Monday, October 10, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie With K

K has been asking for a lemon meringue pie for a while now. I think it started with her love of the lemon tart at Piccino. After reading about it in Harry Potter, she began asking more frequently. Like, oh, daily, saying "I have never had lemon meringue pie." Which is true. I resisted baking one. Because, to be honest, I am not a huge fan. Last week though, I went to a preview showing of the new movie Toast. The movie is based on a memoir by British food writer Nigel Slater, and if you can see it without developing a desire for lemon meringue pie, you are less suggestible than I am. I even found the food stylists's recipe from the movie here.

The only question became which recipe. Asking on twitter led me to one suggestion for the classic Betty Crocker recipe and one for a rather intriguing Plum Meringue Pie. I also found one online from Alton Brown that looked doable, especially as his meringue technique looked much simpler than many others I found. Clearly, I wanted to combine recipes. The only question was whether or not I could convince K that plum meringue held the appeal of lemon.

While waiting for her decision, I made a pie crust from the Easy Pie Dough recipe by J. Kenji López-Alt, on Serious Eats. I've been enjoying the site for years and am very happy with their expanded drinks coverage, including a Summer of Riesling series. 

Crust made and chilling in the fridge, it was time to wait for K's verdict. Plum or lemon? I even arranged the plums on the table to form a K. Alas, the the answer, lemon. Why?  "Because I love lemon tart and I really want to try meringue." Sensible enough I suppose.

A few notes:
I'll paste the recipe below. We reduced the sugar and upped the zest, but beyond that made it is written.
1 Zesting and juicing lemons is an excellent job for a 9-year-old. As is stirring, but you may find yourself saying, repeatedly, that "stirring is not just dragging a spoon along the surface of a pan."
2 The same 9-year-old will probably also be fascinated by cornstarch and the stiff peaks formed by beating egg whites. "It is really cool to see what the cornstarch looks like when it gets all jiggly. And the egg whites look like a pile of snow when I put them on the pie."
3 Although you may have a need to make the pie look pretty, it is a far better thing to let the 9-year-old arrange the meringue. Really. 
4 When the pie comes out of the oven, your 9-year-old may say "It smells like heaven."
5 Pie for breakfast is a fine day to celebrate a day off from school.

Alton Brown's Lemon Meringue Pie


Lemon Filling:

  • 4 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 (9-inch) pre-baked pie shell
  • 1 recipe Meringue, recipe follows


Preheat oven to 375. 

Whisk egg yolks in medium size mixing bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine cornstarch, water, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Turn heat on medium and, stirring frequently, bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and gradually, 1 whisk-full at a time, add hot mixture to egg yolks and stir until you have added at least half of the mixture.

Return egg mixture to saucepan, turn heat down to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 more minute. Remove from heat and gently stir in butter, lemon juice, and zest until well combined. Pour mixture into pie shell and top with meringue while filling is still hot. Make sure meringue completely covers filling and that it goes right up to the edge of the crust. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until meringue is golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Make sure pie is cooled completely before slicing.

Meringue Topping:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 pinch cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Use to top lemon filling.


  1. That sounds like the kind of breakfast I'd remember one day if I were a kid. I really like that you make suggestions on ways kids can help with a recipe. Both my kids (5 & 6) enjoy "cooking" with me. But as I learned early on, it inevitably means more work. That's fine, of course. And I love having them learn about it. But it is a challenge sometimes coming up with ways they can actually do things that aren't dangerous. They're relegated to stirring, decorating, whisking, folding chips into dough, turning the kitchen aid on/off, etc. So far, they seem ok with that.

  2. Thanks for reading. It is probably a bit easier cooking with one, rather than two. Luckily K has always been slightly frightened of sharp knives and hot stoves, so is not eager to take chances. But things like cracking eggs can be fun, if you take a deep breathe or two about the mess. I also found that when letting her read the recipe and find all of the ingredients was much more appealing than I would have thought.
    It is only at 9 that she is really working on her knife skills.