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Mile-High Lemon Meringue Pie

If you love billowy meringue, this is the pie for you. It is piled extra high above a perfectly tart-sweet, silky smooth lemon filling. Fragrant Meyer lemons are becoming more widely available, so use them if they are around, although no one will turn down a slice of this pie if you use regular lemons.

Ingredients:

  • Basic pie dough for a single-crust pie (see recipe at left), rolled into a 12-inch round 1/8 inch thick
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • Finely grated zest of 3 Meyer lemons

Directions:

Place the dough round in a 9-inch pie dish, fitting it into the bottom and sides. Trim the dough, leaving a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under, then flute the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over, then line with aluminum foil and freeze for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Place the dough-lined dish on a baking sheet and fill the foil with pie weights. Bake until the dough looks dry and is barely golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weights. Continue baking until the crust is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Transfer to a rack and cool while you make the filling. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F.

In a bowl, beat 3 of the eggs until blended. Separate the remaining 5 eggs, adding the yolks to the beaten whole eggs and putting the whites in a separate large bowl. Cover the whites and set aside at room temperature. Beat the yolks into the beaten eggs. In another bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the cornstarch, then whisk in the beaten eggs, the lemon juice and salt. Transfer to a heavy, nonreactive saucepan, place over medium heat and heat until the mixture comes to a full boil, whisking almost constantly. Reduce the heat to low and let bubble for 30 seconds. Be careful not to undercook or overcook the filling or it will separate as it cools. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Strain through a coarse-mesh sieve into a bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg white. Stir in the lemon zest, then pour into the baked crust (the crust can be warm or cool).

Using a handheld mixer on high speed, beat the reserved egg whites until soft peaks form. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar, beating until the egg whites become a meringue with stiff, shiny peaks. Using a rubber spatula, spread the meringue evenly over the hot filling, making sure the meringue touches the crust on all sides (to prevent the meringue from shrinking). Swirl the meringue with the spatula to form peaks. Bake until the meringue is browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving, at least 3 hours. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).