Perfect Lemon Meringue Pie with Easy, Press-In Crust
This Lemon Meringue Pie recipe will create a truly memorable dessert: the easy, cookie-like hazelnut crust combined with the zesty filling and creamy Italian meringue will delight all fans of this classic dessert.
For the easy press-in crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and set it on a baking sheet. In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, hazelnuts, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and salt. Process until the hazelnuts are finely ground. (If using ground hazelnuts, simply combine the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.) Drizzle the butter over the flour and nut mixture. Stir with a fork until the butter is well incorporated and the mixture is moist. Press the mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside, leaving the oven on.
For the lemon pie filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon zest, butter, lemon juice, and sugar. Set over medium heat and stir until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from the heat. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the whole eggs. While whisking constantly, slowly pour in the warm butter and lemon juice mixture. It’s essential to pour the hot mixture very slowly and to whisk throughout the process to warm the eggs slowly, otherwise, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs! Scrape the warm egg mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Whisk constantly until the filling thickens and resembles custard, which should take 4 to 5 minutes. Do not let it boil.
Pour the lemon filling into the pre-baked pie shell. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set over a cooling rack. When the pie comes out of the oven, the filling will still be jiggly. It will firm up as it cools.
For the Swiss meringue: In a clean, stainless steel bowl, combine the egg whites, sugar, water, and cream of tartar. In a saucepan slightly smaller than the stainless steel bowl, pour an inch of water, then set over medium heat to bring to a simmer. Set the stainless steel bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water directly, and beat the meringue with a hand mixer on low speed for 4 minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat until the meringue is bright white and thick, 4 minutes more. Remove the bowl from the heat and keep beating until the meringue is fluffy and room temperature to the touch, 4 to 6 minutes more.
To assemble the lemon meringue pie: Carefully unmold the pie and transfer it to a serving plate. Spread the Swiss meringue over the lemon pie filling. (You can do it even if the pie is still warm). Use the back of a spoon to create a spiral pattern or decorative peaks. You could also transfer the meringue to a pastry bag to pipe it over the pie. Use a kitchen torch to toast the meringue all over. Alternatively, set an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the broiler. Set the pie on a baking sheet and put it under the broiler. Keep an eye on the pie at all times and rotate it frequently to toast the meringue as evenly as possible.
Let the pie cool completely (you can refrigerate it for an hour to speed up the process).
For the hazelnut praline topping (optional): Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat. In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar and water over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula, until the sugar is completely melted. Bring to a full boil and cook, without stirring, carefully swirling the pan from time to time, until the caramel turns to a beautiful amber color. Working very quickly, remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, stir just to incorporate, and then spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Let cool at room temperature (or in the fridge if you’re in a rush) until the praline is set and hard, 15 to 30 minutes. Break the praline into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to use. To sprinkle over the lemon meringue pie, pulse in a food processor until you reach a coarse consistency. The praline (or praline powder) will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days.
SERVING: Sprinkle the perfect lemon meringue pie with crushed hazelnut praline, if desired, then slice and serve. Serve with extra hazelnut praline, to taste.
STORAGE: Refrigerate leftover lemon meringue pie under a cake dome or in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
How to Toast and Peel Hazelnuts: Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350°F (170°C) for 15 minutes, giving the tray a good shake every five minutes. When the skin of the hazelnuts is shiny and crackled, remove from the oven and transfer to a clean kitchen towel. Close the towel up into a bundle and rub the hazelnuts against one another vigorously to remove the skin. Open the towel and pick up the peeled hazelnuts. Some bits of skin will remain but that’s ok! Keep the peeled hazelnuts in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
How to Make French Meringue: This meringue is simpler and faster to make but will not sit well. You should only make French meringue if the pie will be eaten the day it is made.Wipe a lemon wedge inside the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large stainless steel mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), then add 3 egg whites. Alternatively, combine 3 egg whites and ½ tsp (2 ml) lemon juice or ½ tsp (2 ml) cream of tartar in the bowl. Whisk until soft peaks form, then add 1 tbsp (12 g) granulated sugar. Whisk for 1 minute, then add 1 tbsp (12 g) more granulated sugar. Repeat until you’ve incorporated a total of 6 tbsp (72 g) of sugar. Whisk until the French meringue is thick and glossy and forms firm peaks.Spread the French meringue over the room lemon pie filling (the pie must be room temperature or cold before you top it with French meringue), then brown using a kitchen torch or under the broiler. Serve within a few hours.
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