Happy Pie Day! Let’s celebrate with this tangy, beautiful lemon pie recipe that’s truly one of the best. Imagine a buttery, flaky, crisp pie crust. Now think about a creamy lemon filling that’s a perfect blend of tart and sweet, topped by fluffy, sweet meringue. Sounds delicious, right? This pie makes for an impressive dessert.
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FRENCH LEMON MERINGUE PIE
My mom made lemon meringue pie every Thanksgiving. It was, well still is, my brother’s favorite. I remember that she used a pie filling mix and milk in her pie and that it was more sweet than tart. It was incredible and something we eagerly anticipated.
Her meringue was always perfectly toasted and sweet. I loved it when it would start to weep, but seeing the drops on her perfectly toasted meringue always upset her. To me, those little beads were like little drops of honey. To mom, those drops became her nemesis.
Now that I make the pies for a holiday, I wanted to take the best parts of mom’s pie and update it a little bit. More tart lemon flavor was in order. And a meringue that doesn’t weep.
HOW DO I MAKE A FRENCH LEMON MERINGUE PIE?
This pie starts with lemon curd. Water and cornstarch are combined and cooked to make a thick paste. The hot cornstarch mixture, spoon by spoon, is then quickly whisked into the beaten egg yolks.
This is called tempering the eggs. It allows us to cook and thicken the lemon curd without scrambling the eggs. It also helps the curd to set so we can cut the pie without the filling pouring out. Once cooked, we’ll stir in fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, butter, and vanilla. The addition of vanilla smooths out the lemon bite and enhances the flavor.
Then we’ll use a similar cornstarch mixture to beat into our whipped egg whites to help firm the meringue and keep it from weeping. How can I make my meringue mixture thicker? You might need to add a bit more of the cornstarch mixture or ensure you tempered the eggs enough. I wish Mom were here to sample my meringue and see that it doesn’t weep. She would be so proud.
TIPS FOR MAKING THIS RECIPE:
- How do I avoid burning my meringue? Be sure to constantly stir the curd while cooking. It can scorch easily. You’ll want to cook the mixture until it looks thicker than pudding, but not as thick as jello.
- Why did my meringue not whip up? Be sure that the egg whites don’t have any, not even a speck, of yolk in them. Any bit of yolk and they won’t whip up properly. They’ll refuse to whip up if they come in contact with any fat as well. Be sure to use a glass or a metal bowl to whip up the egg whites. Plastic can easily hold onto a speck or two of grease or fat. Be safe and use a glass or metal bowl. And just for good measure, wipe out the bowl with a clean tea towel.
- Egg whites separate best when they’re cold. The egg yolks are fine to use cold, but you will want the egg whites to be at room temperature before making the meringue. They’ll whip up faster and bigger when they’re warm.
TOOLS USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:
- Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup – use this in the microwave and put it in the dishwasher.
- Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons-6 Piece – I love the long, rectangle design. They even fit into small spice jars.
- StarPack Basics Silicone Mixing Spoon – I own a bunch of these – in turquoise, of course.
- Pyrex Easy Grab Glass Pie Plate (9.5-Inch, 2-Pack – Love these! I use them for pies, for dips. Very versatile!
- KitchenAid Classic Plus 4.5-Qt. Tilt-Head Stand Mixer – I received this as a gift. Best. Gift. Ever!
Need more Thanksgiving dessert ideas that aren’t pie? Here are a few suggestions to consider:Print
This classic holiday pie recipe is a delicious combination of sweet and tart lemon curd topped with clouds of fluffy, sweet, toasted meringue.
1 baked pie crust (I like this recipe)
For the lemon filling:
5 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 ⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups water
½ cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
For the meringue:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
⅓ cup cold water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Start by making the lemon curd. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs yolks until they are smooth and creamy. Set aside.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and water. Whisk to combine until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture comes up to a boil. Cook, while stirring, for another minute or two or until the mixture begins to thicken. It should be a very thick pudding consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat. Use a tablespoon, scoop one spoon of the hot cornstarch mixture and quickly whisk it into the beaten egg yolks. This is called tempering the eggs. Continue to whisk in spoonfuls of the cornstarch mixture until you use half of the cornstarch mixture.
Add the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan of cornstarch. Return to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring constantly – about 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and butter. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare the meringue. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cornstarch and water. Stir until the mixture just comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cream of tartar. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, slowly start whipping the egg whites and vanilla together until the egg whites become frothy.
Slowly add in the sugar and cream of tartar mixture, one spoon at a time. Continue beating the egg whites until soft peaks form.
While continuing to beat the egg whites, spoon in the cornstarch mixture. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks. Be careful not to overbeat the egg whites or they will feel grainy.
Next, fill the baked pie shell. Gently re-warm the filling over medium heat, stirring constantly until hot and pourable. Pour the hot filling into the crust and smooth the top.
Top the pie with meringue. While the filling is still hot, use a rubber spatula to spread the meringue mixture on the pie, making sure that the meringue makes contact with the crust all the way around the pie. This will anchor the meringue so it doesn’t shrink.
Scoop the last of the meringue into the middle of the pie to make a small slope. Use the back of a spoon to make peaks and swirls in the meringue.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 325 degrees until the meringue is golden brown.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a wire rack until room temperature. Once room temperature, chill for at least an hour to help firm the filling.
The pie will last for 2 days covered in the refrigerator, however, it is best eaten the first day.