Lemon Meringue Pie
My version of a diner staple: This tart, sweet, creamy, dramatic looking pie improves on the original by combining the bright citrus of lemons and limes (freshly juiced, of course) with a sky-high meringue that you can’t wait to stick your fork into.
Makes one 9-inch (23-cm) pie
Classic Pie Crust
3⁄4 cup (11⁄2 sticks/170 g) unsalted European-style cultured butter
1⁄4 cup (55 g) rendered leaf lard OR additional butter
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or any light-coloured, mild vinegar)
12 ounces (340 g/ approximately 3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (chilled)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) sour cream
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
1⁄2 cup (120 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 4 limes)
4 large egg whites, chilled
1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup (65 g) superfine sugar
For the Classic crust, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Prepare the butter and lard, if using. Cut the butter into ½-inch (12-mm) cubes (a bench scraper is perfect for this, but a sharp knife works well too), and cut the lard into small pieces. Return them to the fridge or freezer to cool. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use. On a clean flat surface or in a large shallow bowl, toss the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt together lightly to blend. Add the butter and lard (if using) to the dry ingredients and, cut the fat into the flour with speed and patience, until the fat has been reduced to small pea-sized chunks. Try to use a straight up-and-down motion, avoiding twisting your wrists, as the more you press on the flour the more tough gluten will develop in the dough. Avoid using your fingers, as the heat from your hands will melt the fat and further encourage gluten development. Unlike with pasta or bread, gluten is the enemy of pie dough, so be gentle, and be quick!
Once your fat has been cut down to size, spread your mixture out gently to expose as much surface area as possible. Gently drizzle about half of your milk mixture over the flour, trying to cover as wide an area as you can. Using bench scrapers or a large spoon, toss the flour over the liquid (don’t stir; just lightly toss), spread everything out again, and repeat the process with the second half of the liquid.
Roll out the dough into a circle about 11 inches (28 cm) in diameter. Transfer it to a 9-inch (23-cm) tart pan or pie plate, tuck the overhang under, and crimp decoratively. Blind-bake the crust until partially baked (see page 35); set it aside to cool. Lower the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Chill the crust in the freezer or fridge. Bake it for 10 minutes, and then let it cool completely. Leave the oven on.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, sour cream, zests, and salt until fully blended. Slowly pour in the juices while whisking constantly, until they are fully incorporated.
Put the pie crust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the centre. Remove the pie to a wire rack.
Make the topping: While the pie is baking, in a dry, sparkling clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form (this is easiest in a stand mixer). Slowly pour in the sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form. Pile or pipe the meringue onto the hot pie surface, and make sure it covers the entire filling, reaching all the way to the crust. Use a kitchen torch to toast the peaks and edges of the meringue. If you do not have a torch (get one; they’re the best!), you can use the broiler to toast the meringue (see page 132). Just keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and don’t let it go for too long. Serve immediately.
Photograph © 2014 Tina Rupp