Entropy Kitchen: Lemon Meringue Pie

Every week, in the ‘Entropy Kitchen” series, you get a recipe for something related to this week’s kitchen science post.  So you can enjoy how TASTY science can be.

Meringue is miraculous, we’ve clearly established that. It’s also delicious. In fact my favourite dessert in the world, lemon meringue pie, involves meringue. There was no other choice for my meringue entropy kitchen, I’m afraid. The perfect melt-in-the-mouth pastry, the zingy gooey lemon filling, the soft fluffy, crunchy meringue. Simply the best.

It isn’t the quickest dessert to make, but it also isn’t especially difficult or complicated, it just has several steps. I also usually end up with my kitchen covered in stray meringue blobs and pastry scraps, but that’s a small price to pay, really.

The Pastry

5 oz plain flour
4 oz butter
1 oz icing sugar
1 egg yolk
~2 tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 180oC. Rub the butter and flour together until they look like breadcrumbs. Mix in the icing sugar. Add the egg yolk and start to squish the mixture together with your hands. If the mixture is still crumb-y (that’s a real word, yes), add the water drop by drop until you can knead it into a dough. Once you have a dough, cover in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30-60 min.

Next, sprinkle some flour on the side and roll the pastry out to around ½ cm thick. Place into a pie dish, and cover with baking beans. If you don’t have any, some form of dried beans or pasta will do it! Bake at 180oC for 10-15 min, or until it’s just golden brown.

The Filling

2 oz cornflour
6 oz caster sugar
½ pint water
Rind and juice of 2 lemons
2 egg yolks
½ oz butter

While you’re blind baking the pastry (or after it’s out the oven, depends how strong a multi-tasker you are!), stir together the cornflour, sugar, water and lemon rind and heat in a pan over a steady heat until it goes thick and gloopy. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the egg yolks and the lump of butter. Stir until everything is melted and combined. Taste, and try not to eat the entire thing with a spoon before getting the meringue ready.

The Meringue

3 egg whites
5 oz sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice until they form big fluffy stiff peaks. Then slowly add the sugar, continuing to whisk thoroughly. If you have an electric whisk, this is the time to make use of it, if not, you’re going to get an arm workout. You want to keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy mix, which forms big mountainous peaks.

At this point, spread the lemon goo over the pastry and pop it in the oven for a few minutes. You want the top of the mixture to be hot when you cover it with meringue, this way the meringue starts cooking from the bottom straight away. If you cover cold filling with meringue, when you bake it the meringue-filling interface will become a bit soggy. To be fair, it will still taste immense, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Either way, top the filling with meringue and use the pointy end of a spoon to twirl it into peaks.

lemon meringue_not baked

Bake in the oven at 180oC and bake for another 20 min, until the meringue is golden brown and crunchy on the outside.

lemon meringue_baked

Serve, if you can bear to let anyone else have any. I totally wouldn’t.

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6 thoughts on “Entropy Kitchen: Lemon Meringue Pie

  1. Hello Katie, I am so glad there was a link to your blog in AOW, I had been reading (and loving) your posts and comments. I am another biology lover and chemistry geek who loves baking. As a matter of fact, I spent last afternoon making these lemon-meringue cupcakes for the hubs to take to work (it was his birthday last weekend). Now I am reading all your posts like crazy, and I added you to my blogroll to stay updated.

  2. I pretty much only understand one in every three words you say as a I am a science-numpty. But pudding I can understand. And that is one mighty fine pie.

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