Yield: one 9-inch pie
“Back to Baking”, pp. 92
This weekend I had my family, consisting of my parents and my two younger sisters, over for diner. In an attempt to reconcile my mom with my food and baked goods (she is admittedly not a huge fan of homemade goods), I decided to make the lemon meringue pie in Anna’s cookbook. This was perhaps a risky endeavour, as my mom adores lemon pie and would thus be an honest critic, and also… I do not like lemon pie (gasp!!). That would imply that I would not really know if it is a “good” lemon pie by normal standards. Oh well, I decided to go forward with it anyways.
Ingredients for crust:
- 1/2 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough
- 1 egg white
Ingredients for filling:
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 6 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 5 egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue!)
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) unsalted butter
Ingredients for meringue:
- 5 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup water
- candy thermometer (optional, but highly recommended)
The recipe was, as usual, very well explained and detailed, so I had no problem following the instructions. The crust and filling were a success, I believe. The part that was worrying me a little bit was the meringue topping. As mentioned in previous posts, whipping egg whites and knowing, or rather not knowing, when to stop (i.e. when it reaches the perfect soft, medium or stiff “peak”) has always been one of my setbacks. However, I think that I have learned from my mistakes because the meringue came out great. It was shiny, glossy, did not slip ‘n slide off the pie and, even better, it tasted great. Like my sister said, it almost has a marshmallow-y flavour.
Of course, even though I do not generally like lemon pie, I had to taste my own concoction. Or to be more precise, my re-creation of Anna’s concoction. I liked it enough. I still think that I don’t like lemon pie, but it didn’t taste bad at all. The meringue, however, was quite to my liking. Needing constructive criticism, I gathered feedback from my family and friends. The general consensus seems to be that this lemon meringue pie is very good, but very rich. Also, although everyone raved about the meringue, they thought that the meringue to filling ratio was pretty high and that it rendered that pie almost too sweet. I have noticed, however, that most recipes for a lemon meringue pie have a similar meringue to filling ratio. My family and friends must be unaccustomed to it. I am at least glad that I made this recipe and am happy that I can now successfully make an Italian meringue!
- Pull the prepared and chilled dough from the fridge about 30 minutes before rolling. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thick, making sure that it is at least 11 inches in diameter. Line a 9-inch pie shell with the dough, then trim and cinch the edges. Chill the dough for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Over the dough, line the pie shell with aluminium foil and weight it down with pie weights (alternatively, you can use rice or dried beans). Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the weights and aluminium foil and bake for another 10-12 minutes, until the centre of the pie shell is dry and the edges lightly browned.
- While the pie is hot from the oven, whisk the egg white to loosen it, then brush it oven the surface of the pie shell. This step is important to create a barrier between the lemon filling and the crust to prevent sogginess. Allow the shell to cool down before filling.
- In the meantime, prepare the filling by combining the water, 1 cup of the sugar and the lemon zest in a saucepot and bringing the mixture up to a full simmer.
- In a bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the cornstarch.
- Whisk in the lemon juice and the egg yolks until well combined.
- Pour the boiling water over the lemon egg mixture, then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepot. Whisk over medium heat until it thickens and just begins to form bubbles, about 4 minutes.
- Put the butter in a large bowl and strain the lemon egg mixture into the bowl. Stir until the butter is melted and place a piece of plastic wrap over the filling. Let it cool to room temperature, then scrape the filling into the cooled pie shell and chill to set, about 2 hours.
- For the meringue, preheat the oven to 375 °F. Pull the filled and chilled pie out of the fridge 30-40 minutes in advance to warm it up a little. If the pie was filled and chilled more than a day in advance, let it warm up for about 75 minutes before topping with the meringue.
- In a large bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and 1/4 cup of the sugar until the mixture holds a medium peak.
- Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar plus the 1/4 cup of water in a saucepot over high heat and bring to a boil. Without stirring, boil the sugar until it reaches a temperature of 239°F, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water to prevent sugar from crystallizing (this takes about 3 minutes).
- Carefully and slowly pour the hot sugar down the side of the bowl of whipped egg whites while whipping at medium-high speed. Whip the meringue at high speed until cooled, about 3 minutes.
- Scrape the Italian meringue onto the centre of the lemon filling, making sure to cover the surface of the pie. Gently spread and swirl the meringue. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake for about 4-6 minutes, just until the top of the meringue is lightly browned.
Notes from Anna:
- This pie can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Italian meringue is the most stable type of meringue and is thus well suited for this dessert. The cooked sugar is what keeps the meringue in place and prevents weeping. It is, however, sweeter than a common meringue.
- Do not overwhip your egg whites. You want them to be at the medium peak stage once the beaters are lifted. Overwhipped egg whites may lead to a weeping or sliding meringue, neither of which is desired.