Lemon Meringue Pie is sublime any time of the year, but especially during spring and summer. The bright, lemony tang of the filling, topped with a cloud of melt-in-your-mouth sweet meringue cleanses the palate while satisfying the urge for something sweet after chowing down on barbecued ribs, burgers, or a juicy grilled steak.
The secret to any lemon filling begins with the fruit. Taking a short cut by using bottled lemon juice will only yield disappointment after the first taste. When selecting lemons, look for fruit with smooth, thin, bright yellow skin, and avoid lemons with tinges of green, since these are under-ripe. They should feel heavy for their size for an abundance of juice.
For a pie that’ll win the hearts of your family and guests, serve it within one day of baking, and preferably on the same day. There’s a rather short window before meringue turns from silky to sticky, which will make it difficult to slice without destroying that picture-perfect meringue. If it begins to stick to the knife, use a wet towel to wipe the knife between each slice.
LEMON MERINGUE PIE
1 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
5-6 tablespoons ice water
Place flour, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a food processor, cover, and pulse several times to mix. Add cold butter and pulse until it is pea-size. Add 5 tablespoons of ice water and process at low speed until the pastry is crumbly. If the mixture appears dry, add the remaining water and process just until the pastry comes together and forms a ball. Remove the pastry, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill at least 30 minutes or until it is cold.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll the pastry out on a floured pastry cloth or counter and fit it into a 10-inch pie plate. Flute the edges and prick the crust with a fork. Bake the pie shell 9 to 11 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned. Remove it from the oven and cool completely.
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 package unflavored gelatin
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
1 ½ cups water
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, gelatin, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and just comes to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside 15 minutes to cool, stirring every 5 minutes. Pour into the cooled pie shell.
3 egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. With a mixer on high speed, whip egg whites until they are foamy, add cream of tartar, and beat briefly. Gradually add sugar, beating until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
With an offset metal spatula or knife, spread the meringue over the lemon filling, sealing it well at the edges of the pastry. Bake 4 to 5 minutes to lightly brown the meringue. Cool 40 minutes, then chill until the pie is cold and the filling has set.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
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