Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie
Amidst the sadness of attending two funerals within one week, I have taken heart in the reconnection and reflection that can occur around such events. On Friday we hosted one of my long out-of-touch relatives following the family funeral, and to lighten the mood I decided to make lemon meringue pie. This dessert is a bit more involved than recipes I typically post here, but it was so ridiculously good that I wanted to share it for those looking for a lovely and lemony dessert. The pie served as the perfect cheery welcome over which we were able to reflect on lives lost and celebrate existing relationships; fittingly, Laurel said the meringue looked and tasted like happy clouds.
This recipe is from Lori Longbotham's amazing Luscious Lemon Desserts (I highly recommend you purchase this and her Luscious Chocolate Desserts cookbooks). Below I've edited the steps and added notes to offer some shortcuts and tips.
Mom's Lemon Meringue Pie
1. Make pastry crust. In a food processor (or you can do this by hand) process flour, sugar, and salt to mix. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Turn mixture out into a bowl and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water over the mixture, stirring with a fork to mix evenly. Continue adding water until dough just begins to come together when you press a bit between your fingers; do not overwork the dough. Press to form a ball and knead lightly; press into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap at least 30 minutes (I was in a hurry and froze for 15 minutes) or up to 2 days. [Obvious shortcut: buy pie crust.]
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12 or 13 inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch glass pie plate and press to fit. Roll the edges and crimp as desired. Prick holes all over the bottom and side with a fork. Press a piece of aluminum foil snugly into pie shell and fill with dry beans or rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove foil + beans/rice, and bake 8 minutes longer, or until light golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
3. Make filling. Process sugar and lemon zest in a food processor until zest is finely ground. Whisk water, sugar mixture, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, and boil for 1 minute, until mixture is smooth and almost transparent; remove pan from heat. Whisk together egg yolks (when you separate the eggs, reserve 4 whites for the meringue in a bowl) and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of hot cornstarch mixture to yolk mixture and whisk to blend. Return mixture to saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 1 minute, or until thick. Remove the pan from the heat, pour filling through a strainer into a bowl, and whisk in butter. Fill the cooled pie shell with the hot filling.
4. Make meringue. Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add water and bring to a boil, whisking constantly over high heat, and boil for 1 minute, continuing to whisk. Beat egg whites on medium speed in a clean bowl, just until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high, add the salt, and beat to form soft peaks. Pour in the cornstarch mixture while the beaters are running; continue beating until stiff peaks are formed.
5. Top the pie with the meringue mixture, using a rubber spatula to create a domed top. Make sure the meringue seals in the filling by connecting the meringue with the crust all around the pie. Form swirls in the meringue with a small spoon.
6. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until meringue is cooked through and golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack so filling can set.