My favorite lemon-meringue pie recipe comes from the legendary advice columnist, Ann Landers. In 1980 a reader of hers submitted the recipe to her column. I don't know if I first started making it from that letter or later on but I know I've been using the recipe for a long, long time!
There are two ingredients in this pie filling that are not commonly found in lemon meringue pie; lemon extract and vinegar. The extract gives it a stronger lemon flavor than using just the lemon juice and the vinegar enhances the tartness of the lemon flavor. And, no, the pie does not taste vinegary!
The recipe calls for the pudding to be cooked in a double-boiler. If you don't have a double-boiler, a pan over very low heat, works just as well. Just watch and stir so as not to burn the filling.
Any meringue recipe will work, of course. There are a few important steps in making meringue. One, have egg whites at room temperature to obtain greatest volume. Secondly, make sure the sugar is well-incorporated. After you've beaten to a stiff-peak stage take a "glob" of meringue and rub between two fingers. If you can still feel the sugar granules, beat some more! I use ultra-fine sugar for my meringues. Finally, always put the meringue on the filling while it’s piping hot and make sure it touches the inner edge of crust to seal it all the way around the pie. The hot filling helps cook the meringue from the bottom up and helps keep it from weeping. I usually make my meringue first then have it sitting while I make the filling.
Lemon Meringue Pie
1 baked 9-inch pie shell
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 teaspoons vinegar
3 tablespoons butter
2-3 drops yellow food coloring, optional (I omit)
Mix sugar and cornstarch together in the top of a double-boiler. Add the two cups of water. In a small bowl, combine the egg yolks with lemon juice and beat until well mixed. Add to the sugar mixture. Cook over boiling water until thick, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; add the lemon extract, butter, vinegar and food coloring, if using, and stir thoroughly.
Pour mixture into pie shell and cover with meringue, spreading it so it touches inner edge of crust to seal all around (prevents shrinkage) and making decorative swirls. Bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) 12-15 minutes, or until meringue peaks are golden brown.
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons sugar
Place egg whites, cream of tartar, salt and vanilla in mixing bowl. Beat, at medium speed, until mixture is frothy. Add sugar, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until sugar dissolves to help prevent beading (those brown syrup drops on top). Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when you lift the beater.
I like more pie than meringue, if you like a fluffier meringue use 4 eggs whites and increase the sugar to 1/2 cup.