Lemon meringue pie is a classic pie filled with tangy lemon curd topped with fluffy sweet meringue all sitting in a sweet sugar cookie crust
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Lemon meringue pie is in my humble opinion, one of the best pies. You have tangy lemon curd and sweet, pillowy meringue and a we are switching it up a bit and adding a crisp sugar cookie crust. Plus, you get to play with fire a little bit. (A creme brulee torch is not strictly necessary to make these but I did have a friend light her whole pie on fire using her broiler and not paying attention).
Skill Level: Intermediate
None of the parts of this recipe are especially hard but this pie does take a little bit of planning and time. It also is recommended to have a few extra tools that a beginner baker might not have in their kitchen.
What is lemon curd?
Lemon curd is a sort of lemon “jam” made from butter, sugar, lemons, and egg yolks. It gets it’s rich yellow color from the egg yolks. It is different from traditional lemon meringue pie filling because it does not contain any cornstarch. Consequently, it is a little bit less firm but for this tart that doesn’t matter in the least! I think the trade off is worth it because the lemon flavor is out of this world!
If you are concerned about calories and cholesterol, this version uses fewer eggs than my version and is still tasty.
Ingredients needed for Lemon Meringue Pie
The ingredient list for this pie seems crazy long, but if you look carefully, you pretty much need the same 2 handfuls of ingredients and you use them for each part of the recipe.
- Eggs-the yolks for our lemon “jam” and then we use the whites for fluffy meringue. Note: we only need 3 egg whites compared to 8 egg yolks so when you are separating your eggs, be sure to put 3 of your egg whites in a separate bowl.
- Granulated sugar-we’re using granulated sugar rather than brown sugar because we want the clean flavor of granulated sugar rather than the molasses tinted flavor of brown sugar in our lemon curd, our meringue, and our cookie crust. The granulated sugar also keeps moisture to a minimum which is what we want for our pie crust.
- Lemon juice-for lots of lemon flavor. I like to use bottled lemon juice as a shortcut but obviously juicing lemons is a great option too.
- Butter-for creaminess in our lemon curd and flavor in our cookie crust. Either salted or unsalted butter works great in this recipe.
- Lemon zest/lemon extract/or lemon oil-the zest or skin of the lemon is where much of the lemon flavor lives. Put the zest in the curd after straining so you don’t strain it out. If you don’t have any actual lemons to zest, I have successfully made this curd using 2 teaspoons lemon extract or 1 teaspoon lemon oil instead.
- Vanilla extract-for flavor
- Cream of tartar-creates more stable air pockets in our egg whites which helps pump of the volume of our meringue
- Flour-for our cookie crust. All-purpose is fine.
- Milk-to moisturize our crust. You can use cream if you don’t have milk or water if you’re really in a bind, but the milk contributes fat which changes the flavor and texture so if you use water the end texture might be a little bit different.
Some notes on meringue:
For this pie we are making French meringue which is the most straightforward method for making meringue. We are whipping our egg whites with cream of tarter (which helps to add stability to our egg whites) and sugar. You want to wait to start adding the sugar until the egg whites are foamy (which should happen pretty quickly with our cream of tarter). Then add in your sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Why? To be sure the sugar is beaten in all the way and so we don’t collapse our egg foam. We want to beat our meringue until stiff peaks form. What are stiff peaks? It simply means that you beat the meringue until it stands up on it’s own and doesn’t flop over or drop back into the bowl (see above image).
Why the sugar cookie crust?
Why are we using a sugar cookie crust rather than a regular pie crust? Personal preference. I like the way the sweet crunchy sugar cookie contrasts with the tangy lemon curd and the fluffy meringue. I also think a sugar cookie crust is easier to make. The dough isn’t terribly sensitive, the edges hold up well as a tart on its own without the edges of the pie pan to hold it up. It doesn’t get soggy, bakes up easily, and the dough can be re-rolled. It’s my basic rolled butter cookie recipe. We remove the egg and baking powder to keep the crust flat and use milk to bind the dough together adds fat and moisture.
Tips For Success:
- Chill your crust in the pan for at least an hour before baking. It will keep the dough from sliding down the sides of your tart pan.
