The Great Lemon Meringue Pie Kerfuffle of 2010

Click here for the recipe or scroll to the bottom of the post.

I was feeling pretty confident about making pie, mainly because I observed the whole process in a cooking class two days beforehand.  They say that pride comes before a fall.  Well, over-confidence comes before an almost tragic pie.  I say *almost* because in the end, it was edible and dare I say yummy!  An Edible Failure.   But the trip to get to that point was…interesting.

At first, I jumped online to see if I could find any extra tips or advice on making pie crusts, since this was my first time.  I was also looking for instructions because I had a list of ingredients but no written steps to follow.

Upon my initial research, I found no recipes containing the same ingredients…specifically the brown sugar and shortening were often replaced by white sugar and butter.  I was tempted to go with what seemed to be the commonly accepted buttery recipe but in the end, decided to stick with the shortening version.  I’ll use a butter version in a future recipe to compare.

My very first pie crust creation took place as follows:

The Process

1) Started gathering my ingredients

Initial Set up

2)       Mixed the dry ingredients together.

3) Divided four egg yolks from egg whites.  This was quite an interesting challenge as I have never had to divide eggs before.  It was almost a disaster, with the final egg completely falling into the bowl with the previous three!  Somehow,  I managed to the situation and safely scooped the offending yolk out of the whites.

I used the shells to pour the egg back and forth, catching the whites in a bowl.  It was labour intensive and I have since had a few friends suggest using my hands next time.

4)   Worked in the shortening with my hands.  The dough seemed incredibly sticky and, well, oily.  Go figure…I was working with shortening!  I have to say it was quite messy and I think they may be because I was working with room temperature shortening.  It stuck to everything! The counter, the floor, me…nothing escaped the mad grasp of my pie dough.

Also, based on the tips I found online, I added water only until the dough stuck together and formed a nice ball.  As a result, I didn’t use much of the water called for in the recipe.

5)       Left it in its bowl and stuck it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

6)       Rolled out the dough to the size of the pie plate, plus a couple centimeters overhang.  I found the dough stuck madly to the rolling pin, so I put it between two pieces of parchment paper instead.

7)       Once laid neatly into the pan, I added navy beans as a weight and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. After which I removed the weights and allowed the crust to cook for another 5-10 minutes until the bottom was browned.

The crust turned out pretty yummy…but crumbly and I have yet to know why.  All I can think is that perhaps I overworked the dough?

8)) I was under the delusion that the filling had to be added to a freshly baked crust and that, pretty much simultaneously, the meringue needed to be ready to go.  At one point, I was stirring the filling on the stove with one hand and using the electric mixer with the other hand to whip the meringue while trying to keep the bowl on the counter!  A friend nearby with a camera would have been incredibly handy.  Had I only been able to use my feet….

Of course, talking to friends after the fact, I was told that I should’ve held off on the meringue until the end, and made it while the pie filling was cooling.  Would have been easier but stirring hot filling with my toes might still get added to my Life List.

9) After a lot of second-guessing and re-reading the recipe, I made it to the finished product.  I realize now that I should have covered the whole pie in meringue.  To this moment, I’m not sure why I didn’t!

Things I learned:

  • When making filling, it would be MUCH more effective to use a double broiler.  It thickened so quickly that browned semi-burnt bits appeared from the bottom of the pot even though I was stirring continuously
  • Meringue browns SUDDENLY and FAST.  Once the whole pie was put together, I put it back in the oven to lightly brown the top.  I watched it for a number of minutes, finally turning away to wash two bowls.  At that point…FOOM…the meringue darkened and I *just* saved it from a black and fiery death.
  • Speaking of meringue…mine held up quite well.  No weeping and it wasn’t overly watery, but it could have been better.  My eggs weren’t room temperature, which is apparently much better for the meringue, and I added the sugar all at once instead of gradually.

In the end though, my very first lemon meringue pie was yummy and edible!  Sure, the crust was a little crumbly and the meringue a darker brown than was desired, but it tasted good.  Good enough that I served it to company!



Pie Crust

  • 750g Pastry flour
  • 500g shortening
  • 250ml water
  • 10g salt
  • 10g brown sugar

I was told that these ingredients would make 3 pies (top and bottom) and I wanted to make one… so I divided the recipe and worked with:

  • 250g flour
  • 166g shortening
  • 89 ml water (although I probably added only half of that)
  • 3g salt
  • 3g brown sugar

INSTRUCTIONS: I didn’t have any actual instructions for making a crust.  I think it was assumed I would buy a frozen one.  Um…no.  If I’m making this thing, I’m making it from the ground up!

So, I found generic instructions via google.

Lemon Filling

  • 375 ml water
  • 200g sugar
  • 25g butter
  • 125ml lemon juice
  • 2g salt
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 60g cornstarch

1.       Bring the water, sugar, salt and butter to a boil in a pot on the stove.

2.       Whisk together the yolks, cornstarch, and lemon juice until smooth.

3.       Pour the boiling liquid over the yolk mixture and whisk them together.

4.       Pour the liquid back in to the pot on the stove and cook until the mixture boils and is very thick, stirring constantly.

5.       Pour the mixture in to the pie shells and cool until set and firm


  • 4 egg whites
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup sugar

Instructions: I had to research various ways to make meringue on my own as I only had the list of ingredients.  The following is a generic set of instructions on making meringue but I recommend reading up on it a little bit, even if you simply google ‘making meringue’.  I found many helpful tips online.

1.       In a medium bowl, beat eggs and salt either with an electric mixer or by hand.

2.       Begin beating slowly at first, which will produce small, stable bubbles. After a minute or so, increase the speed and beat until soft peaks form.

3.       Beat in sugar 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time until stiff peaks form, which will take 7 to 10 minutes.

4.   Cover the lemon filling with meringue and put the pie in the oven on Broil for a few minutes, until it is slightly brown. NOTE: Watch it closely.  The meringue with brown the moment you don’t expect it to!


About Amanda Pants

A bit odd, a bit eccentric, a bit loud. Kinda goth, kinda alt, kinda geeky. Crochet/cooking/reading/writing/big stompy boots/journals and a Cheshire grin! All recorded on Wordpress ;) Learning to cook with a Dash of Daring and a Pinch of Panic: Sewing and fibre arts, creations made by moi: Random rants and other bits and pieces: View all posts by Amanda Pants

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