you know how certain foods hold memories? you smell or taste something and are suddenly (and very vividly) transported to another time or place, far away from where you are now.
there are only a few smells and tastes that really do that to me: the smell of passion fruit on a hot day instantly takes me back to a summer i spent in jerusalem; one bite of my mom’s spaghetti sauce and i’m five years old being scolded for eating the noodles with my hands; the taste of sharp cheddar and best foods mayo on white bread sends me to the dock at my grandparent’s lake house where i’m goofing off with my cousins on a pine-scented pacific nw summer afternoon.
but the one that REALLY gets me is lemon meringue pie. one bite will immediately take me back to the kitchen in my childhood home: i can actually see the peach & blue wallpaper, western-inspired cabinets, white linoleum counters — i can even feel to the brown waffle-weave fabric of our kitchen bar stools on the back of my thighs.
besides my mother’s obvious 70’s decorating prowess, she sure can make a mean lemon meringue pie. i assure you i have not taken my attempt to recreate it lightly (if you were at that valentine’s day party a few years back you know what i’m talking about).
this is probably why i couldn’t resist raising the stakes on my lemon meringue game by infusing it with smith teamaker’s lord bergamot black tea. now along with the sharp silky lemon, buttery crust, & sweet pillowy meringue, you also get the toasty richness of ceylon, uva, and assam teas along with the fragrant, delicate notes of italian bergamot.
this pie is a bit technical, i will admit. it requires a bit of planning ahead, patience, and a really good instant read thermometer (i like this one). in order to achieve the ultimate flavor infusion, i decided to make an italian meringue. you can, by all means, substitute either a french or swiss meringue instead of the italian. you just won’t get that extra bit of tea-infused flavor. believe me, the lord bergamot lemon curd stands beautifully on its own (try making a few extra jars for holiday gifts!).
BUT if you’re up for the challenge, the tea-infused meringue is really incredible and absolutely worth the extra time and energy! perhaps you’re looking for a really delicious holiday pie to wow your friends and family with. this might just be the one — vintage wallpaper not included 😉
lord bergamot lemon meringue pie
lord bergamot lemon curd:
- single crust of spelt pâte sucrée, baked & cooled
- 1 1/2 c. extra-strong lord bergamot tea (5 t tea steeped in 1 1/2 c water for 10 minutes), divided into 1 c and 1/2 c portions
- 1 1/4 c sugar
- 1/3 c cornstarch
- the zest of one lemon
- 1/2 c lemon juice (from ~ 2 ripe lemons)
- 1/4 t salt
- 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten (reserve whites for meringue)
- 4 T unsalted butter
- in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring 1 cup of extra-strong tea, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice & salt to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula until thick and saucy.
- slowly add a few spoonfuls of the hot mixture to the egg yolks, whisking to incorporate. add a bit more, stir, and repeat until about half the mixture has been added, then add it all back in with the tea + sugar mixture. return to moderate heat for about 60 seconds, stirring constantly but make sure it does not boil.
- your mixture should be thick & shiny! remove it from the heat and add the butter & lemon zest, stirring until the butter is melted.
- if you’re picky, you can run the mixture through a sieve to eliminate any potential bits of cooked egg white, but i’m not usually too worried about it.
- pour hot mixture straight into the cooled pie shell and top with parchment, pressing out any air bubbles and forming a seal all the way across the surface of the curd. this will help your meringue stick later!
- place in the fridge and get started on the meringue!
lord bergamot meringue:
- remaining 1/2 c of strongly brewed lord bergamot tea
- 1 c sugar
- 4 reserved egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 t lemon juice or cream of tartar
- bring remaining 1/2 c of tea and sugar to a boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan without stirring. cook syrup until it reaches 240 F, occasionally wiping down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush (this will prevent sugar crystals from forming which will later cause the meringue to break down)
- while syrup is cooking, whip egg whites & lemon juice/cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until they reach the soft peak stage (here is a great visual guide to the stages of peaks!)
- once sugar is 240 F and egg whites are at the soft peak stage, carefully pour a very thin stream of the syrup into the whites with the mixer on medium speed. (hot sugar burns like hot oil, so be very careful!) this is the trickiest part — it does take a bit of finesse to pour the syrup in without it touching the beater and causing splattering. i have found that slow and steady is the key!
- once the syrup has all been added, increase the speed to medium high and beat until the mixture is thick and glossy, and at the stiff peak stage.
to assemble the pie:
- carefully remove the parchment from the surface of the pie. it *should* come free with little-to-no sticking.
- scoop the meringue onto the pie in five separate dollops. i like to put four around the edges and one at the center. spread the meringue across the filling, making sure it meets the edges and forms a seal all the way around. this will help to prevent shrinkage and other problems.
- use a small metal spatula to make a swirling design in the meringue, or alternately, you can use a pastry bag and pipe the meringue in a decorative design.
- place the pie under a hot broiler for 45-90 seconds (or use a kitchen torch) to brown and set the meringue*.
- chill the pie uncovered for thirty minutes to an hour prior to serving.
*note: because hot syrup is used in the meringue-making process, italian meringue does not require cooking and will set on its own over several hours. it is incredibly stable and will not weep! for the purposes of this pie, a toasted meringue is simply more attractive (and delicious!)
a note about sponsored content: this post has been sponsored by smith teamaker in an effort to collaborate with local food bloggers. i received product in exchange for creating this delicious recipe!