I’ve conquered one of the giants on my baking bucket list. I sit before you victorious, as I present you with my Lemon Meringue Pie with Easy Olive Oil Crust. It’s fantastic, if I do say so myself. It’s perfectly sweet-tart with a nice lemon flavor and a delicious, no-roll crust. But, oh, what a saga!
It started a year ago, when I told Mom I wanted lemon meringue pie for my birthday “cake,” but I needed to prepare it myself to learn how. She offered to come over and make it with me, using a recipe she’d enjoyed before. She was going by memory, which I’ve almost never been able to do. Everything seemed fine, though. We made the pie, baked it, stored it in the fridge, and she left. But when I checked on the pie a few hours later, I found lemon soup, topped by a weepy meringue. What?!!
Mom and I were stumped. And I was intimidated. Apparently, the almighty lemon meringue pie (my favorite!) was not something one could just whip up with ease. It was going to take research, experimentation and great attention to detail. I couldn’t even think about attempting another one for a year. But, I did buy a kitchen torch, knowing that next time, I wasn’t going to brown the pie in the oven. I wanted to achieve those gorgeous, bronzed, meringue swirls I had seen elsewhere.
Fast forward to a week ago, when I decided it would be great to feature lemon meringue pie on my blog for Pi Day, March 14. (Ha!) I did so much research, I could’ve written a term paper. Then, it was time to experiment. I adapted a recipe from a well-known, 1950s cook book. But…the filling turned out runny and way too sweet. Ugh!
I think you know by now I would never publish a recipe I’m not happy with, just for the sake of posting. So, it was back to the drawing board — or the cutting board, I should say. I switched to another filling recipe, cut down the sugar to 1 1/8 cups, instead of 1 1/2 cups, and stirred the pot ever so gently. I consulted with my niece, the pastry chef, who confirmed my suspicion that I should let the lemon filling cool and set before adding the meringue and torching it. She recommended flash freezing it to speed up the process. Done!
This time, I got the pie of my dreams. I added lemon extract to the meringue, so the first thing that greets your taste buds is a fluffy, slightly sweet, cloud of lemon accented by a toasted marshmallow flavor, thanks to the torching. Then, the filling hits you with its tart, lemony hello. Finally, the olive oil crust (that you just press into place!) provides a tender, oh-so-tasty finish to every bite.
We all loved it. I was so excited, I drove to Mom and Dad’s with half a pie to let them taste it. They promptly ate two pieces each, and Mom saved another slice for Dad. Then, she handed me the empty pie dish. At least she washed it first.
Here are my tips for a successful Lemon Meringue Pie with Easy Olive Oil Crust:
- Separate the eggs when they’re cold (it’s easier), but beat the egg whites when they’re at room temperature for a fluffier meringue in less time.
- Stir your filling gently but thoroughly. If you mix it too vigorously, you’ll break down the starch molecules and get a runny result. You can start with a whisk to combine the water and corn starch mixture off the heat, but once your pan gets heated on the stove, switch to a silicone spatula for stirring. When you add the lemon juice gradually, make sure all of it is incorporated.
- Freeze your filling in the pie crust for 10-20 minutes to make sure it’s set before topping it with meringue.
- Spread the meringue by starting at the edges of the pie, making sure to completely seal the filling so that your meringue doesn’t slide off later.
- Use a kitchen torch (or a blow torch from your garage!) to brown your meringue instead of baking it. Overbaking causes the meringue to weep. Besides, the torch is the most fun kitchen tool I’ve ever used!
(Recipe Source: Crust adapted from King Arthur Flour. Pie ingredients and method adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989.)