Here's the thing about Lemon Meringue Pie. It's beautiful. It's like a skyscraper of a pie. A pie-scraper? It's an architectural feat of a dessert, and it even has clouds on top. It looks very pretty in diner cases.
But when it comes to eating it, I so often find it a disappointment. The lemon part is way too sweet, the meringue part just has a weird texture, and the crust is gluey. It's like eating a slice of homework, that's about how much joy it gives me.
But while working on my upcoming book (to be released in spring of 2013, but in the meantime, please buy book #1, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life), one of the recipes I worked on and researched was lemon meringue pie. It has a very long and interesting story, involving Quakers, Italians, watchmaker's wives, the Parker House Hotel, and diners. But you'll have to buy the book for that. Right now we're talking about the pie itself.
In baking this pie multiple times, I had a chance to experiment a little bit with it, and had one version that I tried mostly as a lark, because I had no regular pie crust on hand and didn't feel like making it. I thought, I wonder what the pie would taste like made with a cookie crumb crust? And then, even further, I thought, why not try it with a chocolate cookie crumb crust? This thought was likely brought on because I had about a dozen whoopie pie cookie shells which were slowly and gently becoming stale on my counter.
Well, I figured at least it would be interesting.
So I crumbled up the cookies, mixed them with butter, and baked the crust until crispy. Then I topped with the usual lemon custard and meringue topping and baked it up. I thought that visually, it was quite pretty.
I was genuinely surprised by the end result. The chocolate crust gave the pie a certain depth--a dark contrast to the sweet, tart lemon. It was intriguing, and I enjoyed my slice thoroughly.
Don't get me wrong, if you are not a lemon meringue lover, this will probably not turn you around. But if you do like lemon meringue pie, this is a solid recipe, and the chocolate crust is something to try.
Note: this picture was taken the morning after I baked it, and some of the condensation made little drips on top. Let it cool and dry completely before refrigerating!
Lemon Meringue Pie in a Chocolate Cookie Crust
For the crust:
- 2 cups' worth of crumbled chocolate cookies or wafers (I used unfilled, crumbled whoopie pie cookies)
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
For the pie filling
- 4 egg yolks
- 1½ cups sugar
- ⅓ cup cornstarch
- 1½ cups water
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2-3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)
- 3 cups Meringue Topping
- 3 egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
- Prepare the crust. In a large bowl, combine the crumbled cookies with the melted butter. Mix by hand until it's incorporated. Press into a well greased pie plate.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crispy. Let cool completely before filling.
- To make the filling, in a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. In a 2-quart saucepan, mix the sugar and cornstarch; gradually stir in water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute, until the mixture thickens.
- Immediately pour about half of the hot mixture into the egg yolks; when well combined, pour this mixture back into the saucepan. Boil and stir for 2 minutes; remove from heat. Add the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and food coloring. Stir until the butter is melted and everything is well combined. Pour the hot filling into the pie crust.
- In a very clean medium-size bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Beat in the vanilla.
- Spoon the meringue onto the filling. Spread it evenly over the filling, carefully sealing the meringue to the edges of the crust to prevent shrinking or weeping. Using a knife, form the top meringue into little peaks (think punk hairdo) or make swirls on the top for a pretty finish.
- Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the meringue is light brown. Set the pie on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool in a draft-free place for about 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate the cooled pie until serving. Store any leftover pie in the refrigerator.