Indeed, this would have been the perfect creation while I battled through the mother of all sinus colds the over past few weeks (the cold is currently in a standoff with antibiotics), but the truth is that I made pie as part of a gluten-free birthday celebration back in January. So it is not only that I haven’t cooked in two weeks, I haven’t even had the energy to finish the long list of recipes waiting to be delivered to you.
If you’ve been following my recipes for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of the Meyer lemon, an almost indescribably perfect fruit. It has the concentrated lemony flavours of a lemon without the overwhelming acid many might associate with a lemon. And I — along with many foodies the world over — get very excited when they appear in the early winter and it isn’t long before I’m dreaming up new ways to use them.
Lemon meringue pie has been a favourite of mine since as long as I can remember. My mother didn’t make it often, but it was always the pie I begged her to make. There was no craft to her recipe any more than there was to most of the creations my friends were eating either. It was a homemade piecrust with Shirriff lemon pie filling (from a powder mix in a box not unlike pudding). When served a slice, I would peel off the meringue and eat it first, then scoop the pie filling from the crust and eat it by itself, and then I would finally pick up the emptied crust and eat it by itself.
When I decided to throw myself into pie-making in my early 20s — which started phase during which I probably made a few hundred pies or more — the lemon meringue pie was first on my list to ‘conquer.’ I followed the recipe to a tee and felt my heart fall when I looked at my homemade lemon curd (the pie filling) which was an anemic yellow, at best. It looked nothing like the Shirriff pies I grew up with …. I would later reflect that with the relatively pale citric lemons we get all year round, with their thin yellow skin and overly abundant pulp, the only real ‘yellow’ colour that was being imparted to the curd was from the egg yolks, which in an emerging era of factory farming, were also getting paler.
So when Anne had her birthday in January, she asked for a “birthday pie” instead of a gluten-free birthday cake which had proven more hit-or-miss. Having recently perfected the gluten-free pie crust as part of my tourtière creations, I was up for it … but wanted to see if I couldn’t still surprise, so I turned to the bunch of Meyer lemons in my fridge and asked them if they were game for a little experiment: I took their silence as “yes.”
My goal was to create an ultimate lemony, but not overly tart, lemon pie that had the colour I remembered growing up. I wanted a pie filling that was the colour of a lemon. As you can see from these pictures, the result was brilliant — and, to be clear, there are no artificial colorants added to this. This is simply the result of the Meyer lemon zest itself with strong support from the organic egg yolks.
Ultimately, I stayed very traditional with the recipe itself using cornstarch as the thickener in the curd. Some curds don’t follow this approach (like the persimmon curd I created in my persimmon parfait), but most do. I also kept it simple by spooning on a French meringue rather than the more artistic Italian meringue, a choice I made because I wanted the lemon curd to steal the show. Finally, use whichever piecrust you want — if you want gluten-free piecrust, as I did, follow the piecrust recipe here; otherwise, use your own tried-and-true recipe. Either way, this is an exceptionally easy dessert that will be sure to surprise even the most dedicated lemon pie fans out there.
Prep time: 45 minutes (curd) + 40 minutes (pie crust)
Bake time: 10-12 minutes (pie) + 15 minutes (piecrust)
Total time: 2 hours, including piecrust
Meyer-Lemon Meringue Pie
Filling (lemon curd):
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon Meyer-lemon zest (about 3 Meyer lemons)
- 3/4 cup Meyer-lemon juice (about 3 Meyer lemons)
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1¼ cups boiling water
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- Preheat oven to 400°F and butter your pie pan.
- Prepare your piecrust following your recipe. For my gluten-free pie crust made easy, follow recipe here. Roll out the pastry and layer it into your waiting pie pan.Lay a sheet of aluminum foil on the crust and fill with dried beans, ceramic pieces, or even marbles to prevent the crust from ‘bubbling’ up during the baking.
Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully lift out the foil and beans, and continue to bake another 5 minutes until lightly baked. Remove from oven and let cool.
Lower the temperature of the oven to 325ºF.
- Lightly wash and dry the lemons. Using a fine rasp (microplane grater), zest the yellow skin from the lemons and set aside.
Now Juice the Meyer lemons and strain the pulp and seeds out with a fine mesh sieve and then top up to 1-cup with water.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.
Now, whisk the lemon juice into the sugar and starch and turn the heat on low and heat for about 3 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth…
Whisk in the beaten egg yolks…
And then melt in the butter …
… and add the 1¼ cups boiling water and increase temperature until mixture reaches a light simmer and the edges start to ‘boil’ (about 3-5 minutes) …
… continuing to whisk for another minute or so, until the mixture starts to thicken.
Sprinkle in the Meyer-lemon zest …
and whisk over heat for another couple of minutes until the lemon zest is completely dissolved.
Immediately pour the Meyer-lemon curd into the pre-baked piecrust …
Set pie aside now while you prepare the meringue.
- In a stand-up mixer, place the egg whites and beat for a minute or two until thick.
Sprinkle in the Cream of Tartar and beat until egg whites are stiff.
Gradually sprinkle in the sugar while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form.
Using a spatula or icing knife, layer on the meringue over the whole pie, making sure to reach and touch the edges of the crust — the meringue, when it cools, will shrink and pull away from the edges, so you want it tight and holding on. Decorate with as many peaks as you like … be artistic.
- Place the pie in the waiting 325ºF oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, until meringue is lightly golden.
Optional: to get a bit more colour on the peaks, broil for a 30-60 seconds (watching carefully) or use a kitchen blow-torch and do it by hand. Voila …
Remove from oven and let cool before serving.
Slice and enjoy the full citrus of winter ….