Here’s an absolutely luscious dessert for hot summer days, “Mile High Lemonade Ice Cream Pie.” The dessert is a spin-off on the venerable “Mile High Ice Cream Pie” made famous at the Carribean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel, in New Orleans. My dessert features a graham cracker crust and a filling of vanilla ice cream mixed with lemonade concentrate. It is topped with a thick meringue which is broiled in the oven. The tart, citrus lemonade flavor and meringue topping complement each other perfectly. My taste tester friends and husband devoured this dessert. A meringue is a little tricky to make; but definately is worth the effort and that “touch” makes this dessert special. This may be my favorite recipe of the summer.
Vintage Cookbook and lots of eggs
A friend dropped off three dozen eggs for us to use — just as a neighborly gesture. What do you do with that many eggs? Well, I’m in cookbook-heaven. I immediately thought of a cooling summer dessert which is inspired by the Parent Club’s Cookook of the Ursuline Nun’s Girls Academy in New Orleans. This vintage cookbook was recently given to me by an Ohio friend who was apparently downsizing. The cookbook contains all kinds of treasured and traditional recipes of New Orleans. The cookbook contains a recipe for “Mile High Ice Cream Pie” with a meringue topping. This is a good way for me to use up six of the eggs. I decided use to a lemon-flavored ice cream concoction and not pile the ice cream quite so high as the original dessert.
About the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans and “Mile High Ice Cream Pie”
“Mile HIgh Ice Cream Pie” is the signature dessert of the Carribean Room Restaurant in the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans. It is an elegant and sort of over-the-top dessert traditionally served for special occasions. The original dessert features four flavors of ice cream — vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and mint — which are stacked into a pie crust and topped with meringue. When the dessert is brought to your your table, it is drizzled with chocolate sauce. A slice of pie makes quite a tall tower and an impressive treat which is shared by two people.
The historic Pontchartrain Hotel, circa-1927, fronts on St Charles Street in New Orleans. St. Charles Street meanders through the city from the French Quarter to the Garden District and roughly parallels the Mississippi River. The street is lined on both sides with massive 200-year-old live oak trees and a streetcar runs down the center of the street. I visualize it as the epitome of a slow, southern way of life. The hotel has seen many notable guests including Frank Sinatra, The Doors, Rita Hayworth, presidents Gerald Ford and George H. Bush. Tennessee Williams stayed here and wrote some of his play, “A Streetcar Named Desire” while lodging in the hotel.
For years, the elegant Carribean Room in the hotel was the place to go for birthdays and other celebrations. You dressed up in high fashion to go this establishment with its white tableclothes, wicker chairs and formal waiters. That restaurant is just a memory now and a contemporary dining venue has assumed its place. It is a sign of modern times and perhaps good thing, really, that those old ways of life are passing. But I haven’t forgotten stories about the fabled dessert which my husband recounts from his days of living just down St. Charles Street when he attended Tulane University.
This recipe takes a little time to make because each layer — pie crust, ice cream filling and meringue topping, needs to cool and/or freeze prior to going on to the next layer. So, plan to have half a day to make the dessert. The pie shell can even be baked the prior day. (Or use a purchased pie crust.)
This recipe reminds me of a “Baked Alaska” dessert. While that dessert uses a cake as the bottom layer, the “Mile High Ice Cream Pie” uses a pie crust. I changed things up further and substituted a graham cracker crust for the traditional pie crust.
The ingredients for the graham cracker crust are crushed graham crackers, melted butter and confectioner’s sugar. Mix these ingredients and press into a single-use aluminum pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. It is important to use a pie pan which can withstand broiling in the oven; I wouldn’t use any sort of decorative, ceramic pie pan for this recipe. There are extreme temperature changes in the process — from freezing to broiling — let’s not break any dishes while making this dessert.
Ice Cream Filling
I decided to use vanilla ice cream with lemonade concentrate for the filling making a tart, citrus-flavored ice cream. You can substitute many other fillings into this recipe. Just let your imagination wild go on the filling type. The recipe uses a pint of ice cream. For my dessert, mix softened vanilla ice cream and defrosted lemonade concentrate with an electric mixer. Use a spatula to help combine the two ingredients. Then fold in thawed whipped topping. Pour into the graham cracker crust and freeze for several hours.
The meringue topping is the tricky part of this recipe. However, don’t skip it as the meringue makes this dessert special.
