Monday, March 28, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie with Coconut Shortbread Crust

Lemon season is coming to a close. And what better way to bid adieu to this amazing fruit than by making lemon meringue pie? This was my first attempt at baking a meringue topping. You have no doubt heard the warnings issued to first time bakers with this sweet dessert, warnings about weeping and gloppy meringue that slides right off the custard beneath. But I'm happy to say, this pie was delicious and tearless from day one until I finally polished it off about five days later. The men in my life were no help. They apparently don't crave sour things like I do. Nigella Lawson says you either have a sour tooth of you don't. Like her, I do.

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Cooking but improves upon it, in my opinion, with a toasted coconut crust and by including an oven temperature, which the original recipe somehow fails to mention.

1 cup packaged shortbread cookies
1/2 cup coconut, toasted briefly beneath a broiler
1/4 cup butter, melted
Pinch sea salt
Pinch sugar

1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 egg yolks, whisked
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup water
4 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar

To make the crust, pulse the cookies and coconut in a food processor until you achieve a coarse crumb. Drizzle in the butter and blend again until the mixture is just combined. Take a quick taste and add a pinch of salt and or sugar depending on the sweetness and saltiness of the shortbread cookies you have used. You're looking for a savory crust to offset the almost cloying sweetness of the lemony filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

To make the filling, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt with the water and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. After thoroughly combined, whisk in the egg yolks. When combined, add the butter and gradually add the boiling water. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly, remove from heat and continue constantly whisking until thick. Stir in lemon zest and set aside momentarily to make the meringue.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar and cornstarch to form a paste. Stir over low heat until thick. Set aside to cool briefly. In a clean metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add vanilla and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until stiff and glossy. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and then beat another 10 seconds.

To assemble, pour the lemon custard into the prepared crust. Scoop meringue filling onto the edges of the filling all along the rim to form a barrier. Make sure the meringue touches the filling and crust all the way around. Scoop the remaining meringue into the center of the pie and spread gently to cover. If you wish, use the back of a clean, dry spoon to "lick" the top of the meringue into cute little peaks.

Bake at 425 degrees fahrenheit for 18 minutes or until the top is golden and toasty. Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate. The pie is best on the first two days, but is still delicious for about four-five days.


  1. Pamela, naturally the recipe sounds delicious, but does Rich take all the photos of the finished product? They all look like they're straight out of a magazine--and I DO mean that as a compliment!

  2. Yes, Julia. Rich takes nearly all of the finished product photos. Aren't they gorgeous? Some of them--and you can usually tell which ones--I snap with my point and shoot camera because he's not with me at the time.