For a do-ahead, pleasing and simple to make pie, lemon icebox pie — well, I almost said “…takes the cake!”, but I will make that… has little competition. Lemon juice, grated lemon rind, sweetened condensed milk, and egg yolks make a devinely bright and intense filling, and the egg whites decorate the pie beautifully, while adding the soft sweet flourish that meringue provides for just a bit of extra work. If you don’t make meringue this time, freeze the egg whites for a future meringue, or a batch of macaroons. A baked pie shell makes an equally good base for this pie.
Nancie’s Lemon Icebox Pie
1 graham cracker piecrust
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounces)
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind, or finely chopped lemon zest
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar
Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the sweetened condensed milk, the egg yolks, the lemon juice and the lemon rind in a medium bowl. Use a fork or a whisk to mix everything together evenly and well. Pour the filling into the graham cracker piecrust, and bake at 325 degrees F. for 25 minutes, until the pie is firm and set.
Set aside on a cooling rack or folded kitchen towel and cool to room temperature. Then cover and chill until serving time. If using whipped cream, make it and add it to the top of the pie within about 2 hours of serving time; the closer to serving time, the better.
If you are making meringue, set pie aside while you prepare it. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl, and use an electric mixer to beat them at medium speed until they are bubbly, about 1 minute. Continue beating, scraping bowl often, until they turn white and thicken up like pure cream. Add about 1 tablespoon of the sugar and continue beating until they swell up and begin holding rounded shapes. Add the rest of the sugar gradually, while beating the egg whites. Continue beating until you have a rich thick, shiny meringue which holds curly little peaks. Spread on the pie, making sure to seal it to the edges of the crust all the way around. Mound it up in the middle and use the back of a spoon or a butter knife to pull out little curls and swirls, or whatever pleases you. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the meringue is handsomely browned. Cool to room temperature; then cover carefully and chill until shortly before serving time.