As a mom, I end up baking cakes and cookies more often because of the obvious reason – kids are so fixated to their regular choices. But the Lemon meringue pie changed choices a bit this time. We all happily enjoyed the slices in our plates after dinner and, to my utter surprise, my elder daughter, who has a long list of dislikes (lemons being one of them),actually liked the sweet and sour flavors of this lemony pie.
Lemon Meringue pie is a beautiful, and elegant serve. There is a something about this lemony, sweet, smooth, creamy and a bit edgy pie that everyone falls for it. The crunchy, buttery short crust base with a vibrant lemon flavored filling and fluffy-airy meringue complement each other very well.
Look at that vibrant slice; it makes me want one more slice. I am trying not to go near that fridge area; because I need to sit down and finish my write-up and I have already eaten too much for today.
There are tips I would like to mention first, before starting with the recipe:
1. It’s a lemon pie, so try buying good fresh golden-yellow colored lemons. Avoid the green ones. Yellow lemons are bit softer in flavor. They have a citrus sweetness, which works fab with the pie crust and the meringue top.
Before you cut into the lemons to squeeze the juice, wash them and take the zest out using a microplane. (Big plum lemons will have better zest). We will need the zest and juice both in the recipe. TIP: To zest with the Microplane, just rub the lemon in one direction against the little blades. Turn the lemon in your hand like holding a ball, so you remove only the yellow part.
Keep the lemons room temperature and roll them firmly on the kitchen counter before you cut into them. This ruptures the juice sacs within and helps in getting as much juice out.
2. The pie crust can be made in advance and kept in an airtight container at room temperature. It’s a sweet shortbread crust, which is quite an easy task without any kind of fuss.
3. The Lemon filling is thick, soft velvety cream which sets and holds its place on the pie, and yet melts in the mouth. If not made properly; there can be a chance that your filling turned out to be runny or too stiff. This can be easily fixed by adjusting with the amount of cornstarch that goes in. But try sticking to the accurate measurements of ingredients. There will be more chances of success.
This is very important and has to be done very precisely You will be cooking the cornstarch with water and sugar over the flame. Make sure that you cook the batter till thick and translucent. This hot batter has to be mixed with the egg yolks, for that – it is very important that you temper your yolks first. To temper the yolks – first break the yolks using the same hot whisk which you used for the cornstarch batter. Then add a spoonful of the hot batter into the yolks and mix well. Then add the yolk mix into the cornstarch mix and continue whisking. Return the saucepan to the flame and continue cooking on low, until you see large bubbles of boiling batter. Still if you see any lumps, go ahead and strain the filling before you use.
The yellow color you see of the filling is from egg yolks, it can be bright or a bit dull depending on the quality of eggs. I did a bit cheating and added a drop of yellow food coloring. This is totally optional, the flavor and the richness of the lemon meringue pie will remain same.
4. I have used swiss meringue for this recipe, because it is more stable. It is bit different then the regular whipped egg white meringue. The egg whites and sugar are first heated over a double boiler and then whipped to the stiff peaks. Swiss meringue does not need any cooking time in the oven, just use a hand torch to add the color. on the peaks.
Sometimes the pie gets beads of moisture (also known as weeping) between the meringue and the filling. It can be because of over whipping of the meringue or undercooked meringue. I recommend using a candy thermometer to know when to stop cooking. Make sure the lemon filling is not cold, when you pipe the meringue on the top. It should be on a warm side rather than room temperature.
I don’t have a torch, but managed the browning of the meringue in my oven. Preheat the oven on high with only top element working. Place the assembled pie on the top rack. It takes only 2 minutes to achieve that beautiful color over the meringue. Make sure to rotate the pie to get even color. Just don’t burn you hands be careful.
5. Keep the prepared pie in the fridge for couple of hours before you cut into.