You could say I’m fashionably late to this year’s domestic endeavors party. Seeing that it’s the end of April, that might be a slight understatement. Or a massive one. Either way, here we are.
Pie. Of course I’m starting with a pie. Pie4lyfe…or something. Anyway, I was bored at work and clicking around on the internet (just kidding, Debbie, I’m always busy busy bzzzzz) when I paused on a Garden & Gun article about a pie I had previously saved multiple times in different recipe storing apps, because I might not have the best memory, so I need many reminders. It’s called an Atlantic Beach Pie. The ingredient list caught my attention first, and the steps seemed super easy. I’m all over easy, so I was all over this pie.
Lemony desserts have long been the twin flame of my sweet-sensory taste buds’ life. Growing up, my dad would go out and get doughnuts on Saturday mornings from the local place on the edge of our neighborhood. He would come back with an assortment that included a lemon-filled. Nobody would ever grab for or ask for that one. We wanted the chocolate and sprinkles or cinnamon sugars. At some point, I picked up on his possible trickiness, so I tried one of those strange things–instantly hooked on that gooey tart treat. I don’t know whether it was just because I always wanted to be doing whatever my dad was doing or whether I actually liked the taste, but from then on, I’ve always added at least one lemon-filled doughnut to the dozen.
The Atlantic Beach Pie is a new addition to my lemontastical-dessert addiction. The recipe calls for a half cup of either fresh lemon or lime juice. Or a mix of both. I decided on a mix, doing two large lemons and one smallish lime. The rest of the filling is just egg yolks and a can of sweetened condensed milk. Simple. As usual, I couldn’t follow the straight forward directions, so I started thinking about what other flavor I like with lemon. Thyme.
Any time I can incorporate foods I grow myself into a recipe, I’m on it like my dog on a spoonful of peanut butter. Out to the garden I went to cut some fresh English thyme. One thing I have learned, even if I’m not going to follow the instructions to a T, I do collect and measure out all ingredients ahead of starting any step.
After gathering everything up and reading the directions just one more time, I got to work on the crust. I think one of the reasons I adore lemon desserts so much is that they are not overly sugar-laden in flavor. The tartness of the citrus brings something more to the tongue, and I appreciate that. Along those same lines, I tend to crave a salty pop to sweetness, which made the idea of a saltine cracker crust very intriguing. I did the full 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers with the higher end of the range of butter, of course, but I cut the sugar to somewhere in between 1 1/2 and 2 tablespoons. Cutting back on sugar is my M.O. Those Wilford Brimley commercials really worked on me–I hear him saying “DIABEETUS” in my mind every time I look at the amount called for in recipes.
Pretty sure I screwed up the intended texture of the crust…and won. The instructions said something about using a food processor or your hands to break up the crackers finely, but not to dust. Well, those two methods would result in two very different outcomes, if you ask me. I chose hands out of pure laziness of not wanting to dirty up my food processor. I ended up leaving the saltines on the larger chunk side thinking that kneading in the softened stick of butter would break them up further. Didn’t really happen that way, but I went with it. Turned out that the larger cracker pieces held up against the creamy filling and added a welcomed textural experience to each bite. Baked, the crust was golden gorgeous.
Next up was to make the filling. I took the suggestion of mixing fresh lemon as well as lime juice and used two large lemons and one smallish lime to equal the half cup of liquid needed. Mixed in with the sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, this is when I added my very finely chopped thyme from the garden. I only did one heaping teaspoon of the thyme, figuring it would be enough to tell if I like it, but not enough to completely ruin the pie if it wasn’t right. Turned out the thyme blended splendidly, adding a grounding, earthy flavor to the lightness of the citrus. I’ll probably use closer to a full tablespoon next time.
After baking it until the filling set, I cooled the pie and put in the fridge until the next morning, since I had planned on bringing it to work. I like sharing my baking trials with coworkers and then hearing them complain about gaining weight… . Anywaaaay, the next morning I got my arm workout with the whipping of the cream for the top.
Followed the classic call for heavy whipping cream, granulated sugar, dash of vanilla extract, and a chilled metal bowl and whisk. Boom. Delicious peaks of fluffy goodness to mound up on top of the pie. I like extra whipped cream or meringue on my pies, so did 1 1/2 cups of cream. Again, cut the amount of suggested shug in half.
I‘d say, even with my tweaks, the pie was a success. Not sure why I can’t just follow the instructions given to me, but I know my mom isn’t surprised. I purtied up that pie with some edible violas, which the entire staff avoided by cutting around awkwardly, and a few sprigs of the English thyme on top. The saltiness of the cracker crust with the tartness of the citrus filling and the sweetness of the whipped topping makes for one excellent dessert. This one will definitely be a repeat performance in my pie repertoire.
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/2 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 1/2-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon or lime juice (or a mix of both)
fresh thyme, very finely chopped
Whipped cream topping:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
splash of vanilla extract
Chill the metal bowl and whisk in the freezer for about ten minutes before whipping it real good until peaks form. Do this right before serving; although, mine stood up perfectly fine for over 24 hours.