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There may not be a more classic dessert than lemon meringue pie! A flaky, homemade pie crust filled with rich lemon curd and topped with toasted meringue is a perfect dessert for any season.
How do you keep lemon meringue pie from getting soggy?
There are three main components to a lemon meringue pie: the perfect pie crust, lemon curd filling and meringue topping. The way each is executed plays an important role in keeping your lemon meringue pie from falling flat.
Since the filling and topping for a lemon meringue pie is cooked on the stove-top (rather than the oven), you will want to “blind bake” or fully par-bake your pie crust. A sturdy, fully baked crust will keep its flaky form when filled with the lemon curd. Next, cook your filling. This lemon custard is thickened with both cornstarch and egg yolks— both of which must be cooked to a certain temperature in order to activate their full thickening potential. Lastly, cook your meringue to the right temperature and whip it good! This lemon meringue pie uses a Swiss meringue topping, which heats the egg whites and sugar, before whisking to stiff peaks. It’s important to cook this mixture to 160˚ before whipping and toasting— an under-cooked meringue can “weep” or release liquid into your pie and make it soggy.
Do you refrigerate lemon meringue pie after baking?
Once you’ve made your lemon meringue pie, try to serve it that day rather than putting it in the fridge. Though you can make the pie crust and lemon curd filling in advance, it’s best to make the meringue fresh and top the pie on the day that you will eat it. Just like when you under cook it, placing a lemon meringue pie in the refrigerator after baking can cause the meringue topping to “weep.” If you do have leftovers that you’d like to save, it’s okay to refrigerate! Just know the texture may slightly change.
Why is my lemon meringue pie soupy?
It is important to cook your lemon filling to the correct temperature in order to keep your pie from getting soupy. When cooking the cornstarch mixture, which makes up the base of the lemon custard, bring the mixture to a low boil and hold it (while whisking constantly) for one full minute. Once the eggs are added, use a thermometer to ensure that you cook the egg to the point of thickening, without over cooking to the point of scrambling. For a custard like this, the egg mixture should reach a temperature of 160˚ to 180˚ to fully thicken. A properly cooked custard will set up nicely when cooled, and keep your lemon meringue pie from being loose and soupy.
What is the trick to making meringue?
The trick to making this topping is cooking it on the stovetop before whipping it into a thick, creamy meringue. This is called a Swiss meringue—and we love using this type for lemon meringue pie. Whisk the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and pinch of salt together in a mixing bowl, then stir and cook the mixture over a double boiler until a thermometer reads 160˚. This ensures that the sugar dissolves into the eggs and creates a smooth texture. This technique also guarantees the eggs have “cooked” and reached a safe temperature for eating, since you won’t bake this meringue later! Transfer the mixture to a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk until very thick, creamy, and medium-stiff peaks form.
fresh lemon juice (from about 2 whole lemons)
finely grated lemon zest
cream of tartar
- For the crust: Preheat the oven to 400˚. Roll 1 ball of pie dough into a 13-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Tuck the edges of the crust under to be even with the edge of the pie plate and crimp. Place the crust in the refrigerator for 60 minutes (or freezer for 30 minutes). Line the inside of the crust with parchment paper, then fill with baking weights or dried beans. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, until the edges of the crust are very lightly golden. Remove the pie weights and parchment paper, brush all over with heavy cream and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, 6 to 8 times. Return to the oven and bake until the whole crust is golden brown all over, 12 to 14 minutes longer. Let cool to room temperature.
- For the lemon filling: In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt. Gradually stir in 1 ½ cups cold water until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils, about 5 minutes. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly add 1/4 cup of the hot sugar mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually stir the yolk mixture from the bowl back into the remaining sugar mixture in the saucepan. Return to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until a thermometer reads 160˚ to 180˚. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter, lemon juice and zest, until the butter is completely melted. Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust. Let it cool for 15 minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the filling, then cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- For the meringue: Place a medium saucepan filled with 1-inch of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the egg whites, vanilla, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water and continue to mix, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently with a rubber spatula so that the egg whites don’t cook, until the sugar has dissolved into the egg whites, 3 to 5 minutes. (When you rub some of the mixture together in your fingers, you should not feel any texture/sugar granules. If using a thermometer, the temperature should read around 160˚.) Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until the meringue is glossy and holds a medium-stiff peak. Dollop the meringue over top of the pie to completely cover the lemon filling and swirl with the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops and swirls.
- Toast the meringue with a kitchen torch or place under a broiler (about 8 inches from the broiler element heated to high heat) for 1 minute, until lightly toasted. Let cool completely to room temperature, then serve.
To make ahead: Bake the crust and filling the day before serving and store in the refrigerator overnight. Remove the pie from the refrigerator 1 hour before making and topping with the meringue.