Recipe by Sarah Phillips; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 2008 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
To all of us pie connoisseurs, this lemon meringue pie is a delicious, mouth-puckering dessert with a marvelous contrast of textures. It is a classic American dessert with the ultimate flaky pastry (or a prebaked Graham Cracker Pie or Tart Crust) and a tart, fresh lemony custard-like filling, under a dazzling mound of fluffy meringue that's either swirled into a spiral or puffed into peaks and baked to a golden brown. The meringue is safe because I precook the whites to 160 degrees F!
However, there are many potholes in the lemon-scented road to this sensation, of which weeping water is the main one. Another problem is fillings that don't set. My recipe is filled with various tips and techniques to help you achieve the perfect pie! See also my Chocolate Cream Meringue Pie for additional tips on preventing weeping meringue and for safe meringue tips.
PIE RECIPE HELP
Kelly Says: "HOLY LEMONY COW!!!!...I am now floating on a meringue cloud. YUMMY!!!!!"
The originator of the Lemon Meringue Pie intended that it would be eaten right away; when the pie sits, water collects in the bottom of it, as you have discovered. The water is called weeping and is caused by the egg whites in the meringue denaturing or breaking down over time.
To help prevent this, the meringue should be spread on a hot filling and spread to cover the crust's edges.
This also helps prevent shrinkage of the meringue.
Also, cooking the meringue, as I do in this recipe, also helps prevent weeping, because cooked egg whites tend to break down more slowly over time versus raw ones.
Nonetheless, meringue pies will tend to weep when refrigerated, so if yours does, it's normal.
1 recipe Flaky Pie Crust or Pate Brisee Tutorial - Single Crust, bake the crust and cool
4 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 small lemons)
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (from about 1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
SARAH SAYS: The vanilla extract tempers the lemon's acidity.
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar
KELLY SAYS: When I separate the whites from yolks, I find it easier just to do this with clean hands.
Make sure you thoroughly wash your hands in hot soapy water, afterwards.
STEP I: MAKE THE LEMON PIE FILLING
1. Thoroughly beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl.
2. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gradually stir in the water to dissolve the sugar.
3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils for about 1 minute.
The mixture will be shiny and opaque when done. Remove from the heat.
SARAH SAYS: I like to stir the mixture with a flat whisk. It works better than a wooden spoon because you can get into the corner of the pan and prevent the mixture from burning.
4. Immediately whisk a large spoonful of the cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks and quickly whisk together. Repeat a couple of times until 1/3 of the cornstarch mixture is added.
5. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the rest of the thickened cornstarch and quickly whisk together.
SARAH SAYS: What you are doing is tempering the egg yolks or heating them up slowly so they won't curdle when the hot cornstarch mixture is added to it.
6. Cook on medium-low heat stirring constantly for 1 minute so it won't burn until steam breaks through the cornstarch mixture from the bottom; remove from heat.
7. Strain through a fine mesh strainer back into the saucepan.
8. Stir in the butter until incorporated.
9. Add the lemon juice, lemon peel, and extracts. Leave in the saucepan.
10. Set aside with a piece of plastic wrap pressed on the surface of the mixture. Don't let the filling cool.
STEP II: MAKE THE MERINGUE
SARAH SAYS: The meringue is safe because I have you precook the whites to 160 degrees F.
1. Put egg whites, 3/4 cup sugar, and the cream of tartar into a heatproof bowl.
2. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. With a hand-held mixer fitted with beater attachments, beat on low until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches 160 degrees, measured with an Instant Read or Candy Thermometer. Remove from heat.
3. Beat on medium-low speed for 5 minutes.
4. Raise the mixer speed to high, and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes.
STEP III: IMMEDIATELY SPREAD THE MERINGUE ON TOP OF THE HOT LEMON FILLING. BROWN MERINGUE. SERVE IMMEDIATELY.
1. Position an oven shelf in the lower third, and preheat the broiler.
2. If the lemon filling isn't hot, remove the plastic wrap and return the saucepan to low heat, stirring constantly. Heat until just hot to prevent the meringue from shrinking or weeping.
Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust and spread it evenly in the crust.
3. Immediately spread the meringue over the filling, carefully sealing to the edge of the crust to prevent shrinking or weeping.
KELLY SAYS: This is a mile-high lemon meringue pie. There is A LOT of meringue, as there should be, in my opinion. After the meringue is sealed to the edges, just pile it on, creating decorative swirls and peaks with the back of a large spoon. All the little peaks you create will be more brown than the surrounding area, making the pie more beautiful, when baked.
4. Broil until browned, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
KELLY SAYS: I have a very old range and my broiler is in a drawer, underneath the oven. The pie was too high to brown the meringue under the broiler, so I had to do it in the oven. I baked it at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until the meringue was nice and brown on the tips.
Serve the pie immediately. An easy way to cut through the meringue is with a lightly greased (oiled) or buttered sharp knife blade.
Meringue pies do not store well. They are meant to be eaten in one day! It can be stored at room temperature for a day, uncovered. Afterwards, refrigerate it, but it typically starts to weep water.