Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie

Updated on February 3, 2018
Carb Diva profile image

Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

The Best Part

Is there anything more blissfully indulgent than a whisper-soft meringue—sugar-kissed egg whites whipped to billowy cloud-like peaks?

Or perhaps you favor what hides underneath that meringue—bright lemon yellow filling, a marriage of just five simple ingredients that creates a luxurious silky fusion of sweet and tart.

Or, maybe, like me, your favorite part is the crust—flaky, buttery, slightly salty—a perfect contrast to the sweet creamy filling and fluffy soft topping. I think it is all of those contrasts of taste and texture that make lemon meringue pie the perfect dessert.

So, let me show you how to make a perfect version of that "perfect dessert.”

a perfect slice
a perfect slice

Equipment You Will Need

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • food processor
  • pastry blender (if making the basic pie dough)
  • waxed paper
  • 9-inch glass pie dish
  • rolling pin
  • foil
  • heavy medium saucepan
  • wire whisk
  • electric mixer
  • rubber spatula
  • egg separator (optional, but very helpful)

So, Let's Begin at the Beginning

Sour Cream Crust

Butter and sour cream make this crust very rich and flaky; I find this recipe a bit easier to work with than traditional pie crust recipes that use only shortening or lard.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place flour, salt, and butter in bowl of food processor. Cut in butter using on/off pulses. Mixture will resemble coarse crumbs.
  3. Add sour cream and pulse until blended.
  4. Add milk and process until dough forms. Gather dough into a ball.
  5. Place a sheet of waxed paper on work surface and flour lightly. Place dough in center of floured waxed paper, turn over to coat both sides with flour. Place a second sheet of waxed paper over top of dough. (You now have a "sandwich" of waxed paper, floured dough, and waxed paper).
  6. Using rolling pin, gently roll dough into an 11-inch circle.
  7. Remove top layer of waxed paper and then gently drape back on dough. You are doing this to release the dough so that it no longer adheres to the waxed paper. Quickly flip the dough/waxed paper sandwich over and remove the other sheet of waxed paper.
  8. Gently ease the dough into 9-inch pie plate, being careful to not stretch the dough. Crimp the edges as desired. Prick the dough all over with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Place aluminum foil over the prepared crust and press it against the dough.
  9. Bake for 6 minutes. Remove foil and then bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

Prick the pastry with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals
Prick the pastry with a fork at 1/2-inch intervals

Other Pastry Options:

Cream cheese dough has a slight tang and creates a soft yet crisp crust.

Cream-Cheese Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the shortening and cream cheese and combine with on/off pulses until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle one tablespoon of the water evenly over the mixture and pulse until a dough forms. Depending on your humidity you might need to add some or all of the second tablespoon of water.
  3. Proceed with steps 5 through 9 of the sour cream pastry recipe above.

This is the standard pie crust recipe--the one your grandmother used years ago.

Basic pie dough

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Directions

  1. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl; add the shortening and work into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle on the water, a tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly with a fork after each addition.
  2. Proceed with steps 5 through 9 of the sour cream pastry recipe above.

And Next, Lemon Filling

cooked lemon filling is thickened and ready to pour into prepared pie crust
cooked lemon filling is thickened and ready to pour into prepared pie crust

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 6 large egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue!!)
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Whisk together the first 7 ingredients (water through salt) in a heavy medium-sized saucepan to blend. Continuing to use whisk, cook and stir over medium heat until filling thickens and just begins to boil, 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk in butter.
  3. Spoon hot filling into baked crust.

Whipped Egg Whites for Meringue

egg whites and sugar become thick and fluffy
egg whites and sugar become thick and fluffy

Guess who first whipped an egg white?

A recipe for meringue first appeared in print in 1691—and wouldn’t you know that it would be the French who would conceive this wonderful creation (which they called “sugar puff.”)

Good news travels fast, and similar recipes appeared in England in 1706.

Food historians tell us that rather than the stainless steel that we use today, Europeans employed a whisk of birch twigs.

And The Topping

spoon the meringue on top of the warm filling
spoon the meringue on top of the warm filling

Gently warming the egg whites and sugar before beating (Swiss method) makes a more stable meringue which is less likely to shrink, weep, and deflate.

Ingredients

  • 5 large egg whites (from the eggs used in the filling--discard one or reserve for another use)
  • 8 tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Place egg whites and sugar in stainless steel or heat-safe bowl. Place over pan of simmering water and whisk until eggs are barely warm to the touch--about 2 minutes.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites at low speed until foamy.
  4. Increase speed to medium-high and continue to beat eggs until stiff glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes. Spread meringue over warm filling, covering completely, mounding in center, and being sure to seal meringue to crust edges.
  5. Bake pie for 30 minutes.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees F. and continue to bake until meringue is golden brown and set when pie is shaken slightly, 10 to 20 minutes more.
  7. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely, about 4 hours.

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Linda Lum

    Comments

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Thank you Flourish. I can always depend on you to provide sweetness and encouragement.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 years ago from USA

        Looks simply wonderful! Oooooh!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        It is. It also works really well with a meat pie. We did chicken a few days ago.

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

        Love this recipe and will be pinning it to my favorite recipe board for use later. That sour cream crust sounds wonderful!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Vocalcoach - you can do this. I believe in you!

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        Ohhhhhhhhhhh...Thank you a gazillion times. My favorite pie is lemon meringue! I can't bake. I'm terrible. I want to try your recipe so bad. This is the best recipe and I will share.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Rachel, thank you. Lemon meringue pie was always one of my Daddy's favorites, and it is my husband's favorite as well. After all we've been through the past few weeks, I felt it was the least I could do for him. I must confess that on Day 2 my meringue began to weep a bit despite my best efforts. I am pretty sure that the problem is our humidity (which is quite high right now). By the way please be sure to use fresh lemon juice, not the stuff in bottles.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        Carb Diva, I want to eat that pie with even using a fork. I just want to open my mouth and start eating. I've seen a lot of great Lemon Meringue pies but this one is among the top. Thanks for sharing.

        Blessings to you. I am pinning it.

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