“What are all those bags?”
The husband is staring at my shopping cart, counting the bags of Meyer lemons I’ve piled in.
“They’re lemons,” I say. “‘Special’ lemons.”
I confess. I’m a hoarder. Sub out those lemons for old newspapers or cats, and you would call me crazy.
But I’m obsessed. Thin-skinned, floral-scented Meyer lemons have captured my heart. They’re sweet. They’re tart. They make delicious cakes and compotes; preserves and pies. The only problem is that they don’t last long.
Hence the hoarding.
Meyer lemons hail from China. They came to the U.S. early last century by way of an agricultural explorer named Frank Meyer. After a circuitous bout of pestilence and botany, they’re now available from November to April — if you live in the right place. Their fragile skins make transport difficult, which may be why I can only get my hands on them in February and the earliest days of March and then only at Trader Joe’s and specialty shops like Balducci’s.
The Meyer is a cross between regular lemons and the mandarin orange. Its juice smells a little like orange blossom water; its taste skews more orange than lemon. Yet thanks to its sharp, tart finish, no one would mistake it for a California navel.
I’m busy juicing and zesting all the lemons on my counter now. Both will freeze well, letting me indulge my Meyer passion regardless of the season.
(And hiding my hoarding behind freezer doors.)
Chocolate Meyer Lemon Pie
Meyer lemons, it turns out, are perfect playmates for chocolate. I made this pie (From “The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book”) to celebrate my friend, Janet‘s, visit from Hungary. I hurried through the crust and did not follow all the baking steps, which meant my crust was tough and the chocolate ganache wept into the lemon custard. It was still so good that my husband begged me to make it again for an upcoming dinner party. I’ll follow the recipe closer this time. (And dig into my stash of frozen Meyer lemon juice.)
For the crust:
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 stick cold, unsalted butter, cut into dice
- 1/2 cup ice-cold water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 egg white, combined with 1 teaspoon of water
Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a medium bowl.
Using a pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have pea-sized pieces.
Combine the water and vinegar and add it to the flour/butter mixture by tablespoons, tossing until the dough comes together.
Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate it for an hour.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface to an 11-inch circle. Gently place your circle into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the overhang and crimp, then place the crust in your freezer for about 20 minutes.
After freezing, prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Line the crust with foil.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the pie plate on the center rack and bake for 20 minutes.
Take the crust out of your oven. Remove the foil, and brush the bottom of the crust with the egg white/water mixture. Return the pan — uncovered — to the oven and bake for 3 more minutes.
Remove the crust and cool it completely.
For the filling:
- 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
- 1/4 cup orange juice (you can squeeze your own; I used Tropicana, which was still yummy)
- Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
Place the chocolate in a medium, heat-resistant bowl.
Bring 1/4 cup of the cream to a boil in a saucepan. Pour it over the chocolate pieces and whisk until the chocolate has melted. Scrape the ganache into your cooled pie shell and refrigerate it while you continue with the recipe. (I omitted this step … the pie was still good, but not as pretty as it could have been.)
Heat your oven to 325 degrees.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, place the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and salt. Mix on medium-high speed until your mixture is thick and well-combined.
Add the lemon and orange juices, the lemon zest and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Mix well.
Carefully spoon this mixture over the ganache. Don’t pour or you’ll dislodge the chocolate. Again, your pie will taste great, but it will be a chocolate/lemon combination rather than a lemon custard layered over chocolate ganache.
Place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then rotate 180 degrees. Bake an additional 20 minutes, then check the pie. The edges should be set, and the middle should be a little wobbly. If the middle seems like a liquid mass to you, bump your heat up to 350 degrees and bake for about 10 more minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool it for 2 to 3 hours. You can serve it immediately or refrigerate it for dessert the next day.