British Pie Week: The Celebration Continues with Lemon Meringue

I know, I know – British Pie week should result in pastry concoctions housing mushrooms, leeks, chicken and other assorted savory goodies.  The way I figure it, if I’m going to eat calorie-laden crusts, I’m not going to bother trying to disguise it as something healthy by adding vegetables and meat.

And with that, I give you: Lemon Meringue!

Pie Crust: use the one from the Cherry Pie recipe.

Roll it out into a circle and plop it into your pie plate.  Make sure the circle is about 2 inches larger than your pie plate so you have lots of crust to flute.

Chill your crust in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Line your pie plate with foil and fill with pie weights or beans.  Bake your crust for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully remove the foil and contents.  Pop back into the oven for 10-15 minutes and cook until it’s golden.

Filling

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (this really adds some nice zing!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together.  Add this mixture to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.  Return to the heat and cook over medium heat.  Keep whisking!  The mixture will start to boil and become very thick.  Don’t stop whisking!  Turn off the heat and take about 1 cup of this hot mixture and add it to the beaten egg yolks.  Whisk that until it’s smooth.  Keeping the whisking motif going, add the egg mixture back to the pot and whisk it all together rather vigorously.  Turn the heat back on and bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Then, remove from the heat and stir in the butter.  Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and whisk until completely combined.  Voila!  Lemon filling, yum!

Pour that into the baked crust and move onto the meringue.

Meringue

Meringue can be tricky.  You can overwhip it.  You can add too much sugar too fast and end up with white goop.  Worst of all, the site of a pie crust filled with lemon filling makes it sad and it weeps (not really but I’m trying to avoid a boring paragraph about humidity, sugar and egg whites).  Weeping meringue is yucky.  It makes your pie crust all soft and in my opinion, it just ruins the pie.  To that end, I’ve read a lot about preventing meringue from weeping.

Some advocate that meringue must be applied to a hot filling and popped into the oven as soon as possible.  Others state this step isn’t necessary.  I’ve tried both and had failures and success with both.  Interestingly, I never used to worry about this and I never had a weepy pie.  Then one day something changed and as a result, I’ve adopted the process of adding a cornstarch mixture to my pie meringue.  Oh, and don’t try to use egg whites from a carton.  Trust me on this.  They just don’t whip up the same as a white from a whole egg. I converted this recipe from one that made enough for 2 pies and was all in metric so you’ll have to pull out your scale to weigh the sugar.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 108 ml water
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (approx 5)
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Immediately upon boiling, turn down the heat and add the cornstarch.  Whisk like crazy.  Cook for about one minute, until the mixture is translucent.  Remove it from the heat and set it aside.

Whip the egg whites until they’ve tripled in volume.  Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.

Continue whipping and add the vanilla.  Add the cornstarch mixture, a wee bit at a time and continue whipping until stiff peaks form.

Put it all together

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Spread the meringue topping over the lemon filling.  Make sure the meringue contacts the entire crust, so as to seal it.  Feel free to make swirls and peaks and whatever you want (use a piping bag or get creative with spoon or fork; they all work).

Pop the pie into the oven and bake for approx 10-20 mins or until the meringue is browned. Note: if your peaks are thin, they may burn before the rest of the meringue browns.

Cool on a rack before serving.

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