Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe

Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe
Staff Writer
Pies & Tarts
Flavia Schepmans
Pies & Tarts

Lemon meringue pie is a perfectly balanced dessert marked by swirling peaks of sweet, nearly weightless meringue atop a rich mouth-puckering filling. A few tricks are in order, however, to help prevent common mishaps, such as a soggy crust or runny filling. First, the crust must be fully blind-baked so that it gets crisp and firm. A half-butter, half-shortening crust like the one used here has a pleasantly crumbly, tender texture. (Substitute an all-butter crust, if you prefer.) The stove-top custard filling is thickened with egg yolks and cornstarch. It must come to a full boil and then cook for several minutes in order to activate the cornstarch and thicken properly.

Ingredients

For the pie:

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • ½ recipe Pâte Brisée, Shortening Variation
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest plus ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

For the meringue topping: 

  • 8 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

For the pie:

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim dough, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Tuck overhang under, flush with rim, and crimp edges. Pierce bottom of shell all over with a fork. Refrigerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line shell with parchment, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edges begin to turn golden, 15-18 minutes. Remove weights and parchment. Bake until crust is golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Combine the cornstarch, sugar, zest, and salt in a saucepan. Whisk in the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until bubbling and thick, about 7 minutes (about 2 minutes after it comes to a boil).

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks until combined. Pour in cornstarch mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until completely incorporated. Return mixture to saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it returns to a boil, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in lemon juice. Add butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking until each piece melts before adding the next. Let custard cool in saucepan on a wire rack 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Pour custard into crust. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of custard. Refrigerate until custard filling is chilled and firm, at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

For the meringue topping: 

With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add sugar. Increase speed and whisk until meringue is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Whisk in vanilla. 

Spoon meringue onto surface of the pie until it reaches the crust, then use an offset spatula to create a swirling pattern. If desired, use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue, moving flame back and forth until evenly browned. Or brown the meringue under the broiler, but keep an eye on it — a minute or two is all you need. 

Heap meringue on top of filling, making sure it extends to edge and touches crust (to prevent shrinking). Use a kitchen torch to lightly brown meringue peaks. Alternatively, place pie under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes; watch carefully to ensure meringue doesn’t burn. Serve immediately.

Lemon Shopping Tip

Buying fruits in season when they are at the peak of their freshness make for great tasting food and can save you money.

Lemon Cooking Tip

Don’t throw out your overripe fruit – instead blend into a smoothie or salad dressing, add to muffin batter, bake into a cobbler, or boil down with sugar and a little lemon juice to make jam.