Lemon Chiffon Pie
23 June 2008

So the weather around here was cooler than normal today, and with a breeze, the mid-90s were not so bad. However, I still didn’t much feel like a hot pie, nor did I really want to turn the oven on any more than I absolutely had to.

My favourite (read: only) little helper was over today (this is the one who helped me with the cherry pie), so we looked through Ken Haedrich’s Pie to get some ideas. We decided on Lemon Chiffon. It’s different from anything I’ve made. Recently I’ve been making so many fruit pies because of all the fresh fruit that’s coming in season. I’ve made cream pies before, but never a chiffon pie. I was a little unsure of it too, since it requires folding egg whites in to a mixture and I dread folding.

Well the other problem we discovered was with gelatin. We are all vegetarian (Munchkin included) and while once in a while we’ll eat something with gelatin (Jello if it’s mixed with something, and also we do have Skittles on occasion), we’d prefer to not make the pie with gelatin (as the recipe asked). We went on a gelatin-substitute quest. Safeway didn’t have anything, but at the local health food store, we decided on agar agar. (Not just “agar”, I reminded Munchkin, but “agar agar”.)

Google and I teamed up and discovered the proper ways to convert gelatin measurements in a recipe to agar agar measurements. As it turns out though, preparation is not the same.

The recipe that follows is the ingredients, but not the order I prepared them it. This pie was pretty much a complete failure and a disaster for most of its life, but I was determined to salvage it. These are the steps I took, minus the failed steps, and in the proper order I feel they should’ve gone. We haven’t yet eaten the pie, but it seemed pretty well salvaged by the end…

Crust:
1 – 9 in graham cracker crust (I made this from scratch, but I will post the recipe later)

Filling:
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp agar agar

1/2 cup lemonade (we used Crystal Lite, I think)
1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh if possible, but the kind that comes in the lemon shaped bottle is good)
1/4 tsp lemon extract (pure, not imitation)
(yes, this is VERY lemon-y chiffon!)
3/4 cup + 1/3 cup sugar (separated–awkward measurements due to mistake making)
4 large* eggs, separated (Munchkin, regarding egg separation: “Does this mean put the brown eggs in one pile and the white eggs in another pile?”)
pinch of salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pour water in a small saucepan and add agar agar. Let this sit at room temperature during the next step to let it get soft.

In a medium-sized saucepan (non-stick if you have it!), whisk up lemonade, lemon juice, lemon extract, 3/4 cup sugar, egg yolks, and salt. Make sure it is thoroughly mixed before turning to medium heat. Cook over medium heat (do not boil!), stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to about the texture of thick cream.

If you can multi-task, bring agar agar to a boil now. Otherwise, take lemon mixture off heat before turning your attention to the agar agar. Boil and stir agar agar until dissolved. Agar agar dissolved in water around 185F. I had problems here, so I used a candy thermometer to make sure it go up to nearly 200F. Strain (to pull out any undissolved bits–if there is a lot of undissolved agar left, put it in the pan again with more water and boil) into lemon mixture. Stir well. Put this whole bit into a bowl and refrigerate about 1 hour. IT SHOULD THICKEN UP!

Towards the end of this hour, put egg whites in a large bowl. Blend until they peak (soft peaks). Beat in cream of tartar. Beat in 1/3 cup sugar until you get glossy, stiff-ish peaks. Beat in vanilla. This should not be quite as dry as a meringue, but should still be pretty stiff.

Gently and lovingly fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Tilt the lemon mixture bowl sideways a bit (about 45 degrees or so). Plop a portion of the egg white mixture in the upper corner. Using a broad spoon or a rubber spatula, cut down through the middle then, fold up and in on one side. Repeat this process until the egg white mixture is thoroughly mixed, but has lost a minimal amount of fluffiness.

Pour mixture into the crust. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate for several (3+) hours or overnight. Serve up with some whipped cream!

*My note about large eggs: Have you ever seen a recipe that called for small eggs? Every recipe I’ve ever seen involving eggs calls for large eggs. You’d think by now they’d assume to just write “eggs” and you’d know not to get something the size of a hummingbird egg. But I suppose it’s a “just in case” sort of thing.

Also… I havenae any pictures of this process. I had several reasons, not the least of which was because it was a dreadful mess of a process. I will add a picture of the finished pie when I open it up in the morning though.