Who doesn’t love pie? My favorite pie is Lemon Meringue Pie.
There are several types of pies. Fruit pies usually have a top and bottom crust and use thickened fruit. Favorite fruit pies include apple and cherry.
Custard pies use a single crust. They contain a milk and egg mixture. Pumpkin and pecan pies are examples of custard pies.
Chiffon pies contain a gelatin mixture usually mixed with whipped cream. They typically are made with a crumb crust. Chiffon pies are popular because they are quick to prepare and require no baking. Key Lime Pie is one of the more popular chiffon pies.
And then there are cream pies. Cream pies use a single pre-baked crust and have a pudding mixture that is thickened with cornstarch. Cream pies either have a meringue made from beaten egg whites or a whipped cream topping. Chocolate, butterscotch, coconut cream and lemon are the most popular cream pies.
Cream pies are not hard to make but you must follow the directions.
For lemon meringue pie, you can either use a purchased pie crust or make it yourself. The website www.crazyforcrust.com/lemon-meringue-pie-recipes/ has a link for a homemade crust and is the one I chose to use.
No matter which crust you choose for your pie, it needs to be baked before adding the lemon filling. Since this recipe calls for a single crust, to prevent the dough from bubbling up, “blind-bake” your crust.
You can purchase pie weights for this or simply take a sheet of aluminum foil a little bigger than your pie plate, place it inside your crust and fill with dried beans. Once baked, let the crust cool completely and remove the dried beans and foil.
Use fresh lemon juice and lemon zest (the peel of the lemon) to intensify the lemon flavor. If you do not have fresh lemons, lemon juice from a jar still works.
When cooking the filling mixture you must stir, stir, stir the filling. Let your filling get really thick. It will take some time. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat on your range to get the filling to cook quicker. Be patient. The result will be wonderful.
When you add the egg yolks to the cooked filling, you must “temper” the eggs. This means you will need to slowly bring the temperature of the yolks up to the temperature of the filling in a separate bowl.
Slowly add about a cup of the cooked filling to the yolks stirring this mixture the entire time.
The main reason for tempering is to prevent having scrambled eggs in your filling. Once your yolks are tempered, add them back to your cooked filling. You can strain your filling to ensure there are no cooked egg bits.
Once your filling is completely done, place it immediately in your baked pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap until your meringue is made. This helps prevent a skin forming on top.
Prepare and add your meringue immediately to the filling. Doing this helps prevent weeping. Weeping is when syrup from the meringue forms beads on the meringue. Adding the meringue to a hot filling cooks the meringue from the bottom helping to prevent weeping.
Make sure to spread the meringue all the way to the crust to prevent the meringue from separating.
The hardest part is wanting to eat a slice of your pie as soon as it comes out of the oven. It must cool completely to prevent the meringue from falling. When the pie plate is cool to the touch on the bottom, that is when it is time to slice and enjoy.
Aunt Tootsie’s Lemon Meringue Pie
1 pie crust — pre-baked and cooled (or a pre-made crust from a pack of two or frozen)
1½ cups water
1½ cups granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
FOR THE MERINGUE
4 large egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar
Make sure your pie crust is baked and cooled in an 8- or 9-inch pie plate. Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk water, sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring often, until it’s thick and bubbly.
Place egg yolks into a medium sized bowl. Whisk them gently. Once the lemon mixture is thick and bubbly, carefully pour about half the lemon mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then place the egg mixture back into the pan with the remaining lemon mixture, continuing to whisk. You want to avoid scrambling the eggs. Bring to a gentle boil, then cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until melted.
Pour mixture into the prepared pie crust. (If so inclined, strain it into the pie through a mesh strainer to remove any egg bits.) Cover with plastic wrap while you prepare the meringue.
Place egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or you can use a large bowl with a hand mixer). Beat on high speed until soft peaks form (if you remove the beaters the tips curl slightly) and then continue mixing while gradually adding the granulated sugar. Continue mixing until stiff peaks form (they’ll be glossy and stand straight).
Spread the meringue on the top of the lemon mixture in decorative peaks, being sure that the meringue touches the crust and no lemon shows through. Bake about 30 minutes or until the meringue is browned. Cool at room temperature for one hour, then chill at least 5 hours before slicing.
The pie will last a day or two in the refrigerator but tastes better day one.