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The Best Lemon Meringue Pie

Combining the perfection of Alice Waters with the gold standard of baking, Cook’s Illustrated, this hybrid recipe produced the best lemon meringue pie we’ve ever tasted.
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Arguably, there’s no such thing as a bad pie. We all have our favorites, but when it comes to desserts, it’s hard to dislike a buttery crust filled with a sweet filling. Since there are so many variations and techniques you can use when baking, it allows for a lot of flexibility when creating your perfect version. This was the case when it came to making this lemon meringue pie. The Cooks Illustrated version, which has the most flawless lemon filling, has a meringue that's fussier than I'd like (and requires you to begin with a fully cooled pie shell, which adds a lot more time). The Alice Waters' version, via New York Times Cooking, has a straightforward approach and an excellent meringue (but a too-tart and inconsistent filling), so I combined the best parts of each to create THE definitive lemon meringue pie. You can easily look up both recipes, but I’ve added my version below.

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated and Alice Waters

Pie Dough Ingredients:

1 ¼ cp unbleached, AP flour (plus more for dusting the work surface)
½ tsp salt
3 tbs vegetable shortening, chilled
4 tbs cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 -inch pieces
4-5 tbs ice water

Pie Dough Directions:

  1. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Add shortening and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Scatter butter pieces over the mixture and pulse until it becomes pale yellow and the butter pieces are no larger than small peas. Pour mixture into a medium bowl.

  2. Sprinkle 4 tbs of ice water over the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture to combine. Press down on the dough until it sticks together, adding another tablespoon of ice water if necessary. Flatten the dough into a 4-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 2 days.

  3. Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until malleable. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper until it becomes a 12 inch circle. Transfer to a 9 inch plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and unrolling it over the plate. Ease the dough into the corners of the plate by gently lifting the edge of the dough with one hand, while pressing into the bottom of the pan with the other hand. Trim the dough edges so they extend about ½ inch beyond the rim of the plate. Fold the overhang over onto itself and either flute the dough or press down with fork tines, to flatten the edges against the plate. Refrigerate for about 40 minutes, then place in the freezer until very cold, about 20 minutes.

  4. Place a rack on the lower-middle position and heat to 375. Remove the dough from the freezer, put a double lined 12-inch piece of aluminum foil inside the pie shell and fold the foil over the fluted edges to shield from overcooking. Put 2 cups of pie weights over the foil. Bake until the dough looks dry and is light in color, approximately 25-30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and pie weights by pulling at the corners and pulling up. Place back into the oven for about 12 minutes to complete the bake. When done, transfer to a wire rack.

Pie Filling Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
⅛ tsp salt
1 ½ cups cold water
6 large egg yolks
1 tsp grated lemon zest and ½ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
2 tbs unsalted butter

Filling Directions:

  1. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt, and water in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally at the beginning, then more frequently as the mixture thickens. When the mixture starts to thicken, whisk in egg yolks, two at a time. Whisk zest and juice, ending with the butter. Whisk constantly and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the filling to prevent a skin from forming.

  2. Spread the prepared filling in the shell and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the filling is just set. Remove pie and return oven to 375.

Meringue Ingredients:

3 egg whites, at warm room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tbs superfine sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Meringue Directions:

  1. While pie is baking, make the meringue. Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar and continue beating until rounded peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla.

  2. Spread the meringue over the filling, making sure it meets the edges of the crust to make a seal. Swirl in a design with a knife or spatula and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned.

  3. Allow to cool completely (1-2 hours), but do not refrigerate. 
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