Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Merangue PiePucker-Up Buttercup
Fourth of July always makes me think of dessert…there are so many ways to add red, white, and blue color to sweet dishes. For this reason, and because it is in my nature to be contrary, I am going rogue for the Fourth with yellow. And by yellow I mean Lemon Meringue Pie. (Pies are totally patriotic, and yellow is the color of summer, and we are right in the middle of summer so it works, right?)

My mom made lemon meringue pie occasionally when I was growing up, and when she did, it was a big deal. (Especially to Dad!) Full disclosure, I wasn’t a huge lemon fan as a kid. Now? I’m that sad individual that will sit by myself with a vat of lemon curd and a spoon and be totally happy with the world.

Mom’s recipe came from the 1965 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Forget Curious George or James and the Giant Peach, this was the book of my childhood. I have a lot of memories of my sister and I flipping to the pancake and waffle section on the weekends, and Dad showing us how to get the Swedish pancakes super thin. Some of the recipes in there are tried and true and some of them are, well…scary. (It was 1965. We’ve come a long way.) And then, there was the Lemon Meringue Pie.

Mom’s crusts were always super-flaky no matter what pie she made. (Her Pumpkin Chiffon is the bomb). The Meringue pies were a different kind of cool because she piled the meringue high—which, I think, is key. It gave the pie a real WOW factor, and in our family it’s all about the WOW. Just ask Dad, he’s the King.

I don’t currently have a copy of the BH&G Cookbook (I have ordered one from Ebay…it’s not here yet and I am getting impatient.) This recipe is as close as I can remember, and I will check back once the original arrives.

Happy Fourth of July!

Lemon Meringue Pie
Serves 8

Pastry Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening
2 to 3 tablespoons ice water

3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons grated zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Make the Crust
In a medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry almost cleans side of the bowl. If needed use more water.

Gather the pastry into a ball, and shape into a flattened round on lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes or until the dough is firm and cool, yet pliable.

Heat your oven to 475°F. With floured rolling pin, roll pastry into an approximately 13 inch round. (2 inches larger all around than an inverted 9-inch pie plate. Fold pastry into fourths; place in pie plate. Unfold and center into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and side. Trim overhanging edge of pastry 1 inch from rim of pie plate. Fold and turn edges of pastry under, and flute as desired. Prick bottom and side of pastry thoroughly with fork. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Cool on cooling rack.

Make the Lemon Filling
Reduce oven temperature to 400°F. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks with a fork. In 2-quart saucepan mix sugar and cornstarch, and gradually stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil for one minute continuing to stir.

Remove from heat, and immediately stir about half of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Stir the egg yolk mixture back into the hot mixture in the saucepan. Boil and stir for 2 minutes, and remove from heat. Stir in butter, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Pour into the pie crust.

Make the Meringue
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time; continue beating until stiff and glossy. Do not underbeat. Beat in vanilla. Spoon onto hot pie filling, heaping the meringue high. Spread over filling, carefully sealing meringue to edge of crust to prevent shrinking or weeping. Make a design—a swirl or peaks with the back of a spoon. This will become more dramatic when the meringue browns.

Bake the pie for 8 to 12 minutes or until meringue is light brown.

Cool the pie, away from drafts, for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate cooled pie until serving. Store in refrigerator

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