We’re opening the windows wide and letting the love right in the kitchen today!
We’re making another of my family’s favorite pies, brought to us by my favorite fellow baker Erin Jeanne McDowell.
It’s been too many years since I’ve made a Lemon Meringue Pie and high time this classic recipe has a space on Joy the Baker. Lemon Meringue Pie was my grandfather’s favorite pie. Homemade or store-bought – if Papa was coming over to celebrate, we needed to have a Lemon Meringue Pie.
I have distinct memories of watching my dad’s homemade meringue weep, counting the minutes before we sliced into it. Why didn’t we have dessert first more often? This pie is sweet and bright and just brings a kick to your dessert plate. I know we’re all pumpkin and sweet potato this time of year, but wouldn’t a lemon moment feel like a nice surprise at Thanksgiving this year?
And, added bonus! We get to bust out the kitchen torch for this one! Wait.. first let’s bust out that Bed, Bath, and Beyond 20% coupon and go buy more butane for the kitchen torch. You know what it is!
What follows are step-by-step photos of crust making, filling making, and meringue making. If those don’t serve you, just keep scrollin’ to the recipe. The photos will be here if you have any questions about what a step might look like while you’re in your own kitchen.
This recipe comes from my dear friend Erin Jeanne’s new (and epic) pie book, The Book on Pie.
It truly lives up it its title. This is THE BOOK. Creams, custards, fruit pie, and EVERYTHING a beginning and experienced baker would want to know about various kinds of pie crusts. Erin has been one of my baking inspirations for years. Do you have her first book The Fearless Baker? Also a must-bake-from book in my kitchen.
What I love most about this book is how playful and flexible it is. Each filling recipe offers a handful of different crust and topping variations so you can have a choose your own baking adventure each time you want to make a pie.
Today’s pie adventure is a pie I could eat every day of my life, the classic Lemon Meringue. Per Erin’s offering I’m making a Sugar Cookie Crust with extra lemon zest and fall spices.
Let’s get backing, friends!
We’ve got a few things we need to do here. It’s a project, but plenty can be made ahead of time and I promise it’s worth the effort.
First, we’ll make a sugar cookie pie crust.
Second, we’ll make that tangy lemon curd filling.
Third, and just before serving, we’ll make meringue, top our pie, and toast it.
Take a good deep breath in and remember that WOW THIS IS FUN AND THERE’S PIE AT THE END.
Let’s get after this Sugar Cookie Crust.
You might recognize this method of the Pumpkin Tarte a la Bouille.
This is a pie crust that uses room temperature butter, increases the sugar, calls for the addition of zest and spice, and contains an egg white and a dash of leavening.
It’s a sugar cookie we’re rolling super thin and asking it to be a pie crust. It’s pretty simple, surely delicious.
Once all of the dough ingredients are creamed together, this shaggy dough can be easily kneaded into a disk.
We’ll chill the disk for at least 30 minutes before rolling.
I don’t like to waste a moment, so while the crust chills, we’ll make the lemon curd filling.
Guess what you’ll need for this lemon curd – a big bunch of lemons to juice!
We’ll need just over a cup of fresh lemon juice. It makes all the difference in the world to squeeze it fresh. The bottled juice just doesn’t have the same kick.
Separate 10 egg yolks from their whites (of course, reserve the whites for the meringue). Whisk the yolks together and add to a saucepan along with sugar and sugar, and melted butter.
Add the lemon juice to the saucepan along with a dash of salt.
It’s time to cook this lemon mixture to a hot, thick curd.
I use both a spatula and whisk to cook the curd to thick.
A spatula helps ensure that the bottom and sides of the pan don’t overcook the curd, and a whisk keeps the mixture smooth. Alternate as the mixture thickens over the heat.
The yolks will help thicken this mixture but the cornstarch will really kick the thickening into high gear once the mixture starts to boil. You’ll see big, fat bubbles towards the center of the pan. That’s the ticket. Don’t stop whisking at this point!
Transfer the thickened curd to a bowl to cool and cover with plastic wrap (so that the plastic touches the surface of the curd).
I allow the curd to cool in the refrigerator but you can certainly transfer it directly to the pie crust if you bake in a different order than I do.
Ready to roll out this pie crust?
Ok since we have a sweet cookie-type dough, I find it easiest to work with if I roll the chilled crust between two pieces of parchment paper.
Lift the paper up after a few strokes to even out any paper wrinkles.
If you feel like you’re fighting the paper, remove the top piece, lightly flour the dough and keep rolling. What’s nice about a cookie crust is that if it tears a bit, we can press it back together in the pan.
Set the top layer of parchment paper aside, place the pie pan on top of the crust, take a deep breath and invert that baby!
Peel the final layer of parchment paper away and pat yourself on the back.
Trim , fold, crimp, decorate the edges in any way that feels festive to you.
I trimmed the crust clean with the edge of the pan, re-rolled the scraps and cut out diamond shapes.
I just a few swipes of extra egg white as glue to help adhere my diamond pie crust shapes to the edge.
Dock the pie to help keep it from puffing dramatically and to help keep the pie from shrinking.
Now listen… I find it really difficult to keep a pre or par baked pie crust from sinking. My pie crust sunk more than I would have liked during my pre-bake but I think that’s because I should have weighed the dough with parchment and pie weights (though Erin’s thorough instructions say not to use weights).
Weights or no, freeze the dough for 30 minutes before baking it to golden brown and cookie crisp.
Let’s take stock.
Our lemon curd is tangy and chilled. Check.
Our pie crust is golden crisp and cooled. Check.
Now it’s time to make our meringue just before we serve this beauty.
We’ll use a portion of the reserved egg whites to create this meringue.
It’s a cooked meringue so combine ingredients in a heat-proof bowl – the top of our double boiler.
Egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and a splash of vanilla extract.
Whisk together, fairly constantly, over a bowl of simmering water.
We want to heat the mixture to 160 degrees F. Heating them from raw to safe to eat.
With all of your our whisking efforts, the egg mixture will seem fairly thick, foamy, almost syrupy.
Transfer the heated egg mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment for 5 quality minutes of high speed whipping.
To these gorgeous glossy peaks!
You’ll want the tip to hold shape and feel glossy smooth!
Here’s where all our work comes together.
Fill the cooled pie with chilled lemon filling.
We have a few options with the meringue. We can dollop it atop the lemon filling and use an offset spatula to swoop it around before toasting.
Or we can fill piping bags (fitted with small and large star tips) with our meringue to pipe into stars on top of the pie.
Any way you top it, this pie is going to be delicious!
Toast to your heart’s desire.
This pie is a real treat. The crust is crisp with hints of lemon and such warmth from the ginger and cloves. The filling makes you feel wide eyed. The meringue is a toasty soft.
It’s all just a wonder. Thank you Erin for bringing inspiring such fun and such good memories in my kitchen. Love you, Queen!
Photos with Sarah Becker.Print
A bright and beautiful lemon meringue pie made perfect for fall with a spiced citrus cookie crust.
For the Spiced Sugar Cookie Crust:
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces, 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 large egg white, lightly whisked (35g)
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) baking powder
For the Lemon Filling:
- 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (28g) cornstarch
- 8 tablespoons (4 ounces, 113g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup (302g) fresh lemon juice, about 7 lemons
- 10 large egg yolks (213g)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) fine sea salt
For the Mile-High Meringue:
- 4 large egg whites (142g)
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) cream of tartar
- 1 cup (198g) granulated sugar
- large pinch of fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons (10g) vanilla extract
- Start by making the crust. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, zest and spices on medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg white and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl well, add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix on low speed until fully incorporated, about 1 minute.
- Form the dough into a 1-inch thick disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 3 days). Allow the dough to sit on the counter for 5 minutes before rolling if you leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight.
- Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper. Place the disk on the parchment paper, flour the top and add another piece of parchment paper. Roll to a 1/4-inch thick round, peeling up the parchment paper to reflour and smooth any paper wrinkles. Remove the top piece of parchment and invert the pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish.
- Trim or fold under the excess crust and create any sort of crimp or cutout decorative edge. Dock the pie crust, that is- prick with a fork all over the bottom and sides of the crust. Refrigerate or freeze for at least 30 minutes. The colder the better.
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the pie crust with lightly greased parchment paper and fill to the brim with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust with pie weights for 12 minutes. Remove the pie weights and continue cooking for 10 minutes more, until golden brown. Allow the pie crust to cool to room temperature before filling
- To make the filling, in a small bowl whisk together sugar and cornstarch. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the sugar mixture along with the lemon juice, eggs yolks, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a spatula, scraping along the edges until the curd thickens and comes to a boil (look for fat bubbles in the center), 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Strain the curd into the cooled pie crust and spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap placed directly against the surface of the filling and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours (or up to 24 hours). You can transfer to a bowl instead if you haven’t rolled your pie crust yet. Cover just the same.
- Make the meringue just before serving the pie. To make the meringue, bring a medium pot filled with about two inches of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Set a medium bowl over the pot, add all of the ingredients, and whisk to combine.
- Heat, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F (71 degrees C) on a thermometer.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and transfer the heated mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Or use an electric hand beater in the same bowl.) Whip the mixture on medium-high speed until it reached medium peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Pile the meringue on top of the cooled pie or transfer to a piping bags fitted with large and small star tips. Pipe onto chilled pie and toast with a kitchen torch. Serve chilled and enjoy! Store any leftovers loosely covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. The meringue will deteriorate after a day or two in the fridge but it will still be delicious!
Pie crust and filling can be made up to 2 days ahead. The day you’d like to serve the pie, fill the baked pie crust, allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Just before serving make meringue and top and toast the pie.