- Be sure you dock your pie crust before you bake it (which just means poke them a few times with a fork so it doesn’t puff up too much.
- Completely cool your crust before adding in the lemon curd and meringue. This will help prevent soggy bottom crusts.
- Speaking of cooling completely, make your lemon curd the day ahead, or at least a few hours so it can cool down and firm up in the refrigerator.
- Mix your sugar and egg yolks together before adding the lemon juice when making your lemon curd, it will help keep your eggs from coagulating. Stirring your lemon curd constantly will also help keep your egg yolks from curdling.
- Don’t let your lemon curd boil. It will coagulate the proteins in your eggs and you’ll basically have scrambled eggs. This may happen a little bit anyway so…
- Always strain your lemon curd. Seems like an annoying extra step, but egg chunks in your lemon curd are not the best.
- When chilling your lemon curd, place the plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to avoid developing a “skin” on top.
- If using a your broiler to brown your meringue-watch it carefully!
Should I refrigerate my lemon meringue pie?
Yes. The lemon curd should be refrigerated because of the eggs, consequently the whole pie should be refrigerated. It will stay fresh 2-3 days. Additionally, if you want to make your lemon curd in advance, you can freeze it up to 3 months in a freezer safe container with plastic wrap directly on top of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming).
I’ve been baking a long time and have acquired a lot of kitchen gadgets but obviously not everyone has access to all of those things.
If you don’t have:
- a stand mixer-you can use a hand mixer or the mixer attachment on a stick blender. Meringue is pretty hard to make by hand so you need some kind of mechanical mixer.
- a tart pan–you can use a 9 inch pie pan or a 9 inch cake pan or a cupcake pan (and make mini pies) but use the directions for my mini lemon meringue pies.
- a food processor-simply soften the butter to room temperature and use a mixer to mix your cookie crust dough.
- a microplane zester-use the smallest holes on your cheese grater
- a kitchen torch-turn on the broiler in your oven and set your pie under it for about 2 minutes-watch carefully!!!
Lemon Meringue Pie
- 9 inch tart pan
- Food processor
- Kitchen Torch (optional)
- 8egg yolks plus 2 whole eggs
- 1cupgranulated sugar
- 2/3cuplemon juice
- 3tablespoonsunsalted butter
- 1/2teaspoonlemon extract or zest from 1 lemon
- 3 largeegg whites
- 1/4teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1/2cupgranulated sugar
- 2teaspoonsvanilla extract
Sugar Cookie Crust
- 1/2cup butterchilled
- 1/2cupgranulated sugar
- 1 1/2cupsall-purpose flour
For the Lemon Curd
- In a heavy pan mix the egg yolks and sugar together. After mixing the egg yolks and sugar together, add the lemon juice and mix together. Heat over medium heat until mixture thickens to where it coats the back of the spoon. Do not let the mixture boil or really even almost boil or you will have curdling problems too.
- Once the mixture thickens, remove from the heat. Add the butter and stir until melted. If curdling occurred (i.e. there are little bits of scrambled egg in your curd) strain through a fine mesh strainer.
- After the curd has been strained, stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the lemon curd (to keep it from getting a skin) for at least 1 hour or overnight.
For the Meringue
- If using a stand mixer, fit with whisk attachment. Beat egg whites and cream of tarter with whisk attachment until foamy.
- Add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all incorporated.
- Beat until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.
For the Sugar Cookie Crust
- In the bowl of your food processor add in sugar and flour. Take it for a spin to blend together.
- With the blade still running, add in butter 1-2 tablespoons at a time until all incorporated.
- Add in milk 1 tablespoon at a time until a smooth dough forms.
- Chill for 1 hour or overnight.
- Turn dough out onto floured surface and roll out to fit 9 inch tart pan. If your dough tears, simply patch it. Chill dough in pan for 1 hour or overnight.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Dock crust with fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Allow to cool completely.
To Assemble the Pie
- Pour lemon curd into cooled pie crust. Spread evenly.
- Spread or pipe meringue onto the lemon curd.
- Use the kitchen torch to brown the meringue as desiered. If you don't have a kitchen torch, place pie under the broiler for only a minute or two to brown the meringue.
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