mudder’s lemon icebox pie: modern/vintage

Oh, this pie gets me excited. It has always been a favorite in our family.  Mudder (Geraldine) would bake this pie on holidays and birthdays.  And somehow I would always find room in my belly for it after having a big slice of red velvet cake.IMG_1242

There was a running joke (I didn’t consider it a joke) that I always had room in my dessert stomach. I was fully convinced that there was a separate stomach designated for desserts.  I was assured this wasn’t the case, but I lived my young life based on the assumption that I would always have room for dessert.  Especially for desserts that were light and airy and cool and creamy and would fit perfectly into the special second stomach I was blessed with.

I don’t know if it’s because of memory but this pie hasn’t been matched by the lemon iceboxes I’ve encountered in restaurants and bakeries.  It’s a creamy and opaque filling, not like the lemon curd gelatinous style fillings that are far too pervasive out there. Who even likes those?

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The pie is topped with gloriously light meringue. I always loved how the sugar in the meringue would be browned in spots and would have little droplets of caramelized condensation decorating the topping.  It was like the pie was bedazzled with them, I loved the cake’s sparkles.

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I’ve had to curtail the consumption of a graham cracker crust as of late.  I’m still in denial that I need to be grain free. I experience horrific indigestion when I eat a lot of grain and my anxiety levels skyrocket.  I’m not doing anything drastic like a Whole 30 at the moment, but I’ve been laying off the grain lately.  I feel much better already, and I’ve probably saved several hundred calories from not having to inhale antacids after every meal.

This dietary change has this former private chef pretty excited for the challenge of making my favorite foods into grain free foods.  It’s pretty easy to make a paleo style graham cracker crust.  Almond flour even takes out the work of pounding out the crackers.

(Don’t worry, I’m including the classic pie recipe for those of you who want it.)

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The recipe was already made with frozen whipped topping to begin with. I used the natural frozen whipped topping in this recipe since it’s a little less disgusting.  I have always meant to try making the recipe with fresh whipped cream or with coconut whip, but I don’t know if it would taste right.  You’re welcome to try it!  I do worry that dairy in this recipe could be problematic and would curdle.  Or maybe it wouldn’t since it’s the fattier cream and not milk. But really, I have no idea.

(Professional bakers, feel free to comment below with any wisdom on the topic.)

To make this recipe paleo, you’ll need to make your own condensed milk (I’ve included a recipe).  It’s a simple process, but takes a few hours, so plan accordingly.  I have also used organic granulated sugar in my recipe, which is NOT paleo.  You can use granulated date or coconut sugar if you prefer, or substitute honey.  For my purposes, I’m mostly concerned with cutting out grains right now.

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Get ready to be disappointed in me, discount me as a chef, and call me a heretic. I. Use. Bottled. Lemon. Juice. (Just for this recipe, PROMISE!!)  Mudder used the stuff in the green bottle with the yellow top every time.  I’ve made it with fresh lemon juice and the lemon juicing process was far too much work and not enough of an improvement in taste.  Truthfully, it didn’t taste right to me.  You’re welcome to juice up your own fresh lemons!  I exclusively use fresh lemon juice in every other cooking situation.

This pie is a good one for your Labor Day gatherings.  It’s got all the hallmarks of a good summer dessert- easy, cooling, tart, refreshing, light.  It is delicious and you won’t be sad if you try it.

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Here’s the recipe for my Paleo Lemon Icebox Pie.

Sweetened condensed cashew milk for pie filling*:

4 cups cashew milk

1 cup sugar (or sweetener of your choice)

Method: mix together milk and sugar in a saucepan.  Dip a straw into the mixture and mark the level with a sharpie. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer on low, stirring periodically, for 2-2 1/2 hours until it is reduced by half.  You can use the marked straw to measure the level to ensure you’ve lost enough of the excess liquid.

*Note- you will only use 1 1/2 cups of this mixture in the pie filling.  The leftovers make for a great coffee creamer or topping for other paleo desserts.

Almond Flour Crust:

(Preheat oven to 300 degrees)

2 Cups Almond Meal

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar (feel free to use date sugar or coconut sugar to be fully paleo, I used organic cane sugar in my recipe)

1 Stick of Butter, Melted

Mix ingredients together and press into pie pan.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.

Lemon Icebox Pie Filling:

4 Egg Yolks**

1 1/2 Cups Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

1/2 Container of Whipped Topping

Method: Whisk the egg yolks, add the condensed milk, and fold in the whipped topping.  Pour into pie shell and top with meringue.

Meringue Topping:

4 Egg Whites

1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1/2 Cup Sugar (or date sugar/ coconut sugar)

Method: Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed.  Slowly add sugar and whisk until firm peaks are formed. Spread on top of pie and create small peaks with a spatula. Bake At 300 for 20-25 min until browned.

Chill pie in refrigerator overnight.

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And, since I love you, here’s the traditional recipe for my Mudder’s Lemon Icebox Pie.

More power to you, grain eaters!  I’m not swearing off the real thing forever.

Graham Cracker Crust:

(Preheat oven to 300 degrees)

One Package Plus 2 Graham Crackers, Crushed

1 Stick of Melted Butter

1/2 Cup Sugar

Mix together and press into a pie pan.

Lemon Icebox Pie Filling:

3 Large Egg Yolks**

1, 14 Ounce Can Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

1/4 of an 8 Ounce Tub of Whipped topping

Mix ingredients together and pour into prepared pie shell.

Meringue Topping:

4 Egg Whites

1/4 Teaspoon Cream of Tartar

1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar

Method: Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Slowly add sugar and whisk until firm peaks are formed. Spread on top of pie and create small peaks with a spatula. Bake At 300 for 20-25 min until browned.

Chill pie in refrigerator overnight.

Hope y’all like it!

** Note- the egg yolks in this recipe will not be fully cooked (although the acidity in the lemon juice does a fine job of helping out).  Use caution if serving to certain groups unable to consume raw eggs. And if this makes you squeamish, buy pasteurized eggs.

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