January 15, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie for a special birthday

It was my Auntie's birthday on the 12th, and I asked her what birthday cake she wanted for the big family dinner.  She said she'd like Lemon Meringue Pie, or something else citrussy.

Lemon Meringue Pie?  I can do that.

Thank you to my little cousin (my Auntie's daughter) who helped me mix things and posed beautifully while I snapped photos, and to Mum who made the meringue topping.  You were both great helps!

Recipe Source: Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion (pastry and filling), The Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book (meringue icing)
Shortcrust Pastry
This pastry is fantastic - it has a nice texture, crunch and can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.

Pastry Ingredients
180g unsalted butter/margarine
240g plain flour
Pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter/margarine)
1/4 cup water

Pastry Method
There are more difficult ways to do this, but this is how I do it and it's dead easy.
1. Chop the butter or margarine into squares and put them into a food processor along with the flour and salt.

Whizz the food processor round until the mixture looks a bit like breadcrumbs:

2. Pour in the water...

And keep whizzing until the dough looks like this:

3. Package up the dough in clingwrap and leave it in the fridge for about half an hour.  Longer, and if you're using butter it'll go really hard.  (I did this.  I know.)

A delicious, soft, lemon filling.  Not too tart, not too sweet.

Filling Ingredients

6 eggs
250g caster sugar
3 large lemons - zested and juiced (I used my Great-Grandma's home grown lemons; they're fantastic!)
200mL cream

Blind Baking
(If you're comfortable making the filling, then put the pastry in the oven to blind bake it first and make the filling while the pastry bakes.  If you are less confident, make the filling first and then blind bake the pastry).

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

2. Roll out the pastry dough between two sheets of baking paper to about 1/2cm thickness.

3. Line the bottom of a 20cm diameter springform tin with baking paper; no need to butter the edges, the pastry is full of butter so will just lift of the sides.

4. Lay the pastry into the tin, try to smooth out the sides so there are no huge creases.  Don't bother about trimming the edges much - you can do that later.  Leave some pastry hanging over the edge of the tin, because the pastry shrinks when baked.  My pastry shrunk.  It happens.

5. Lay some baking paper over the pastry and fill with kidney beans, chickpeas or rice.  (Or something else - you just need something to weigh down the pastry that won't burn in the oven.  If the pastry isn't weighed down, it may become all misshapen.  This is called loading.
Mum asked if unpopped popcorn would be OK.  No, Mum, popcorn is not OK.  I'd rather not clean up popped popcorn from all over the oven).

6. Put the pastry into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove it after the 20 mins. and reset the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.

Filling Method
1. Combine eggs and sugar in a bowl with a whisk.

2. Zest the lemons.  To zest, scrub the lemons' skin so they're free of dirt.  Then grate the lemons' outsides until you can just see the white pith all over.  Try not to get too much of the pith in your zest.  Tip the zest into the egg and sugar mix.

3. Cut the zested lemons in half and juice them into a new bowl.  I juiced them with a handheld juicer.  Get a strainer, hold it over the bowl with the egg, sugar and zest mixture, and tip the juice into it.  This is to strain out the giant bits of pith, innards and pips.  Whisk until combined.

4. Measure out the cream, add it to the filling mixture and whisk until combined.  Your mixture should look like this:

5. Pour the filling mixture into the blind baked pastry.  (First remove the loading, of course).

6. Put the pie in the oven at 160 degrees Celsius and bake for 35 - 45 minutes until set.  However when the tin is jiggled gently, the filling should still wobble.  Leave it to cool in the tin.  If you want, you can trim the mangy bits off - I didn't; I think it gives a nice rustic feel.

Meringue Icing
This isn't really meringue, it's called 'fluffy frosting' in the Women's Weekly book.  To me, it's a thick meringue that you don't have to bake.  The egg white is cooked by the hot sugar syrup when it's added.

Meringue Ingredients
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites

Meringue Method

1. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring over medium head until sugar is dissolved; do not boil.

2. Increase heat and boil rapidly uncovered for 3 - 5 minutes; do not stir after syrup boils.  The syrup should reach 115 degrees Celsius.  Mum and I were glad to use our new candy thermometer!
If you don't have a candy thermometer, after the syrup has boiled for a while take it off the heat and wait for the bubbles to subside.  Then drop 1 teaspoon into cold water.  It should form a ball of soft, sticky toffee when rolled between your fingers.

The syrup shouldn't change colour - if it does, it's been cooked for too long!

3. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks.  Beat eggs whites in an electric mixer until stiff.  Then pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites with the mixer on medium speed.  Make sure you pour the syrup slowly and in a steady stream.
This will take a while.

4. Turn off the mixer.  The meringue should be very thick and very stiff.

1. Make sure the lemon filling is cooled.

2. If it is, lump the meringue onto the pie and spread around.  Traditionally, the meringue has a lot of peaks on it.

3. If you've got a flame-thingy, you can use it to brown the tips of the meringue.  Unfortunately, I don't have one...so my meringue stayed white as white.


And closer...

4. Serve the Lemon Meringue Pie just by itself or with heavy cream.  It's beautiful with tea as well!

Tips and Suggestions
 - Mum and I put a lot of meringue on the pie.  The meringue was really really sweet.  I recommend that you don't use as much sugar syrup in the meringue, and perhaps don't put all the meringue on the pie.
 - Be very careful when cutting the pie, as some pieces collapsed and fell apart a bit.  This is because we cut it when it was still warm.  It'll solidify a bit it it is cooled, so make sure that it's cold before you cut.  Putting it in the fridge helps.



  1. It was great (and very sweet)

    Looking forward to the next creation (and we will try and get a burner in the interim)

  2. It was the best lemon meringue pie I have ever had (yes, it did taste as good as it looked)! Thanx, speeding turtle. Now that I know how much work has gone into the making, I am even more touched and impressed. Love the clear explanation and the photos to go with it. Keep the Torte coming!! They certainly brighten up our days!!

  3. Thank you BunBun and Auntie Margaret! I'm really glad you liked it. And it really wasn't that much work - just a lot of photos. I'm a bit trigger-happy. :)

  4. This is GungGung's favourite as well.

  5. The pie is among the best I have tasted and the photography is stunning.

  6. What a great post - very helpful pictures to go along with the recipe.

    Since you're using homegrown ingredients, would you like to enter this post in our Grow Your Own roundup this month? Full details at


  7. I love Lemon Meringue Pie, so this is right up my street! Your pie looks so fantastic - tall and elegant and downright delicious :)

  8. Well done for trying the meringue frosting! The pie looks delicious. One of my favourites!

  9. the meringue looks to die for! great job on the pie!

  10. I have very fond memories of lemon meringue, it was my grandma's favorite dessert. I will most definitely have to try your recipe.