Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Molly Goldberg's Lemon Meringue Pie

I've started work on my very exciting assignment to write about The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook for Repast, the newsletter of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor.  I'm doing research to place the work into its historical context among other Jewish cookbooks.  And I'm watching DVDs of the "The Goldbergs" - the t.v. show featuring the character of Molly - to get a feel for the Goldberg family whose matriarch is the "author" I'll be writing about.

I'm also making some recipes from the cookbook.  As they say, "It's a tough job ...."

In its earlier episodes, The Goldbergs began with the exceptionally friendly (and somewhat meddlesome, but in a kind-hearted way) Molly calling out, "Yoo hoo" - a phrase which caught on with viewers who then called that out to their friends and neighbors, as well, when greeting each other.

In later seasons, though, the show's opening was changed to feature this introduction:

"There she is, folks - that's Molly Goldberg, a woman with a place in every heart and a finger in every pie."

So, of course, when perusing the cookbook and trying to determine what to sample from it, it only made sense to bake a pie.  And what better option than the Lemon Meringue Pie that Molly herself was so proud of?

"This pie is my specialty.  Not by me, but by Simon.  When My Rich Cousin was just struggling, he used to eat with us, and his favorite dessert was this pie.  He said that if he ever got rich he would have a cook and the only thing the cook had to know was how to make this pie.  So when Simon got rich he hired a cook and he had her make a lemon meringue pie.  It didn't turn out so so-so, and he sent the cook to me for lessons.  I showed her this recipe and she's been with Simon for fifteen years now, and would you believe it, Simon still says mine is better.  It's the exact same recipe as this one.  Some people are just stubborn.  The Passover lemon filling is so good that I use a pastry crust the rest of the year with the same filling."

Since it isn't Passover, I decided to simply use a standard pie crust rather than the matzah meal crust that the recipe gives instructions for.  But the filling really is so good that this could definitely overcome the very bad reputation that Passover desserts have!  (The prohibition against leavened products has traditionally led to very heavy, dense dishes that are not known for their allure.)

The pie has a wonderfully vivid flavor, and the filling is almost pudding-like rather than being a somewhat translucent gel that seems to be more common now.  It's not a "mile high" pie as we've grown accustomed to these days, thanks to super-sizing and "kicking it up a notch"; it's just a simple dessert showcasing both the vibrancy of the lemon and the secret ingredients - love and care - with which Molly would have made the pie for her family.

The recipe isn't difficult to follow at all, but it presumes some knowledge of baking rather than giving very specific step-by-step instructions.  For example, there is no explanation of a critical technique specific to meringue pies: spreading the egg whites over the edge of the crust to keep the meringue from shrinking while the pie bakes.

Also, the recipe calls for 3 whole eggs in the filling and 3 egg whites for the meringue.  But in whisking the filling as it cooked, I found that it simply wasn't thickening.  I was tempted to add some cornstarch, but instead added the leftover yolks.  The filling set up very quickly after that, so I included the yolks in the recipe below even though that isn't precisely Molly's version.  (Don't think about your cholesterol levels, just enjoy the treat!)

This pie is very easy to make and is a really lovely dessert to brighten a cold, dreary winter day.  I'm tempted to say "Yoo hoo, Mrs. Goldberg!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe!"

Don't forget to read about my "Chopped" challenge: dare me to use ingredients you suggest, and I'll post about my creations!  Click here for the terms ....

 Lemon Meringue Pie (slightly adapted from The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook)

1 crust for a 9" pie

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
7/8 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
grated zest from 1 lemon

3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the crust into a 9" pie pan.  Line the crust with a sheet of foil and fill with dry beans to help the crust keep its shape and not shrink while pre-baking.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.  Remove foil and beans and set aside.

Prepare filling: Place 1" water into the bottom of a double boiler and set the double boiler onto a burner.  Bring water to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer.

Place the filling ingredients into the top of the double boiler and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens - 10 minutes or so.  When it's ready, the mixture will coat the back of a spoon: you can dip the spoon into the filling and run your finger through the coating, but the mixture won't seep back in to fill the space.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust and set aside while making the meringue.

Too thin - doesn't coat the spoon well, and the filling bleeds into the space

Perfect - filling is thickened and the space remains clear

Prepare meringue: Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl.  With an electric mixer, beat until the whites hold soft peaks.  Add the sugar slowly and continue beating until the whites hold stiff peaks.  Spread the meringue over the lemon filling, being sure that the meringue adheres to the crust or else the meringue will shrink and not cover the filling.  Bake for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden.

Let the pie cool to room temperature before serving.  Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 pie.


judee @ Gluten Free A-Z said...

I remember Molly Goldberg. I think my mother had one of her cookbooks. What a fun and interesting project .

Unknown said...

Haha.. Love the story about the cousin and the cook! Too funny!

I have a love hate relationship with lemon meringue pie. I love the lemon pie part, but I'm not always so keen on the meringue part. When I was a kid, I would just slide the meringue topping right off and just eat the lemon curd part! lol

Cranberry Morning said...

I really do not need to make pie this week, but Mary, lemon meringue is my favorite and hearing Molly Goldberg say, 'Yoo hoo' like my mom always did!! is really tempting me to make this dessert. :-) And besides, I'm not convinced that the eggs, which are so rich in Omega 3s are at all bad for us. I suspect that carbs are much more of a problem. IMHO, of course. ;-)

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