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Today: Redeem all of your past lemon meringue disasters. Here's how to make one that works.
Lemon meringue pie is the kind of classic recipe that is easy to get very wrong: The filling can be overly sweet, gloppy, and impossible to slice, and the meringue on top can weep and slide right off of the filling, which makes for a very sad slice.
But do not fear! This recipe avoids all of that mess with a zingy lemon filling that is set just enough to slice, topped with a billowy mound of sweet and caramelized meringue that will make you forget about all of your past lemon meringue disasters.
Here are a few tips for making a great lemon meringue pie at home:
1. Prebake the pie shell so it is golden brown and crisp; soggy crusts are not welcome here.
2. Make sure that the filling is cooked gently and slowly to avoid curdling, but also make sure to adhere to the cooking times to ensure that it will set firmly enough that you're able to slice it.
3. Before adding the meringue, cover the filled pie with parchment paper, making sure that it touches the lemon filling. Remove the paper once you're ready to top the pie; the meringue will bond together with the rough surface of the filling as the pie cools, which will keep the meringue from sliding off when you go to slice it.
4. Make sure the pie has cooled completely before you slice it; otherwise, you will have a mess on your hands.
Makes one 9-inch pie
1 pre-baked 9-inch pie shell
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons lemon zest
5 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a medium saucepan combine your cornstarch, water, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. Whisk until no lumps remain in the cornstarch, then bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook while stirring constantly for 75 seconds. The mixture will be clear and very thick.
Beat the egg yolks together in a medium bowl, then slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks, stirring constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat -- still stirring -- for 60 more seconds. Be careful not to let the mixture boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and cover the filling with a piece of parchment or waxed paper. This will help the meringue and filling adhere later. Set it in the refrigerator while you prepare the Swiss meringue.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl of the stand mixer over a double boiler and cook, stirring occasionally, until the egg whites are very warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.
Preheat the broiler. While the broiler is heating, whip the egg whites on medium high until stiff peaks form. Add in the salt and vanilla extract.
Remove the parchment paper from the pie filling, then carefully spread the meringue on top of the lemon filling in a decorative pattern. Make sure to spread the meringue all the way out to the crust.
Carefully slide the pie under the broiler and cook for 20 to 60 seconds, or until the meringue is golden brown with some deeply caramelized spots.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely in the refrigerator before slicing and serving. This pie is best served the day that it is made.
Photos by Yossy Arefi