The ingredients for a meringue are egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla extract and sugar. (In my final recipe, I cut the eggs down to four egg whites.)
Several tips for making are a meringue are:
1. Make sure you don’t get any egg yolk mixed in with the egg whites while you seperate the eggs or the egg whites won’t beat up. Not even a tiny speck of egg yolk.
2. You must use an electric mixer to make the meringue. You really can’t beat a meringue using a wire whip by hand. Make sure the beaters and bowl are completely clean and dry or the egg whites won’t beat up.
To make the meringue:
1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. (Use the egg yolks for something else such as ice cream or custard.)
2. In a medium-sized bowl of electric mixer, Add the egg whites, vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
3. Still on high speed, gradually pour in the sugar. Beat until the mixture is thick and glossy. You’ve got it!
Pour the meringue onto the frozen pie and spread out. Make decorative swirls.
And we have a problem. The above photos demonstrate that six egg whites yielded an impressive meringue — but just a little too much topping. (I included the photos to show what a meringue is supposed to look like.) In the final recipe, I reduced the egg whites to four.
Position the pie about 6″ from the broiler. Broil for just 30 seconds to 1 minute. Watch what you are doing as the meringue can quickly burn.
What did we do with the burnt pie? Well, we ate half of the pie — just to make sure it was tasty. Then I spooned off the burnt meringue, spread the meringue into a level layer and broiled it again. The lesson is to make sure that the meringue is as level as possible so it will cook without burning. (In the “Mile HIgh Ice Cream PIe” dessert served at the Caribbean Room Restaurant, the meringue is placed only on the top of the pie, not along the sides.That dessert can be as high as 12 inches.)
This dessert is for a special occasion. Just a second, the dessert is really tasty for any occasion on a hot summer night.
Even though the Carribean Room is gone and a new restaurant has opened in the Pontchartrain Hotel, I am told that the dessert is still on the menu. We love to drive along St. Charles Street with its massive live oak trees when we visit New Orleans — as my husband points out all the landmarks from his days at Tulane University. Eating at the new establishment is still on our “to do” list when we visit New Olreans. We’ll make it there one day.
Enjoy this recipe. Impress your family and friends and have a “taste” of New Orleans.
Mile High Lemonade Ice Cream Pie
Ingredients for Graham Cracker Crust:
- 1-1/4 cup crushed graham crackers, (18 squares or 9 whole graham crackers)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
Ingredients for Ice Cream Filling:
- 1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream, softened slightly
- 6 oz (about 1 cup) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
- 4 oz whipped topping, thawed
Ingredients for Meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/3 cup sugar
Method and Steps:
For graham cracker crust:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place graham cracker squares in zip lock bag. Use a rolling pin to crush graham crackers into a fine crumbs.
- Add the powdered sugar to the zip lock bag and use hands to massage the bag to combine sugar in with the graham crackers.
- Add the melted butter and use hands to mix in.
- Pour into a 9″ disposable aluminum pie pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes until the crust has set and is slightly brown.
- Remove from oven and cool completely.
For the ice cream filling
- Place the softened ice cream and thawed lemonade concentrate into medium-sized bowl of electric mixer. Mix together, smashing ice cream with a rubber spatula against sides of bowl to help soften.
- By hand, gently fold in thawed whipped topping.
- Pour into prepared graham cracker crust and level the ice ream filling in the pie shell.
- Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least two hours or until firm.
For meringue topping:
- For meringue, use a small clean, dry mixing bowl of electric mixer with clean, dry beaters.
- Separate egg whites from egg yolks and add whites to electric mixer bowl. (Make sure that there are no bits of egg yolk mixed in with the whites.) Use the egg yolks for another use.
- Add vanilla extract and cream of tartar.
- On high speed of electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks appear.
- Continuing on high speed of electric mixer, gradually pour in sugar. Beat until meringue becomes shiny and thick.
To finish pie:
- Spread meringue over top of frozen pie all the way to the edges of the filling. Level the meringue, then make decorative pattern with a spatula or back of spoon.
- Broil about 6″ away from heat source for 30 seconds to 1 minute (or longer, if needed) until meringue browns. Watch closely, as meringue can quickly burn.
- Place pie in freezer, and freeze from 2 to 4 hours.
To serve, cut into 6 or 8 slices. If desired, garnish with fresh mint or lemon slices.