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Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie

I ate a lot of good food on our recent trip to Detroit [1], but the best thing I ate was the pie from Sister Pie [2]. 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 [3] . But soon Sister Pie will have their own beautiful shop, thanks to one amazing dance party [4], lots of hard work, and the support of the community. It is one of many reasons that I will soon return to Detroit.

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.

A huge thank you to Lisa, for the recipe and for joining us here. I highly recommend you follow Sister Pie on Instagram [5] for bakery updates, pie photos, and dance videos. And get thee to Detroit for some of the best pie you will ever have.

Black Pepper Grapefruit Meringue Pie (by Lisa Ludwinski, owner of Sister Pie [2])

For the crust:

For the grapefruit filling:

For the meringue:

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.