I have no shame that I helped bake a lemon meringue pie for this month’s #LetsLunch.
My #LetsLunch friends came up with interesting takes on savory and sweet pies (see the bottom of the entry).
But alas, I have my reason for going for the classic today.
When I married Jerome nearly two years ago, I gained a mother-in-law who was a great baker.
We had my rehearsal dinner in a Chinese restaurant where the owner allowed my mother-in-law to offer a mini-dessert buffet. Why? Because she taught the owner, who is Chinese, how to bake the most amazing cheesecake ever. (That’s another blog, I suppose).
In the four years Jerome and I have been together, I’ve seen her bake for my SPJ bake sales, various church functions, family birthday parties and, of course, just for me.
So when pies came up as the theme for this month, the very first thing I thought was of her lemon meringue pie.
I’ve talked about the pie in passing online:
So can you blame me that I wanted to find out how to make the pie?
Anyway, my mother-in-law graciously agreed for me to come to her house and learn how to make the pie.
Turns out that her recipe was the tweaking and merging of three different meringue pie recipes. The recipes were from cookbooks that came out in 1968, 1969 and 1978, respectively. As someone who loves curating social media posts into something completely new, I love that she took the time to do a food curation of her own.
I learned the secret to my mother-in-law’s pie was a lot of attention to detail and precision. Here are a few cool pie making hacks:
Wear snug fit rubber gloves while you’re forming the dough. It creates a barrier between your hands and the dough to keep the heat from your hands from altering the dough. The snug fit allows you control of the dough formation.
When rolling out the dough don’t go up and down. Rather roll out from the center of the dough to the edge in different directional — north, south, northwest, southwest, north east, south east.
My mother-in-law made this circle out of vinyl (you can buy it at any fabric store). Put the vinyl on top of the rolled out dough, cut around the edges and volia! perfect pie circle.
No need to buy expensive pie weights — my mother-in-law has been using the same beans to weigh down pie crust for about 20 years. Of course, you shouldn’t plan on eating them!
While the traditional cream of tartar gives you the stiffest meringue peaks, a mixture of cornstarch, sugar and water will keep those peaks up longer. Make sure you get it nice and cool before adding to the other ingredients.
When applying meringue, take the meringue and hook it all the way to the edge of the crust. This ensures there’s no gap between the meringue and the crust during baking.
Here’s me taking a iPhone photo of the finished result! Looks yummy yes?
Including prep, the pie from start to finish took about 2.5 to 2.75 hours. Obviously not a quick fix, but easily doable if you can commit a night or afternoon to pie baking.
Now I can’t wait to make my own.
Triple Recipe Lemon Meringue
For the crust (based on a double-crust pie recipe from “Better Homes & Gardens’ All Time Favorite Pies,” circa 1978; Obviously you’ll have enough for two crusts, take the second one and form it into a pie plate and freeze it, you’ll have some pie crust ready to go for your next pie!).
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup shortening or lard (we used a mixture of both)
- 6 to 7 tbsps of cold water (easiest way to keep it cold is put it in a mug with a few ice cubes of ice. Feel free to use as much water as necessary. We ended up putting in about 8 tablespoons.)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a medium mixture bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
- Cut in shortening or lard in the dry mixtures with a pastry blender until the pieces are the sizes of small peas.
- Add water a tablespoon at a time and toss with a fork. Add water until its moistened, but not too sticky.
- Wearing rubber gloves, take the dough and form it into a a ball. Take a knife and cut into two even-sized pieces. (You can also do all this in a food processor but pay close attention that the crumbs don’t get too small.)
- Take one of the pieces and form it into a small disc.
- Place a pastry cloth on the counter and cover it with flour. Roll the dough from the center into different directions until the circle is about 14 inches in diameter. (The original recipe says 12, but trust me, you’ll appreciate the extra dough when you’re forming the edge of the pie crust.)
- Fold the circle into quarters and unfold in the pie plate. Lift the the dough into the the pie plate to ease it. At the edge, fold hanging dough under. Using a floured thumb and forefinger, take your thumb at an angle and create an imprint on the dough, putting extra pressure with your forefinger. Repeat. Use your hands and press on the edge of the crust to make it even.
- Take another pie plate and mold a piece of foil in it. Take the foil and put it on top of the crust. Use beans or a pie weights in the foil.
- Bake for 5 minutes. Take out the pie and remove the foil and weights.
- Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes until golden.
For the Meringue (based on a recipe from “Pillsbury’s Bake off Desert Cookbook,” circa 1968)
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of cornstarch
- 1/2 cup of water
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup sugar
For the filling (based on a recipe from “Betty Crocker’s Cookbook,” circa 1969)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups water
- 4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 2/3 cup lemon peel
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 3 drops of yellow food coloring (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stiring constantly until the mixture is thick and clear. Set aside and cool.
- Start making the filling. Mix sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Gradually add water. Mix until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir for 1 minute.
- Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Blend half of the cornstarch mixture into the eggs.
- Add the egg mixture back in the saucepan. Boil and stir for two minutes.
- Remove from heat and add butter and food coloring (if using).
- Back to the meringue. In an electric mixer bowl, combine egg whites, salt and vanilla. Beat at a high speed until foamy. Add sugar gradually and continue to beat the mixture.
- Take the cooled cornstarch mixture and add gradually beating after each time. Whip the mixture until the meringue stands in stiff peaks.
- Pour the lemon filling into the prepared pie shell. Take the meringue and top with meringue, having it touch the pie edge. Using a large serving spoon decorate peaks and circles in the meringue as desired.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the meringue is golden brown.
- Cool in refrigerator for several hours (or overnight)
- Slice the pie with a knife warmed with hot water.
#LetsLunch is a group of food bloggers who gather virtually every month to write about a different food theme. Check out the other posts below:
Anastasia’s Strawberry Pie in Jars at Can it You Nit!
Caitlin‘s Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Lemon-Lime Ice-Cream at Caitlin Shetterly
Cathy’s Nutella Hand Pie’s at ShowFood Chef
Cheryl’s Japanese Curry Pot Pie at Tiger in the Kitchen.
Charissa‘s Lime-Custard & Curd Pie at Zest Bakery
Danielle‘s Chicken Pot Pie at Beyond The Plate
Denise’s Summer Chicken Pot Pie at Chez Us
Emma‘s Chinese Sausage & Roasted Sweet Potato Hand Pies at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Linda‘s Dirt Pie with Compost Cookie Crust at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Pilaf Pie with Chicken, Sultanas & Sweet Spices at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Rebecca’s sweet and savory submissions, Spanakopita and Rhubarb Crisp, at GrongarBlog
Rashda’s twist on Pecan Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Steff‘s Berry-Lemonade Icebox Pie at The Kitchen Trials
If you’re interested in joining us, go on Twitter and search for #LetsLunch and send us a message!
And I’m excited to mention that I will get to meet Cheryl, who is one of the founders of this group, in Seattle today! If you’re in the area, consider checking out her reading for “Tiger in the Kitchen” at Elliott Bay Book Co. or the post-reading reception organized by the Asian American Journalists Association’s Seattle chapter. (Full disclosure: I’m the chapter treasurer.) Yay for meeting virtual lunch friends in real life!