And what treat do I go for first? The moist chocolate chip brownies? The strawberry creme layer cake? My aunt's crisp and colorful frosted sugar cookies? Oh of course these are all delicious, and I always fill my plate later, but the dessert I rush to dip my fork into first is the Lemon Meringue pie.
So when I saw this recipe, for "Lemon Icebox Pie" I knew I had to try it. All the flavor and zesty tang of my beloved lemon meringue without having to really master that whole toasted meringue tips part (for some reason that really intimidates me), and the "icebox" part really made it seem simple for some reason.
I gathered my ingredients at on the way home from work (though I'd told myself sternly on Sunday "NO COOKING UNTIL NEXT PAYCHECK" after spending $80 on groceries, whoops!). I bought pre-made crust, because I didn't want to spend too long on it as I had plans for a different baked good that evening as well.
I zested two lemons, carefully juiced them, mixed the cream into the juice, and whisked in the egg whites, even squirted some yellow food coloring into the mix to make it POP! in the future photographs I was imagining--all the while feeling very culinary indeed. I had a passing concern that there was no sugar in it. Strange, perhaps the topping is supposed to be super sweet, and the filling not so sweet, and it all balances out? I added a bit of confectioner's sugar. Couldn't hurt, right? I poured the batter into the crust and placed it in the oven.
It was at this moment that I re-read the recipe and realized that it had called for egg YOLKS, not egg WHITES. I panicked slightly--I was never good at the chemistry of baking, had I just made a terrible mistake? The cake remained liquid after the recommended ten minutes of cooking.
At THIS moment I noticed the two cans of sweetened condensed milk, unused, on the countertop. Snafu Numero Two. I had seen the phrase "add the milk" in the recipe and translated that to "add the cream" instead of adding the condensed milk. I took the pie out of the oven. It was all over.
I started in on my next project--flourless chocolate beet cupcakes--stealing longing looks at my sad little pie as I stirred.
And then an amazing thing happened: as I picked it up to throw it away I noticed it was at least 50% firmer than the milky mess I pulled out of the oven. Intriguing. Instead of the trash, I popped it in the fridge. By the time I had finished the chocolate cupcakes, the pie was nearly firm save for a half-dollar sized bit in the middle. I stuck my finger in it and took a tentative taste--tart, of course, but also a bit sweet, with the familiar whisper of lemon-meringue-middle.
|This angle is DRAMATIC.|
It needed topping. Something light and sweet to counter the overly tart center. Sadly, I needed the rest of the heavy cream (which was supposed to go on the topping not IN the pie, d'oh!) for the cupcakes. What's worse, it was now past 9:00 at night and I could no longer use any loud appliances because my parents were sleeping. WHAT TO DOOO?
So I called in the relief pitcher. Cool Whip. The go-to last-minute topping. The go-to topping for anything involving jell-o actually. It was definitely frozen, so I spooned it into a plastic bag, mushed it with my fingers, then cut off the tip of the bag and used it as a makeshift pastry bag. It worked kinda.
|I meant it to be lumpy, okay?|
I mustered up all my courage, poured a big glass of water, and took a slice. Slowly, I raised the fork to my lips, closed my eyes, and dove in.
No, really, not bad!
The graham cracker crust and Cool-Whip topping were sweet enough to balance the sour, tart lemon, and the pie filling had firmed to be that of just about any cold pie you'd find at a Fourth of July gathering. It was like the grown-up, less sugary version of my childhood favorite. And who knows, by eliminating the sweetened condensed milk, perhaps I saved some calories?
I'm still dead-set on trying to complete the actual Lemon Icebox Pie recipe this week, but I guess it goes to show that a total disaster of a recipe malfunction can actually turn out to be pretty tasty if given the chance. Who knows, maybe the Ugly Cookie gods are looking out for me!