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 . . .
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
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!
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.