This week we return to the lovely summery flavor of lemon, since I successfully created a lemon meringue pie this time. As both a citrus flavor and a chilled dessert, it makes for a great summertime treat, although it’s equally delicious any other time of year.
Lemon meringue pie was the favorite of my maternal grandmother, and I made it for her birthday a couple of the years I was there to celebrate with her. Her birthday conveniently falls on Pi Day, the day before my own birthday, which make a lovely two days of meringue pie (lemon for her, chocolate for me.) Although she passed away last year, I still intend to celebrate Pi Day with lemon meringue for many years to come.
Perhaps the most easily screwed-up pie I’ve ever made, lemon meringue can be a daunting task for even an experienced pie baker. The easiest way to screw it up is to not cook the filling long enough, causing it not to set correctly in the fridge. It’s extremely important to heat the filling to a full rolling boil and then cook and stir for another minute or so; if in doubt go an extra thirty seconds just to be safe.
The instruction list is fairly long, but I have laid it out in the order I find to be most successful for me. I recommend reading through the entire list before starting to make sure you have everything easily accessible. The success of this pie relies somewhat on timing, and taking too long (or not long enough) between certain steps can result in a liquid filling or the meringue completely separating from the crust.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted from argostarch.com
Makes 1 deep dish pie
Pastry for single-crust pie
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup heaping corn starch
2 cups water
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons butter
5 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp corn starch
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place pastry in pie dish being careful not to stretch the dough. Trim and crimp edges.
- Prick pastry GENEROUSLY with a fork, all over the bottom and sides of the pan.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown, and then cool on a wire rack.
- Reduce oven heat to 375 degrees, and move oven rack to bottom third.
- Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Gradually add the sugar and corn starch, mixing between each addition to medium peaks. Leave in mixer bowl and start the pie filling.
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, water and egg yolks.
- Heat over medium heat, whisking nearly constantly until mixture thickens and reaches a boil.
- Continue cooking, vigorously whisking until mixture is very thick and smooth, approximately 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter, zest and lemon juice until smooth.
- Pour hot filling into pie crust, being careful to leave room for the meringue (it weighs more than you might think!)
- Return to your egg whites and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. (Tips stay straight.)
- Gently place the meringue over the hot filling, carefully sealing the edges completely. Swirl the meringue into peaks using a spatula or the back of a spoon.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until peaks of meringue are lightly browned.
- Cool at room temperature for about thirty minutes, and then place in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.
- I don’t like long strings of zest in things, so I generally chop it pretty fine before adding it to anything.
- Pricking the crust before baking helps keep it from shrinking, so don’t be afraid to stab excessively.
- Egg whites whip best at room temperature, and make VERY certain there is no water in the bowl or on the whisk/beaters before starting.
- It is very important to cook the filling well. If you don’t, it will look thick when you pour it in the crust, but end up as liquid after it chills. Make sure to keep stirring and heating for another 60 seconds after it boils.
- The sooner you can get the meringue onto the hot filling, the less likely separation will occur later. (Mine always separates which drives me insane.)
- Unfortunately, this pie will not keep long so invite some people over to help you finish it the day of baking. (It will keep one day in the fridge alright but after that the meringue doesn’t keep its light and fluffy consistency.