Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I made a special treat this 4th of July...lemon frost pie in chocolate shell. I think it will be a new summer holiday tradition. I hadn't made it in years, but it is hands-down my most favorite dessert EVER. I mean it. I've never had anything like it—it's heaven on a fork. The recipe belonged to my dear Grandma Lyon (not sure where it came from originally, though I'd love to give credit). It was the dessert I requested most often for my birthday "cake", and I remember Gram always teasing me, "Are you SURE you want that?" because it took some effort to make with four different uses of the mixing bowl. But I know she secretly enjoyed it as much as I did, at least the eating part. And the watching-me-eat-it part.
So when I made the pie this time, vivid memories of my Gram (who I lost last November) came flooding back. The memories were welcomed but unexpected and certainly unintended—I simply set out to make some yummy pie for a picnic. But I suddenly found myself in one of those powerful, all-encompassing sensory recollections I mourn for and thought I'd never experience again, like a hello kiss on her cheek, the character of her hand, the lingering of her Lily of the Valley perfume, or in this instance, the intimacy of a shared and sacred treat. Sure, I have plenty of material reminders of Gram around me every day—sentimental keepsakes such as old photographs, the necklace of hers that I wore at my wedding, a playbill from a Robert Goulet performance of South Pacific we saw together, a cow-shaped milk pitcher that served me breakfast-in-bed during our many sleep-overs. But what I thought I'd lost forever were the nuances of my grandma's presence—the way the room just felt like her. For a brief moment in the kitchen, time stopped, even reversed, and the bright wafts and taste-tests of the lemon pie gave me back my Gram, fully and completely, reminding me that no one we love is ever truly lost or taken from us, that even the permanence and physical separation of death is temporary and only perceived. I found myself instantly in tears, not because I was sad for my loss, but because I was thankfully surprised that the feelings and memories recalled were as tangibly strong as the day they were first lived. What I learned: you can't necessarily summon those organic memories of loved ones gone, or even intentionally reconstruct them, but they do return at their own will, just as tangible and real as the physical life that once created them. What I already knew: I am lucky to associate my Gram with lemon frost pie.
So, yeah, I only meant to share my favorite recipe, but I guess I had more to share today. Didn't even know I had it in me. Please enjoy and share with a very special someone!
GRAM'S LEMON FROST PIE IN CHOCOLATE SHELL
(Yes, you will really use the mixing bowl 4 separate times. And in case you're wondering, it does take a while to whip the cream and egg parts.)
2 T. unsweetened cocoa
2 T. granulated sugar
2 c. heavy cream
1 T. lemon zest
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
3 eggs, separated
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. shaved German sweet chocolate
Combine cocoa and 2 T. sugar. Whip 1 c. heavy cream, fold into cocoa mixture. Add 1 T. lemon zest. Spread evenly in 9" or 10" pie pan (you might end up with some extra filling at the end with the smaller pan). Chill in freezer until firm. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually add 2/3 c. sugar and beat until glossy. Beat yolks until thick and lemon-colored and fold into whites. Whip remaining 1 c. heavy cream. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Fold cream into egg mixture and turn into frozen chocolate shell. Garnish with shaved chocolate (or garnish individual slices before serving if there is no room left in the pan). Freeze until firm. Set out at room temperature for a few minutes for easier slicing and serving.