On last week’s show, Christine Moore revealed how she caught the bug to become a professional baker. She told Evan Kleiman she learned to peel apples and line tart shells at patisseries in Paris before returning to LA to work for Nancy Silverton. Now Moore owns three restaurants in Pasadena and it’s safe to say she has mastered the difficult art of making flaky, buttery pie crusts, tart shells and meringue pie tops. We tapped Moore for baking tips and a lemon meringue pie recipe ahead of KCRW’s “Good Food” pie contest, which she will once again judge on Sunday, October 2.
When asked what she looks for in a pie, Moore says she has just a few criteria, “a properly baked shell,” being the main one. “I want the most delicious apple pie. Period. Simple and well done.” The key to baking the perfect pie shell, she says, is to “keep it in the oven longer.” For fruit pies, “examine your undercrust and make sure that it’s properly placed in the oven and make sure that the bottom of your pie is properly cooked.” She tells her staff at Little Flower Candy Company, Lincoln and C’est la Vie to “bake like a French girl. Leave it in the oven.”
When it comes to the meringue, Moore says the trick is to dissolve the sugar in the oven for several minutes before mixing it into the egg whites. This will keep the meringue pie top fluffy with beautiful, glossy peaks.
CHRISTINE MOORE’S LEMON MERINGUE PIE
Yield: Makes one 10-inch pie
A half recipe of Pâte Brisée, chilled (recipe follows below)
2½ cups + 2 tbsps granulated sugar
5 tbsps cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
½ cup water
¼ tsp salt
6 large eggs, separated
½ cup + 2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps lemon zest
2 tsps unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
A 10-inch deep dish pie pan
Pie weights or dried beans
Non-stick pan spray
A heat-resistant silicone spatula
Coat your pie pan lightly with non-stick pan spray and set aside.
Prepare your dough: Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll your Pâte Brisée dough out until you have a 15-inch circle that is about ⅛-inch thick. Gently fold the dough in half and then into quarters to transfer the dough to the pie pan. Position the pointed corner of your folded dough in the center of the pie pan and unfold the dough, gently laying it into the pan. Now press the dough into the bottom surface of the pie pan and tuck the dough into the sides and edges of the pan to remove any air gaps. Fold any excess dough that hangs over the edges beneath itself so that you have clean edges. Flute the edge using your fingers to pinch a pattern all the way around. Transfer the brisée shell to the freezer and allow to chill for at least 1 hour before baking.
Blind bake the crust: Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Remove the chilled brisée shell from the freezer and place it on a sheet pan. Line the inside with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake the brisée shell for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust turns golden and opaque. Then remove the parchment paper and pie weights and return the brisée shell to the oven to continue baking uncovered until the bottom turns an opaque, light golden brown. Decrease the oven temperature to 350ºF.
Prepare the filling: Next, combine 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepot. Turn the heat to medium and whisk in ¾ cup milk and ½ cup water. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture continuously until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Reserve and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining ¼ cup of whole milk. Gradually pour ¼ cup of the hot cornstarch mixture into your egg yolk mixture and whisk to temper. Slowly whisk in the remaining cornstarch mixture until fully incorporated.
Return the mixture to your saucepot and turn the heat to medium. Whisk in lemon juice and zest and continue stirring until the mixture begins to simmer. Then whisk in the chilled butter cubes and remove from heat. You should now have a thick lemon custard mixture.
Bake the pie: Pour the lemon custard mixture into the blind baked brisée shell. Bake for 15 minutes at 350ºF, or until the custard sets. When ready, the filling should wobble but not wave. Reserve and set aside to cool.
Melt the sugar: Spread the remaining 1½ cups of sugar into an even layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Transfer the pan to the 350ºF oven to heat for 8 minutes.
Make the meringue: Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Continue whisking on medium speed until the egg whites turn frothy.
Remove the heated sugar from the oven. Pick up the parchment paper by its edges and carefully pour the heated sugar into the egg whites. Continue whisking on high speed for 15 minutes until the meringue reaches medium stiffness. At this point, the meringue should appear shiny and glossy. Decrease the mixer speed to medium-low and stabilize the meringue by whisking it for a minute longer.
Shape the meringue: Using a rubber spatula, top the lemon custard with the meringue. You can use the spatula to shape the meringue into nice peaks.
Toast the meringue: Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF. Transfer the lemon meringue pie to the oven and bake for 8 minutes or use a kitchen torch to toast the surface of the meringue.
PÂTE BRISÉE DOUGH
Pâte brisée dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days before it begins to oxidize and turn gray.
Yield: Make two 9-inch quiche or twelve 5-inch tarts
4½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps salt
1½ cups unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ¼-inch cubes
⅓ cup ice water, strained
Prepare the dough: Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, mix flour and salt on low speed in a large bowl. Gradually add in the butter and continue mixing for about 2 minutes until the mixture begins to form pea-size clumps. Then slowly drizzle in the ice water as needed. Stop adding water once the dough comes together, but continue mixing for 30 seconds longer. The dough should feel tacky and supple but not sticky.
Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Place ½ cup of flour in a small bowl to use as bench flour for sprinkling, if needed.
Work the dough: Begin by dipping the heel of your hand into the loose flour before flattening any remaining chunks of flour-coated butter you see in the dough. Use the heel of your hand to push and smear any butter chunks, working the dough away from you. This process will yield a flakier crust when the brisée bakes because the flattened butter between each layer of dough will create separate pockets of steam as the moisture evaporates. Be sure to work quickly so that the dough and butter will remain cold enough to form these thin layers and pockets.
Next, gather the dough and divide it evenly in half. Form each of the dough halves into a disk and wrap them in plastic wrap. Transfer the disks to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours, or until ready to use. This will allow the glutens to relax and prevent the dough from shrinking when it is rolled out.