Whether pies, tarts, cakes or cookies, citrus treats–tart or sweet–conjure relaxing spring and summertime images of picnics and porch swings. Lemon meringue pie is one of my favorite “retro” desserts. Although the citrus dish evolved from European custards, the pie in its popular form is generally credited to Elizabeth Goodfellow of Philadelphia, head of America’s first cooking school. By the 1860s, the lemon pie with it meringue topping began appearing in cookbooks nationwide.
The pretty, sweet, lightly tart pie appeals to both children and adults. The fluffy meringue can be spooned on top and decorated with swirls, or, for a more formal or designer look, can be piped on. I recommend having all the ingredients measured and prepared for use before beginning.
1 deep dish 9-inch pie crust (frozen if premade, in freezer for 10 minutes if freshly made)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
4 large egg yolks
2 cups milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
½ tsp. vanilla extract
6 large egg whites
6 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cream of tarter
In the pie pan, prick the bottom and sides of piecrust with a fork. Line the piecrust with parchment or wax paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans, such as pintos.
Bake at 425̊ for 10 minutes. Remove weights and parchment, and bake 12 more minutes or until lightly browned. (Use aluminum foil to make a collar around the crust edge if its browning too quickly.)
Whisk together 1 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy, medium saucepan.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, milk and lemon juice.
Whisk egg mixture into sugar mixture over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and continue to boil, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat and stir in butter, lemon zest and vanilla extract until smooth. Cover hot filling in saucepan with a lid. Move immediately to next step to keep custard hot.
Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Add sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, and beat 2 minutes or until soft peaks form and sugar dissolves.
Reheat filling just until it begins to bubble. Pour hot filling into hot crust, and quickly spread meringue evenly over hot filling, sealing to edge of the pastry.
Bake at 325̊ for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool pie completely on a wire rack before serving. On the unlikely event there are leftovers, store them in the refrigerator.