But this cookbook, a birthday gift from a dear friend, has inspired me to try things I previously never imagined possible. And wonder of all wonders, my lemon meringue pie came out both beautiful and delicious. Which means if I can do it--you can, too!
Don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients or the length of the recipe. I laid out all the ingredients in their proper order and measurement before beginning the cooking process and everything went together quite easily, much to my surprise. I had a second set of hands to re-heat the filling while I finished the meringue, but now that I've made meringue for the first time, I think I'd be able to do it without the second person helping. And remember, I succeeded at this recipe with very amateur cooking skills!
We served the pie at room temperature initially, as the recipe suggested, but we refrigerated the leftovers overnight and found the pie to be even better the second day. The lemon flavor was stronger at room temperature, but the pie was definitely firmer and, of course, refreshingly cold after being refrigerated.
Here is the recipe, taken from Cook's Illustrated The New Best Recipe:
Lemon Meringue Pie
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup juice from 2 or 3 lemons (I used 3 lemons)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the meringue:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the crust:
A single 9-inch pie crust, fully baked and cooled completely
1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. For the filling:
- Mix the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water in a large nonreactive saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at the beginning of the process and more frequently as the mixture begins to thicken.
- When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, whisk in the egg yolks two at a time; then whisk in the zest, then the lemon juice, and finally the butter.
- Bring mixture to a good simmer, whisking constantly.
- Remove from the heat; place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to keep it hot and prevent a skin from forming.
3. For the meringue:
- Mix the cornstarch with the water in a small saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer, whisking occasionally at the beginning and more frequently as the mixture thickens.
- When the mixture starts to simmer and turns translucent, remove from the heat.
- Mix the cream of tartar and sugar together in a small bowl.
- Beat the egg whites and vanilla until frothy.
- Beat in the sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sugar is incorporated and mixture forms soft peaks.
- Add the cornstarch mixture (which you previously heated on the stove), 1 tablespoon at a time.
- Continue to beat the meringue to stiff peaks (while finishing this, see step 4)
4. Remove the plastic wrap from the lemon filling and return to very low heat during the last minute or so of beating the meringue (to ensure that the filling is hot).
5. Pour the hot filling into the cooled pie shell.
6. Using a rubber spatula, immediately distribute the meringue evenly around the edge and then the center of the pie to keep it from sinking into the filling. Make sure the meringue attaches to the piecrust to prevent shrinking. Use the back of a spoon to create peaks all over the meringue.
7. Bake the pie until the meringue is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Serve the same day or refrigerate overnight.