The New Classic Lemon-Meringue Pie

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There are a lot of recipes for Lemon-Meringue Pie all over the web, in a million cookbooks, and handed down from generations.  Honestly, it isn’t the easiest pie to make, but so worth the effort.  I had never made one myself, but I thought I’d give it a try because, anything lemony is amazing…and this pie, was delicious!!!

When making the filling for this pie, well…things can go very wrong if you don’t follow the instructions to a T.  But why do I call this the “New Classic?”  Well, sometimes when I try a recipe, if it’s too much trouble or doesn’t taste quite right, I try to adjust it, mostly to make my life easier and to please my very picky eaters!

The first pie I made, went right into the trash.  It was like lemon soup.  I had read that this could happen.  The next one I made was success.  It tasted great, but the recipe I was following said to refrigerate it 4 hours.  That is not enough time at all…there was definitely room for improvement.  Also, I didn’t understand why the pie had to go back into the oven when you fill it just to brown the meringue.  Can’t you just let the pie set by itself, and then top it after it’s cooled and set properly?  The answer is, yes.

So here’s a better plan:  cook the crust, cook the curd (make sure your curd is really thick on the stove.  Once you remove it and add the lemon juice and the butter, it will soften up again). Fill the crust with the curd and once it’s cooled on your counter, place it in the refrigerator for 6 hours before topping it.  If you don’t already have one, purchase a kitchen torch.  Before you’re ready to serve, prepare your meringue, top the pie and brown the meringue with the kitchen torch.  The kitchen torch is an amazing little gadget.  I don’t use it much, but when I need it, I’m very happy I have one! If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can just brown it gently in the oven.

I’ve never been good at making pie crust.  I usually would just buy a ready made one at the grocery store.  And every time I tried to make a crust, it really wasn’t good at all.  The main problem was that I felt like I never had enough dough and I felt like it was hard to work it…I learned, it doesn’t take much work.  It literally ends up better if you work it less!  I gave myself a little challenge…make a pie, with a home made crust.

I found a great recipe and method or making the pie crust.  There are a lot of different ways people do it, and honestly people who know how always say how easy it is. It’s never been easy for me, but I see how knowing the basics can help with being successful.  King Arthur’s Test Kitchen video for making pie crust is really good and the crust tastes amazing!  It really helped me to understand the basics.  I cut it in half for this pie. I’ve posted the Youtube video on pie crust 101 from King Arthur Flour to my Facebook page: On the Slab.

Serves about 8, makes a 9″ pie

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • one single layer pie crust (see instructions at my Facebook page: On the Slab)
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Meringue:

  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (can use vinegar instead of cream of tartar, see method instructions)
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites (room temperature)

Instructions:

Pie Crust:

  1. Prepare a pie crust. Follow the instructions of King Arthur’s Flour Test Kitchen video, or if you’re not ready for the challenge, use a store bought pie crust and follow baking instructions.

Filling:

  1. Separate the eggs  using 3 bowls.  I like to have a small bowl, a medium bowl, and a large bowl.  Crack one egg into the small bowl, making sure there are no shells.  gently grab the yolk out of the bowl, allow it to rest in your closed fingertips so any remaining egg white runs off.  Place the yolk in the medium bowl, place the egg white in the larger bowl.  Repeat for each egg.  You most certainly do not want any egg yolk in the egg whites, so if you egg yolk breaks, toss that one and get another egg.  This happens, that’s why I like to crack one at a time into a small bowl…you’ll have more control and less chance you’ll waste eggs.  Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.  Cover and place the egg whites in the refrigerator for now.
  2. In a 2 qt. saucepan, add 6 Tbsp cornstarch, 1 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 cups water, and whisk to combine. Bring to a boil on medium heat, whisking constantly. Let simmer for a minute or two until the mixture begins to thicken. At this point, do not remove it.  Even if you’re tempted to, leave it on the heat, whisking it until it’s almost like a paste.
  3.  Add about 4 Tbsp of the thickened mixture to the egg yolks, one tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously to temper the eggs and then add the egg yolks back into the saucepan with the cornstarch and continue to whisk.  Return it to the stove on medium/high heat for about 4-5 minutes, continue to whisk.  Remove it from the heat and add in the lemon juice, zest and butter.  Immediately fill your cooked pie crust with the hot filling and set it on a wire rack until it’s room temperature, cover with plastic wrap or parchment paper, gently placing the cover directly on the surface of the curd so it touches it; this prevents it from forming a skin layer on top.  Once it is room temp, place in the refrigerator (lower level is best) for 6 hours, but do not remove it or slice into it until is absolutely set, if it’s still a little jiggly, leave it longer.

Meringue:

  1. Prepare the meringue an hour or two before serving.  The egg whites have to be room temperature, so remove them from the refrigerator about 1 1/2 hours before beating.  Combine the sugar, cornstarch and cream of tartar in a small bowl and set aside.  Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer, start mixing on low and increase the speed gradually.  Add the sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time.  Continue whisking until soft peaks have formed.  Do not over mix.  This only takes a few minutes, but do plan ahead so your guests are not waiting to long to enjoy this amazing pie!
  2. Remove the pie from the refrigerator and Gently remove the plastic wrap from the top of the pie’s surface.   It’s a good idea to start placing the meringue at the edges, making sure that the meringue touches the crust so that it won’t shrink, working your way towards the center where it should have a slight mound.  Work it with your spoon, to form soft peaks.  Using a kitchen torch, brown the peaks.  If you do not have a kitchen torch; heat your broiler and carefully place the pie in the oven.  Heat it for 30-60 seconds until the meringue is slightly browned.  Watch it carefully and remove it as soon as you see the peaks browning. If not serving immediately, return it to fridge until ready to serve and enjoy!IMG_6766

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