Welcome! While the majority of the population googles recipes for the BEST of this and the BEST of that, today you’ve signed up to learn about how to make the absolute WORST lemon meringue pie ever. Ever. You’ve signed up to a pie so bad that it will cause fist fights and week-long silent treatments over who took the last piece. This pie is so bad that it will make you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, obsessing about when your next lemony fix will come. And worse than a homewrecking floozy, this pie will make you abandon all your new year diet oaths to eating Paleo, keto, low-fat vegan, low-carb, *yawn*…. Yup, you have been warned.
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Frankly, the end of 2019 sucked. And the start of 2020 wasn’t much better, with all the world disasters (wildfires, earthquakes, coronavirus, etc.) coming at us one after the other. In my own world, the company I work for had yet another lay-off, which seems to come more regularly in recent years. Such is the fate of working for Corporate America. I was sad to see several of my friends and colleagues go, and while I kept my position, the whole ordeal was rather stressful and disheartening. But like anything in life, setbacks make us stronger, more resilient. Winters take out the old foliage, and spring brings back new growth. So I literally took comfort in God, my family, my friends, and my garden. And when “life handed me lemons,” I literally took the lemons from my lemon tree and made lemon meringue pie!
After many years of trying to make a fail-proof lemon meringue pie, I think I finally found the perfect recipe. If you follow this method and recipe carefully, I promise your pie will be luscious–with a sweetly tart lemony filling and a billowy meringue that doesn’t shrink, get watery or weep.
The keys to a perfect meringue are as follows: (1) absolutely CLEAN (spotless, no greasy residue) metal or glass beating bowl, as well as beaters and utensils. If you have one, use a copper mixing bowl. I am a macaron-baking freak, and I learned that using a copper mixing bowl gives me the best results for meringue. Copper ions in the mixing bowl bind with proteins in the eggs to form stable complexes, making the whipped egg whites less likely to unfold. (2) Separate egg whites from the yolk cleanly with no yolk fragments or droplets present in the whites. It is easier to separate the yolks from the whites when the eggs are cold because the yolks are firmer. (3) Use room temperature egg whites when beating into a meringue. I learned this trick when I learned how to make macarons. Room temperature egg whites are more viscous (sticky, gooey) and permit air to be easily incorporated into them. This air will add volume to your meringue. Let egg whites sit at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes before beating. (4) Do not over-beat the egg whites beyond the stage of stiff peaks. This will break down the protein matrix and cause the fluffy white foam to break down, resulting in an undesirable flat, watery, and grainy mess. (5) I learned from several online sources that if you add a gelled cornstarch/water mixture while beating your meringue, the cornstarch will further help the meringue stabilize, thus allowing it to be fluffy and hold its majestic peaks when cooked. This also prevents weeping, which is the formation of little sugar droplets that condense on your cooled meringue. (6) Use a superfine sugar, such as caster sugar, to gradually add into your egg whites while beating. While this is not quintessential, it helps produce a smooth, non-grainy meringue that does not weep after baking. (7) When spreading the meringue onto your pie filling, be sure the lemon filling is piping hot and that the meringue touches all edges of the pre-baked pie crust. This is crucial to prevent the meringue from shrinking.
The keys to a perfect lemon pie filling are as follows: (1) Make sure to use fresh lemon juice from fresh lemons. That sour bitter concentrated lemon juice in those plastic yellow lemons in your grocery aisle is down-right nasty. (2) Add cornstarch to the egg yolks and boil the mixture long enough to prevent a runny filling. The cornstarch will prevent the hot egg yolks from curdling. Trust me on this one.
When your absolutely bad lemon meringue pie finishes baking and cooling, you can slice it cleanly by dipping a knife in hot water before cutting. Let the pie wars begin! You have been warned!
For this pie, you can use a store-bought pie crust, or if you have time, I highly recommend a homemade pie crust. For this lemon meringue pie, I made a from-scratch sour cream pie crust (recipe will be included in a future post).
