Creamy Lemon Custard Pie

March 24, 2020
3 Ratings
  • Makes 1 (9-inch) pie
Author Notes

While I love the tart/sweet combination of a classic lemon meringue pie, I really enjoy adding a touch of creaminess into the mix. Enter, this insanely delicious (and still nicely sour) lemon custard filling. Bake until it’s set around the edges but still slightly jiggly in the center—it will continue to set to a perfect sliceable consistency as it cools. Adapted from my upcoming book, The Book on Pie. Here is the recipe for the All-Buttah Pie Dough and for the Swiss Meringue. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
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Creamy Lemon Custard Pie
  • 1 recipe All Buttah Pie Dough for a single crust pie (linked in Author Notes)
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups (339 grams) whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) buttermilk
  • 2 large (113 grams) eggs
  • 3 large (64 grams) egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or lemon extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 recipe Swiss Meringue (linked in Author Notes)
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough into a round about ¼ inch thick. Use the rolling pin to gently transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim the excess dough so that there’s about ½ inch all the way around the outside edge. Tuck the dough under itself all the way around the pie. Crimp as desired. Dock the base and sides of the crust with a fork. Chill the pie crust for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Towards the end of chill time, heat the oven to 425°F, with an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s a bit larger than the pie plate and place it over the chilled pie crust. Fill it with pie weights (or dry beans) to the top edge of the pan.
  3. Transfer the pie crust to the oven and bake until it begins to brown (only lightly) around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven, and carefully remove the pie weights by using the parchment edges as “handles” to lift them out (I usually set the parchment and weights into a metal bowl to cool completely).
  4. Return the pie to the oven and bake for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until the base of the pie appears dry and set. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
  5. Heat the oven to 350°F (still with the rack in the lower third of the oven). Place the cooled shell on a baking sheet.
  6. In a medium bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together. Add the cornstarch and whisk to combine. Add the milk, buttermilk, eggs, and egg yolks and whisk well to combine. Add the lemon juice, lemon oil/extract, vanilla, and salt and whisk to combine.
  7. Gently pour the custard into the prepared pie crust. Bake until the pie appears set at the edges but is still slightly jiggly in the center, 45 to 50 minutes.
  8. Cool completely to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours). Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  9. When ready to serve, prepare the meringue and pipe or spoon it onto the pie. If desired, toast the meringue with a torch.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Tracey Thorpe
    Tracey Thorpe
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

4 Reviews

Tracey T. May 12, 2024
Crust 9/10
Custard 8/10 - mine came out a little lumpy BUT I think I’d also like to cook it less to rectify that
I used Yuzu juice and rind that I had frozen and the flavor was amazing
Swiss Meringue 6/10 - ended up scraping most of it off my slice. Way too sweet for me and I am considering either reducing the sugar or adding a flavor to the meringue - open to suggestions!
Over all 7.5/10 because I love citrus and the custard flavor was really nice and I just need to take it out sooner
Smaug April 1, 2020
OK, I've now tried it- a very nice pie. The flavor is a bit light for someone who lives in lemon territory, but nice. Also there's quite a bit of variability; I was (to my surprise) out of lemon oil and had to use extract, leaving me to guess at the amount. Boyajian says it takes 225 lemons to make a 3oz. bottle of lemon oil- it's powerful stuff. I like the pie cold, but I also tried a slice very slightly warmed in the microwave, and it did pick up the aromatics more. The recipeis quite easy- note that most of the instructions are for the crust; it's a good crust (apart from the annoying name), I've made it before, but I used some dough (also all butter) that I had in the fridge. As I recall, the suggested dough involved rubbing the butter in rather than cutting it (I usually do some of both)- it produces an excellent crust but can be rough on arthritic hands; also, you need to be a bit cautious; it is possible to over shorten a crust. Recipe writers for some reason tend to ignore the temperature of custards when baking is started, and it makes a huge difference in how it bakes. Some do recommend starting with eggs and dairy at room temp.; I usually start it warm and I did on this pie, too, as well as the crust; it baked in about 32 min. I made 1/3 recipe for a 6" pie, which was just right- it's not the easiest recipe to divide, but not too bad. Less experienced bakers should note that custards grow a bit when baked; be sure you're not all the way to the top of the crust, or it could overflow in the oven. I also used a sub for the buttermilk (1/2 milk, 1/2 sour cream)- a lemon/ milk mixture would probably have been more appropriate, but I was overstocked on sour cream. It caused no problems, but I think cultured buttermilk would give the pie a bit more bite.
Smaug March 28, 2020
There's a big difference between lemon oil and lemon extract- I have no figures, but I do remember seeing one extract that had the oil content listed at 15%, and that was a pretty high end product. I also understand that some people sell a "lemon oil" that is lemon oil diluted with other oils; the brand I use (Boyajian) is pure lemon oil, and 1/2 tsp. is a LOT- not that that's necessarily bad, there isn't a lot of lemon juice in this recipe, but it's a substitution that you'd want to give some thought.
Smaug March 28, 2020
ps I will probably give this pie a shot, probably scaled down to 6". Does it need to be cultured buttermilk, or could I use a citric acid (or lemon juice) and milk homemade sub?