Lemon meringue pie: when it's good, it's very very good but if it's bad it's a soggy, soupy, slippery mess! Soupy filling, soggy crust and meringue that slips right off.
If you've ever attempted a lemon meringue pie you've probably encountered at least one of these problems but I am here to tell you that this recipe just could be the holy grail of lemon meringue pie recipes and the funny thing is that its made up of three different recipes to create one terrific pie that covers all the basis: firm silky filling, crisp flakey crust and a tender fluffy meringue that stays put. Here is how you can make your own.
Make the crust first so that it has a chance to cool a bit before filling. I love this pie crust recipe because it creates a flakey, crispy crust every time.
Pie Dough for 9" Pie (adapted from America's Test Kitchen):
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls. sugar
6 Tbls. chilled butter sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
4 Tbls. chilled shortening cut into 2 pieces
2 Tbls. cold vodka
2 Tbls. cold water
Extra: some egg white to brush on crust
Keep butter, shortening, vodka and water in the fridge until just ready to use. Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a food processor pulse 3/4 cup of the flour mixture for 1 or 2 pulses. Add the cold butter and shortening and process until the mixture looks like cottage cheese (around 10 seconds). Scrape down bowl and add remaining flour mixture. Pulse until a mass of dough starts to come together or around 4 to 6 pulses. Dump dough into a medium bowl and sprinkle with the cold vodka and water. Using a rubber spatula press and fold the liquid into the flour mixture until a slightly tacky dough comes together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour before rolling. When dough is chilled roll out into a 12" circle approximately 1/8" thick. Transfer dough to 9" pie pan and press into the bottom and up the sides to fit. Leave overhang dough in place and put into the fridge for 30 minutes. Place a baking sheet into the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. After 30 minutes, remove dough from fridge and trim off overhang and fold the edges under to be flush with the edges of the pan. Flute the edges or use a fork to flatten the crust to the top edge of the pan. Chill dough again for 15 minutes.
When dough is chilled, lightly spray foil with Pam for Baking and line the pie crust, fill with pie weights or pennies. Bake the lined crust on the baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and take out foil and pie weights. Lightly brush the bottom and sides of the crust with egg white and return to the oven for additional 9-15 minutes of baking or until crust is golden brown and crisp looking.
If the edges are getting too dark, cover them with strips of foil and continue baking until bottom is browned and crisp looking. Let crust cool while making filling.
Lemon Filling (adapted from Not So Humble Pie):
1 cup plus 1 Tbls. sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup lemon juice (around 4 lemons)
2 tsp. lemon zest
4 large egg yolks (save the 4 whites for the meringue!)
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
In a medium sauce pan combine 2/3 cup cold water, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice, lemon zest, egg yolks and salt. Whisk until the starch has dissolved and everything is combined. Place the pan over medium-high heat.
Whisk the 1 1/4 boiling water into the mixture and bring to a boil stirring with a rubber spatula. Reduce the heat (or remove from burner) and continue to stir for another minute. Quickly press hot mixture thru a sieve into a bowl and immediately pour strained filling into pie crust.
Place plastic wrap over surface of filling and place pie in refrigerator until chilled, around 1 hour.
Italian Meringue (adapted from America's Test Kitchen):
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
When pie filling is chilled start the meringue. Combine water and sugar in small sauce pan. Bring to a vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Let mixture boil for 4-5 minutes then remove from heat and set aside. In the bowl of and electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment whisk the egg whites on medium low speed until frothy, around 1 minute. Add the cream of tarter and the salt. Continue beating on medium high speed until soft peaks form, around 2-3 minutes. With mixer running on medium low speed carefully pour the hot syrup into the whites. Add vanilla and beat on medium high speed until meringue has cooled and fairly stiff peaks form, around 9-12 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, mound the meringue over the filling and crust edges. Create peaks with spatula all over the meringue. Using a culinary torch (creme brulee torch), carefully brown the meringue. Pie is ready to serve and is best eaten on the day it is made.