If you liked my Key Lime Pie, you will probably love this Lemon Cream Pie. After all, it is the exact same formula but using limes instead of lemons. When I went in search of a great Lemon Pie, I thought that I would come up with something a bit different. Because, different is good, right? But what I ended up doing was tweaking a few fancy recipes right back to the key lime formula. I substituted whipped cream for the meringue. I added zest. I doubled the filling. I decided that I don’t like strawberries on top of my lemon pie. I ended up right smack dab where I wanted to be all along…key lime pie but with lemons instead of limes. So here we are. If you haven’t had the pleasure…you need to make the key lime, too. They are both, in the words of my daughter Lily, “totally awesome.” There is nothing fancy going on here. They are just plain awesome.
9 full sized graham crackers
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 6 large lemons)
1 cup lemon juice
8 large egg yolks
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the graham crackers and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until it is the consistency of chunky sand. Add the melted butter and pulse several times until the butter is mixed in with the crumbs.
Spray a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray. Put the buttered crumbs into the pie plate and gently distribute them around the plate with your hands. Then, using the flat bottom of a measuring cup, tamp down the crumbs in the bottom of the plate. Using the side of the measuring cup, gently but firmly push the crumbs against the side of the plate. Use your finger along the top of the rim to gently form a ledge as you go around with the measuring cup. Make sure that the crust goes all the way up to the top of the plate to ensure that you have enough room for the filling. Of course, you can do all this with your hands, but using the measuring cup, or another small cup, will give you a nice smooth crust.
Meanwhile, begin to make the filling. Using a rasp or other small grater, zest the lemons. Then cut the lemons and juice them. You want approximately 8 teaspoons of zest and approximately 1 cup of juice. Rest assured that the pie will still be delicious if you only get ¾ cup of juice or 6 teaspoons of zest. No need to run to the store again.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the 8 egg yolks with the lemon zest until the eggs have lightened a bit in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sweetened condensed milk and whisk it into the egg mixture. Finally, slowly add the lemon juice and mix it in as you go. Set the filling aside for about 5 minutes to thicken up a bit.
When the crust has cooled and the filling has thickened a bit, gently pour the filling into the crust. You may have a tiny bit of filling left over.
Place the pie back into the oven and allow it to bake for approximately 15 minutes. Bake until the pie is set, but still slightly wiggly in the center. Remove the pie from the oven and cool to room temperature and then place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours to chill.
Before serving, place a medium mixing bowl and your electric mixer beater attachments and whisk in the refrigerator to cool. Pour cold heavy whipping cream into the bowl along with the sugar and using your electric mixer or whisk, beat the cream until soft peaks form. If using an electric mixer, stop at this point and finish the cream with a whisk. Whisk until firm peaks form. Spread the whipped cream onto the pie and serve.
[Lily's new Harry Potter Legos are hard to work around. But, it is amazing what you can cut out of a frame using a 100mm macro lens. You would be shocked at how much chaos lies right outside most of my photos.]
Whipping cream can be tricky. If you beat it too long with an electric mixer you can go overboard very quickly and end up with bumpy separated looking whipped cream. There is nothing wrong with it, it is just unsightly. For creamy whipped cream, you need to stop the second the strong peaks form or risk lumpy looking cream.
I take my lessons on the matter from Cook’s Illustrated. They say cold bowl, granulated sugar, and stop and use a whisk at soft peaks. I also like using confectioners’ sugar. But CI tells me that you have to use twice the volume for the same sweetness. So this time I used granulated. If it makes you feel any better, I made lumpy whipped cream just last week. It happens. And you should also know that I did not throw it out and start over. I served it proudly knowing that no one sitting at my table would know the difference, and they would be irritated if they saw me dumping almost-perfectly-awesome whipped cream in the garbage to make them wait another 30 minutes while I ran to the store and re-whipped the cream. If it had been a State Fair of Texas situation…well maybe. But, let us all remember that pie is about love and smiles and not failure and frustration, so be nice to yourself.
Finally, this crust is slightly different from my key lime pie crust. This one has 2 fewer grahams and a little more sugar. I really like this formula. It yields a very well behaved crust.