Friday, September 22, 2017

Lemon meringue pie-making tutorial

It was my turn to make dessert for this week's potluck, and Younger Daughter had a special request: lemon meringue pie. I thought I'd document the process for those of you who like pie-making tutorials.

I use the recipe from my faithful Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.

Lemon-meringue is a single-crust pie (as opposed to a double-crust pie). I doubled the recipe since I was making two pies.

I started with flour, salt, and lard.

I find it's easiest to measure hydrophobic ingredients such as lard using displacement (remember your legend of Archimedes?). To one cup of water, I add enough lard to displace the water by 2/3 cup. Much less messy than trying to pack 2/3 of a cup of lard into a measuring cup.

Ready to mix.

Once mixed...'s time to add cold water. The recipe has a measurement for the water, but I usually just wing this part.

Mixed dough.

Getting ready to roll it flat. Flour is your friend during rolling.

Because I'm making two pies, I divided the dough in half.

Make sure the surface is well-floured...

...and roll out the dough generously larger than the diameter of the pie dish.

To transfer the dough to the pie dish, I loosely roll the dough over the rolling pin, and "unroll" it over the pie dish.

Trim and/or crimp the edges as needed.

In the case of lemon meringue pies, the pie crust must be baked first.

I make sure the bottom is pricked...

...then I drop in a cheap metal pie pan to prevent the crust from forming big honkin' bubbles during the baking process.

About halfway through the baking process, I remove the metal pie pans so the bottom of the crust can brown. By this point the crust rarely bubbles.

Crusts, finished. You can see a small bubble in the right-hand crust.

While the crusts are baking, I start on the filling. To a pot I add sugar, flour, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.

With the heat on, I gradually stir in water, stirring constantly. (Stirring is necessary during the entire process so the filling doesn't lump or stick.)

Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, about ten minutes or so.

Then keep stirring some more until it bubbles. Turn off the heat and stir for another two minutes.

At this point I pause and separate some eggs whites from yolks (the eggs should be room temperature). The yolks get added to the filling; the whites are put aside for the meringue topping.

Beat the yolks just a bit, enough to smooth them out.

Then take a bit of the hot filling...

...and gradually add it to the yolks, stirring. It's necessary to do this gradually so the heat from the filling can denature the egg proteins without "cooking" the yolks. (After all, you don't want to add scrambled eggs to the filling.)

At this point I add butter to the filling...

...and measure out the lemon juice.

Now it's time to add the egg yolk mixture to the filling. Again this is done slowly while constantly stirring.

Then slowly stir in the lemon juice.

By the way, the heat is off during all this process. Just keep it stirred.

That finishes the filling. Now's the time to make the meringue, which requires vanilla, sugar, and cream of tarter in addition to the egg whites.

Add the vanilla and cream of tarter to the whites, and start whipping. Only add the sugar about one teaspoon at a time (one time I added all the sugar at once and the whites never whipped -- they just stayed liquid).

Keep whipping until the meringue is white and forms peaks -- it shouldn't take long.

Then it's time to assemble everything. I usually re-heat the filling to the boiling point, since it's cooled down a bit while I made the meringue. I've found slightly cooled filling doesn't seem to "harden up" while baking (there's nothing more humiliating than a runny lemon meringue pie).

Then it was time to put on the meringue. I start by making a circle around the edge, since the edge is supposed to be "sealed."

Then the center is filled in.

It's traditional to make peaks in the meringue, which is simply done by pulling a spoon back upward.

Before baking:

After baking:

After the pie cools, there are often these little golden dots of liquid. It's like a symbol of success or something.

So that's your pie-making tutorial du jour. Happy baking!


  1. Wow. These are great tips. I've never had success with the lemon or merengue for lemon merengue pie and I think you've nailed down all the reasons with this one tutorial. Haha! Thanks for the info and pics!

  2. Looks scrumptious! I just have to ask....gas range or wood?

    1. Gas. We didn't have our wood cookstove fired up at the time I made them.

      - Patrice

  3. My mother has an older version of that cookbook. Our family lake cabin has a wood burning stove and I have fried eggs and bacon on it, but never baked in it as the cottage was electrified before I was born. It is older and simpler than yours (new in about 1929 -1930).

    That in itself is a real skill!

  4. I was given that cook book when I was married, 33 years ago. I still make the same pie crust.
    Here is some tips on the perfect meringue.

  5. We make the same recipe but with limes instead of lemons. The only other difference is that I also stir in finely chopped lime zest into the filling before pouring into the crust.

    Southern Gal

  6. Beautiful work as always Patrice. Lemon meringue is one of my all time favorite pies. That cookbook brings back warm memories of my grandmother. She gifted me that very edition when I moved away from home and it was my favorite cook book hands down. Sadly it was destroyed when my cellar flooded last year and I have yet to track down another copy. The chocolate chippers and peanut butter cookie recipes were staples in my home for decades.