Never-Fail Pie Crust, As Seen In A Lemon Meringue Pie

Pen and Palate Lemon Meringue Pie

illustration: tram nguyen


As a kid, I was the worst kind of food snob. My palate was not exactly sophisticated – when my mom was cooking, I was always begging for buttered noodles and cereal – but my capacity for judging other people’s dining habits was limitless. Eating dinner at friends’ houses, I’d turn my nose up at TV dinners before greedily scarfing them down. I’d smile pityingly at moms who served store-bought birthday cakes at parties before, obviously, vying for the piece with the most icing. I was especially unforgiving on the subject of pre-made pie crusts. Boxed cakes and brownies, at least, usually tasted pretty good. But store-bought pie crusts never came close to the real thing. At best, they were stale and chalky. At worst, they were cookies or graham crackers masquerading as crusts, dressed up all pie-ish in a circular little tin in the cookie section of the grocery store.

Part of the reason for my precociously unforgiving palate, obviously, is that I was an enormous brat with no concept of the difficulties of being a working parent. The other part probably has to do with the fact that I come from a long line of excellent bakers, and thus was also tremendously spoiled in this department. My mother is basically a non-practicing professional cake-maker at this point, having made not one wedding cake but two – including her own – along with innumerable birthday cakes, thousands of celebratory cupcakes, the occasional experimental fondant creation, and pies for every season. My grandmother, great-grandmother, aunts, and great-aunts, all prolific bakers and cooks, have cumulatively passed along hundreds of tips and recipes; even my grandfather made two wedding cakes.

Until recently, I had limited my baking activities pretty strictly to cake. I’ve worked at a few bakeries over the years, so I (sort of) know the drill, and the kind of pie I was most interested in making – lemon meringue, a childhood favorite – also appeared rather complicated. And let’s be real. I was a little bit nervous. Making pie crust seemed kind of hard? And I had spent my entire life smirking gleefully at people so inferior they dared buy their crusts from the grocery store shelves. It would be pretty embarrassing to have to admit myself, at long last, to the ranks of America’s low-class pastry frauds.

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