Tips for Lemon Meringue Pie Success

Lemon Meringue Pie is a favourite dessert, especially in spring, but it is also a technically challenging dessert to master.  It emcompasses many elements of a baker’s repertoire: pastry, curd filling and meringue, and all have to be strategically timed.

Here are some key pointers based on my most-asked questions about Lemon Meringue:

• Adding the lemon juice at the end of cooking the curd filling ensures that it retains its fresh flavour, and also reduces the contact with the cooking cornstarch (its thickening power is reduced in the presence of an acid). 

• That said, the longer a lemon meringue pie sits in the fridge, the more time the cornstarch has to break down since it is in the presence of acidity, which explains why you have a puddle on your pie plate of partially-eaten pie the next day.

• It is critical that the filling is hot when spread the meringue over.  If it cools, the meringue will sweat, creating a liquid layer in between the filling and itself.

• Be sure to spread the meringue so that it joins with the crust.  This will also help prevent a moisture layer from forming, and will prevent the meringue from shrinking as it cools.

• A meringue that sweats or “beads” on top is a sign that the whites have been over whipped, over-baked or merely a sign of a humid day.  When whipping, the whites should hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted and should still appear glossy. Once baked, the meringue should be a light brown, with still a few white patches visible.