The fact that January requires dessert is undisputed; anyone will tell you that a spoonful of sugar helps the
medicine winter go down.
But when it comes to what type of dessert to be had, there’s dissent: some call for chocolate, some demand the fire of booze, and still others want cozy, spicy treats that will warm from the inside out.
Me? I want citrus. Citrus, because citrus fruits have the remarkable ability to transport you to the tropics, and citrus, because it’s reminiscent of the sunshine that’s to come. Citrus that, with it’s bright and tangy flavors, simulates everything that we’re missing (sunshine! summer!), and citrus fruits that, thankfully, from lemons to satsumas to grapefruits are in season, and quite abundant.
So, I made this pie. Always a fan of lemon meringue, this one particularly stood out to me, with a delightfully lemon-y filling that’s thicker (and less runny) than curd, and a flaky, all butter crust that stays crispy, thanks to a par-bake. As for the meringue on top? Well, who can argue with that? It’s a classic, to be sure, and a classic that shouldn’t be messed with, as you’ll see when you taste this pie.
So go make some pie! Your January will thank you, your family will love you, and your friends will be ever so grateful for leftovers, should you have any. And you might not, although I wouldn’t blame you.
Yield: one 9″ pie
Why I love this recipe: unlike other recipes which yield a filling that’s too runny, a crust which is soggy and a meringue that weeps, this one has a sturdy, buttery-rich filling that’s flavored with fresh lemon juice + zest, a meringue that’s made stable by cooking on the stove-top first, and a crust that stays crispy and flaky, due to a parbake.
For the crust:
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1/2 stick frozen, unsalted butter
- 1/2 stick cold, unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 ounces water
For the filling:
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4teaspoon salt
- 4 egg yolks (whites reserved for meringue)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 teaspoons lemon zest
For the meringue:
- 4 egg whites
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Use your fingers to cut in the stick of cold butter until it is the size of peas. Then cut in the frozen butter, leaving it in bigger, visible pieces.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and make a well in the center of the flour and butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, mix the water into the flour until just combined.
- If the dough seems dry, add more water a couple of teaspoons at a time. Press the dough together, form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the freezer for an hour.
- Heat oven to 375. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to ¼ inch thick. Transfer it to a pie plate, and trim the edge so there is only 1/2 inch of overhang all around. Fold overhand underneath and crimp.
- Poke the base of the crust a few times with a fork. Crinkle some parchment paper (this makes it malleable) and line the crust with it. Fill parchment paper with beans, lentils or pie weights, and bake until the crust is golden and crisp, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue baking until the crust is fully baked, 5 minutes more. Cool completely.
- For the filling: In a medium saucepan combine cornstarch, water, lemon juice, sugar, and salt.
- Whisk until no lumps remain in the cornstarch and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 75 seconds. The mixture will be clear and very thick.
- Whisk the egg yolks together in a medium bowl and slowly whisk the cornstarch mixture into the egg yolks while stirring constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring constantly for 60 more seconds. Do not let boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Pour the filling into the prepared pie shell and cover the filling with a piece of parchment or waxed paper. This will help the meringue and filling adhere later. Set it in the refrigerator while you prepare the Swiss meringue.
- For the meringue: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl of the stand mixer over a double boiler and cook, stirring occasionally, until the egg whites are very warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.
- Whip the egg whites on medium-high until stiff peaks form. Add in the salt and vanilla extract and whip to combine well.
- Remove the parchment paper from the pie filling then carefully spread the meringue on top of the lemon filling in a decorative pattern. Make sure to spread the meringue all of the way to the crust.
- Torch the meringue with a boiler, or with a kitchen torch. Let pie sit in fridge for a few hours to set, and serve on day it’s baked.