Lemon Meringue Pie Three — a CI Pie

Late last week Sue and I emailed back and forth about lemon meringue pie recipes — specifically, those from Cooks Illustrated. Sue found one on-line that sounded okay, but too much like ones I’d already tried. Plus, it was missing tips and tricks that are signature CI, unlike this second one we found, which called for some fancy tricks and a lot of gear — 3 saucepans, a stand mixer, a candy thermometer, plus all the usual lemon meringue pie making paraphernalia. But it was the weekend and we were game.

Sue, whose most recent lemon meringue pie experience had been disastrous, followed CI’s directions and ended up with an excellent pie. I made the recipe as directed and agreed. Of the three pies I’ve made in the past week, this one might be the best. But there were some issues.

whole pie

First, the filling. It was perfect. CI used less sugar, cold (not boiling) water, lots of lemon, and skipped the not-difficult-but-slightly-nervewracking step of tranferring sauce to eggs then pouring egg/sauce mixture back into saucepan to temper them. The filling was simple and the results couldn’t have been better.

close up of pie

The meringue was a different story. To stabilize it, CI used a cornstarch water gel and a 238 degree syrup. The meringue was a hassle, but it would have been worth it had the meringue tasted great and not wept. Mine tasted as good but not better than usual meringue, but wept no less than an hour after being assembled.

weeping meringue

So much for weep-proof meringue. But I don’t mind the beading so much, and wasn’t terribly disappointed. In a way I was sort of glad the extra-step meringue didn’t work out because it gave me an excuse to stick with the meringue I like best of 3 eggs, ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar, 6 tablespoons sugar and ¼ teaspoon of vanilla.

So lemon meringue number 4 will probably have a filling like CI’s, a meringue like Betty Crocker’s and if I decided to make it homemade, a crust recipe from Fine Cooking.

Now for the CI recipe. If you act fast you can grab it HERE from Google Books. Sue and I found it, but it might not be on-line for long.  To be safe, I recommend buying a copy of The Dessert Bible.  It’s worth it! 

UPDATE/NOTE: Just in case anyone is confused, this recipe is from the CI Dessert Bible. Someone commented to say it’s not the same as the one on CI’s recipe (Ultimate Lemon Meringue) and that is correct. It is not. This one is from The Dessert Bible which is what the link will take you to and what Sue and I used.

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  1. says

    I think after all this (no, I really knew before), I don’t LOVE meringue. FYI, Dorie’s (as if you couldn’t have looked it up yourself), is just egg whites and sugar. I’m planning on skipping it for our pie this week. Whipped cream anyone? 😉

    Have a great week, Anna!

  2. says

    Veggie Girl, you and my son feel the same about beading on meringue. He actually likes those beads!

    I agree with Anna. This filling was perfect.
    My meringue had virtually no beading. Just a couple of pin prick size dots, but it didn’t make nice peaks, and I like my meringue to be pretty. I’m going to try it again some day because I feel like it was so close. The meringue did require a bit of fiddling, and made me wish I had someone to do my dishes as I did each step.

    Thanks Anna! I wouldn’t have tried this without your dedication to find a good lemon meringue pie recipe.

  3. says

    Anna! I forgot to say how much I like the sign behind your pie!! I wish there were still and eight year old artist at my house!!

  4. says

    Hi Anna! I’m glad you posted another Lemon Meringue pie recipe- I remembered I wanted to look at my Argo cornstarch box. DOH! I’ve replaced it with a store brand- no recipe, but thanks to the internet webs: here’s the link to the recipe:
    I still suggest adding a 4th egg white to add volume to the meringue. As far as the secret flavor crystals: Shirley Corriher’s “Cookwise” says: “overcooking, not humidity or fast cooling, causes beading, the little drops of moisture on baked meringue topping.” She goes into quite a long discussion about temperature vs. time, but does say she includes cornstarch to the meringue by stirring it into water & heating to from a thick gel which she beats into the beaten egg whites a tablespoon at a time. You might want to take a look at this book; the meringue recipe is about 50 pages away from the pie recipe- how annoying!
    Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” has a recipe similar to Argo’s, with slightly larger amounts of most ingredients, and the more difficult custard instructions (adding a little warm stuff to the eggs, then adding the tempered eggs back into the custard..”
    Since I’ve used up my daily alottment of fixed typos, I will bow out of teh discussion!
    Happy baking!

  5. says

    Hi Mary,

    The CI recipe did have 4 egg whites. It also called for the cornstarch gel. None of that stuff worked. I think you’re on to something with the over-cooking, though. Most recipes say to bake at 325 for about 15 minutes, but others say up to 25. Betty Crocker’s cooks at 400 for about 12 minutes. I’ve been cooking the meringues a little longer than 15 to get a nice brown color, so perhaps I’m cooking them too long and that’s what’s causing the weeping. I wonder if cooking for the minimal amount ot time and just touching the pie up with my torch would do the trick.

    At any rate, I’ll have to go read Bakewise.

    BTW. We don’t count typos here on Cookie Madness ;). I’d rather you type fast and get a riddled-with-typos point across, than not post a comment at all.

  6. Louise says

    If you read the “What can go wrong?” at the end of the recipe, it says a key issue is “since this pie has a meringue topping, it is best done on a cool, dry day. Hot, humid weather almost always causes meringues to weep.” I don’t know how it is where you are, but if I made meringue right now, it wouldn’t be weeping, it would be crying. With my a/c running non-stop, the humidity is 60% inside. 😉

  7. says

    Yeah, our AC runs non-stop. Maybe that has something to do with it. Then again, I wouldn’t call it humid in here. It’s hard to say.

    Last night I read my Shirley Corriher book and came across a very interesting recipe. It was a basic meringue, but towards the end you add a jar of marshmallow fluff. I might have to try that one.

  8. says

    Anna- I wasn’t reading “Bakewise” , but rather “Cookwise”, which is a few years older and is about cooking in general. The meringue tips were in the baking section. I don’t know if she has the same info in “Bakewise”.
    Thanks for the pass on the typos! ;^)

  9. says

    Well, thanks to you I turned to Bakewise last night and have found what I believe will be the PERFECT meringue. It’s in the refrigerator right now. I’m sure the info in Bakewise is similar to what’s in Cookwise, but in more depth since it’s baking focus. Shirley has quite a few meringue recipes.

  10. says

    One thing I remember she did say was that you can overcook AND undercook at the same time. Something about the time & temperature . (She’s SO precise!) And the undercooking makes the meringue weep between the filling & the meringue (i think…); the undercooking really sounded much more unappetizing than the beads from overcooking!

  11. says

    As far as I am concerned, the meringue recipe in the Betty Crocker’s “New Picture” Cookbook is excellent and I have had no trouble with stickiness or beading…IF you follow the recipe exactly and also put it on a hot filling right before browning at the exact temp. Good Luck. Neva

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