daring bakers: lemon meringue pie


jen, the canadian baker chose this month’s daring bakers challenge – lemon meringue pie. this is not a dish i’ve ever made although it is something i remember eating when i was growing up.

as ever, the rules meant that we had to stick to the recipe we were given and very little variation was allowed, which wasn’t a problem as i love both lemons and meringue, and my memories of the combination of the two in a pie were pretty good. i decided mini pies would be one variation.

so, how did i get on?

pastry – the recipe below is as we were given but i needed much more liquid for my pastry (nearer 120ml)so be ready to be flexible if you try this. the pastry kept its crispness and tasted lovely and light. not too sweet either.

lemon filling –. this was great fun to make! i didn’t know what would happen when i added the sugar:corn flour mix to the hot water so it was great fun to see it thicken and begin to resemble glue! the eggs i used had gorgeous orange yolks which added much of the colour, and the lemon flavour was nice and tangy.

meringue – i had a mini disaster here – i added some of the sugar before beating the egg whites until they were stiff. however, having scooped most of it out the whites thickened as expected. phew! the meringue was nice and light and had the contrast of an outer crunchy layer and a soft inner layer. however the crunch didn’t last – the one i ate straight out the oven (greedy abby!) was perfect, the ones we had after supper a few hours later had lost their crunch. i’d love to know how you avoid this.

the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? i’d have happily made lemon meringue pie if the thought had occurred to me, but given i’d not had that thought, it was nice to have the excuse to give it a try.

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes. i’d omit the vanilla from both the lemon filling and the meringue as i didn’t like the contribution it made. i’d also be looking at different meringue recipes and techniques to try and hang on to the all-important crunchiness.


lemon meringue pie* (makes one 25 cm pie or ten 10cm pies)

for the pastry:

180g cold butter; cut into 1cm pieces

2 cups plain flour

¼ cup white sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

80-120ml chilled water

for the lemon filling:

475ml water

1 cup white sugar

½ cup corn flour

5 egg yolks, beaten

60g unsalted butter

¾ cup fresh lemon juice (i used 5 lemons)

1 tablespoon lemon zest (i used 2 lemons)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature

½ teaspoon cream of tartar (i substituted ½ teaspoon white vinegar)

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup white sugar

to make the pastry, make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. using a food processor, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. process until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. tip the mixture into a large bowl, sprinkle with 80ml of water, let rest for 30 seconds and then cut in with about 15 strokes of a spatula, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl (add more water if necessary). turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a ball. wrap in cling film and chill for at least 20 minutes.

**allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. on a lightly floured surface roll the pastry to a thickness of 3mm. cut a circle about 5cm larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry onto the pie dish. turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1.2cm. flute decoratively. chill for 30 minutes.

preheat oven to 180ºc. line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or 10 minutes if you are making small pies). carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden (about 10 minutes for small pies). cool completely before filling.

to make the lemon filling, bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. remove from the heat and let it rest 5 minutes. whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. return to the heat and cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. the mixture will be very thick. add about 250ml of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pan and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. remove from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. pour into the prepared pastry crust(s). cover with cling film to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

to make the meringue, preheat the oven to 190ºc. using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar (or vinegar), salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. cool on a rack. serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

* from "wanda's pie in the sky" by wanda beaver

** as i was making mini tarts i divided the dough into fifths and used each piece to make 2 mini cases. each circle that i cut was about 2cm larger than the tart cases.