Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lemon meringue pie

As far as lemon meringue pie goes, there are two distinct types and the one is not at all similar to the other. The pie I most commonly see in restaurants has a filling that resembles lemon jello to an unsettling degree. I am sure that many, many people love this filling. Personally, I avoid almost all gelatin based desserts (sincere apologies to my Midwest ancestors).

meringue, peaks
{meringue, peaks}

The lemon meringue pie I know and love is more like lemon custard, made easy by sweetened condensed milk. I have, in fact, sweated my way through a more traditional recipe that involved making a lemon curd type filling on the stove and pressing it through a fine mesh strainer. It was delicious, but no more delicious than this easy version. I happily reverted back.

lemon meringue pie
{lemon meringue pie}
Lemon meringue pie (family recipe, adapted from various sources)
Unfilled 9 - 10" pie crust (the recipe I use is here)
6 egg yolks (set the whites aside for the meringue)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (14 oz each)
1 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons fresh lemon zest

6 egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
:: Pre-bake your pie crust in a 450F oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until just barely golden. Allow to cool. Reduce the oven heat to 325F.

:: Beat the egg yolks (I use my KitchenAid, you can also just use a whisk) for a minute or so and then slowly add the sweetened condensed milk. Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest and continue beating until well mixed. Pour into your cooled pie crust. Pop the filled pie in the 325F oven for 15 minutes.

:: Meanwhile, put your reserved egg whites and the cream of tartar in a scrupulously clean bowl and start beating. You can do this by hand but it will take a bit of muscle and endurance - personally, I lack the drive. Once the egg whites have started to form soft peaks (they will hold their shape slightly, but the mixture still looks matte and a bit foamy) you can start adding the sugar, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl once in a while to make sure all the sugar is incorporated. Adding sugar too quickly can result in a gritty finish. Using bakers sugar (superfine) can reduce the risk of grittiness, but if you are patient and work the sugar in slowly you'll be fine with the regular stuff. Once all the sugar is added, you should continue to beat the egg whites for an additional 4 minutes (if you're using a mixer - probably a bit longer if you're doing this by hand). Finished meringue will be very thick and beautifully glossy.

:: When the 15 minute baking time is up, take your pie out of the oven (increase the oven heat to 350F at this time) and immediately spread the meringue over it. Do this by adding large dollops to the pie in various places and then smooth the dollops together. Then use your spoon or spatula to create peaks in the meringue. Fun! The only rule is to make sure that the meringue goes all the way to the edge and has contact with the pie crust.

:: Put the pie back in the oven (now at 350F) and let it bake for another 15 minutes, until the meringue peaks are gently browned. Remove and let stand at room temperature for at least two hours before serving.
The pie can be stored in the fridge, but your meringue will get chewy and gritty fairly quickly. I recommend making the pie the day you need it and then eating the leftovers quickly enough to avoid the need to refrigerate. It isn't hard to do.


  1. looks wonderful!! my mom's key lime has always been my favorite, but i would love to try this one. so fresh and perfect for summer.

  2. I've actually never had lemon meringue pie, and had no idea the traditional version was gelatinous. Your lemon curd-y version sounds much better!

  3. one of my favorite all time pies. i make it all the time. and you can do key lime the exact same way

  4. rachel, after making (and loving) the brioche with chocolate you recommended, i'll be trying your recipes from here on out! i've been wanting to make pie all summer and this looks like a winner.

  5. Exceptionally beautiful, dear lady, even for you.

  6. thanks for the recipe! it looks D-E-LICIOUS!

  7. awesome. this looks amazing, and i'm so glad to know the condensed milk version is just as good as slaving away over the stovetop version :)

  8. I love lemon merengue pie- but alas, my husband does not, so I never make it to avoid accidentally eating an entire pie by myself.

  9. That's the kind of lemon meringue I love. :]

  10. oh goodness... mouth watering again!!!

  11. I have to say, I've been reading your blog for a while and I am completely addicted! I love your recipes!

  12. @ Char - you are so right! i should have mentioned the key lime pie variation.

    @ everyone - probably should have mentioned that my key lime recipe is identical, except i sub graham cracker (or ginger snap!) crust and top it with whipped cream instead of meringue.

  13. oooh i'm with you on the gelatin based desserts...
    this looks amazing!

  14. i can only imagine how clumsily my lemon meringue pie would come together, but yours is beyond gorgeous.

  15. YUMMY! Lemony desserts are my fave and this looks like a superlative rendition!!

  16. a piece would go very well with my earl grey tea right now! great & delicious!

  17. mm I love a perfectly peaked meringue

  18. Lemon meringue is just about my favorite pie ever and I love seeing it done right (I'm with you on the custard v. gelatin thing). Have you ever had the citrus meringue pie with brown sugar meringue from Mustards in Napa? It is TO DIE FOR.

  19. my favorite pie ever... yours looks amazing!

  20. This pie looks absolutely delicious! Your meringue topping is flawless.

  21. I tried this pie. It's a horrible runny mess (not all the filling just just the mass amount of clear sugary liquid that it emits)making the pie crust soggy and inedible. And I've never made a lemon meringue pie that the meringue tears open so badly when you try to cut it. Filling doesn't taste very good either, unless you like to eat sweetened condensed milk by the can full.

  22. @ anon - So sorry it didn't work out for you! I've never had any trouble with runny liquid, so I can't help you troubleshoot. I'm wondering if it didn't get cooked quite long enough? Did you follow the instructions for a double baking?

    The meringue recipe is standard - I'm not sure what variation you've used more successfully. Meringue does tend to tear, especially if it isn't completely fresh or if it isn't whipped to the correct texture before using it or if it's refrigerated (that's the one I've had the most trouble with - the pie pictured above was refrigerated and the meringue tore when I sliced it).

    Sounds like this one isn't for you - maybe you're in the gelatin filling camp?

  23. MmmMm! I totally agree with you on your version of lemon meringue pie! This is almost exactly the same as the one I make, and it's delicious!! Your blog is adorable, by the way!
    ~Leslie, The Cozy Little Kitchen

  24. i bet it's REALLY doesn't have that GEL...chemical-ly... Back-taste
    that normally comes with the other recipe


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