Monday, January 28, 2008

A Fantastic Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue PIe

This is the best lemon meringue pie i've had since elementary school. My best friend's grandmother Thelma would make pies and teach me about pinochle. I measure all lemon meringue pies against hers.

So many lemon meringue pies aren't worth eating: they're too sweet, too sour, soggy crusted, sloppy looking, filled with nasty yellow goop, or topped with weeping meringue.

I had a feeling this recipe would be good. I guessed that the use of gelatin sheets and Italian meringue would make the pie cohesive, easy to slice, and pretty to look at. The photo was gorgeous; I stuck it on the refrigerator and decided I had to try it.

Instead of the printed crust recipe, I used the graham cracker dough from Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. It's flavored with cinnamon, honey, brown sugar, and a little whole wheat flour. I thought it was a nice change that took an edge off the sweetness and made the flavor more complex. It stayed nice and crisp too. The lemon curd was nice and tart, and I love the Italian meringue! It's very fluffy and marshmallow-like.

Ironically, I made this right before all the folks from Daring Bakers posted their lemon meringue mini-tarts. It was a funny coincidence. I'd love to make this again soon. I'm going to try and get a blowtorch beforehand.

Nick & Stef's lemon meringue pie
adapted from The Los Angeles Times (
Total time: 1 hour, 25 minutes plus chilling time
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from a Nick & Stef's recipe. The dough makes enough for two pies. Half of the dough can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 6 months.

Sweet dough

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
1 egg yolk
1 whole egg
1/3 cup almond flour
3 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until it has a creamy consistency. Alternatively, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl using a hand mixer. With the mixer on, add the egg yolk until it is incorporated, then add the egg and incorporate completely.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the almond flour, flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl slowly and continue mixing until the dough is thoroughly combined. The dough should be slightly sticky but not wet. If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add up to 1 tablespoon of water to moisten the dough.

3. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each portion into a circle and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate one of the portions, and allow it to rest for at least 1 hour. The remaining portion can be frozen for up to 6 months. (For frozen dough, thaw in the refrigerator before using.)

4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough into a circle slightly less than one-fourth-inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. Gently drape the dough into a 9-inch pie pan, and trim off any excess dough so that the crust is flush with the sides of the pan. With a fork, prick holes all over the dough to allow steam to escape during baking. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.

Lemon curd

4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 gelatin sheets
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
1 baked pie shell

1. In a large heat-proof mixing bowl (you should be able to set it over a large pan or stock pot of simmering water to form a bain-marie), whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest. Whisk in the lemon juice.

2. Fill a small bowl with water, and insert the gelatin sheets to allow them to soften. Place the butter cubes into a medium bowl and set aside.

3. Place the bowl with the lemon curd over a larger pot of gently simmering water to form a bain-marie. Cook the curd, stirring gently but constantly, until the curd begins to thicken and will lie on top of itself. Watch carefully to make sure the heat is not so hot that the eggs scramble. Immediately remove the curd from the stove, and pour the curd into the bowl with the butter. Remove the gelatin sheets from the water, wringing out any extra moisture, and add to the curd mixture. Gently stir the curd with a spatula to melt and incorporate the butter and gelatin into the mixture.

4. Pour the lemon curd into the prebaked pie shell. Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, preferably overnight, until the curd is set.

Meringue and assembly

1 1/4 cup sugar
4 egg whites
1 lemon pie

1. Place the sugar in a medium saucepan. Add one-half cup water, and stir with the sugar until it is the consistency of wet sand. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook the sugar until a thermometer inserted reads 240 degrees. (The sugar will form a firm ball when a little is dropped into a bowl of cold water).

2. While the sugar is cooking, begin whipping the egg whites. Continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks, but be careful not to over-beat.

3. When the sugar is ready, immediately remove it from the heat, and pour it into a heat-proof measuring cup to stop the cooking process. With the mixer speed on low, carefully begin pouring in the sugar, watching that the sugar does not touch the wire beaters and splatter. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the mixer speed to medium, and continue beating until the meringue cools and is very fluffy.

4. Remove the chilled lemon pie from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Spoon the meringue on top of the curd with a rubber spatula, forming a dome on top of the pie. To toast the meringue (which is optional), use a small hand torch and lightly torch the meringue until it is golden brown. Serve immediately.


Gretchen Noelle said...

Very beautiful pie. Fun that you posted this the same day as the Daring Bakers LMP reveal. I like your meringue and decorations very much!

Abe said...

i am baffled because i was always under the impression that double boilers used indirect heat from steam, whereas bains marie actually partially submerged the secondary container in liquid. wikipedia believes these are the same thing, however, though it makes no mention of the former variety.

Pittsburgh Needs Eated said...


I didn't even notice that little detail. I would have called it a double boiler- I can imagine someone plunging their curd into boiling water (which wouldn't be good.)

Koren said...

Looks beautiful. Lemon meringue pie was my favorite pie as a child - we would buy them from Marie Callendar's for special occassions. I like how you made this in a tart pan rather than a pie dish; it looks very elegant.

Anonymous said...

WOW. Beautiful. Your lemon filling is perfectly set!

Laura said...

I was looking for a lemon meringue pie recipe for a birthday dinner on Monday night and was hoping that you would have posted one, since I had great success with your mocha brittle cake for a previous birthday. :)

Two questions if you don't mind: when it says to serve immediately, I assume it would keep all right? I'd prefer to do the meringue assembly in the afternoon, probably about four or five hours before people will be ready for dessert.

And if you don't have a blow torch, is it all right to stick it under the grill for a few minutes?

Pittsburgh Needs Eated said...

Hi Laura:

I think the meringue would keep that long, but I can't guarantee it. I remember it being pretty stable, and i'm pretty sure I took some pieces to a coworker later in the day.

Broiling the meringue might work, but I chose not to, just to be safe. Sorry I can't be of more help! Good luck!

Laura said...

Hi Lisa,

Thanks so much for the quick response - and the fabulous recipe! It received rave reviews and the meringue actually lasted great in the fridge for a couple of days afterward.

Anonymous said...

Oops, the links don't seem to have posted properly, but I put a few pics of the pie on this post on LJ: