Last weekend, I invented a pie.
I wanted a summer pie, a cold pie, a creamy pie, a citrus pie– something that would taste good in the dog days of August. I don’t like lemon meringue pie– meringue to me is too unsatisfying, a cloud of sugar-sweet nothing similar to cotton candy, and the meringue is never tart enough. And all the other lemon pie recipes I found on Pinterest involved lemonade concentrate (ugh), condensed milk or instant pudding (double ugh), and graham cracker crust, which I dislike because it is just sweetness without anything else to flavor.
What’s a girl to do?
I enjoy baking, and I enjoy making desserts, but I had never before invented a dessert in my life. However, I jumped in with the confidence of one who has watched too many Great British Baking Show episodes. I went to the store and came back with a bag of gingersnaps (the Murray brand, in case you’re wondering), a brick of cream cheese, a tub of mascarpone cheese, a pint of whipping cream, and a bag of lemons.
I took about half the bag of gingersnaps in a plastic bag and let Muriel bang on them with a spoon until she got tired of it (which took about 23 seconds.) Then I blended them into fine crumbs, mixed them with a quarter cup of melted butter, pressed it into the pie tin to form the crust, and baked it for eight minutes at 350 to help it set. (And then cooled it in the freezer.)
Sean zested my lemons for me– for a five year old he’s quite handy with a zester. Both my children are citrus-fiends like me, and after I’d juiced the lemons they stood around sucking on the juice halves and giving me helpful tips. Then I made homemade lemon curd, which is intimidating the first and second times but gets easier and easier from then on out. The first time I made it a couple years ago I stood there with an instant read thermometer the entire time, terrified lest I allow the curd to get too hot and scramble the egg yolks. By now I have enough confidence that I never took the temperature at all, relying on the back-of-the-spoon test. I used the recipe in my Great British Baking Show cookbook, which is fun because you have to weigh the sugar in grams and measure out the lemon juice in milliliters. The recipe made about cup and a half of curd.
I put the curd in the freezer to cool while I whipped the cream cheese and about two thirds of the mascarpone with a tablespoon of sugar and a couple pinches of the lemon zest that didn’t go into the curd. (I wasn’t measuring.) Then I spread this mixture at the bottom of the cold crust. I was still waiting for the curd to finish cooling, so this went back in the freezer, and I washed out my mixer and then whipped up about a cup of the cream with a knifeful of mascarpone and a pinch of sugar, to stabilize it. (If you don’t stabilize whipping cream, it will eventually melt back into cream.) Once the curd was cool I slathered it over the cream cheese mixture, then topped with the whipped cream, and then the pie went back into the fridge to wait until after dinner.
Oh my goodness, it was delicious. The intensity of the curd is balanced out by the creaminess of the cheese and whipped cream layers, and the whole thing is so lightly sweetened that the gingersnap crust is the perfect complement. And we all know lemon and ginger is a divine combination to begin with. It is the perfect summer pie. It was not particularly beautiful– Paul Hollywood would not give me any points for presentation– but I could almost hear Mary Berry saying, “The flavors are absolutely scrummy!”