Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie

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I ate a lot of good food on our recent trip to Detroit, but the best thing I ate was the pie from Sister Pie. I’d heard about them through one of their bakers, who kindly wrote and offered me some advice when she heard I was traveling to Detroit. At the time, you ordered pies online and picked them up from the charming Parker Street Market . But soon Sister Pie will have their own beautiful shop, thanks to one amazing dance party, lots of hard work, and the support of the community. It is one of many reasons that I will soon return to Detroit.

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I asked Sister Pie’s owner, head baker, and dancing machine, Lisa Ludwinski to share her recipe for Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie (it is as good as it sounds!). She also agreed to answer the Lottie + Doof Food quiz:

LOTTIE + DOOF FOOD QUIZ

Sweet or salty? Sweet AND salty, of course!

Chocolate or vanilla? How about vanilla ice cream WITH bittersweet chocolate hot fudge? That’s my answer.

Hot (spicy) or mild? Hot hot hot all the way.

What won’t you eat? I won’t eat at McDonald’s. I know that’s not anything too surprising or impressive but I stopped eating (or drinking) anything from there back in the 11th grade and it’s been my only real boycott success story to date! So it really qualifies as the one food I won’t eat. I have a pretty strong “try anything several times” policy on everything else. However, I don’t particularly like cantaloupe very much (unless it’s wrapped in proscuitto, of course). I also just learned that I’ve been spelling cantaloupe wrong forever.

Most memorable meal? When I lived in Brooklyn, I worked as a pastry cook at Momofuku Milk Bar for a while. Each afternoon we’d have family meals for the staff lunch, and so when it came time for a pastry cook move on to another job (or to a different state, in my case), we’d make a sort of epic “last meal” for everyone. Cooking family meal was an incredible culinary lesson for me: instinctively learning how to feed a crowd, figuring out what to make with an often random assortment of ingredients, and doing it all in a mad dash in between cookie-baking and croissant-rolling. For my last “fam,”, I made a ridiculously large Middle Eastern mezze with freshly baked pita, baba ghanoush, hummus, baked feta with honey, grape leaves, stuffed peppers, and on and on. I’m attaching a photo from the feast I won’t soon forget!

Favorite object in your kitchen? Probably the offset spatula. You’d think a pie baker wouldn’t need it nearly as much a cake baker, but you’d be wrong! I use it to spread a thin layer of cream cheese on the bottom of my summer fruit pies. It helps keep the crust crisp and flaky! And cream cheese is delicious.

What are you scared of in the kitchen? Meat. I’m not a vegetarian, but I very rarely eat meat, and I’ve never really gotten around to learning the various preparations.

Where would you like to travel to for the food? Oh, good god. Everywhere. I have such wanderlust right now. As soon as this pie shop is up and running, I’m OUTTA HERE! Just kidding. But okay – currently I want to go to New Orleans, Hawaii, Japan, and Ethiopia for the food.

If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be? Rhubarb all day.

What are some favorite songs to dance to? This is an awesome question. I love dancing to: Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor” and have been to known to do so on repeat; Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” for when I’m feeling super cheesy and kinda wanna dance and act out a story; anything from JT’s “Justified” album to remind me of my college days; “Blue Monday” by New Order is really good for when I just wanna do lots of arm motions and call it dancing. Mariah Carey, Robyn, LeTigre, and 60s soul will always do the trick.

What is your favorite thing about Detroit? The people of Detroit. This city has been hurting and struggling for many years, and although things are looking up, there’s still such a long way to go. I grew up in the suburbs, moved away to New York after college, and came back this way two and a half years ago. I am humbled each day as I learn more and more about this complicated place but above all, I am honored to meet all of its people: those who grew up here and have seen it through everything AND those who have found themselves here a little later in life. Everyone is here because of a deep, great love for this city. The relationship is complicated, but that love is there in every person. We’ve got that going for us.

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A huge thank you to Lisa, for the recipe and for joining us here. I highly recommend you follow Sister Pie on Instagram for bakery updates, pie photos, and dance videos. And get thee to Detroit for some of the best pie you will ever have.

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Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie (by Lisa Ludwinski, owner of Sister Pie)

For the crust:

  • 1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 2 – 5 tbsp ice water mixed with a splash of apple cider vinegar

For the grapefruit filling:

  • ¼ cup sugar
  • zest from 1 grapefruit*
  • 112 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup grapefruit juice*
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the meringue:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 75 grams sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • black pepper, to taste

Make the crust. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender or two forks, cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. It’s okay if the butter bits are different sizes, so long as none of them are larger than peas. At this point, add the ice water a tablespoon at a time and begin to gather the dough together. Turn the dough over itself a few times, but be careful not to overwork it. Pat the dough into a round disc and wrap in plastic to chill for a couple hours (or at least 30 minutes).

Make the filling. Measure the sugar into a medium bowl. Zest the grapefruit directly into the sugar and proceed to massage the sugar/zest mixture with your fingertips until it feels and looks like wet sand. Add melted butter, cornmeal, honey, and salt and whisk until no lumps remain. Gently whisk in eggs and yolks, followed by heavy cream, black pepper, and citrus juices.

Roll out pie crust. Flour your work surface and place the unwrapped pie dough in the center. Using your favorite rolling pin (I prefer a French tapered pin), press along the edges of the round, broadening the circle. You can move the disc around with your hand as you do this, making sure to flour the surface again when needed. Begin to flatten the pie dough into a larger circle by rolling from the center out. Roll, then rotate the disc and roll again. Remember to keep flouring the surface as needed. You can flip the disc and repeat this process until you have a circle of even thickness, about 12 inches in diameter. Invert your pie tin or dish onto the circle, and use a pastry cutter (a knife works, too!) to trim the dough, leaving about a 1-inch border around the tin. Remove the pie tin and fold the dough in half. Place the folded dough into the pie tin and gently press it in, making sure it’s centered and fitted properly. To create a crimped edge: roll up the dough overhang towards the center of the pie, creating a ring of dough. Use the thumb and index finger of one hand to make a “V” and use the index finger of your other hand to press into the “V”, making a crimp. Continue until the entire ring of dough is crimped.

