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How Can I Make a Lemon Meringue Pie?

A lemon.
Tangerines can be used in a meringue pie.
Fresh lemon juice is used to make lemon meringue pie.
Cornstarch, one of the ingredients in lemon meringue pie.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Lemon meringue pie is a popular dessert, especially in the summer, when the rich custard filling and cool meringue topping can be eaten cold after a light meal or tea. Making a good lemon meringue pie is actually a bit tricky, and requires some coordination in the kitchen. Do not be disappointed if your first effort is not perfect, but try to keep track of the steps you took to ensure that the mistake does not happen again.

Before launching into a lemon meringue pie recipe, a few instructional hints may be helpful. The first is that you want to assemble all of the ingredients of the pie while they are hot. Pre-bake your crust, which will help prevent it from getting soggy, and put the filling into the hot crust while the filling is still hot. Mix the meringue quickly, and spread it onto the pie filling as soon as possible. This will ensure that the bottom of the meringue is cooked by the heat of the filling, so that the meringue will be cooked all the way through when the top is golden brown and you remove the lemon meringue pie from the oven. Allow the lemon meringue pie to cool completely on a rack, and then refrigerate it, because the pie will not be stable at room temperature.

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This recipe works for any type of citrus fruit. If you want to try making an unusual pie, you can experiment with lime, orange, tangerine, and other types of citrus. You should always take the time to freshly squeeze juice and grate zest. The fresh flavor will have a big impact on your finished pie.

You may find it helpful to lay out all of the ingredients and measuring implements which you will need before embarking on lemon meringue pie. Once you get going, speed is of the essence.

The base of the pie is, of course, the crust. Many types of crusts are suitable for lemon meringue pie. Pick a favorite flaky pastry crust and remember to make a half recipe, since lemon meringue pie is topped with meringue, not crust. You can also make a full recipe and freeze the extra half for use another time. As you make the crust, preheat the oven so that you can pre-bake the crust while you work on the meringue and filling. Once the crust is rolled out, pressed into a pan, and in the oven to bake, you can make the custard filling.

Before you start on the filling, heat one tablespoon of cornstarch, one tablespoon of sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a pan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until it congeals into a transparent paste, and then put it into a small bowl and cover it tightly. This mixture will be added to the meringue as a stabilizer, and it will prevent it from weeping and collapsing, two common problems with lemon meringue pie.

To make the filling, combine 1 ¼ cups sugar, 1/3 cup cornstarch, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1 ½ cups water, ½ cup fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, four egg yolks, and two to three tablespoons of unsalted butter. Cook this mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula. Stir slowly, but make sure you get all the way around the pan with the spatula. The mixture will thicken, and you should pour it immediately into the hot pre-baked pie crust and start on the meringue.

To make the meringue, use totally grease free mixing bowls and implements. Beat four egg whites until they start to foam before adding ½ teaspoon vanilla and ¼ teaspoon cream of tarter. Slowly beat in ½ cup of superfine sugar, and beat the mixture until the egg whites have formed stiff, glossy peaks. Next, add the cornstarch paste one tablespoon at a time, beating it all the way in after each addition, and after the last tablespoon, beat for another 10 seconds. Immediately spread the meringue onto the hot custard, starting at the edges of the pie so that the meringue is anchored to the pie at all points and will not shrink. Bake in a 325° Fahrenheit (163° Celsius) oven for approximately 20 minutes, until the meringue starts to turn golden, and remove promptly.

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anon287563
Post 6

Why are you standing over the stove stirring the filling or using a double boiler? Have you never heard of the microwave oven? My pie fillings come out perfect every time and I have been doing them by the dozens in my own restaurant for years!

anon178630
Post 4

I am a chef in Redlands, Ca. I just gave my pastry chef a recipe for the best way to make this amazing pie, without using a double boiler. Like the previous person said, you cook at low, and constant stirring, this will ensure your filling will not burn, plus, this is such an amazzing pie, why would you crazy enough to walk away from it while you are making it? There are a lot of ways to make desserts fast and still make it taste like it took hours, then again I guess you first have to have passion to do so. Good luck!

anon153039
Post 3

I never use a double boiler to make my filling, but I also usually cheat and get Sheriff mix (unless it's a special occasion or company is coming over- then I do homemade) But I've found that reducing the amount of water I use helps keep the filling from getting runny. For instance if it says 3/4cup use 1/2 cup. Or in the case of Sheriff mixes when it says 2 cups, I use 1.5)

anon19794
Post 2

On your lemon meringue pie you need to use a double boiler so that the filling will get done. If the filling is to runny after you have let it cool the pie and finally cut into it. It means the filling didn't get done so a double boiler is needed to make sure the filling gets done.

anon4048
Post 1

I have made many lemon meringue pies over the years with moderate success. (most of the time) My last attempt was an exception. The filling became very runny when I went to cut the pie. Unlike your suggestion to have a hot crust, I let mine cool slightly.(according to my recipe) My filling was warm and my meringue was stiff. Everything seemed to be ok. But lo and behold...a very runny filling. Any ideas as to why?

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