in the kitchen with: melina hammer’s lemon meringue pie

In keeping with our recent trend to provide you with 4th of July picnic ideas, like last week’s deviled eggs, here is an all-American pie recipe. Lemon meringue pie was something of a treat in our house growing up, only for the absolute most special occasions. I was always mesmerized by the meringue. I thought it was a feat of magic. It seems this was also the case for freelance photographer Melina Hammer, who managed to convince her mother to share her prized recipe with us this week. I hope you will try it out for the 4th or for your next very special occasion or just because you feel like it. It really is the stuff dreams are made of! — Kristina

About Melina: Melina is a New York-based freelance food photographer, stylist and cook, as well as the blogger behind Licking the Plate. Her work has been seen on the pages of the New York Times dining section, Sweet Paul, BUST, Gotham, and AARP, to name a few. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook. Check out Melina’s previous recipe for grilled haloumi with melon, avocado and lime-mint dressing.

Learn how to make this dreamy pie after the jump . . .


Lemon Meringue Pie

For the graham cracker crumb crust

  • 9 full graham crackers — need 1 1/2 cups, ground
  • 3 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

 

For the pie filling

  • 2/3 cup lemon juice — about 3 lemons
  • 1 heaping teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk — go organic if possible
  • 3 egg yolks

 

For the meringue

  • 3 egg whites
  • 4 tbsp cane sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

 

Preparation

1. Make a pouch out of parchment paper, folding it in half and then creasing both edges over a couple times to close the sides. Place the graham crackers into the pouch. With quick rocking motions, lean your weight into a rolling pin and rock back and forth, crushing the cookies into crumbs. Move across the surface, horizontal and perpendicular, then check for any stray cookies and repeat if necessary. I enjoy the rustic quality of a toothier crust, but if you prefer a finer crust, just go over it with the rolling pin for longer, or give the crackers a whiz in a food processor.

2. Mix dry ingredients. Pour in melted butter and mix to combine. Use a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon to spread and press the mixture evenly into the pie tin. Check for evenness and carefully spread thicker areas to thinner, pressing until compact. Press up the sides of the tin, ensuring the crust edge is even all around. Chill.

3. Preheat oven to 325º F. Combine the lemon juice and zest and stir in condensed milk. Once incorporated, add the egg yolks and stir to combine. Pour into chilled crust.

4. Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Beat until just stiff enough to hold a peak. Gradually, add sugar and beat until glossy and thick. Pour onto filling, and with gentle sweeping motions, spread to the edges of the filling, until it reaches the crust. Play with the swirls using an offset spatula.

5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or less. Check after 10 minutes on the doneness of the meringue — you want brown-kissed peaks. Continue to bake and recheck if necessary. Cool and enjoy!


Why Melina Loves This Recipe

This is my mother’s lemon meringue pie recipe. Only on coveted special occasions did she make it, and always to the delight of her children and all who had a slice in front of them. I vividly remember her finishing the meringue before sending it into the oven; using quick poking motions with an offset spatula to create curls all over the surface of her pie, I was in awe. The lemon filling reminds me of lemon curd — tart and tangy, even though sweet — and the perfect foil for the crumbly crust and airy meringue. Given how simple it is to prepare, you can bet I’ll be creating “special occasions” more often, so that I can serve up a wedge for myself and any lucky nearby friends.

CK

OMYGOODNESS! that just looks too good. Looks like I have my recipe for the holiday now :)

Anna

Looks delicious! I’ll have to attempt this recipe!

Steve B

I have never seen a pie on line that I actually wanted to eat—until Melina’s! The work manages to be tasty and artistic, rich without too much filling. Can anyone top that?

Aspiring Kennedy

I will absolutely be creating special occasions to fix this pie. Is “just because it’s Tuesday” special enough? I think so.

Robin Kelly

For us UK residents, how big is the can of condensed milk? Thanks!

Eileen

Wow —- looks fantastic. Can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you Melina!!!

melinaphotos

Hi dear people! Thanks for the lovin’ ;)

Robin, you need a 395g/14 oz can. I never keep the stuff in my pantry, but this recipe had me feeling like going back to keep a few on hand, ya know, just in case….

Let me know how you guys like it!

hammernet

Wow….lovely photography. This one hit H-O-M-E for me. I love the nostalgic feel of Melina’s photos, with all the props to take me back to those fond early 80s dayz at home when my very *own* mother would cook-up the best lemon meringue pie! Just seeing the dice and jacks and that good ole condensed milk can beautifully woven into the recipe story has my nose sniffin’ for that fresh baked pie aroma I remember…….ahh. Bliss!

darrell

I had the fabulous fortune of running into Melina when she had some of this meringue, which danced playfully, lightly and graceful across my tongue. Light, airy, and not overly sweet, I had one major complaint… she didn’t bring enough, as in, at least two pies.

Anthony

Wonderful as usual, Melina! Your artistic vision never ceases to amaze, and the food is sure to be just as satisfying to eat as it is to see in your pictures.

Alexx Boisjoli

I love the Ontario, Canada fruit basket. Reminds me of all the farmers’ markets I went to as a kid, we’d have dozens of that same box by end of season. Makes me wish we grew lemons here!

Zeudi

This is the same as an old recipe of my Mom’s, it is fabulous and easy! Enjoy!

Mary

I just love the rustic feel of the whole story. Sweet – really special and cared-for!

Laura

Such beautiful photos and story. Cannot wait to make the pie!

Christine

What whimsy!!! Thanks for making me hungry. Now, I must go find those ingredients.

Merva Smith

Melina darling….you never fail to amaze me! Your photo is mouthwatering as well as a delight to my eyes—-your talents constantly reward your loving friends–Thank you for everything that you share with us

melinaphotos

Thank you for your great comments everyone. Alexx, my mother had this old fruit basket in our storage room and I fell in love with it. How cool that you know this specific design!

Modular Kitchen, I just made the recipe again for friends during the 4th. Even easier the second time around!

Yay Zeudi! That’s exactly it. :) Christine, yep, I hope you found them alright and that you now have pie in the refrigerator to dip into… Jim, glad it hit the spot.

Laura, thanks for the love. I hope making it turns out just as well for you!

Merva you are a doll. I wish you could taste this…eh? Maybe that’s even doable! Thanks so much for stopping by.

Anthony, I hope with your discerning Mediterranean taste, this will fit the bill. You would love it, I think.

Hammernet and Darrell, you two are over the top! Glad this got you thinking nostalgia style, and that it proved to be mouth-watering. Why make anything which falls short, right?

Desiree Levesque

I made the pie last night and when I cut into it, it was very runny! Did I do something wrong? The flavor was out of this world but the pie itself was alittle unappealing.
Thanks
Desiree

marla

This pie looks great! Love the feature. I can tell Melina has a blast with food and prop styling :)

melinaphotos

Desiree, it should be custard-like. Was anything different about the proportions you used? Did it sit out for a while before you cut into it? If that is the case, it may be the butter from the crust, or the lemon juice? If you didn’t change anything about the proportions, try baking it a little longer – without risking burning the meringue – or bake it for a few minutes before putting the meringue on top. Hope that helps! Glad the flavor hit the mark. :)

Marla, you are so right. I have a real love for styling stories! My prop shelves are bursting – happiness is bringing together disparate objects, using well-loved pieces, or even those hardly-used, to create a soothing or uplifting, resonant visual story.

David, well put. Love how you said that. :-)

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