Thursday, January 20, 2011

Double Take, sort of: Lemon Meringue Pie

Historically, Mel and I both like lemon meringue pie. (Truthfully, I pick lime over lemon given the choice but that's because I really love lime. Lemon is good too though.) Our preference is for citrus pie to be notably tart and it doesn't bother me if the tartness kind of slaps you in the face. That's not for everyone. However, if you like a tart pie, this recipe will get you pretty well there. You can add a little more juice if you like for extra POW.

The path to the tart pie requires pretty much the same ingredients as listed in the original Southern Living recipe BUT the execution as written is likely to give you a soggy "pie filling" experience, as Mel encountered with the recipe.  Lemon pie should set up well over a four hour span. Frankly, any curd (which is all the filling needs to be) should be expected to set up in 4 hours. Sorry, in case you're wondering what a curd is, its just a substance made by heating milk. For a pie filling, a curd typically involves: 1) heating the milk to a boil, 2) cooling it a bit, 3) slowly adding the hot milk to egg yolks while whisking, 4) returning the entire mixture to heat until thick like a pudding. A lemon curd is the basic filling for a lemon meringue pie.

An alternative filling for a lemon pie cuts out the heating milk/curd step by using sweetened condensed milk. This method requires NO stovetop work. Instead, you juice and zest the citrus, mix the components in a bowl, dump the mixture in a crust and're ready to add meringue. Its must easier and while there may be a curd recipe that tops it, I can't say this Southern Living curd beats it for flavor.

This recipe was an experiment in trying to make the pie a different way. Its good to try a new-to-you method because sometimes you find a new favorite or (at least) learn new things on the way. The following is the ingredients list used by Southern Living with my pie crust and my adaptations to how to allow the starch in the filling to do its job - rather than become a truly hot mess. Please note: if you follow the directions from the Southern Living link, your pie may not set as desired.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Step 1: Crust

This is my old faithful standby crust. To keep you from hunting all over my blog for it, I'm relisting it for your convenience.

Pie Crust (1 crust)

1 c. flour
½ tsp salt
3 rounded Tbsp Crisco (shortening)
3 Tbsp ice water


Measure flour and salt into a large bowl. Blend shortening into flour and salt with a pastry blender or fork until it reaches the consistency of heavy cornmeal. Add water 1 tablespoonful at a time, tossing wet and dry ingredients together with blender until all the flour is moistened. Turn out on floured board. Roll into a circle 1/8 to ¼ inch thick and large enough to allow 1 to 1 ½ inches hanging over the edge of the pie tin. Fold up and back to make an upright rim and flute with fingers. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Place another tin the same size over the crust. Bake 12 minutes at 450 F until browned at the bottom. Remove upper tin and allow inside of crust to brown.
Note: If rolled thinly, you can make the bottom and a lattice top using this recipe. The recipe can be doubled to prevent anxiety about having enough dough for an upper crust.

Lemon Meringue Pie Filling (adapted from Southern Living)


  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  cornstarch
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  large egg yolks
  • 2  cups  milk
  • 1/3  cup  fresh lemon juice
  • 3  tablespoons  butter or margarine
  • 1  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract

How To:

Place cornstarch in 1/4 c. cold milk. Stir well to dissolve completely.

Whisk together sugar and salt and place in a medium saucepan. DO NOT HEAT, yet.

Whisk together egg yolks, 1 3/4 c. milk, and lemon juice (add a little extra if you want more zing) in a bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the sugar mixture. Heat the solution at a medium heat setting.

Bring to a rolling boil. Maintain the boil and whisk constantly while boiling for 3-5 minutes. You want the mixture to coat the back of a wooden spoon. If your mixture isn't thick enough at 5 minutes, keep whisking. It could take up to 12 minutes. 

Once thick, remove the pan from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest, and vanilla extra and whisk until smooth.

Lemon Meringue Pie Assembly (adapted from Southern Living)


  • 1 pie crust (see above or hit the grocery store)
  • 1 recipe for pie filling (see above)
  • 4  egg whites
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c.  sugar

How To:

Poke holes in your pie crust and bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. 
Prepare Lemon Meringue Pie Filling; pour into piecrust. Cover with plastic wrap, placing directly on filling. (Proceed immediately with next step to ensure that the meringue is spread over the pie filling while it is still warm.)

Beat egg whites and vanilla extract at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, gradually, and beat 2 to 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form and sugar dissolves.
Remove plastic wrap from pie, and spread meringue evenly over warm Lemon Meringue Pie Filling, sealing edges.

Bake at 325° for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Turn off oven, cool pie slowly. Remove from oven when cooled. It is recommended to place the pie in a refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving to allow the filling to be firm. 

Thoughts: To evaluate this pie, I compared it to my list of what a lemon meringue (or lime for that matter) should be like:

1) Tasty Crust (necessary for all pies) - Check
2) Firmly set but not chewy filling -        Check
3) Pronounced meringue peaks (this tends to be more ingredient and operator dependent) - Check
4) Light brown meringue toasting (operator dependent) - Check
5) Tart, flavorful filling (recipe dependent) - Check

Assessment: This is a pretty good lemon pie. The flavor from the sweetened condensed milk for the other recipe is a notch higher in my opinion but this one is still good. The ease of the recipe prepared with sweetened condensed milk (5-10 minutes prep time total) makes the sweetened condensed milk method a winner for time and overall flavor. HOWEVER, this is a worthy opponent and lends itself to alternative cooking for lactose intolerant and diabetic persons. Today's posted recipe can easily be made with silk and splenda and work well.

Hop, skip, or jump your way over the Mel's blog to see her slice of the lemon pie!

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