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Absolute Worst Sky-High Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe
- Breville hand mixer, use wire whisk attachments
- Stand mixer, I like the power and beauty of the Smeg Stand Mixer
- Copper mixing bowl
- silicone spatula
- egg separator
- Pyrex glass pie plates (2), each 9″ to 9.5″ diameter
- unbleached parchment paper
- Microplane Citrus 3-in-1 Zester tool
- Breville citrus press
- 1 pie crust, preferably a flakey butter or shortening crust — homemade is best, but some store-bought brands are decent.
- For the Lemon Filling :
- 5 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 and 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (be sure to remove all seeds)
- 3 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- For the Sky-High Meringue:
- 5 to 6 egg whites (brought to room temperature)
- 1/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/3 cup cold water
- 2 small packets vanilla sugar– I use Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar. I like using dry vanilla sugar because the drier the meringue ingredients, the more stable it will be. Also, the vanilla flavor is stronger and more fragrant than vanilla extract in my opinion. If you don’t have vanilla sugar, you can use 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract like Nielsen-Massey Pure Vanilla.
1. Pre-bake the pie crust. If you are using store-bought pie crust, please follow the package directions on how to pre-bake. For homemade crusts, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a fork, poke holes into the bottom of the crust to prevent it from puffing up. Tear a piece of parchment paper big enough to lay over and cover your pie crust. Take a second glass pie dish the same size as or smaller than your main pie dish and place it on top of the parchment paper. This serves as a weight so that your crust won’t shrink during baking. If you do not have a second pie dish, you can cover the parchment paper with pie weights or dried beans. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
2. To make the lemon filling, first beat the egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl. Set aside. Combine 6 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 and 1/4 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 and 1/2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to a simmer for 1 minute or until the mixture begins to thicken like the consistency of a thick pudding. Remove saucepan from heat.
At this time, take the beaten egg yolks that you previously set aside, and take a spoonful of the hot cornstarch pudding mixture and stir it thoroughly into the beaten egg yolks to temper the eggs. Continue stirring in the hot cornstarch mixture by spoonfuls until about half of the cornstarch mixture has been used. Now add the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cornstarch mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly and return the saucepan to a boil on medium-high heat. Stir constantly while cooking for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add lemon juice , butter, and lemon zest. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
3. Turn on oven to 325 degrees F.
4. Take a small saucepan and thoroughly stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/3 cup cold water until the cornstarch dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens into a gel putty-like consistency. Remove from the heat.
5. To make the Meringue: Take your immaculately clean mixer bowl and pour the egg whites (5 or 6, depending on how much meringue you want) into the bowl. Add the vanilla sugar/extract to the egg whites. Begin beating the egg whites on a medium-low speed and gradually increase the mixer speed to medium to medium-high.
Mix the caster sugar and cream of tartar together in a small bowl. When the egg whites froth up, gradually add in the caster sugar/ cream of tartar mix to the beaten egg whites in the bowl by a tablespoon at a time. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks.
At the soft peak stage, begin adding the gelled cornstarch mixture a spoonful at a time, beating the cornstarch gel into the eggs whites after each addition. Repeat until all the cornstarch gel is incorporated, and the egg whites have formed stiff peaks. As a reminder, once stiff peaks have been achieved, stop beating because the meringue will deflate and become a grainy mess!
6. Place the saucepan with the lemon filling on the stove again and heat the filling until it is bubbling hot. It is important to always spread your meringue onto a hot filling in order to avoid a runny, watery pie. The hot filling will help cook the center of the meringue to some degree. Pour the hot lemon filling into the pie crust and spread the filling evenly.
7. Take a silicone spatula and quickly spread the meringue onto the hot filling, starting with large dollops of meringue at the outer edges of the pie and working inwards. It is crucial to spread the meringue in such a way as to have it touch all edges of the crust, so as to prevent shrinkage of the meringue when baking. Pile the meringue high in the center. You can take a spoon or your spatula and create swirls and peaks in the meringue if you like.
8. Bake the lemon meringue pie at 325 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the meringue topping turns a golden brown.
9. Let the pie cool completely at room temperature before transferring to the fridge. To slice a neat piece of pie, run a sharp knife under hot water for a few seconds, and then cut the pie.
Lemon meringue pie definitely takes time and patience, but the end result is very worthwhile if done right! Just crossing my fingers no family feuds will erupt over the last piece! 🙂 Enjoy!