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Friday, March 6, 2009

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies (the so-called Pie-lets)

This is a bit of a tardy post, I actually made these mini lemon meringue pies as a Christmas present for my godfather (lemon meringue is his favorite, but my godmother doesn't make it anymore).

This is a time-saving recipe, not completely from scratch, but you can't tell by taste. And the best part is, you can adapt this for other pies. But more about that later...


-- ~12 mini pie crusts. I found mine pre-made at my local orchard's store, your local supoermarket might have them as well. If not, there are 2 options: 1) get some refrigerated pie crust and mini aluminum plates and make your own by cutting the refrigerated dough in about 4-inch circles; or 2) use the mini Keebler graham cracker shells.Using the graham cracker shells with cooked pudding is supposedly a no-no because the crumbs get soggy, but honestly it'll still taste great.
-- a box of cooked lemon pudding (not instant) plus the specified ingredients on the box (sorry, I don't remember off the top of my head). Royal is a good brand. OR, if you have time, a good recipe for from-scratch cooked lemon pudding plus necessary ingredients (Alton has a great one here). Honestly, though, from-the-box pudding is very tasty, I'm not sure it is worth the effort to make it from scratch...
-- 4 egg whites
-- 2 tbls sugar
-- cream of tartar


1. The first step is to blind-bake the crusts (if you have dough crusts). If you want to put graham cracker crusts in the oven, that is up to you. It will make them taste good, but be sure to watch them carefully.
  • Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork.
  • Normally you would cover it with aluminum or a second pie plate and weight it with dry beans or ceramic pie weights, but I didn't bother with weighing them down because the crusts were so small.
  • Bake at 425F until golden in color. This will depend on the size of your crusts, so keep watch. My little guys took about 6 minutes.
  • Cool completely before filling.
2. Cook the pudding according to the box or recipe instructions.

3. When the pudding is done, take it off the heat and put it on a trivet while you whip the eggs. This won't take more than a few minutes, so don't worry about a film forming over the pudding

4. Combine the egg whites, sugar and a pinch of cream-of-tartar, and whip in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, probably less than 2 minutes.

5. At this point, put pudding into each crust, but leave a little room at the top, because the meringue will displace some pudding.

6. Cover the pudding with meringue, making sure that the meringue contacts the crust all the way around, and that there is a good seal. Meringue shrinks when baking, so this is very important so that your meringue doesn't shrink smaller than the circumference of your pies! I normally use a butter knife to get the characteristic meringue peaks -- just touch the flat side of the knife to the meringue and pull straight away.

7. Put the pies in the oven at 375F, and watch for the meringue to turn golden (keep an eye on the peaks so they don't burn).

I adapted this technique from a regular lemon meringue pie, so it goes without saying that you can do everything in a single 9-inch crust, and have a normal sized pie.

I haven't done it yet, but this little pie-let technique would work well for any single-crust pie (you could do a double crust pie too, but it would not be quite as easy because you would have to cut and fit a top crust). Pumpkin, pecan, and dutch apple pies leap to mind as potential future pie-lets. Oh, and of course the cream pies: chocolate, coconut, banana, etc.

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