Last year, Brant and I realized that our neighbors had a giant lemon tree loaded with fruit that they weren’t using. Not ones to let food go to waste, we started collecting their lemons and making pitcher after pitcher of homemade lemonade. We learned soon afterward that these neighbors were moving, meaning no more free lemons for us. This is a bummer because for some reason lemons from the grocery store are expensive.
Enter stage left: a lemon tree from Costco. We bought it when it was already 7 feet tall and loaded with lemons, and we immediately we began to dream of all the things we would make with its bounty (bounty, I might add, that we no longer had to collect while trying to avoid the neighbors’ dog’s pleas for us to play fetch!).
When it comes to lemon desserts, tarts, bars, and, of course, lemon meringue pie were obvious choices. Ironically, lemon isn’t my favorite flavor, so all of these choices scared me. However, given that winter is when citrus ripens around here, I had ample lemons and zero desire to drink ice cold lemonade. I figured it was time to try a new lemon-based dessert. I had never made lemon meringue pie, so I took the plunge and attempted it. It got rave reviews, so I am happy to share the recipe with you. This came from Pie. Remember me mentioning that? Yup, this book is a keeper.
lemon meringue pie
1 recipe single crust pie pastry, refrigerated (you can use half of this recipe)
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
big pinch of salt
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate it until firm enough to roll, about one hour.
On a lightly floured sheet of wax paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 1/2-inch deep dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge so it is just slightly higher than the rim. Place in freezer for 15 minutes, then fully prebake and let cool.
Combine the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium-size saucepan, preferably nonstick, whisking to mix. Add the water, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the egg yolks, whisking the mixture well. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking non-stop, until the mixture comes to a boil, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to cook, whisking nonstop, for about 1 1/2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time. Immediately pour the filling into the cooled pie shell, jiggling the pan to settle it. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the filling, taking care not to leave any gaps or air pockets to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 1 day if you’re not adding the meringue right away.
Just before serving, preheat the broiler and make the meringue. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Beat in the cream of tartar and salt. Gradually add the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the whites are very thick and glossy. Add the vanilla and beat briefly. Mound the meringue over the filling, spreading it so it is domed in the center and touching the crust all around the edge.
Place the pie on the center oven rack and briefly brown the meringue under the broiler. It will just take a very short time, so don’t walk away from the oven.
Transfer the pie to a wire rack and serve right away. Or cover with loosely tented aluminum foil, making sure the meringue doesn’t come in contact with the foil, and refrigerate until ready to serve.