Blind-baking is a technique that comes in handy, especially when you're prepping ahead for a dinner party. Just remember: It shrinks the shell, so you should make sure that the dough is extremely chilled and that the pie weights are distributed evenly along the bottom and sides of the plate.
With this confection, summer comes in the form of a pillowy custard lemon verbena cream filling topped with a showstopping toasted meringue. Lemon verbena leaves are floral and grassy to the nose, while earthy undertones of thyme and rosemary give depth to the overall flavor and harmonize well with the cream, lending an elegant note to your dessert.
Fresh, tart raspberries balance the sweetness, and cooking them into a compote ensures that with each bite, there is a proper ratio of raspberry to cream. The whole berries offer a pleasing textural surprise and give the pie a little extra substance.
To learn more, read "TT: Culinary Institute: Pie."
Lemon Verbena and Raspberry Meringue Pie
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling and cooling time
Cook Time: 30 to 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes, plus chilling and cooling time
For the Piecrust:
1 chilled pie dough disc, rolled into a 13-inch-diameter circle
1 tablespoon whole milk, for brushing
1 to 2 teaspoons white sugar, for dusting
For the Lemon Verbena Cream:
2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons, whole milk
3 cups fresh lemon verbena leaves (2 to 3 bunches)
½ cup rosemary leaves (3 to 4 sprigs)
¼ cup thyme leaves (3 to 4 sprigs)
5 to 7 lemon peel strips from 1 lemon, removed using a vegetable peeler
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (½ lemon)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
For the Meringue:
2 egg whites
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch cream of tartar
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
For the Assembly:
4 cups fresh raspberries
1. Transfer the chilled, rolled-out pie dough to a pie plate. Let the crust hang over the edge by ¾ inch. Roll the overhang under itself to create a cylinder wall and crimp. Use the index finger of one hand to push the dough between the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand to form a U shape. Continue around the pie plate until the entire crust is crimped. Freeze until very firm, 30 to 40 minutes.
2. While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 425° and make a foil ring cover: Tear a 12-inch piece of aluminum foil and use a pair of scissors to cut the center into a circle. Bend the foil and round the edges, creating a 2-inch-wide ring, and set aside. Tear a large piece of foil, large enough to cover the surface and sides of the piecrust, and set aside with 2½ to 3 cups of pie weights or dry beans.
3. Remove the fully chilled dough from the freezer and prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork to prevent puffing during baking. Brush the crimped edges with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Line the bottom and sides of the pie with the prepared foil piece and fill with pie weights or beans, making sure they cover the inside edges. Bake the pie until the crimped edges turn golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil and the pie weights. Cover the golden edges with the prepared foil ring, return to the oven and bake until the pie dries out and the bottom and sides are golden brown, 10 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.
4. While the piecrust is cooling, make the lemon verbena cream: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a low boil and remove from heat. Add the lemon verbena leaves, herbs, lemon peels and ¼ cup of the sugar, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside and steep for 30 minutes. Strain the steeped lemon verbena milk into a medium bowl through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the herbs. Return the milk to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and cornstarch, and set aside. Simultaneously whisk the egg yolk mixture and gradually add about 2 cups of the hot milk into it to temper. Pour the milk-egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring with a heatproof rubber spatula, until the mixture is a thick and pudding-like consistency, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and salt, and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and let sit for 2 minutes. Whisk in the cold butter and chill in the fridge until set, about 2 hours. Makes 2 cups cream pie filling. Make ahead: The lemon verbena cream can be made, covered and chilled up to 2 days in advance.
6. Make the meringue: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 inches of water to a simmer.
7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and sugar. Set the bowl of whites over the simmering water and whisk until the egg whites are foamy and warm to the touch, 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, wipe the outside bottom of the bowl and attach it to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the lemon juice and whip on low speed for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium high and continue to whip until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 7 minutes. Makes 2 cups of meringue. Make ahead: The meringue base can be made, covered and chilled for up to 3 hours in advance.
8. Assemble the pie: Pick through the raspberries and set aside 2 cups of whole, firm berries. In a small bowl, mash the remaining raspberries to a compote and set aside.
9. Whisk the cold custard to loosen and pour 1 cup into the bottom of the cooled prebaked pie shell. Spoon the raspberry compote on top in a single layer, and spread the remaining custard over top. Cover with the whole raspberries. The assembled pie can be made, covered and chilled in the fridge for up to 3 hours in advance. To serve, spread the meringue over the raspberries using a rubber spatula. Use a blowtorch to toast the meringue until lightly charred in some spots.
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