GINNA PARSONS: First piecrust, then meringue

Ginna ParsonsMy husband, Charlie, loves pie. Offer him a choice of cake, cookies, brownies or pie for dessert and he’ll choose the pie every time. (All bets are off, though, if ice cream is on the table.)

I first learned of his pie thing when he was working at the newspaper in Miami, Okla., a small town in the northeast corner of the state. There was a place there called the Townsman Restaurant and it served pies with mile-high meringue.

Charlie couldn’t stay out of the place. Coconut, lemon, chocolate – it didn’t matter as long as it was topped with stiff white peaks. Even today, he will tell you that the Townsman had the tallest meringue of any restaurant in the state of Oklahoma.

I tried my hand at making meringue a couple of summers ago. I beat those egg whites and sugar for darn near seven minutes and when I put it atop my pie, the meringue stood at least 4 inches tall.

“Nice,” my husband said. “But it’s not Townsman quality.”

I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never measure up to that place in his memory, but I had a piece of that pie once and I’m pretty sure they used store-bought crusts.

Here’s where I can beat them at their own game. I received in the mail this week a copy of “The Southern Pie Book” by Jan Moon of Southern Living. At 288 pages – and half of those are color photographs – it’s like the pie bible.

The very first recipe in the book is for Simply Piecrust, which the author says is her favorite, foolproof, all-purpose crust. I’m going to learn to perfect it.

Then, I’m going to work on that meringue again.

Simply Piecrust
11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

1⁄2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces

1⁄4 teaspoon table salt

4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

Combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl with a pastry blender until mixture resembles small peas. Sprinkle ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, over surface of mixture in bowl; stir with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Shape into a ball; cover and chill 30 minutes.

(If using a food processor, pulse flour and salt in a food processor 3 or 4 times or until combined. Add butter and pulse 5 or 6 times or until crumbly. With processor running, gradually add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of bowl, adding more water if necessary. Cover and chill 30 minutes.)

Makes one 9-inch pie crust.

Ginna Parsons is the Daily Journal’s food/home/garden editor.