Lemon is one of my favourite fruits. Love the tangy and zesty taste. Have used it to make lemon curd as a filling for my cream puffs. And more would come. I came across many recipes about lemon meringue pie. And they really look appetizing.
So I decided to make a lemon meringue pie from scratch.
The equation I had in my mind was pretty simple ; Sweet Shortcrust Pastry + Lemon Filling + Meringue = Lemon Meringue Pie. Underestimated the complicated process (for me) of baking this comfort food.
Things went well when I did the pie crust. Simple and easy to follow. For sweet short crust pastry, the ratio of flour and butter is simply 2 : 1. And with a little sugar added in. Things looked pretty simple.
So I baked the pie crust and step 1 completed. I proceeded to the lemon filling, which is my favourite part of the desert.
Lemon Filling (modified from ‘Grandma’s Lemon Meringue Pie’ -all.recipes.com):
- 1 cup plus one tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (almost two lemons)
- 4 large egg yolks
- a pinch of salt
To Make Lemon Filling :
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Once mixed well, stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil.
- Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture.
- Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick.
- Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.
Looked and sounded pretty easy. My first attempt was a disaster.
Two serious mistakes:
1. Undercooking - An impatient person, I did not cook the mixture of water and the dry ingredients long enough. Undercooking did not allow the starch to perform its function. This resulted in my lemon filling became runny. In fact, it was pooling. So I thought perhaps after cooling, the filling would somehow thicken. Disappointment.
2. Lemon juice – I actually added more lemon juice to the amount in the recipe. Thinking the whole pie might taste extra zesty, I added in 1 cup of lemon juice. Big mistake. The chemical reaction between the lemon juice and the starch made the filling more runny. It was science in this whole episode. The acidic lemon juice limits the ability of starch to capture moisture, contributing to the sad, runny filling.
The next step depends on whether you want a hot or cold filling meringue pie.
After you added the filling to the pre-prepared pie crust,
1) If doing a hot filling meringue pie, immediately top with your pre-prepared meringue and bake according to the instructions below.
2) If opting for a cold filling, allow the filling to cool completely and then transfer to the refrigerator. Top the chilled pie with meringue right before serving, bake and then slice and serve at its structural best. This is probably the easiest means of avoiding weeping for this particular pie.
- 4 large fresh egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar – if using copper bowl, this item could be omitted
To Make Meringue
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degree C.
- In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar to stabilise the egg whites.
- Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. If the air is humid, might need to whip slightly longer to achieve the peaks.
- Spread meringue over pie, seal the pie completely by pressing the meringue against the crust.
- Add the remaining meringue and fluff (or smooth) with a spatula in such a way that pleases your own personal preferences.
- Bake the pie for 12-15 minutes (depends on your oven) until golden brown.
- Constant checking is encouraged to ensure no overcooking as this will cause beading on the top of your pie.
Area for improvement – There is a little weeping from the pie. Might be from the meringue.
But we enjoyed our lemon meringue pie, especially on a rainy day.