I have many recipes that I’ve adapted and changed over the years, but this one – it always gets rave reviews and I’ve never changed a thing other than the instructions. The Meringue is perfect – it’s like a tasting a fluffy cloud of sweet deliciousness (and I’m not really much of a meringue fan!) It’s not a “mile-hi” meringue, just the perfect amount. The lemon filling is intense and tart, just a little sweet with a gorgeous texture.
There’ll be no weeping of the meringue with this method – and no wailing when you serve it! Just smile and say “Thanks! I’ve printed out the recipe, would you like a copy?” as everyone gushes on! This a pie that solves every issue ever that Lemon Meringue has. Right up front, I want to say this post is for the pie, not the pie crust. I don’t generally use the Cook’s crust, but one from my mother, although I’ve made it today with just a standard crust. I’ll post both of those at another time, though.
I do have something to add to the party though, or I’d just post a link to Cook’s Illustrated! I’ve made this enough times to know that the set up is critical, you need enough bowls and timing is everything with this pie! I’m going to guide you through so you won’t have a stressful nightmare of a time with this recipe and a massive clean up later!
I’ll point out a few places where there could be potential trouble in the recipe so you can avoid any pitfalls. We cooks usually just pick these things up, but why, when someone can tell you? But first of all, a few things to know:
- Don’t make meringue on a super humid, hot day – this recipe is pretty fail save & I’ve made it in the summer in a rainstorm with no problem – but if it’s 95 degrees, been raining for a week and you have no air – make something else!
- Allow plenty of time to cool! Warm lemon meringue…yuck. Cool at least two hours on a rack, according to Cook’s Illustrated, but I find it takes a good three & half hours or longer, especially in warm weather or if no rack is used.
- You need a prebaked pie shell – make it easy on yourself and make and bake the crust the day or evening before!
- Empty your dishwasher or wash your dishes before making this so you have empty sinks to fill, plenty of bowls and a place to put the dirty stuff!
- Always have an extra lemon in case they’re a bit stingy with the juice. If they’re hard, microwave them for a moment and roll them on the counter, pressing down firmly to release as much juice as possible. Zest before juicing and save any extra zest in a small container in the freezer – easy to use if you need some later and don’t have a lemon. Color of citrus doesn’t matter – choose by weight!
For the pie itself, you’ll make a considerable amount of dirty dishes, and need a lot of small bowls, two pans and the mixer bowl & beaters. You’ll need two spatulas and a whisk, too. You’ll need a fine grater for the zest and a reamer of some sort for the lemon juice. And you’ll need just about every measuring cup & size you have! You’ll also need Saran wrap handy.
Have seven small bowls or containers ready: 4 small bowls for the eggs (one with a cover or use Saran for the extra two yolks) and one small bowl to cool the cornstarch mixture that goes in the meringue. You’ll need another bowl to mix the sugar and cream of tarter with. And another for the zest.
Any lemon meringue pie is a bit of work, and this one is no exception with an extra step for the meringue, but this pie is SO worth it! It’s the pinnacle of pies! Even people that are lukewarm about Lemon Meringue go on and on about this! You’ll hear it – “Wow, I didn’t think I liked Lemon Meringue, but this is so good!” Everyone will think you’re a genius when you serve this pie! You might even think you are! I know I do…:) and all I did was trust Cook’s!
Cook's Illustrated Lemon Meringue Pie
- 1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups water
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest plus ½ cup fresh lemon juice (2 1/2 to 3 lemons)
- 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup (3½ oz) granulated sugar
- 1 recipe single-crust pie dough, fully baked and cooled (See how to blind bake a pie crust)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Grate first and then zest lemons, reserving a tablespoon of the zest and 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Use a fine grater and cover the zest so it doesn’t get dry and it will be unnoticeable in the pie.
Divide eggs: note you’ll need six yolks and only four whites, so use another small bowl for the extra two whites. This is best done by working with one egg at a time over a small bowl or cup. Crack the egg, let the white drip into the cup, then put the yolk in one bowl and the white in another. Repeat.
For the Filling:
In a heavy medium-sized pan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch and salt (under the ingredients for filling.) Whisk in water and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. When mixture starts to turn translucent, (it will still be whitish, but you’ll see the difference) whisking vigorously, add in egg yolks, two at a time. Whisk in lemon zest, juice and butter. Return mixture to brief simmer, whisking constantly, then remove from heat. Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling to keep warm and prevent skin from forming.
For the Meringue:
In a small pan, add the tablespoon of cornstarch, then whisk in 1/3 cup water. Bring to a bare simmer in small saucepan and cook, whisking occasionally, until it just becomes thickened and translucent looking, 1 to 2 minutes at most. Remove from heat and let cool slightly to barely or lukewarm while the eggs are being whisked. It’s helpful to transfer to a small cup as it may continue to cook and harden in the hot pan and be difficult to incorporate into the meringue.
If using stand mixer, fit it with the whisk, and beat egg whites and vanilla at medium low-speed until foamy and frothy. Mix together the cream of tarter and sugar, turn the speed up to medium high and add, a tablespoon at a time until incorporated (it won’t feel grainy when you run a bit between your fingers) and the mixture forms soft, billowy mounds. Continue to whip and add the cornstarch mixture, about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about two to three minutes longer.
If filling is not still hot, during the last minutes of beating the egg whites, remove plastic and return to very low heat for just a moment or two to warm.
Pour warm filling into cooled pre-baked pie crust. Working quickly, dollop meringue in small mounds across the hot pie filling. Using rubber spatula, immediately distribute meringue evenly around edge and then center of pie, attaching meringue to pie crust to prevent shrinking. Top off with any remaining meringue. Using the back of spoon, create attractive swirls and peaks in meringue. (I personally like to use the spoon to make small “scallops” with only a very few peaks which prevents the peaks from over baking before the rest is nicely browned.) Bake until meringue is light golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Cool to room temperature on a rack (at least two hours, Cook’s says, but I’d say three & half). This pie is at it’s best the same day.
from the kitchen of www.frugalhausfrau.com, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated