Lemon Meringue Pie can be a very tricky dessert to make. The 3 different components (pastry, filling and meringue) require perfect execution. There are a myriad of approaches and methods for making Lemon Meringue Pie!
One of the biggest challenges, for me, was finding a recipe that didn’t turn out so blindingly sweet! Sheesh. After having eaten a slice one often hears that heroic phrase booming in your head “I’m NEVER eating anything sweet again!” Ha. Well, at least that’s the sentiment for the next 30 minutes post-dessert.
What makes the perfect Lemon Meringue Pie? I want the slice to hold, have a zingy and buttery flavour with smooth, soft and crunchy textures going on. No weepy liquids anywhere. Definitely no runny filling, but also not a borderline yellow rubber experience either. Crispy, buttery pastry is an absolute must!
Photos by Alice Swan and Aurelia Lambrechts
My Journey with Lemon Meringue Pie
I avoided making Lemon Meringue for most of my baking career. Someone would try to order it, but I would always find a way to unfortunately be “out of town” or “fully booked” on those days. Truth is, I was petrified of making Lemon Meringue pie! This fear stemmed from watching The Great Australian Bake Off Season 1.
Every week the bakers had a technical challenge and in week 2 it was the humble Lemon Meringue Pie. One contestant n particular was super excited about the challenge – Bliss. She baked these pies for her Mom all the time! On this day however, her pie was a total disaster…
My husband and I were watching the show together and we were just cringing all the way through. Thing is, MOST of the contestants were having so much drama with this challenge! I think only a quarter of them didn’t have a runny filling. Needless to say, Lemon Meringue Pie climbed to the top of my chart of “Most difficult things to bake.”
I do believe that Bliss has baked a ton of successful Lemon Meringue Pies for her Mom, but in GABO technical challenges you have to bake the recipe they give you. You may know by now that method matters to me more than anything else when it comes to baking. I realized however, that the success of your Lemon Meringue pie does ride completely on the quality of your recipe.
I set out on a mission. For about 1 year I watched EVERY SINGLE Youtube video on Lemon Meringue Pie. There had to be a recipe that doesn’t waste 8 egg whites or (on the flip side) waste 8 egg yolks. A recipe that doesn’t require bizarre, temperamental gelatin setting excursions. In short, there had to be a recipe that is user friendly and yields perfect results!
Honestly, the base is really up to you. Some people prefer crushed cookies with melted butter which is really delicious. I prefer pastry, because I love the crunchier result it gives you. It is also just more buttery and doesn’t crumble apart when you lift out a slice.
Another reason I love this pastry recipe is because it is firm enough to slide the entire pie onto a cake board or another serving platter!
The Lemon Filling:
I tried out all the different recipes I could find for lemon fillings and I must say that cooked lemon fillings are definitely a lot less sweet than uncooked ones. I’ve also found that uncooked filings often do not hold their shape. So what are the options? Baking a lemon filling in the oven is too tricky. It can so easily over bake and curdle. NOT user friendly at all. Stove top Fillings are the answer – really!
There are a few different approaches to Stove top Lemon Fillings as well. Some folks have a pure lemon curd approach (Kitchen Conundrums and Gemma Strafford), but I find the flavour is just way too intense and sweet instead of balanced.
These lemon curd fillings contain very little eggs and the only liquid comes from lemon juice which explains why the flavour is just too intense. A BIG downer with these recipes was also that you had to strain the curd at the end… It is really thick and takes up to 40 minutes of serious elbow grease to force it through a sieve. Absolutely terrible for little, lightweight people like me.
For a while I made a lemon filling that sets with gelatin by Bruno Albouze. While the flavour was quite nice, the filling always started melting when you took the pie out of the fridge for a while! Not cool. There had to be a filling that was not so sensitive to temperature.
The answer came through The Joy of Baking. Stephanie Jaworski makes the most wonderful Lemon Filling that uses lemon juice as well as water which makes for a balanced, yet tart lemon filling. There are no weird or tedious methods, so all in all the whole experience is very user friendly. I do add a bit more lemon juice and lemon zest than she does, but her recipe is brilliant as well.
This lemon filling has NEVER flopped or come out on the runny side and it is so easy to make!
Another reason I love Stephanie’s video on lemon meringue pie is that she speaks about another technical issue to help the meringue adhere to the filling. The filling should be warm when you add the meringue on top. This also prevents weeping. So cool!
The first video I watched on the meringue part of Lemon Meringue Pie was by Kitchen Conundrums. Fantastic video! Thomas Joseph makes all 3 of the different meringue types (French, Swiss and Italian) and tests them on top of Lemon Meringue Pie.
You can see clearly that French Meringue will end up weeping and slide around on top of your lemon filling. This is because the egg whites have not been cooked properly. I find that even when French meringue has been broiled in the oven, it will still weep.
I LOVE Italian Meringue. Some folks prefer Swiss, but my standing mixer doesn’t have a heat proof bowl so I had to revert to Italian meringue. It is such a soft and super smooth meringue – oh my!
To me it is also the least labour intensive meringue because the standing mixer and stove do ALL the work. The only way this meringue can cause weeping is if you over whip the egg whites before the sugar is added.
In Swiss and Italian Meringue the egg whites are already cooked, so you don’t need to return the pie to the oven. I use a little blowtorch to brown my meringue, but you are also welcome to broil it in the oven if you don’t have a blowtorch.
