Playing Buddy Valastro's Lemon Meringue Pie

From his book Baking with the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro shows how to make this classic pie.

If you’re new to baking and looking to develop some baseline comfort, a lemon meringue pie is a good place to start because you don’t bake the filling in the pie. Instead, you make the crust, lemon curd filling, and meringue separately, then assemble them. So you only need to be able to successfully bake the crust to pull this off. The only other baking is a quick flash in the oven to caramelize the crystal sugar that we dust the meringue with at the end. (We originally used powdered sugar, but have changed it over the years.)

Because it was his wife’s favorite dessert, the late, great Carlo’s baker Sal Picinich used to say, “If you bring home lemon meringue pie, you get lucky!” I hear it also works well for getting a man out of the doghouse.
 

Ingredients
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1½ plus 1/3 cups water
  • 4 extra-large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • Distilled white vinegar, for wiping the bowl
  • 1 Pie Crust, blind-baked
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Preparation

Put the cornstarch and 1/3 cup water in a small bowl and stir them together. Put the egg yolks and lemon juice in another bowl and whisk them together.

Put 1½ cups of the sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1½ cups water in a small, heavy saucepan and set it over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes thick and clear, then whisk in the lemon-yolk mixture. Continue to whisk until the mixture boils and thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Set aside.

Clean the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment with vinegar. (You can also use a hand mixer.) Add the remaining egg whites and ¼ teaspoon salt and start whipping on low speed. Once the mixture becomes frothy, add the remaining ½ cup sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, gradually increasing the speed to high, about 5 minutes. (If you add the sugar too early, it slows the peaks’ formation.)

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Transfer the lemon filling to the pie crust. Spread half the meringue over the top with a spatula. Transfer the rest of the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with the #7 star tip or French tip and pipe the meringue on top. If using, sprinkle the sugar over the meringue.

Put the pie on a baking tray and finish in the oven just until the meringue is singed, about 12 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and let cool. Serve at once, or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Excerpt from Baking with the Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro. Copyright © 2011 by Buddy Valastro. Used with permission by Atria Books. All rights reserved.

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