The history of the lemon meringue pie is a complete mess. Considering it is a relatively recent invention (because meringues are not super-ancient), it is quite frustrating to find at least four versions of events – one of which is very protective of the dish’s status as American. Here are the various versions of genesis of the lemon meringue pie:
- Elizabeth Goodfellow. Early 1800s Philadelphia is the scene of Goodfellow’s sweet treat enterprise that supplied the folks of Philly with baked goods and desserts. Goodfellow never wrote recipes down, but her students did. Eliza Leslie recorded the lemon meringue pie in a 19th Century cook book.
- Alexander Frehse. Swiss baker Frehse invented the dish in the 1800s. This story is all over the Internet, but the text used is nearly always a copy/paste from the unreferenced Wikipedia article.
- Emile Campbell-Browne. Wigbeth, Dorset, 1875 – botanist Campbell-Browne had his staff make the dish for Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury at a hunting ball, in Wimborne St Giles, Dorset.
- Chester pudding. This is a chicken and egg situation. The Victorian English Chester pudding is exactly the same as a lemon meringue pie.
A lemon meringue pie is made of three components: pastry, lemon curd and meringue. The meringue is made using the whites reserved from the curd. The pastry is nearly always shortcrust, but if you are a bit mental (like me), then you will get a better result with pate sucre if you can deal with the handling nightmare.
Lemon meringue pie
- For the pate sucre (see notes):
- 200g flour
- 100g butter
- 75g sifted icing sugar
- Pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk (zest of a lemon can be added)
- 1 egg beaten
- For the lemon curd:
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- 85g butter
- 225g granulated sugar
- 3 whole beaten eggs
- For the meringue:
- 6 egg whites
- 360g caster sugar
To prepare the pastry case, mix the all the pastry ingredient (except the beaten egg) in a food processor. Roll the pastry flat directly onto cling wrap, wrap over and chill for 1 hour. Meanwhile, freeze your rolling pin and tart tin. Once chilled, work quickly to roll the pastry to fit the tin. Pick up over the rolling pin, drop in to oil-sprayed, paper-lined tin with pull tab. Press in with scrap pastry, fold over the top of the tin, prick base, line with triple layer of cling wrap and baking beans or rice. Freeze 30 mins. Bake on a pizza stone at 190˚C 10 mins and trim off the excess pastry. Remove beans and bake for another 20 mins. Egg brush and bake 10 mins more. Cool.
To make the lemon curd, mix all the ingredients and heat gently until thickened. Strain.
To make the meringue, whisk eggs and sugar to soft peaks.
To assemble and cook, fill the cooled tart case with the curd. Pipe over the meringue. Bake in an oven at 180˚C for 15 mins. Cool to serve.
Many cooks use shortcrust instead of pate sucre, as it is a lot easier to handle.