I wouldn't go so far as to say that the concoction I got was "spreadable."  More like "pourable."

So I baked the crust as directed but the result, just so you know, was more like a Pavlova, i.e. a meringue cloud, rather than a tradition pie crust.  And apparently this is the result we wanted because as the book explains, "Lemon Angel Pie" is the name Betty gave to this dish that is traditionally referred to as "On a Cloud Pie."

And listen kids, it mattered not to me if I got a Pavlova rather than a pie crust but Betty's directions tell you ultimately to pour the lemon filling into a meringue "shell."  You will not get a "shell" by following the directions.  (And fair warning: when you don't get a "shell," it makes it all the harder to pour the lemon filling onto or into this thing.  Talk about a mess!)

The next set of directions to make the lemon filling also gave me pause:  "Beat the four egg yolks, add sugar and lemon juice, then cook over low heat until thick."

Well, okay, except that the mixture was already somewhat thick when I put in on the stove top.  And nowhere in the directions did it say how long to cook this mixture and what kind of "thick" consistency we were looking for so I spent a good deal of time stirring and stirring until – and this always seems to happen to me – it almost became too thick which is to say almost scrambled – blech!

The last step was to add whipped cream to the lemon mixture but again, Betty, how "whipped" did this cream need to be?

In conclusion:  the simplest set of instructions and ingredients proved to be a challenge.  Perhaps this is what Betty intended?:  "Oh sure, I'll give you the recipe but I'll fix it so you can't quite duplicate my masterpieces – bwahahahahahahahaha...."

Despite all these little cooking crises, the pie was great.  It was perhaps a tad too summery for a chilly March day, but Pi Day waits for no one. But if you want to wait to make it or eat it, the cookbook says that you can freeze this pie for another day.  Like maybe summer when it's hot and you just feel like having something refreshing. 

Last piece of advice:  the meringue will start to break down the longer it sits so if you and your loved ones cannot demolish this pie in one to two sittings, consider freezing it.

Lemon Angel Pie – makes 1 9-inch pie
Meringue Crust
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

4 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 275F.  Grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate.

Beat the 4 egg whites well.  Add cream of tarter.  Gradually add sugar in 2-tablespoon increments until the full cup (one cup) has been added.  Spread (or pour!) into bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch pie pan and bake at 275 for 1 hour.  Cool.

Beat the 4 egg yolks and stir in ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.  Cook over low heat until thick.  Cool.  Ann's Note:  this seemed to take longer than intended because I wasn't sure how "thick" was thick!  I'm thinking that my total elapsed time was 5-10 minutes but don't quote me on that!

Whip 1 cup cream and add to the above custard.  Pour into the meringue shell and chill at least 2 hours.

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