Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. And sometimes it’s strange because of fiction. Take Wanda, for example. Not Wanda of Happiness Key and Fortunate Harbor. The very real Wanda of Wanda’s Pie in the Sky in Toronto. And had I never written about a pie shop named Wanda’s Wonderful Pies, I never would have “met” her. Life’s like that, isn’t it?
The Wanda collisions began a month ago while I was working on Sunset Bridge, and needed the name of a new pie that “my” Wanda had just created. The name I chose (Million Dollar Pie) turned out to be a real pie, so I couldn’t use it. Next I googled “Pie in the Sky” to see if that had been taken, and that’s when I found the real Wanda who runs a real pie shop. Not in the fictional Palmetto Grove, Florida, of course, but in Toronto, Canada, home of my publisher.
Since my publisher works hard for me, I decided this coincidence was too great. Why not send all the kind people there who labor over my books some of the real Wanda’s pies. And while the real Wanda and I were becoming acquainted and doing a little business together on the phone, I asked her for a pie recipe for YOU. She, being the delightful person she is, agreed.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel darned fortunate to have made this discovery. She sent me her cookbook. I sent her my books. I bought some of her wonderful pies, and she sent me her wonderful recipe to share with you.
If this is not the definition of serendipity, I don’t know what is. So please enjoy the real Wanda’s gift to us. And if you’re in Toronto, be sure to enjoy her pies, as well. I am told, by those who’ve been lucky enough to have one, that they are scrumptious. I plan to try this one soon. How about you?
Lemon Meringue Pie
Makes one 10-inch (25-cm) pie (serves 8)
I don’t know anyone who can resist this pie. When made correctly (tricky at first to be sure), this pie is a dream come true: tart melt-in-your-mouth filling and sweet, mile-high meringue all piled into a crispy delicate crust. I like to think of lemon meringue as the Marilyn Monroe of pies: tart, blonde, voluptuous and truly unforgettable.
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter, cut into ½-inch (1.2-cm) pieces
2 cups (480 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) sugar
¼ tsp. (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) water
2 cups (480 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp. (5 mL) vanilla extract
5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp. (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp. (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) sugar
For the pastry: Make sure all the ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or a pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest for 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut with the pastry cutter about 15 strokes, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes. Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400° (200°C). Chill for 30 minutes. Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or beans. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes and then carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.
For the filling: Bring water to boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the water in the pot, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, combining until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.
For the meringue: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, and beat until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack and serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.