Our extended family is not in the practice of exchanging Christmas gifts now that all of us kids have reached varying degrees of functional adulthood, so we were very pleasantly surprised when a package arrived in the mail right before Christmas from our Uncle Paul and Aunt Anna in New Orleans. It turned out to be DamGoodSweet by David Guas, an absolutely gorgeous book of New Orleans-style desserts. It ground our Christmas morning to a halt, as we got completely sidetracked from present opening by the mouthwatering photography in the book.
Now, I have been in a strange cooking malaise in the last few months, totally uninspired by both the prospect of making food and of eating it. (Not that I’ve eaten less or anything — please. That would be ridiculous. I’ve just been kind of underwhelmed by culinary pursuits recently.) Also I’m not really a huge fan of New Orleans-style cuisine, what with not liking seafood and all. But this book was the cure for both of those problems. As soon as we cracked it open, I was immediately thrilled at the prospect of making literally every singe recipe in it (except the coconut cream pie) — it’s just that gorgeous a book.
It took some serious deliberations to figure out where to start, and in the end, the Lemon Icebox Pie won out.
What seemed appealing about this recipe was that it was simple. Last weekend I spent hours and hours and hours making a buche de noel, and I was not interested in anything that would require more than about 30 minutes of effort at a time. This fit the bill. I kind of wasn’t even thinking at all about what it would taste like, so I was in for a surprise.
So here’s how you make it:
For the crust
14 whole graham crackers
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and still warm
For the filling
2 (14-ounce) cans condensed sweetened milk
1 1/4 cups strained lemon juice (from the 2 zested lemons below plus an additional 4-6 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
8 large egg yolks
For the chantilly cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
To make the crust:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees (F). Break the graham crackers into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor along with the sugar and salt. Pulse 8 times, until the cracker crumbs are semi-fine (they shouldn’t be powdery but not in large shards either) and the crackers and sugar are combined. Pour in the butter and pulse until the butter is blended in and the mixture isn’t crumbly and holds its shape when you squeeze it, about twelve 1-second pulses. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch springform pan and push and press the crumb mixture into the bottom and two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust into place. Set aside.
To make the filling:
Whisk the condensed milk with the lemon juice and set aside. Whisk the zest with the egg yolks in a medium bowl until pale, 30 to 60 seconds, and then whisk in the lemon juice-condensed milk mixture.
Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the mixture into the crust, and carefully transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the center jiggles slightly, like a soft-setting custard, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 1 hour on a cooling rack. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap (be careful to to let the plastic wrap touch the top of the pie) and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.
To make the chantilly cream:
Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Add the vanilla and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Whip on low speed to combine and then increase the speed to medium-high and whip until medium-stiff peaks form, about 1 1/2 minutes.
Before serving, wrap a wet, warm kitchen towel around the edges of the springform pan to release the pie from the pan’s sides. Unclasp the pan and remove the pie. Fill a pitcher with hot water, dunk your knife in, wipe off the blade, and slice. Top with a dollop of chantilly cream and serve immediately, or keep in the freezer for up to 1 week.
Now, I only have a 10-inch springform pan, so I made this in a pie dish, which made it difficult to follow the “don’t let the plastic wrap touch the surface of the pie” instructions, but it didn’t matter at all. When the frozen pie emerged from the dead-body freezer, the wrap peeled right off and left a gorgeous yellow pie behind.
And what a surprise that pie ended up being — tart and sweet and fresh and creamy and custardy and smooth and frozen and light and rich and utterly delicious. Spectacularly delicious. Pookie’s gasped response after her first bite was, “This doesn’t taste homemade at all. It tastes like a restaurant dessert!” Boomer’s response was, “I have finally found what I want to ask for as my birthday dessert.” To which Pookie added, “Me too.” I think I might do the same. This is just outrageously good. I think this is the highest deliciousness-to-effort ratio of any foodstuff I’ve ever made. If none of the other recipes in this book turn out well (highly unlikely), it’s still one of the best gifts we got at Christmas!
[Posted by Schnookie.]