I tried making lemon meringue pie once, a long time ago, when I was probably about 12 or 13 years old. It took a long time, and then devastatingly, the lemon custard layer never set, so we just threw the whole thing out. Since then, lemon meringue pie has been dead to me.
Dead to me.
So imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I found out that it is one of Fritz’s favorite desserts! I knew that since his long-studied for and agonizingly difficult test was finally over today, we needed to celebrate, and celebrate good.
It was enough motivation to write lemon meringue pie back into my will. Oh, and this recipe is super easy, totally fool-proof (you can tell if the lemon custard will set or not before you bake it), and…oh yeah. Totally delicious.
I probably ate about 3 weeks worth of calories in lemon custard.
Pie, you will never be dead to me again.
Lemon Meringue Pie (from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) Printable Recipe Page
for the crust:
- 3 T vegetable shortening, chilled
- 4 T butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1 1/4 C flour (I used my new whole-wheat pastry flour, but you can sub in all-purpose)
- 4-6 T ice water
- 1 T sugar
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
for the custard layer:
- 1 1/2 C cold water
- 1 C sugar
- 1/4 C cornstarch
- 1/8 t salt
- 6 (yep, 6–deal with it) egg yolks
- 1 T lemon zest (zest from 1 large lemon)
- 1/2 C lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
- 2 T butter
for the meringue layer:
- 1/2 C water
- 1 T cornstarch
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/4 t cream of tartar
Yeah, I know. It’s a lot of stuff–and I promise you, this recipe takes a lot of time (but not at all if you buy a pre-baked pie crust!) but pies are never quick and never easy and they are always worth it.
You need to start out with the crust, ’cause it’ll take a few hours of waiting before this baby is ready to go.
In your mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt (you can do this all by hand, too, or in a food processor). Add the shortening and the butter and allow the mixer (paddle attachment) to blend them until small crumbs are formed. Add four tablespoons of ice water and mix until just blended. If the dough isn’t coming together, add up to two more tablespoons of water. Flatten the dough into a small disc, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Once it’s ready, take it out of the fridge and allow it to rest for a few minutes. Use the graham cracker crumbs in lieu of extra flour as you are rolling out the dough. This makes the dough more resistant to the sogginess that is correlated with baking custard pies. As you roll out the dough, continue to sprinkle crumbs above and below to incorporate them. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle and carefully lift into the pie pan. Tuck the extra edges under, and crimp the edges any way you like–using your fingers, a fork, whatever. Just make it reaaal purty.
Stick the crust in the freezer exactly as it is for about a half an hour, or until it’s firm. Preheat the oven to 375 about 20 minutes before baking. Then (whew), line it with foil, covering all the edges so they don’t burn, fill with pie weights or beans, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and finish baking another 12-15 minutes until the crust is a deep, golden brown. Let it cool completely.
Let me also remind you that you can buy a crust at the grocery store if you don’t have an issue of pride or require kitchen therapy the way I do.
‘While the crust is cooling, you can make the rest of the pie. Turn the oven temp down to 325 degrees.
For the custard layer, bring the water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat (keep it at medium no matter what!) while whisking constantly. Once it thickens a lot and starts to turn translucent, whisk in the egg yolks, two at a time, then the lemon zest, lemon juice, and lastly the butter. Go slowly and whisk constantly. Allow the mixture to come up to a full simmer (it should be getting very thick!), then remove from the heat. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top, right against the custard, to keep it hot and prevent a skin from forming.
Next stop: the meringue.
Bring the water and cornstarch to a simmer in a small saucepan. Once it’s thickened and translucent, remove from the heat and set aside. In a mixing bowl (I used my KitchenAid with the beater attachment, but you can also use a hand mixer), whip the eggs and vanilla until frothy. Add the sugar and cream of tartar to the eggs, a tablespoon at a time, whipping at medium speed until soft peaks form (when you lift the beater from the eggs, the peaks should droop–those are soft peaks). Add the cornstarch mixture, and continue whipping at medium speed until stiff peaks form (no more drooping).
You are ready to assemble the pie.
Peel the plastic wrap off the custard layer, and test the temperature. If it has cooled a lot, return to low heat for a minute until hot. Pour the custard into the cooled pie crust.
Leave a good 1/4 C out “by accident” so you can eat it with a spoon. Actually, don’t do that. But do it.
Even the custard layer out with a spoon, then drop large spoonfuls of the meringue over the top. Press the meringue into the crust to ensure that it adheres, and gently even out that layer with a spoon. It’s also quite pretty to use the back of a spoon to press into and lift from the meringue, making nice peaks all over for the good housewife-decorating effect shown here.
Bake on the middle rack for twenty minutes, until the meringue is golden brown. Cool to room temperature before serving (alternatively, eat a slice immediately and cool the rest to room temperature).
Isn’t this totally gorgeous?
Fritz was so excited when he got back from his test. He said it went well, and I had just taken the pie out of the oven, so it smelled all lemony and meringuey (?) in the whole apartment.
Lemon meringue, I’m so glad you’re back.
Never leave me again.
Henry and I also built some shelves today to surprise Fritz with! He now has a place for his extensive dental book collection–and Henry has a new stepping stone to the top of Fritz’s dresser.
Fritz also shaved his beard for the first time in weeks as a post-test celebration–and he considered this look:
What do you think? Ha!
Lastly (so much news today=longest blog post EVER): I now have a Facebook page for this blog and you, my friends, can “like” it from the button on the right side of this blog. Nifty, eh?
By the way, Fritz said this was the best lemon meringue pie he has ever eaten.