I once read “Lemon curd should never be used in a lemon meringue pie.” And in doing research on the Lemon Meringue pie, a site claimed lemon curd goes into lemon meringue tarts and lemon filling into lemon meringue pie. Why? I haven’t figured it out. I kinda think some people just like drawing lines between fine pastries and common pies.
On the curd vs filling debate, Damon Lee Fowler has my back. He describes curd as “The nicest and most traditional of fillings for lemon pies, tarts, and old-fashioned jelly cakes…” Every lemon meringue pie I tasted as a kid made my mouth curl. Curd is the way to go—tart, clean, and bright with lemon.
The recipe is straight from Fowler’s New Southern Baking. It produces enough curd for a 9” pie and leaves enough egg whites for a nice meringue. This isn’t a tall, mile-high pie, just a humble lemon pie. An aside on being a humble pie: it's pie. If you're reading this blog, thinking about making a pie, make it. Do your work. It doesn't matter if you make a curd using homegrown eggs and heirloom lemons, a traditional lemon pie filling, or My‑T‑Fine Pudding & Pie Filling. Make it. Give it to loved ones. This is about making something not measuring egos.
Spreading meringue onto hot filling worked on the Chocolate Meringue, so that’s the game plan for this week. It also cuts down the kitchen time! No making the filling, chilling, coming back for the meringue. The pie is done in one go, leaving you one clean up not two.
This poor pie. The crust was abused from day one. With some traveling this weekend, it warmed up, cooled down hanging from a car’s window wiper, rolled out, over-baked. It happens. Everything else went well, though! I’ve been told I’m welcome to make this pie anytime.
The meringue, the impetus for this project, was possibly the best I’ve made. The sugar went in slowly, giving time for each addition to dissolve. I stopped at medium peaks. It went onto the hot curd and spent about 20 minutes in a 375˚ oven. It sat on the counter till cool and then into the fridge to finish. Zero shrinkage and minimal weeping, especially under the meringue.
9" Fully Baked Pie Shell
4oz Unsalted Butter (1 stick)
1/2c Fresh Lemon Juice
4tsp Freshly Grated Lemon Zest
4 Egg Whites
Setup an inch of water in double boiler or in a medium pot with heat safe bowl on top. Bring water to a boil.
Preheat oven to 375˚.
Reduce water to a simmer.
Into the double boiler bowl, melt the butter. When melted, add the juice, zest, sugar, and salt. Stir till the sugar dissolves.
In another bowl, beat the eggs and yolks till smooth. Stir them into the heated lemon mixture.
Stir the curd slowly, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl. The curd will slowly thicken. It should take less than ten minutes. (If it takes longer, increase the heat under your double boiler.)
The curd is done when it coats the back of a spoon/spatula and a trail is left when a spoon is moved through the curd.
Pour into the baked pie shell. Smooth out.
Start whipping the egg whites on high. When the eggs are frothy, add 1/3 of the sugar. When they are smooth and silky, add another 1/3. When they reach soft peaks, add the final 1/3. Beat to desired peak stiffness.
Slather/dab/pipe the meringue onto the still hot filling. Make sure the meringue reaches the pastry shell.
Bake the pie till the meringue is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
Cool till the pie till it's just warm to the touch, then chill for several hours.