Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Recipe of the week

Food or the sharing of food is a big part of our family. It is a major component in family tradition. Not that the food is the tradition, but the tradition somehow seems to conjure up memories of a particular food. My mom was a "foodie" before the term even came into existence. One of my fondest memories as a young girl/teen was helping my mother bake 12 loaves of bread a week for our family. She would do it on Fridays and the baking would go well into the evening. I started at about 7 years old, greasing all the bread pans and collecting all the ingredients. I eventually graduated to mixing the flour and finally got to turn out the dough and mix by hand. I remember the first time I got my hands into the dough. There was something amazingly therapeutic about mixing and kneading dough by hand. To this day, even with the invention of bread makers and mixers that knead, I still prefer to do it all by hand. What was my favorite part, no matter how old I got, was buttering all the tops of the loaves after they came out of the oven; and of course, since I helped from beginning to end, I got the first piece, cut while it was still warm, with butter melting on the tops and running down the slice! I think that's where I developed my addiction to carbs! It is not so much the act of making the bread that stands out in my mind, but the interaction with my mom. We had a large family and one-on-one moments were rare, but this was my moment. I remember her stories, rememberances of her mom and her grandmother; making bread, milking the cows; stories of her sisters and life on a farm. I wouldn't have heard those stories, had those memories to treasure, if it didn't involve the "chore" of making bread.

With my mother gone now for almost 5 years, my children and I really cherish those memories. She lives on in the messy pages of her pie cookbook, the one where the binding is literally in shreds and now sits in a Ziploc bag to hold it together; or the handwritten notes on the pages of her favorite cookbook, where she changed ingredients or even left notes in the corners to "remember" what worked or didnt work with the recipe. She was famous for her lemon meringue pie, with the meringue sometimes as high as 4" and perfectly brown. The lemon custard was sweet, but not overpowering. I still have yet to try it on my own, but I think this is the weekend I will finally do it.

Every week we will post a recipe, a family recipe. One of those recipes you make, that your mother made and her mother made. Today, in honor of Mom, we'll start with the lemon meringue pie. Enjoy!

Best-Ever Lemon Meringue Pie

Baked 9" shell
1-1/2 c sugar
1-1/3 c water
1/2 t salt
1/2 c cornstarch
1/3 c water
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 c lemon juice
3 T butter
1 t grated lemon peel
4 egg whites
1/4 t salt
1/2 c sugar

Combine sugar, 1-1/2 c water and salt in saucepan. Heat to boiling.

Mix cornstarch and 1/3 c water to make smooth paste; add to boiling mixture gradually, stirring constantly; cook until thick and clear. Remove from heat.

Combine egg yolks and lemon juice; stir into thickened mixture. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture bubbles again. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and lemon peel. Cover and cool until lukewarm.

For meringue: Add salt to egg white; beat until frothy. Gradually add 1/2 c sugar, beating until glossy peaks are formed. Stir 2 rounded tbs of meringue into lukewarm filling.

Pour filling into cool pie shell. Pile remaining meringue on top and spread lightly over filling, spreading evenly to edge of crust.

Bake in slow oven (325 degrees F) about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on rack at least 1 hour before cutting.

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