One of my favorite simple treats is this delicious lemon meringue pie. The classic combination of tart, rich lemon curd and light, fluffy meringue is one I can never resist!
When I first began baking I thought I could modify this classic dish and I tested all kinds of variations with exotic citrus, infusing herbs into the lemon base, and all sorts of fanciful tricks for the meringue. But after all that I still came back to the basics because sometimes, often, I find they are just the best!
Here I call for a purchased tart shell, so you can choose what you like. A classic graham cracker crust is very nice, as is a simple pie crust. If you can not find one pre-baked, simply purchase an unbaked crust and follow the directions on the package to bake it before filling it. The filling for this pie is all cooked on the stove, so the crust has to be ready first.
For the lemon filling, called lemon curd, mix the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, sugar, butter, egg yolks and eggs in a medium metal bowl.
Place this bowl over a saucepan a third of the way full of simmering water. This is called a ‘double boiler’ and will act to cook the lemon curd gently using the heat from the steam.
Cook the lemon curd over the simmering water, whisking the whole time, you will really get a workout here! And cook until the mixture has thickened and a trail forms through the curd with the whisk, about 10-15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and pour directly into the pre-baked and cooled tart shell. Press plastic wrap to the surface and set in the refrigerator to chill.
For the meringue, you will use the ‘double boiler’ technique again, this time using the bowl of your stand mixer. Make sure the bowl you use is extremely free– even an invisible molecule of leftover oil or butter from a previous recipe can affect the end result of the meringue! So clean it well, and dry it thoroughly before beginning.
Using the now sparklingly clean bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Place over a simmering saucepan of water whisking very quickly the whole time so as not to cook the egg whites, and warm the egg white mixture until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch and steaming a bit. Pull off the heat, and using a whisk attachment on the stand mixer, whip the egg white mixture until stiff peaks form.
Preheat the oven on broiler setting and place oven rack close to the top of the oven. Portion meringue over the cooled lemon curd in the tart shell, and spread evenly over using a spatula or the back of a spoon. Place the tart in the oven and toast the meringue for a minute using the broiler, making sure to rotate and keep a close eye out.
Slice and serve!