Lemon Meringue Pie is a classic. The tangy, citrus filling. The airy, sweet meringue. There's a lot to like. And as a beautiful, 9 inch pie, it can make a stunning appearance as dessert.
But it doesn't work so well for something like appetizers, or a small bites party. Are we left to go without when we want something small? I say no! With a little bit of ingenuity your favorite can be turned into something just as yummy, just as sweetly, tartly satisfying, and perhaps just a little bit more cute. Want to know how to make some mini lemon meringue pies? Read on!
Step 1: What You Need
A Pile of Cream Puff Shells
(I used the amount from a typical one batch recipe)
For the Lemon Curd:
6 Egg yolks
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
For the Meringue Topping:
4 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp cream of Tartar
1 Tbsp Water
A pinch of salt
A pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
Step 2: Prep the Shells
Turning the cream puffs into pie shells is a super easy process. Start by cutting a slim slice off the top to reveal the hollow depths inside. Often there are some thin, membrane-like pieces of dough in the center, which will take up filling space and make filling difficult if you don't remove them. Just grab them and pull them out. Once you've done this to all your shells you can place them all on a baking sheet, ready for lemony goodness.
You'll be left with a pile of tops and innards, (if you don't eat them in the process of removing them, that is). I was planning on using mine for a trifle, or parfaits. I still think it would be a good idea, actually. But somehow I didn't convey this to my mom, who fed them to the chickens. Tis a sad thing indeed. I'm left to try that another day.
Step 3: Start Working With the Eggs
This recipe calls for separating eggs, which I like to do by passing the yolk back and forth between the two shell halves, letting the white fall to a bowl below. This doesn't really make good picture taking, because I haven't yet found a way to have a shell in one hand, another shell in the other, and somehow press the button on my camera. So you have a picture with a yolk in the shell, and you'll have to imagine the rest.
The important part of egg separating is not getting yolk in the whites, or they won't whip. You'll need 6 yolks and 4 whites, divided and ready for the next step. Yeah, I know, I hate having extra's left over. But it's either that or having way to much meringue or too little curd, so we'll have to live with it. When I made the recipe, I had some shells with no lemon and only meringue. They were ok, but we are talking lemon meringue pie here.
To the yolks add the sugar and salt, and beat with a whisk (or fork, if you don't feel like washing your dirty whisk :P) until the egg yolks lighten in color.
Step 4: Finishing the Curd
Add the lemon juice and butter to a pan. Heat on low until butter is melted. Temper some of this buttery lemon juice into the yolks by slowly drizzling some of it in while whisking, and then switch the process and poor the yolk mixture back into the pan and the rest of the lemon juice while whisking. On medium heat cook, stirring continually, until it just starts to bubble and gets thick enough to coat a piece of silverware nicely. Poor the lemon curd into a container to cool.
Step 5: The Meringue
Now onto the egg whites. Add the cream of tartar and water, and grab a whisk and start beating it together. Once this gets very foamy, add the salt and nutmeg. As you continue to whisk you can slowly start adding the sugar, a little at a time. In a little bit you should have a thick, glossy mixture that holds stiff peaks, and you can finish it off with the vanilla. In the last picture you can see how thick the meringue is and how the swirls hold their shapes after I stop whisking.
Step 6: Assembly Time
Time to combine the yummy stuff! Divide the lemon curd evenly between the cream puffs, filling them about 1/2 to 2/3rds full. Then top each one with a generous dollop of meringue. I wanted my little pies to still have those classic peaks, and found a fork lightly poked over the top help creates those swirls that go so hand in hand with lemon meringue pie.
Step 7: Bake
Your tray of pies go into a 350 °F oven for about 15 minutes or until they get brown on top. After they are done, allow them to chill. They really are much better cold.
Step 8: Enjoy!
Pile them all onto a tray, (minus the few you had to try, for quality control, of course) and be quite happy knowing that lemon meringue pie can quite easily be made into a tiny bite perfect for almost any party. Maybe it's a cream puff, maybe it's a pie. But whatever it is, it's delicious. I hope you enjoy!