When life gives you lemons
Call it what you will: social distancing, quarantines, whatever. At first we all felt united to defeat a common foe. But as the days turn to weeks, many are beginning to feel a bit sour on the whole topic. Well, as the saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make . . . Lemon Meringue Pie!
Lemon Meringue Pie is one of the first I learned to make, straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook. It’s perfect for beginners because it’s simple and produces such impressive results! I find the sweet-tart combination of sugar and lemon irresistible.
How to make Lemon Meringue Pie
Prep the ingredients
Separate the cold eggs placing the whites in a large mixing bowl and the yolks in a small bowl (eggs separate easier when cold). Allow to sit at room temperature while you prepare the other ingredients. Note: The egg whites will make a fluffier meringue if allowed to come to room temperature, so separating them early in the process helps accomplish that.
Tip: I like to measure out the sugar for the meringue before I start beating so it’s ready to add without stopping and measuring in the middle of beating the egg whites.
Use a lemon zester to remove zest from one lemon. Then, juice the lemon. You should end up with about ½ cup of juice. If short, juice a second lemon or supplement with bottled lemon juice.
Bake the crust
Whether using a purchased pie crust or making your own, follow the instructions for a fully-baked crust. Place crust in pie plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow it to relax. Then bake at 400F. Use parchment paper and pie weights for the first 15 minutes, then remove and finish baking for an additional 15 minutes.
Whip the meringue
I like to whip the meringue once I start baking the crust but before the lemon filling, just so it’s ready to go in advance.
Add cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat until foamy. Then add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, while beating to incorporate. Continue beating until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Do NOT under beat. Once the mixture is stiff and glossy, add the vanilla and beat in. Set aside.
Cook the lemon filling
In a small saucepan, first mix cornstarch and sugar. Then, gradually add water and stir. By pre-mixing the dry ingredients it helps minimize clumping of the cornstarch. Cook with medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils.
Continue cooking and stirring for one minute.
The egg yolks should be nearby, lightly beaten and in a small bowl. Pour about half the hot mixture into the yolks and stir. (This process prevents the eggs from instantly forming scrambled egg, which they would do if you added them straight to the pan.) Then, pour this egg mixture back into the saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil again. Boil and stir for one minute.
Remove from heat. Add butter, lemon zest and lemon juice and stir well.
Note: The original recipe gives the option of adding yellow food coloring to the filling. To avoid artificial ingredients, consider using pasture raised eggs. They have the best yolks with the deepest color.
Layer and bake the Lemon Meringue Pie
Pour the hot lemon filling into the baked pie crust.
Spoon the meringue over the top of the filling, then spread carefully to evenly cover the lemon filling.
Carefully seal the meringue to the edge of the crust. This helps prevent/minimize shrinking and weeping of the meringue.
Bake pie at 400F for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is a delicate brown.
Allow pie to cool away from any drafts.
And get ready to receive extravagant praise!
Lemon Meringue Pie
- Crust for one 9-inch pie
For lemon filling:
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1/3 cup plus one TB cornstarch
- 1 ½ cups water
- 3 egg yolks slightly beaten
- 3 TB butter
- 2 tsp grated lemon peel
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 3 egg whites
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 6 TB sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla
- Place crust in 9-inch pie plate and fully bake (See Pie Crust Baking Tips).
- In a mixing bowl, beat room temperature egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Begin adding sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue beating after each addition. Beat until mixture is stiff and glossy. Do not under beat. Beat in vanilla.
- In a small (1½ quart) saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water gradually. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for one minute.
- Stir at least half of the hot mixture into the egg yolks (in a separate bowl), then add the egg mixture back to the saucepan. Boil and stir for one minute.
- Remove from heat; stir in butter, lemon peel and lemon juice.
- Pour lemon filling into the baked crust.
- Spoon meringue onto the hot lemon filling. Spread meringue evenly over the filling, carefully sealing the meringue to the edge of the crust. This helps to prevent shrinking and weeping of the meringue.
- Return pie to oven and bake until meringue is delicate brown, about 10 minutes.
- Cool away from draft.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours to fully set the lemon filling.
Nutrition values are estimates only, using online calculators. Please verify using your own data.
Love lemon? Stay tuned for more lemon recipes 😀