Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Perfect lemon pie for Pi Day

Jerry Stratton, March 13, 2019

Did you know that PIE, spelled backward, is March 14? From Southern Living, this easy lemon meringue circular dessert is perfect for tomorrow’s celebrations.

Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • pie
    • 4 egg whites
    • 6 egg yolks
    • 1 C sugar
    • juice of 2 lemons
    • grated rind of 2 lemons
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 baked pie crust
  • meringue
    • 2 egg whites
    • ¼ cup sugar

Steps

  1. Beat the egg yolks in a double boiler until light.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, grated rind, butter, and mix well.
  3. Cook over boiling water until very thick, stirring frequently, about 25 minutes.
  4. Fold in 4 beaten egg whites.
  5. Cook for two minutes.
  6. Pour into pie crust.
  7. Beat remaining two egg whites until stiff, adding remaining sugar gradually.
  8. Spread meringue on pie.
  9. Bake at 325 degrees until meringue is brown.
Whole perfect lemon pie

Meringue is perfect for pi day because it’s all about the volume.

Tomorrow is Pi Day, and to celebrate, you should have erudite circular discussions of mathematical philosophy, over a sector of pie. I’m generally partial to fruit pies or nut pies, but every once in a while I have a craving for a good lemon meringue.

Until recently, custards have always bedeviled me. I never seem to cook them long enough, no matter how long I wait. Because of my impatience, the custard ends up too runny or burnt. I’ve been doing a lot better lately, and mainly because of the incredible Southern Living Cookbook Library series. The Holiday volume has an amazing almond-silk pie, for example. The Food & Wine series has also been helpful—you can see the edge of their annual collection in the previous post but I’ll have more about that later.

Perfect lemon pie filling

A double boiler makes it nearly impossible to burn the filling.

So when I saw that this lemon meringue pie from the Fondue and Buffet volume of the series was labeled Perfect Lemon Meringue, it was impossible to pass up even if the name does seem guaranteed to disappoint. What in this world is perfect? This pie comes close. It is in fact very easy. And it is easily the best lemon meringue pie I’ve ever made. It manages to make the dangerous part of lemon pie, the filling, easier, at least for me.

Perfect lemon pie slice

Yes, I have whipped cream on the side even with meringue topping.

I especially like the way that the beaten egg white fluffs up and adds texture to the filling. You can see it in the photographs. If any type of pie depends on the baker’s secret ingredient, adding some of the egg white to the filling is the secret of this pie.

For the crust, I used an oatmeal crust, using 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, ⅓ cup butter, ½ cup oatmeal, and 3-4 tablespoons cold water. It’s a basic crust with a little oatmeal added for texture. I’ve found that a little oatmeal improves most baked goods.

The recipe worked so well I made it with orange several weeks later. I probably should have used just one fruit for the orange version, as oranges have more juice in them than lemons. As you can see from the photograph, the filling is bowing out due to not being as structurally sound. It’s not quite the runniness that I used to get, but it’s also not the firm, light filling of the lemon version. That will be easily fixed the next time I make it, although the next time I make it I’ll probably do a lime version. The orange version was also much sweeter than the lemon; the lime should not have that “problem”.

Semi-perfect orange pie

Sad little orange pie still tasted great, if a bit heavy on the sweetness.

I used a pecan crust for the orange pie, which is even simpler than a flour crust. It takes two cups of ground nutmeat, a quarter cup of sugar, and one egg white, mixed together and pressed into the pie tin, then baked about twenty minutes until firm.

Try it. I’ll bet you’ll be giving this square meal a nine, an eight, or at least a seven.

In response to The Southern Living Cookbook Library: One of the best magazine-related cookbook series is also the one of the hardest to find. The Southern Living Cookbook Library appears to be under the radar of food writers online, but it either had a very low print run or few people want to get rid of their copies.