When I think of something sweet and tart, and at the same time cool and light, I think of lemon meringue pie. This is a recipe that we normally equate with spring, but I crave it all year round. I know that lemon lovers everywhere would agree that, this delicious dessert should not be relegated to the back of the recipe box once autumn arrives. This year it was front and center on our Thanksgiving dessert table. Thanks to my brother for telling me that they were serving this in lieu of traditional Thanksgiving pies. I thought that was a brilliant way to end a heavy turkey dinner.
I come from long a line of lemon lovers. My brother and sister love lemon, my parents love lemon, my grandparents loved lemon, and so on. I remember my grandfather eating slices of lemon dipped in sugar. Sometimes he would just eat them with nothing on them at all. Now that is a true lover of lemons! If you have ever been to Italy you know there are lemon trees everywhere. They are an integral part of the cuisine and I think most of us are familiar with the very delicious liquor “Limoncello”. So you see how deep routed my love for this citrus fruit goes!
Let’s get back to my favorite pie. I have been trying to master this recipe for years and I think I have finally cracked the code. This pie came out perfect and I think it is because this time I practiced patience. I also did a little investigating into what has worked and failed for other cooks. So I am going to share with you what I learned from my little research project.
I have had two issues with my pie in the past. First, it gets watery and second the meringue pulls away from the crust and filling. The good thing is that I am not the only one who experienced these issues, so I was able to get some good advice on how to correct them. So here are the secrets. 1) Make sure that you put the meringue on the filling while the filling is still hot. 2) Spread the meringue right up against the crust. This will make sure that the meringue creates a seal with the crust and the filling.
What worked for me
- Some of the recipes that I tried required that you cook the cornstarch, water and lemon juice first and then temper the eggs into the mixture. This is so that the eggs don’t scramble when added to the hot mixture. I found that it is easier to mix everything together and then cook it all at one time. The results were good so I am sticking with this one step method.
- Make sure that your pie crust is baked completely before you add the filling. This will keep you from ending up with a soggy crust.
- Cook the filling for a minimum of 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the butter and lemon zest to the thickened mixture and continue to simmer for another minute or two. Getting the filling to a point where it is stable is important to avoiding a watery pie.
- Pour the hot filling into the pie crust.
- Spread the Meringue over the hot filling, making sure to seal it against the pie crust. This will keep the meringue from shrinking.
- Make sure that you don’t get any yolk mixed in with the egg whites or you won’t get the beautiful stiff peaks that make this pie so pretty.
Lemon Meringue Pie
- 1 Prepared pie crust
- 5 egg yolks
- 5 tbsp. Corn Starch
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. butter
- zest from one lemon
- 5 egg whites
- 6 tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
- Preheat your oven to 375°
- Separate the egg yolks and egg whites carefully so that you don't get any of the yolk in the whites. In a medium size bowl, beat the egg yolks.
- Combine the corn starch, sugar, water, lemon juice and egg yolks in a sauce pan. Stir well.
- Cook over a medium heat stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook at a slow boil for at least 5 minutes. The mixture will thicken but will still be pourable.
- Add the butter and lemon zest. Continue to boil the mixture for an additional minute or two, stirring constantly.
- Pour the lemon mixture into the prepared crust.
- Spoon the meringue onto the hot filling. Using a spatula or a spoon, spread the meringue right up to the pie crust so that the filling is completely covered.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the meringue begins to brown.
- In a clean bowl combine the egg whites and cream of tartar.
- Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form.
- Increase the mixer speed to high and add the sugar one tbsp. at a time until stiff peaks form.