MINNEAPOLIS — It took years for Rachel Swan to return round to her grandmother’s angel pie.

The dessert that flips lemon meringue pie on its head, actually, was Swan’s father’s favourite. However not hers. “I solely have a reminiscence of placing it in my mouth and spitting it out,” she mentioned on a latest morning in her south Minneapolis store, Pie & Mighty. It was a textural factor — the ethereal crunch of meringue isn’t for each child. “However my dad beloved it and it was like this particular bond that he had along with his mother.”

After her dad died in 2010, Swan inherited a duplicate of her Grandma Lu’s recipe, and after years of testing variations, she has managed to excellent — and fall in love with — angel pie. It’s change into considered one of her bakery’s signature gadgets.

Angel pie, which has a meringue base instead of a standard crust, is a throwback recipe for a spring gathering, with the bonus that it’s gluten-free and options undulating waves of whipped egg whites alongside the sides.

And the perfect half? It’s not tough. It takes solely a brief record of substances and a powerful mixer. The toughest half is ready for the meringue to harden in a closed oven (Day 1), after which for the assembled pie to set within the fridge (Day 2). Nonetheless, deftness with a piping bag or a gentle hand with an offset spatula are benefits, as sticky raw meringue could be a problem, for some, to unfold prettily on a pie plate.

Angel pies are often crammed with a custard or fruit curd, which solidifies within the fridge and permits the fragile meringue to retain its crunchiness beneath. However you would simply as simply fill the pie with a giant pile of selfmade whipped cream streaked with jam and topped with macerated fruit. Or strive butterscotch pudding, or chocolate ganache.

The closest culinary comparability is an upside-down lemon meringue pie, and lemon might be the perfect place to begin when making angel pie.

“It’s mild, it’s ethereal, it’s tart, nevertheless it’s additionally candy — it’s like all of my favourite issues in a single dish,” mentioned Zoë François, the Minneapolis-based cookbook creator, who featured Swan’s lemon angel pie on her tv present, “Zoë Bakes.”

Although its origin isn’t completely clear, angel pie’s recognition peaked in the USA within the ’50s and ’60s, simply as different considerably fussy and finicky dishes that concerned piping, braiding, layering and different adornments have been requirements in midcentury kitchens.

A recipe for angel pie appeared within the first publication of “Betty Crocker’s Image Cook dinner Guide” in 1950 as a variation on a “schaum torte,” which is a standard Austrian dessert that interprets to “foam cake.”

It additionally shares roots with the pavlova, a dessert that, in line with legend, was created for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova within the Nineteen Twenties throughout considered one of her excursions to Australia or New Zealand. The crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside free-form pile of meringue is often topped with berries and whipped cream. It’s identified for its poise and wonder, like its namesake. Let unfastened and smash the entire thing up, and also you’ll have the normal English dessert Eton Mess.

Up North, you’ll discover extra kinfolk of angel pie at a pair of famed pie outlets alongside Hwy. 61. The five-layer chocolate pie at each Betty’s Pies and Rustic Inn retain a pastry crust, however fill it with cinnamon meringue beneath a layer of chocolate mousse. (Rustic Inn has three flavors of meringue-crusted angel pies on its menu, too.)

With so many variations of meringue-and-cream desserts on the market, it’s a marvel to some followers why angel pie stays such an obscure slice of heaven.

“I put it within the class of baked Alaska and icebox muffins, and all of those desserts which might be simply completely scrumptious and delightful,” François mentioned. “I don’t know why they left our kitchen repertoires. However they’re coming again.”

At Pie & Mighty, Swan can’t make sufficient of her Grandma Lu’s Lemon Angel Pie. When she places it into her store’s weekly rotation, it sells out quick. However because it takes a number of hours for the meringue to set at a super-low warmth, a batch of 30 pies ties up her ovens for a whole day. Portioning them out to get extra pie to extra individuals isn’t an choice, as a result of — as lovely as an angel pie is — slicing it could possibly get messy.

“I believe the explanation why this pie fell off the radar is that it takes time and apply, and we don’t have that anymore,” Swan mentioned.

Fortuitously for residence bakers, lively baking time is minimal, and angel pies are simple to breed at residence.

And it’d simply be time for a comeback, with a bit of assist from Swan’s Grandma Lu.

“It was a basic of the Nineteen Fifties,” mentioned François, “and I believe Rachel will singlehandedly make this an important dessert in America once more.”



Serves 6 to eight.

Observe: That is Rachel Swan’s model of her grandmother’s angel pie recipe, which often seems on the menu at her south Minneapolis bakery, Pie & Mighty. The important thing to creating a meringue crust that doesn’t crack is to not open the oven throughout baking or after. The longer you possibly can depart the oven closed, the higher. “Right here’s the factor with this pie: Crucial ingredient, not listed, is time,” Swan mentioned. Swan calls her lemon filling “goo.” She suggests pushing the filling and the whipped cream all the way in which in towards the sting of the crust, an act she calls “tuckle the goo.” This recipe have to be ready prematurely.

For the meringue crust:

Coconut oil, for greasing

4 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar (see Observe)

1 cup sugar

For the lemon filling:

4 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

For the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Zest of 1 lemon


Preheat oven to 275 levels Fahrenheit. Generously grease a pie plate with coconut oil.

To organize the meringue crust: Within the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a big bowl utilizing an electrical mixer, mix the egg whites and cream of tartar (or lemon juice or vinegar) and beat on medium-high velocity till foamy, about 2 minutes. Progressively add the sugar and beat till the combination is stiff and shiny, as much as 10 minutes. Unfold the meringue onto the pie plate and form the crust up the perimeters with a rubber spatula, hollowing the middle and making ornamental dollops across the edges. (To unfold the meringue extra evenly, use a piping bag to pipe a spiral across the backside and pipe rings across the edges of the plate as much as the rim. Pipe an ornamental rim across the prime to appear to be a crimped edge.) Bake for 1 hour. When the timer goes off, flip off the oven however don’t open the door to take away it till the oven has totally cooled — a minimum of one hour and as much as in a single day.

To organize the lemon filling: In a small stainless-steel bowl, beat egg yolks, including the sugar till thick. Add lemon juice and place the bowl over a pot, crammed a few quarter of the way in which with boiling water (double-boiler technique). Stir continuously till combination is thick and piles barely when dropped from a spoon, about 10 minutes. Take away from warmth and canopy with plastic wrap on the floor of the filling, to forestall a movie from forming. Cool fully.

To assemble the pie: Make the whipped cream. Within the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a big bowl utilizing an electrical mixer, mix the heavy cream and sugar till thick. Add vanilla.

Take the meringue crust and evenly knock down the within of the shell, which can have overrated throughout baking, making a cavern beneath the highest edge. Unfold half the whipped cream into the shell, reaching all the way in which into the perimeters (aka “tuckle the goo”). Spoon within the lemon filling and clean it over the whipped cream with a spoon or offset spatula. Among the filling and cream will combine collectively.

Put the remainder of the whipped cream right into a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with the nook snipped off) and pipe the cream across the pie the place the meringue shell meets the filling. Sprinkle the lemon zest everywhere in the prime of the pie. Refrigerate the pie a minimum of 4 hours, ideally in a single day.

Rachel Swan pours the simply whipped meringue batter right into a pan in Minneapolis on Monday, April 4, 2022.

Rachel Swan exhibits a cross-section of a correctly completed angel pie in Minneapolis.

Use the following tips from Minneapolis bakers

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