Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Search Is Over...Lemon Meringue Pie

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If you think it is easy to bake a perfect lemon meringue pie think again.  This is one of the toughest pies to get right, for you have to get not just the filling but the meringue and the crust perfect as well.  Bad lemon meringue pies are a dime a dozen.  Either the crust is soggy or non existent, the filling is too soft or too hard and the meringue is just not right.  The proportion of filling to meringue is incredibly important, as well as their proportion to the crust.  It's quite a challenge.  I have been trying since the 70's and it wasn't until this weekend that I found the perfect recipe.  At least for the filling and the meringue.  I must admit I cheated on the crust and bought one ready made.  Next time I am definitely trying the crust that goes with this pie.

When we moved to Connecticut in the 60's one of our neighbors dropped off a packed lunch that included a lemon meringue pie.  I was hooked...hook, line and sinker!  In those days, neighbors still dropped by to introduce themselves and always welcomed you with a picnic lunch or something hot for dinner on moving day. Don't you wish those days were back?  Now you are lucky if you meet them by Christmas!

Throughout the years, I tried recipes from the Joy of Cooking and Craig Claiborne, but they were never perfect.  The problem was always the filling, too runny.  Finally I gave up.  Just recently, I picked up a copy of Lee Bailey's Country Desserts and spotted this recipe (I never really gave up looking).  Oh why not, I thought I'd give it a go.  But I certainly wasn't going to waste time making a pie crust if the filling and meringue weren't right so I went ahead with a pre baked pie shell.

Well, the search is over.  The filling is just perfect, lemony but not too tart and the meringue, oh the sublime!  I don't know if it's adding the salt or what, but it is just d i v i n e !!! I did add and extra 1/4 cup of sugar to the egg whites, making it 3/4 instead of 1/2.  That was the only thing I changed and I'm glad I did.

This pie is so versatile it goes with everything from a cookout to a simple Sunday supper such as roast chicken.   It is particularly refreshing after a hot and spicy meal.  It must be the lemon. I served it last weekend for Poker Night after General Tso's Chicken and it was a perfect combination.  I know it sounds strange, but it works.  Goes to show you...

Serves 8



1 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c unsalted butter, chilled, cut in thin slices
1/4 c lard or solid vegetable shortening
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
3 TB ice water

Filling and meringue

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 C plus 1 TB cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature plus
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 C cold water
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
5 TB unsalted butter, cut in 5 equal pieces

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.  Cut in the butter, lard and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle the ice water and toss with a fork to blend.  Gather the dough into a ball.  If excess flour remains, add a few drops more ice water.  Shape into a disk and wrap in plastic.  Chill for 1 hour.

T assemble pie preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out pastry into a 12 inch circle.  Fit into a 9 inch pie pan and fold edge under..

Line the pastry shell with a sheet of foil and fill with dried beans or pie weights.  Set pie pan on baking sheet and bake 10 mins. until edge is set.  Remove weights and foil and bake another 5 mins. until bottom firm and light golden,  Cool on a rack.

In heavy saucepan combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt the 4 egg yolks and the lemon juice.  Add 2 cups cold water and whisk until blended.  Cook over moderate heat, whisking until it comes to a boil.  Boil, stirring, 1 minute then remove from heat and stir in lemon zest and butter.Stir until the butter is completely melted.

Pour into pie shell, cover with a round of wax paper pressed directly on the surface and cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl combine the 5 egg whites and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  Beat until soft peaks form then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar (I added 3/4 cup) and beat until stiff peaks form.

Remove wax paper from top of filling and pile on the meringue.  Spread to slightly overlap and seal the fluted edges of the crust.  (This seal is important if not meringue will shrink inward over filling).

Bake in center of oven until top is pale golden, about 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature on a rack then refrigerate until just chilled and set, about 2 hours.  Slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water.


  1. This does sound like a great recipe. I like Lee Bailey's cookbooks. The crust sounds interesting with the lemon zest. Will have to give it a try.

  2. Hello Julieta...I'll tell you when the search is over...ONLY when you bake that pie and bring it on over ;o)
    Jokes aside...I know exacly what you mean about getting the filling just right. I even have made this pie with a graham type crust...worked quite well.
    Thanks for sharing your last experiment. I will cross reference it with my favourite version.

  3. You both can try it with the utmost was superb!

  4. My husband loves Lemon Pie, I'm going to try making this for him, hopefully I get brownie points!!


  5. HELP! I tried this recipe and I doubled up on the ingredients to make 2 pies. The filling came out runny. I don't know what I did wrong!

  6. Claudia,

    I just noticed that the C next to 1/4 (C) PLUS 1 Tb cornstarch was missing. Could that have been it? For 2 pies it should have been 1/2 C plus 2 TB cornstarch. It gets harder when it cools. If you still have the filling, try adding more cornstarch diluted in a little water and cook until it comes back to almost a boil.

    Hope that helps.Let me know

  7. After I put the meringue on top and baked as in instructed it created some liquid on top of the filling and so the meringue is not attaching. Is there any way to avoid this?

    1. I have never seen that. Could it be that the liquid was there before you added the meringue before baking? Sometimes that happens when you cover something with aluminum wrap and stick in the refrigerator. If this is the case, when you take out of the fridge put a folded paper towel on top to absorb any liquid. That is all I can think of. Aside from that remember you are to cover with the meringue so it overlaps the fluted edges and seals. read the instructions again.


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