Lemon Sponge Pie
One of the very first pies that I ever made, I’ve been making lemon sponge pie for almost 15 years now and it is probably the first ever recipe I added to my permanent recipe repertoire that wasn’t one of my mother’s. Introduced to me by my former mother-in-law, it was one of my ex-husband’s favorite pies…with very good reason.
Not your typical pie, this employs the use of both lemon juice and zest and a meringue…but not as a topping. Folded into the batter right before baking, it gives the upper half of the pie a light airy texture that makes it a great summer dessert. Lemony, but not so much that it makes your lips pucker, each pie slice has a heavenly sponge like upper half before giving way to a refreshing lemony custard.
Let’s talk about lemon zest for a moment here, shall we? Please, please, please for the love of all that is tasty and right with the world, DO NOT buy your lemon zest from the store…no matter how much time it could possibly save you. Invest in a good zester, I recommend a Microplane, but trust me, the extra effort is well worth it. In my younger, more naive years, I committed this culinary faux pas and purchased my zest from the store…or rather, what I thought was zest but ended up being lemon peel. There is light years of difference here folks between the two. Instead of the sweet, lemony tones that I had come to expect from fresh zest, my resulting pie was bitter and pretty awful. It made for a hilarious exercise in “don’t insult the chef” etiquette as my poor family tried to eat it, but all frivolity aside, it was a sad moment in piedom.
Lemon zest caveats completed, this pie is pretty easy to assemble and bake. When pressed for time, I have used store purchased frozen pie crust, as I did this time. The filling does make more than a 9″ deep dish pie crust. I’ve found that my 9.5″ pie plate fits the amount of filling better, but baking the excess batter in ramekins to have the filling all to yourself isn’t a bad way to go either.
1 unbaked 9.5″ pie shell
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons flour
Dash of salt
1 1/4 cups milk
Lemon zest from 2 lemons
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, flour, salt, milk, lemon peel and lemon juice. In small bowl with clean beaters beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.
Gently fold whites into the first mixture. Pour mixture into pie shell.
Bake in 375 degree oven for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 45 minutes longer or until top is golden. A wooden pick inserted in center should come out clean. Cool lemon sponge pie on rack. Serve.
Note: Pie can keep up to 2 days, covered and refrigerated. I actually prefer it cold rather than room temperature.