A lemon meringue pie –that is what I wanted. The kind your grandma, or in my case, Aunt Edna would make. I remember the sweet and tangy taste of the lemon and the huge mound of fluffy, perfectly browned meringue on top and the not-too-crisp buttery crust on the bottom.
I had no spare time to put any thought or effort into making this pie. I did the next “worst” thing possible and went to the freezer department of my local grocery store. I saw the lemony-luscious picture of the pie on the red Sara Lee box and bought it. Where did I go wrong?
I did not read the full name of the pie and the picture was a bit deceiving…or was it my strong desire for the taste of a lemon meringue pie that made me blind? It was a lemon creme pie…..but I swear the lemon filling pictured on the box looked clear, not creamy. I was duly disappointed when I thawed it and sliced into it.
After suffering that disappointment, I was even more determined to make a pie. I gathered my recipes. My Mom did not have Aunt Edna’s recipe in her recipe collection, because at heart, Mom was not a pie baker…more of a cake maker. I looked through several of my recipe books and then settled on what I found in a sample of a new little magazine put out by “AllRecipes.com.” It was called “Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie.”
I also reviewed my book “The New Best Recipe” from America’s Test Kitchen and Editors of Cooks Illustrated, for some helpful hints on making a lemon meringue pie. The recipe I used was a mix of both recipes. What was I thinking? Cooks Illustrated made over 30 test pies and the meringue was the issue each time. Keeping everything in mind that I had read, I proceeded to make the pie.
I zested my lemons, squeezed out the juice, poked my ready-made pie crust and baked it off.
The lemon pie filling came together nicely, as did the meringue. I used farm-fresh eggs and the yolks made a beautiful lemony color.
I followed the recipe and followed the tips from the AR Kitchen as they suggested: I reduced the water, I used ½ cup lemon juice and had a third lemon available in case two did not render enough juice. I followed their 12 minute baking time once the meringue was on top. Also, I made sure my meringue sealed the edges at the crust, as directed by both AR and CI.
I baked it for the 12 minutes and it looked pretty good, but not fully browned.
Recipe – Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie
See AllRecipes.Com/Lemon-Meringue and their video at allrecipes.com/lemon-meringue-video
Start by baking your pie crust as directed and then adjust your oven to 350 degrees F.
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water ( I used ¼ less)
2 lemons, zest and juice (need ½ cup juice)
2 tablespoons butter
4 egg yolks, beaten (farm fresh makes beautiful coloring)
1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in ½ cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour filling* into baked pie shell.
4 egg whites
6 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
(Note: I added the cream of tartar after consulting the CI recipe. I should have added cornstarch as recommended by CI-might have helped with water issue.)
In a large glass or metal bowl (I suggest chilling the bowl and keeping egg whites cool), whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over hot* pie filling, sealing the edges at the crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.*
It tasted great and I can’t wait to have another piece for dessert tonight!
*Baking Notes: Cooks Illustrated recommends lowering the oven to 325° and baking for 20 minutes, which gives a more even browning and full baking of meringue. I agree with this because I had shrinkage and puddling of the meringue after cooling-meaning I had water in the bottom of the dish with the crust, making it soggy. I am glad I did not waste my time and effort in making a crust from scratch. I also recommend reversing the order in preparation of the recipe – do the meringue and set aside and then do the pie filling so that it is hot when poured in the baked pie shell and the meringue is spread on top-the science of it will work better. Yes, there is science in baking. Credit to AllRecipes and Cooks Illustrated.