Homemade Lemon Meringue Pie can’t be beat, but it can be a little tricky to make. It doesn’t like too much humidity, it doesn’t like to be over mixed, under mixed or overcooked. So it’s any wonder many people would just rather purchase one already done. But given a little patience and a few basic techniques, you can create a perfect lemon meringue pie for your Easter (or any occasion) dessert table.
THE PASTRY: The crust should be butter, tender and flaky. We like to use the recipe from Fine Cooking magazine which recommends using baking powder in the pastry. While it’s unusual to put baking powder in the pastry, it does guarantee a perfectly flaky result.
Secret Pastry Tips:
- Don’t over-flour your work surface. Using a pastry cloth and rolling pin sleeve prevents the overuse of of flour and keeps the dough from sticking to the rolling surface and pin. Do not flour the top of the pastry dough so you don’t incorporate too much flour.
- It’s a good idea to butter the surface of the pie plate which helps promote browning and helps maintain the crusts shape.
- Finally, sprinkle crushed gingersnap cookies on the bottom crust once the pastry and baked but before you add the filling. The crumbs act as a shield from moisture preventing a soggy crust and complementing the lemon flavour without being too obvious.
THE FILLING: Many lemon fillings can be overly thick and starchy. We like to make one that is luxuriously smooth with a consistency that is neither too thick or too thin. One deal breaker is that you MUST use freshly squeezed lemons to get the zest and juice. Anything from a bottle is just not acceptable.
Secret Filling Tips:
- Be sure to check your cornstarch to make sure there are no lumps. If there are lumps in it, that means there is moisture in the cornstarch and it will affect the thickening power of the cornstarch, so start with new.
- Make sure you use a heavy duty non-reactive pot. If you use an aluminium pot, it will turn the filling grey.
- When making the filling, start with whisking just a little of the cold water into the dry ingredients until smooth. Then add the remaining water and this will keep the lumps from forming.
THE MERINGUE: Sometimes the hardest part to achieve since it needs to be light, billowy and without any beads of moisture on top (also known as weeping). Since you use the egg yolks to make the filling, it’s the perfect way to use up the egg whites. Many store-bought Lemon Meringue Pies use meringue powder making the flavour artificial. Using fresh egg whites make the meringue taste fresh and clean.
Secret Meringue Tips:
- Make sure your beaters and bowl are perfectly clean before you start making the meringue. This will ensure you get perfectly pillowy mounds of meringue. Any fat will keep the egg whites from increasing in volume.
- To prevent weeping, its important that the sugar be completely dissolved in the egg whites before beginning to beat. Superfine sugar is a better choice than regular granulated sugar because it dissolves more easily and quickly.
- Using cream of tartar gives the meringue extra stability.