Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Congratulations to Lucy Burdette on today’s release of KILLER TAKEOUT, the 7th Key West Food Critic Mystery!

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: In the olden days, children, high school freshman girls were required to take Home Economics. (Boys were required to take a business class; our school had no wood shop.) We used the old soda fountain room for cooking classes. When lemon meringue pie day rolled around, I was the only girl in the class who showed up with all the ingredients for a pie crust and fresh lemons. I kid you not—every other girl brought in a pre-made pie crust or a stick of pie crust dough, and lemon pudding. Sister Diane was not amused—by me. Apparently I had violated instructions, or who knows what. To get a grade for that day’s lesson, I was required to make a pudding pie at home and bring it in for her to taste. I think she just wanted to eat more pie.

Ah, the scars. I can’t say that’s why I hadn’t made a lemon meringue pie again in more than 40 years, but when I stayed an extra day in Phoenix after Left Coast Crime to visit a friend, with a lemon tree in her yard, I was inspired. I stuffed lemons into every spare space in my suitcase!

Both crust and filling  recipes come from Williams Sonoma, with just a few minor changes. If you’re one of those cooks who shies away from pie because the crusts roll out looking like Idaho—a beautiful state, but not a good look in pie—don’t fear! This crust rolls out easily, with no breaking or crumbling. I roll crusts between two pieces of waxed paper—a trick I learned from my mother, not Sister Diane—which makes transferring the crust to the pie plate super easy. And for pie weights, use dried beans, then tuck them away for next time. Because I promise, you won’t want to wait 40 years to make this again.

Basic pie dough for a single crust pie:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons cold water (more, if you live in a dry climate)

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a food processor, place the flour, sugar and salt in the large bowl. Add the butter and pulse to blend, then mix on low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix just until the dough pulls together, or “gathers.”

Place dough on a sheet of waxed paper or a lightly floured cutting board, shape into a ball, and flatten into a disk. I like to flatten it with my hands or the rolling pin, then top with another piece of waxed paper and begin rolling, from the center. Turn the paper or cutting board so you can roll it out evenly, to about 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.

Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie.

Lemon Meringue Pie Filling

8 large eggs
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
Finely grated zest of 3-4 Meyer lemons

Place the dough in a 9-inch pie plate, fitting it into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375̊F. Place dough-lined plate on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool while you make the filling.

Raise the oven temperature to 400̊F.

In a small bowl, beat 3 eggs until blended. Separate the remaining 5 eggs, adding the yolks to the beaten whole eggs and putting the whites in the bowl of your mixer. Cover the whites and set aside at room temperature. Beat the yolks into the beaten eggs.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the cornstarch, then whisk in the beaten eggs, lemon juice, and salt. Pour mixture into to a heavy saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a full boil, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Be careful not to undercook or overcook the filling or it will separate as it cools. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. If you spot any bits of cooked egg white or lemon seeds, pluck them out with a fork. Stir in the lemon zest, then pour into the baked crust.

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until the egg whites become a meringue with stiff, shiny peaks. Using a rubber spatula, spread the meringue evenly over the hot filling, making sure the meringue touches the crust on all sides (to prevent the meringue from shrinking). Swirl the meringue with the spatula to form peaks. Bake until the meringue is browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving, at least 2 hours.

Makes eight servings. In theory, anyway.

From the cover of GUILTY AS CINNAMON: 

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Leslie, I just had to comment about your Home Ec experiences. Home Ec wasn't a required course for girls when I was in High School but the one positive thing I will say about the course is that I learned to sew. I'd already learned about cooking at home, from my Mother and two years of 4-H. In talking with other ladies, I find I am just about the only person who still makes a pie crust from scratch. The recipe I use is one from my 4-H days. Fortunately, when we had to make foods in Home Ec, the school provided the ingredients. Like anyone else, I do love a good Lemon Meringue pie though these days, I usually use a box mix to make the pudding (cooked, not instant).

  2. Ah, lovely. My husband and I got into making lemon meringue pie when we had a lemon tree in our back yard in California, and it produced lemons year round. Not in Massachusetts! I am pie-crust challenged, so I let him do that, but I do fairly well with the filling. I haven't found a pre-made crust I like--often they're too salty.

    This sounds like a taste of summer!

  3. Ah, women after my own heart, who believe in the art and power of a home-made pie crust! Thanks for sharing your stories. (I'm hungry now.)

  4. I remember home ec well! I have no idea what we cooked (it was so long ago it might have been brontosaurus steaks!), but I do remember grades and sizes of eggs. Proper grade A had tight whites (!) and lovely mounded yolks. I don't remember the numbers, but the sizing was by weight. No one seems to pay much attention to this anymore. The "grade A" eggs may or may not fit that description (usually not, unless purchased directly from the egg producer) and the sizing seems to be done by eye-balling the eggs: "Um, that one is big, we'll call it large. That one is smaller, we'll call it medium. This one, well, just put it wherever we need another one."
    Shop was the course the boys took. I was a troublemaker and took mechanical drawing. Only girl in the class.

    Fresh Meyer lemons for this pie must have been marvelous.

  5. Home ec was a nightmare! I took it in 9th grade under protest. Mom made me do it!
    She also wound up having to suffer for it. Our teacher was so lazy. She'd give her lecture. if you had questions later she referred you to one of her pamphlets she'd written. Each group would have to make the week's recipe in class. Individually we would then make it at home and bring a signed note from parents. I made a butterscotch meringue pie at home because Mom insisted Dad didn't like lemon. I remember my teacher looked down her nose at me for the substitution. We had cooking one semester, then sewing. Mom made an A on a dress I supposedly made.

  6. Libby, I admit, I have never given any thought to egg grades -- just the size. We buy ours from the woman who runs the laundry in town -- her husband raises chickens! And yes, the lemons -- I miss them already!

    Oh, Pat! Cooking taught by pamphlet -- too funny!

  7. Those Arizona lemons are one of the reasons I put up with spending a few months of winter (I love winter) in the south. So much better than you can buy in the north! The pie looks delicious! Lemon is one of my favorites.

  8. Elaine, I admit, I too am a northern girl, but oh, was I tempted! My brother has a house in Phoenix, and the grapefruit from his back yard are superb, but if he put in a lemon tree, I'd have to visit a lot more often!