Freeze the crust for at least 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 425°F.

Blind-bake the crust. Remove the crimped crust from the freezer and line it with a big square of aluminum foil, making sure to wrap it around and under the crimping. Fill completely with dried beans or pie weights. Place on baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven. Turn oven temperature down to 325°F. Allow crust to cool for five minutes, then carefully remove foil/weights.

Bake the pie. Brush the crimped edges of pie crust with a simple egg wash (1 egg, beaten). Pour filling into shell. Transfer the pie to the oven and bake for approximately 30–40 minutes, or until edges are just set but center is still quite jiggly. It will continue to bake as it cools over-baking will cause the filling to separate.

Make the meringue. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together sugar, egg whites, and salt.

Place over a pot of simmering water and gently whisk until the temperature on an instant-read thermometer reads 140°F.

Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and turn on high, whisking until the bowl cools down and you’ve got a big ol’ glossy meringue with stiff peaks. Gently dollops the meringue onto the cooled pie, and use an offset spatula to spread evenly.

At this point, you can set your oven to broil or bust out your kitchen torch. If going the oven route, simply pop the pie in the oven for about 4 minutes or until you see the tops of the meringue getting all toasty. Remove from oven and generously grind black pepper all over the pie. Cool completely before slicing.

*The grapefruit I had was pink, and unusually(?) sweet. I ended up reducing the grapefruit juice by a tablespoon or so and compensating with extra lemon juice to tart things up. They sure don’t make grapefruits like they used to.

22 comments to “Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie”

  1. Love these food quiz interviews. :) I think Lisa needs to collab on a Bon Appetempt dance video!

  2. Ileana- I would love to see an Amelia and Lisa dance collaboration!

  3. I second loving the food quiz interviews! And I also love how the instructions for this delicious looking pie are almost as long as the rest of the post. A dream come true for someone who reads recipes for pure joy.

  4. Hell yeah! I’ve been eyeing Sister Pie and hope to make it up there when I’m in Ann Arbor next month– glad to know it’s got your stamp of approval. Grapefruit-Black Pepper Meringue is a great combo too– I made Rachel Khoo’s Grapefruit & Pepper Meringue Tartlets (with essentially a cookie crust) a while back and they were real winners.

  5. Is it tacky of me to want to make the grapefruit layer pink? I’m trying to decide if a bit if blood orange or beet would do it and either not change it or work together well… Don’t judge me.

  6. Emily! Yes, go! You have to. Also, have you been to Rose’s Fine Foods? I really loved that place.

    Shannon- Not tacky, but just use red food coloring. A little chemicals never hurt anyone (yes they did). But you’d have to add too much of the other kinds of juice to this and it would muck up the flavor. But if you try and get it to work, let us know!

  7. This post gives me energy!

  8. I haven’t been to Rose’s but I’ve heard a lot of good things! I’ll put that on my list too. Of course, I gotta go get my usual sandwich & new pickle at Zingerman’s…

  9. Wow, this looks amazing. Love, love creative new spins on the classics.

  10. Your pie is gorgeous. I need to make this while grapefruits are still in their prime.

  11. Hi Tim–I really like that you added lemon to this. When making drinks, I’ve been finding grapefruits plenty bitter but not sour enough, so always blend with lemon or lime.

    Question: can you recommend good wine bars in Chicago? I lived there for 6 years a few years back, but haven’t been back in a while, so am out of the loop. Curious if you have thoughts!

  12. Wow…talk about a combination I’ve never thought of before. Sounds amazing and the interview was charming. Thanks!

  13. Hey Tim- Sorry to have missed this comment and just be responding now. But honestly, I can’t be of much help here. I never seek out wine bars, and your experiences are probably as current as mine. But if you’re back in town and find places you like, let the rest of us know!

  14. Do you know why the recipe calls for the egg whites to be heated before they’re whipped? Is it a salmonella thing? I’m just curious, as I’ve never seen that before.

  15. No problem, and sure will, Tim. I’ve only heard good things about Webster’s, in case you need a reco in the future.

  16. Just following up…and so, I didn’t make it to Webster’s, but a little more up your alley might be Analogue in Logan Square. Full disclosure: I’m friends with the owner and his wife. Everything I had was actually spectacular. One of those makes-everything-in-house places, but they don’t hit you over the head with it.

  17. A Pakistani friend introduced me to freshly ground black pepper on my grapefruit in college. I love the flavor combination! Very excited to see someone else using it.

  18. Lindsay says:

    May 8th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    So….I have an abundance of rhubarb at the moment. Do you think I could make this as a basic rhubarb pie (add in some pepper with the rhubarb), and top with meringue? Or, do you have a rhubarb curd/filling that you would recommend?

  19. I love the quiz interview! :) I would to give this pie a try. I mean just by reading this post, it’s getting interesting for me. And I love meringue pie! Sweet and fruity in this case :)

  20. Hi Tim! I’m making 4 pies for Thanksgiving– pumpkin, cranberry pecan crumble, chocolate cream, and….I can’t decide. I want one more on the fruity side and keep coming back to this. A year and a half later, are you still excited about it??

  21. Nuala- I have to insist that you make a sour cream dutch apple pie. http://www.lottieanddoof.com/2013/08/hoosier-mama/ It remains my absolute favorite thing. (though this grapefruit pie is great, too. but the apple….)

  22. If you insist!

What do you think?