Lemon Meringue Pie

by Liz on July 14, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

It’s about time for a dessert around here, if I say so myself.  Trouble is, I was at a loss as what dessert to make, so I asked my husband.  I should have guessed what he would request.  He’s been asking for this pie for months, and I keep promising to make it, but finding excuses not to do so.  If I’m honest, I don’t like the “meringue” part of the pie.  I am generally opposed to anything fluffy and white when it comes to food (yes, whipped cream included).  But, love is love, and so I made the pie.

cold butter pieces in flour pea-size butter clumps
pie dough, draped. pie, pricked.

Pies are intimidating aren’t they?  You never know if they’re going to turn out right, if the filling is going to be soup, and let’s not even get started on the crust. The first time I ever made a pie all by myself, I had to roll the dough out on my kitchen table because I lived in an apartment with a counter-less kitchen.

Juicing lemons with a lime juicer. I'm so devious. yolks!

I have probably made ten pies since then, which doesn’t exactly put me in the category of proficient pie-maker, but it has given me enough confidence to know how not to totally ruin a crust, and that no matter how it turns out, it will still taste good, even if it ends up  as pie soup.

Stiff peaks.

All that's left of the pie...

Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted (very little) from Gourmet

The only thing I recall doing differently, were that I used all butter in the pie dough, instead of the suggested combination of butter and shortening.  First of all, I didn’t have any shortening, but also, I’ve still been able to get flaky pie crusts using just butter.

Pie dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick of cold, unsalted butter, cut up into half-inch squares
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with a pastry blender just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. (Original recipe says you can use a food-processor, but I don’t recommend it, because you can take it beyond the point of no return too quickly, and also, it’s just more parts to clean.) Drizzle 4 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture (in a bowl) and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.

Note: After cutting the butter into small pieces, I like to throw them into a bowl and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes or so, just to make sure the butter is really cold when I start to cut it into the flour.  It will help in the quest for flaky crust.

Squeeze a small handful: If dough doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.

Once the dough is holding together, knead it just for to make sure it’s all holding together, and then form it into a 5-inch disk.  Do not be concerned if you see visible pieces of butter, as that is ensuring you will have a flaky crust. Wrap the dough disk in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour.

Lemon Filling:

5 large egg yolks (save the whites in a separate bowl)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons


5 large egg whites, at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar (I couldn’t find this at my grocery store, so I just threw sugar into the food processor for a minute or so)


Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity). Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then crimp decoratively. Lightly prick shell all over with a fork, then chill 30 minutes.

Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights or raw rice. Bake until side is set and edge is pale golden, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until bottom and side are golden, about 20 minutes more. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 350°F.

Make filling:
Whisk together yolks in a small bowl.

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually add water and milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently as mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and gradually whisk about 1 cup milk mixture into yolks, then whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Add lemon zest and juice and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until incorporated. Cover surface with wax paper to keep hot.

Make Meringue:
Beat whites with cream of tartar and salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high and add superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks.

Assemble and bake pie:
Pour hot filling into warm pie shell and gently shake to smooth top. Spread meringue decoratively over hot filling, covering filling completely.

Immediately bake until meringue is golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on a rack, 2 to 3 hours. Cut with a serrated knife dipped in cold water.

A few things to mention here at the end:  First, I forgot to add the 2 tablespoons of butter at the end of making the lemon filling.  The filling still tasted good, but mine probably lacked a bit of smoothness and creaminess that the butter would have added.  Secondly, I found the best way to get the meringue on top, was to use a regular spoon instead of a spatula.  Thirdly, while my pie did not turn out totally soupy, it certainly wasn’t totally firm.  However, I do not remember eating many lemon meringue pies that were very sturdy.  Finally, my husband loved the pie, which was the whole point.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn August 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm

the pie looks great. i will be making it soon..

Liz July 20, 2010 at 10:36 am

Don’t be afraid! Even if it’s not quite right the first time, at least you’ll know what to do the next time. I’m definitely no pie crust pro, and I certainly never have pretty edges.

Psalm July 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm

This looks amazing. I don’t know why, but I’m really scared to make my own pie crust, though.

Will July 15, 2010 at 5:31 am

I’m with Doug… one of my favorites.

Doug July 15, 2010 at 12:50 am

this pie is the stuff dreams are made of……or not far off.

Farrah Thrush July 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for setting my food craving for day.

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