For some strange reason, fruit pies remind me of summer. And what could be more luxurious, more summery than a tart and sweet Lemon Meringue Pie! All pies are ephemeral in my house – and why not, is there really anyone who doesn’t like pie in some form or another.
“Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.”
― Yogi Berra
Making pie is a pretty simple affair. Well, simple if you follow directions and you are, just perhaps, a scientist – maybe a mad scientist. It’s been said that cooking is an art, but baking is a science. Truer kitchen words have never been spoken, or written as it were.
It’s probably been a few years since I made a Lemon Meringue Pie – so much time had passed that I had to look up my old recipe because it was no longer in my mind palace.
I followed directions to a tee! But still, my second pie had some obvious faults. No worries though, they both tasted phenomenal just the same. I am going to share with you some reasons behind Lemon Meringue Pie failure, in hopes that you can avoid some of the same problems.
Why does the Meringue sometimes slip off of the filling?
This usually happens when you try to put meringue on filling that has already cooled. When you put the pie in the oven to brown the meringue, steam just begins to rise from the filling and is captured between the filling and the meringue creating a little steamy pool causing your meringue to slide.
Avoid the mystery of the slipping meringue by making sure your filling is still hot “before” you put your meringue on it. Sweet!
Also, make sure you swirl your meringue all the way to the crust – just touching it. This can help combat meringue shrinkage which can be a problem.
Why is there little brown beads of the top of my cooked meringue?
This is where I experienced problems. As the steam passes through the filling and the meringue, sometimes, after a few hours, moisture beads will form on the top. You can help to avoid this by adding a wee bit of cornstarch to your meringue. But, if it’s a humid day or if you chill your pie, it will happen regardless.
Keep in mind that even the best meringue is unstable after a few hours. It can start to sag as the bubbles you so carefully whipped into it begin to pop. Many recipes just want you to put your freshly added meringue under a broiler to brown it, or just to use a torch to lightly brown it. This is all good if you are serving your pie right away. If it’s going to sit for a few hours, you may want to bake the meringue as it helps it to firm a little bit and give it some stability.
Overcooked or Undercooked
If you overcook your meringue, it can get too brown and too firm. Under-cook it, and it’s just a saggy mess.
Of my two pies, they were both made at the same time and cooked at the same time, yet only one got beads on top. While it could have been simply the humidity of where I stored my second pie, I believe the problem was probably caused by my oven. I cooked my pies side by side and I know that one side of my oven is warmer than the other side. Next time, I’ll bake my pies in the middle of the oven.
Regardless, they both tasted awesome. So very good, I think I need to make another one!
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 4 large eggs, separated (reserve Whites for Meringue)
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- Pre-Baked 9-inch pie crust
- 4 egg whites
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. Cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, mix 1 1/4 cups sugar with 6 tablespoons cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup cold water, lemon peel, and lemon juice, blending thoroughly. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add the butter and whisk in 1 1/2 cups boiling water.
- 2. Set pan over medium-high heat and stir with a flexible spatula until mixture boils, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir filling 1 minute more.
- 3. Pour filling into pie crust.
- 4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
- 5. In a deep bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if available) until very foamy and no liquid whites remain in bottom of bowl. Continue to beat at high speed and gradually add the sugar-starch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
- 6. Spoon meringue onto hot pie filling. With a spatula, swirl meringue to cover filling completely, touching the rim of the pie shell.
- 7. Bake in a 325° oven until meringue is browned, about 25 minutes. Set pie on rack until cool, about 3 hours.
** Make sure your pre-baked pie crust is baked nice and crisp. You don’t want to end up with a soggy crust on the bottom of gorgeous pie! You can use a pre-made pie shell and bake it before you make the pie or make your favorite crust. If you need a good crust recipe, this one is one of my favorites – Pate Brisee