Classic lemon meringue pie: even the name sounds a bit intimidating. Meringue is a classic technique by which egg whites are whipped using several various methods, all yielding delicious, marshmallow-like clouds to adorn our favorite custards, curds, and cream pies.
Surprisingly, when experimenting (even once exploding a glass double boiler), I found that when enough sugar is involved whipped egg whites—which according to common knowledge should be handled with delicacy, are pretty darn stable—that air really isn’t going anywhere.
When I create a recipe with shortcuts I must first master the original and discover any flaws. I’m the girl forever standing against group-think. If a recipe is great or standard, why? Are there ways to improve the process, taste, and experience of making something? In a world where everyone has a recipe for everything, I like to make sure I’ve made a better, different, simple take on a classic.
Enter my lemon meringue. I wanted a custard that was far from the diner gel many people think of, and honestly I didn’t want to make a separate curd that might need to be pushed through a mesh sieve. I like to mix and pour and bake. Several recipes were too eggy. I don’t want to taste any egg while I’m eating lemon meringue pie, though egg is a major ingredient. Then, I remembered my good friend sweetened condensed milk. A classic key lime pie is simply made of eggs, condensed milk, and key lime juice. I’m in love with that texture! So I baked a butter shortbread-like crust, followed key lime pie’s lead, and a star was born.
I cut out further steps and topped it with billows of stable meringue. I think we could all use more stability in our lives. This meringue is like an old friend. I can’t be bothered with piping or fussing. I need rustic, simple swoops and plops. I don’t fancy the taste of butane, so I skip the blow torch and allow this tart a trip under the broiler. It’s best chilled the next morning, served out of a mug alongside a cup of hot coffee for breakfast.
If you'd prefer a cookie-crumb crust, here's how to do it. You'll need: 2 cups crushed crackers or cookies, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup melted butter (may need more depending on the main ingredient used). Mix all ingredients well. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan or pie plate. Bake in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes. Then, continue with the recipe from step two. —Danielle Kartes
- Prep time 25 minutes
- Cook time 45 minutes
- Makes one 9-inch tart
- Crust (see Author Notes for another crust option)
1 1/4 cups
(12 tablespoons) salted butter, soft
- Lemon filling and meringue topping
(14-ounce) can of sweetened condensed milk
Juice of 3 juicy lemons
Juice of 1 lime
large or extra-large egg yolks
kosher salt, divided
large or extra-large egg whites
3/4 to 1 cups
- Heat oven to 350°F. Mix the flours, salt, butter, and sugar in the work bowl of your stand mixer or by hand until it’s crumbly like damp sand. Press the crust firmly into the tart pan, working it evenly up the sides. Bake 25 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Cool crust until it’s only warm to the touch before adding the filling.
- To prepare the filling, mix the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lime juice, egg yolks, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Pour into the baked tart or pie shell. Lower the oven temp to 325°F and bake 15 minutes—no more, no less. Allow to cool to room temp before adding meringue.
- Before you are ready to top the pie, whip the egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt until you’ve reached glossy, stiff (but not overly stiff) peaks. Swirl the fluffy meringue over top of the completely cool tart and place under a broiler 1 to 2 minutes to gently brown the top. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Overnight is best. Sometimes in the fridge the meringue may weep a bit with sugar syrup. Feel free to top with meringue and broil the top just before serving.