This is a rather long post, so bear with me!
Yesterday I met the ultimate challenge-making a lemon meringue pie. It’s funny because I never would have dreamed of making one before I went gluten and dairy free. I can’t just buy one now at the store or order a slice in a restaurant.
I thought I would share my technique and tips in case you might want to try it. This is gluten and dairy free-but you could certainly make a regular pie if you wish.
My biggest fear was scrambling the eggs when making the filling. Thankfully, that did not happen. I watched several youtube videos on how to do this. Of course, everyone has a different way, but the basics are still the same. Whisk the eggs, add hot liquid, put the whole thing back in the pan, cross your fingers, and keep stirring.
Ok-so here is how I did it!
I used fresh eggs, and separated them when cold. Eggs separate easier when cold, and whites beat up easier when warm. I had a bit of an issue separating the eggs, and got some yolk in the whites. I had to start over as any speck of yolk will preclude the meringue from forming. Also, putting hot liquid into room temperature eggs is less likely to curdle than cold eggs. I put the eggs into two bowls and let them sit while I baked the crust.
When I tried to peel the instructions label off of the gluten free crust, it got stuck and shredded. Uh oh, I thought-let me google this. I found this on the internet.
Certified Gluten Free 9″ Pie Shells
Baking Instructions: Cover edge with metal collar or strips of aluminum foil before baking to ensure a tender crust.
For Unfilled Pie Crust: Let thaw at room temperature for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove protective sheet from shells before preparing, prick pie shell sides and bottom with a fork. Bake unfilled for 8-10 minutes.
For Filled Pie Crust: Bake as instructed in your recipe.
This was not the brand of pie shell I had bought but I had to wing it. I did prebake the crust-I wasn’t sure the short time in the oven after I filled it would be enough. When I took it out, it was a bit puffy, but I figured that didn’t matter. Once the crust was cooling I started on the meringue. The first recipe I was going to use said to do the meringue and filling at the same time. I thought this might be a mistake. I figured I wanted to put all of my attention on those egg yolks.
Following the tips on the recipe, I added cream of tartar to the meringue and started up the mixer.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on MEDIUM speed until foamy.
- Combine sugar and cornstarch. Gradually increase speed to HIGH. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, gradually add sugar mixture to egg whites. Continue beating until stiff and glossy.
Sorry the pictures are blurry-I didn’t want to stop the mixer. You can see in the first one that the egg whites are foamy. At this point I started adding the cornstarch/sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time. In the last picture, you can see the that the egg whites hold a peak, and are glossy (sorry about the shadow)
Once the meringue was done, I said a quick prayer, and started the filling.
- Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in water.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber scraper, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute.
- Stirring in a little at a time, add about half of the hot mixture to the egg yolks. Then, stir the egg mixture back into the remaining mixture in the saucepan. Cook and stir, until the mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until mixture is very thick.
- Remove from heat. Add butter. Then, add lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour into baked pie crust.
But as they say, the proof is in the um, pie. When I cut into it, I realized the crust was a bit underbaked, or it could have just been soggy from the filling. Hard to say. The meringue was weeping (running sugar syrup). Oh well, not a big deal. I didn’t have to win any blue ribbons or anything. The filling was a bit thin as I stated before, but when I tasted it: lemon meringue pie! It tasted great, and that is all that counts.
Here are some tips that might help if you want to attempt this:
- separate your eggs when cold, them warm to room temperature
- bake your crust while the eggs are warming
- make your meringue first-try not to overbeat it. If it separates, start again
- make sure you boil the filling mixture before adding to the egg yolks
- add the hot mixture to the egg yolks quickly and whisk vigorously
- add the egg yolk mixture back to the pan and stir with a spatula
- make sure the filling is very thick-adding the lemon juice will thin it considerably
- make sure filling is hot when you pour it into the pie crust
- spread meringue to the edge of the crust sealing in the filling
- watch as it bakes-it will brown quickly
- cool completely before refrigerating pie
- do not cover with saran wrap-it will cause moisture and make the meringue weep
I made this pie basically so I could prove to myself that I could. Would I make it again? Maybe. I would definitely use a graham cracker crust. It would have to be a really special occasion. But I really gained confidence in my baking skills. This makes me think I can pull off a beef wellington for Valentine’s Day.
If you decide to make this pie, please let me know how it turns out! If you need help with the technique or how to’s please contact me.