Cooking at home: A ‘perfectly delicious’ lemon meringue pie 

  • Courtesy Jenny Fleming-Ives Courtesy Jenny Fleming-Ives

  • Courtesy Jenny Fleming-Ives Courtesy Jenny Fleming-Ives

  • Lemon meringue pie. Courtesy Jenny Fleming-Ives

For the Gazette
Published: 9/2/2020 1:25:14 PM

Ila got the idea for a lemon meringue pie from Amelia Bedelia. Ila is my 5-year-old granddaughter. Amelia Bedelia is a beloved storybook character who mixes up everything she does, creating havoc, but in the end, she redeems herself by making a “perfectly delicious” (Ila’s words!) lemon meringue pie. Ila said we should make a perfectly delicious lemon meringue pie as the special treat to celebrate her parents’ summer birthdays.

The good news was that I had a favorite recipe for lemon meringue pie from my Scottish mother. The challenge would be making it together during this time of the coronavirus, when Ila and I only meet outdoors. As it turned out, we learned that this pie, with its three distinct parts — pastry, filling and meringue top — worked well for the outdoor process. I did have to use the stovetop briefly to cook the filling, and then the oven of course to bake the pie, but everything else was prepared outside. The backyard picnic table became our workspace, and we sat on the back steps to whip the egg whites for the meringue, plugging the mixer into the outdoor electrical outlet. That was the most fun, and utterly memorable!

Lemon meringue pie

For the pastry (this is my mother Pearl’s recipe, but feel free to use your own or a frozen pie shell):

Preheat the oven to 375.

You’ll need:

1 cup of flour

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening

2 tablespoons of ice-cold water

Sift the flour into a baking bowl, then with a knife cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture is crumbly. You can also use your fingertips.

Then sprinkle on the ice-cold water (I put this in the freezer for about 5 minutes so it’s really nice and cold) all over, and using the knife bring the mixture together, then use your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that leaves the sides of the baking bowl clean.

Turn the ball of dough onto a piece of wax paper, wrap it and place it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to rest.

During this time, you can make the lemon filling.

Then, placing the dough on a piece of floured wax paper, roll the pastry out to a round about 1/3 inch larger than the rim of the plate, which can be tin, glass, ceramic or enamel.

We used an 8-inch tin pie plate with sloping sides and a rim, which measured 6 inches at the base.

Transfer the pastry round to line the pie plate, flute the edges and prick the base all over with a fork.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet, and bake it on a middle shelf of the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the pastry case from the oven, and set it on a cooling rack; turn down the oven heat to 300.

For the filling

3 medium sized lemons

1 cup of cold water

3 level tablespoons of corn flour (also known as cornstarch in the U.S.)

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup of sugar (you can use 1/3 cup of sugar if you want a sweeter filling)

1 tablespoon of butter

To prepare the filling, you will need to have ready one larger and two smaller baking bowls and a saucepan.

In the larger bowl, break the 3 egg whites, being careful not to get any yolk droplets into the mix, and placing the egg yolks into one of the smaller bowls, beating them well with a fork. Set both bowls aside.

Place the corn flour and sugar in the other small bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of the cup of cold water and mix to a smooth paste with a wooden spoon.

Measure the rest of the water into the saucepan, and first grate the rind of the 3 lemons into the pan, then squeeze the lemons and add the juice.

Bring the lemon/water mixture to the boil, turn down the heat to the lowest and pour in the corn flour/sugar paste; mix quickly until smooth.

Simmer this gently for 1 minute, stirring all the time with the wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from burning.

Remove the pan from the heat, and add the butter and the beaten egg yolks. With the addition of the egg yolks, the mixture turns from a pale color to the more familiar bright yellow of a lemon pie filling!

Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell, spreading it out evenly. Let this sit while you whisk the meringue.

For the meringue

3 egg whites

1/2 cup of sugar

With a handheld electric beater (or standing one if that’s what you have, or even an old-fashioned whisk!), whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. I showed Ila the trick of knowing when they were stiff enough: turning the bowl upside down and not a single drop of egg white slides down the bowl!

Gradually beat in the sugar. Then using a broad, round-bladed knife, spread the meringue to the very edge of the pie so it seals the top completely.

Ila and I made a few decorative swirls on the top with the knife, and then the pie was ready for the oven.

Bake on a middle shelf at the 300-degree heat for about 30 minutes, until the meringue turns a beige color and has a crispy look on the top.

Remove the pie from the oven, and place it on a cooling rack for about an hour to let it settle.

You can then serve it warm, or let it sit to cool completely before eating.

Note: This all might sound a bit complicated, but in fact if you have a prepared pie shell, it only takes about 30 minutes to assemble the rest of the ingredients.

We hope you enjoy making this wonderful summer dessert as much as we did, with its crisp pastry crust, tart lemony filling and squishy sweet meringue top.

With grateful memories and gratitude to the late Pearl Fleming, Ila’s great-grandmother, for making this “perfectly delicious” treat for so many years.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

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Northampton, MA 01061


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