So here we go – this is my recipe for Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie 🙂
- 180 g Flour
- 110 g Salted Butter
- 45 g Icing Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Ice Cold water
- 82 g (5) Large Egg Yolks, room temperature (reserve the whites)
- 240 g White Sugar
- ½ tsp Salt
- 70 g Corn Starch
- 390 ml Boiling Water
- 35 g Unsalted Butter
- 160 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained to remove seeds and pulp
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Zest
- 250 g White Sugar
- 80 g Boiling Water
- 4 egg whites
- Pinch of Salt
- ¼ tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- Place flour in a food processor. Add the diced butter and jiggle it around a bit so that all the butter is covered in flour and not sticking together.
- Process the flour and butter together on medium speed until resembling bread crumbs.
- Add the icing sugar and process for another 15 seconds.
- Add the ice cold water and turn the processor on for another 15 seconds or until the mixture starts clumping in the machine. Do not keep processing until all the dough comes together! It is a firm dough, so it is not as wet.
- Dump all the contents (there will be many dry crumbs, don’t panic) onto a work surface and knead the dough until smooth – about 2 minutes. Do not add more water.
- Flatten your pastry out slightly until it is about ½ inch thick. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime prepare your tin. I use a 9 inch loose bottom cake tin. Spray or lightly butter the inside of your tin, making sure to only grease about 2 inches up the sides if you are using a deeper cake tin.
- Remove pastry from the fridge and roll out on a large piece of baking parchment to about 3 mm thick. Rotate the parchment every few seconds so that your pastry is rolled out more or less into a circle.
- Place the base of your tin face side down on top of the pastry and cut around the sides of it. Trim off the excess pastry around the base and keep to one side. Place one hand under the parchment paper and one side on top of the base. Flip the pastry in one swift motion.
- Fit the pastry covered base back into the tin and fill in the sides with pastry using your thumbs. If you are using a cake tin, only take the pastry about 3,5 cm up the sides.
- Freeze the pastry for 5 minutes. Remove from freezer and smooth the surface and edges with a spoon if desired. Return to the freezer for an extra 15 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Blind bake the pastry for 20 minutes using foil. Remove the baking beans and foil. Brush the inside of the pastry with beaten egg white and prick holes in the base with a fork.
- Return the pastry to the oven until lightly golden brown.
- Leave to cool inside the tin.
- Place a damp washcloth on your work surface to keep things from sliding around. Add all the egg yolks to a medium mixing bowl and place on top of washcloth.
- Place the white sugar and corn starch in a medium sized pot and stir to combine. Gradually pour in the boiling water while whisking with your other hand.
- Transfer pot to a medium heat. Keep stirring with a whisk. The mixture takes a while to heat up, but then it thickens very quickly. Let the mixture come to a low boil. Large steam bubbles will begin to form and the mixture will start to become translucent. Keep the mixture on a low boil for another 2 minutes, whisking all the while.
- Remove the pot from the heat. Next you need to temper the egg yolks. Dip the whisk into the translucent goo and then whisk it into the egg yolks. Tap your whisk on the side of the mixing bowl to shake off any egg yolk. Dip it into the goo again and whisk into the yolks. Keep going until about half the goo is mixed into the yolks.
- Transfer the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the goo and whisk thoroughly.
- Return the pot to a medium heat once more and bring to a low boil while whisking – same as before. You need to be sure the egg yolks are cooked through, so keep the mixture on a low boil for another 2 minutes, whisking all the while.
- Remove the pot from heat. Add the butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice to the pot all at once and whisk to combine.
- Transfer the lemon filling to a clean mixing bowl. Immediately place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming. Start with the meringue immediately after you made the filling. Remember, we want the filling to still be warm when we place the meringue on top.
- Place boiling water and sugar into a small, heavy based saucepan and swirl to combine.
- Bring mixture to a simmer on medium heat. Swirl the saucepan now and then to distribute sugar granules that gather in the center. DO NOT STIR.
- In the meantime, place the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in a super clean mixing bowl of a standing mixture. Add the whisk attachment to your mixer. Do not beat together just yet.
- Once all the sugar is dissolved, turn the heat up high and insert a candy thermometer in the syrup.
- When sugar syrup reaches 100˚C (212˚F), start whipping the egg whites on medium speed till soft peak stage.
- When syrup reaches 118˚C (245˚F), remove from heat. Increase mixer speed to high and pour syrup in gradually, in a thin stream, into the egg whites.
- Reduce speed to medium and continue beating till the bowl is cool and the meringue is stiff.
- Keep mixer running and add in the Vanilla Extract.
- Assembly of Lemon Meringue Pie:
- Lift out the base of your tin and transfer to your desired serving plate. The pastry can be loosened and transferred easily without any breakage.
- Remove the plastic wrap from your lemon filling. Transfer all the filling into your pre-baked pastry and smooth out the surface.
- Working from the outside in, dollop a dessert spoonful of meringue at a time on top of the lemon filling. Be sure to cover the top all the way to the edges.
- Using the tip of your spoon to dig into the meringue slightly and swirl outward and upward to create beautiful peaks. Do not use the back of your spoon.
- Brown the meringue to your liking with a blowtorch.
- Leave the completed Lemon Meringue Pie to stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours before slicing and serving.
I hope you give this epic Lemon Meringue Pie a try! If you have any questions or issues, please comment below because I would love to help.
Thanks for reading!