Meyer lemons are high on my list of favorite fruits, and Meyer lemon meringue pie is one of my favorite desserts. I grew up with Meyer lemon trees at my parents house. Because we never had to buy lemons, I didn’t know that regular lemons were very different until I got a bit older. I still remember how shocked I was the first time I sliced into a super market lemon. I was expecting it to be like the ones I had grown up with, but it was very different!
If you’re not familiar with Meyer lemons, they have a very deep, bold yellow color and are extremely fragrant. They have a very thin rind and are much juicier than regular lemons. They’re also a bit sweeter and less acidic, making them wonderful to cook and bake with. They’re my favorite to use in every kitchen application! Lucky for me, they’re super common in California, and many people have Meyer lemon trees growing in their yards. While they aren’t easy to find at grocery stores, I can always find them at local farmers’ markets.
Whenever they’re in season, I always have to make the most of Meyer lemons. This pie is a classic, elevated by the wonderful flavor and intensity of Meyer lemons. With a light and tender pâte sucrée base, filled with perfectly balanced and bright Meyer lemon curd, and topped with piles of Italian meringue toasted to perfection, this dessert is sure to become a favorite. Though it takes a few steps, it’s easier to make than it looks, and is well worth the extra time!
What is pâte sucrée, and how do you make it?
Pâte sucrée, is a French style sweet tart dough. It’s similar to traditional shortcrust or pie doughs in that it has a high proportion of butter. It also contains egg. It has a slight cookie-like texture, and is a common base for fruit tarts. It’s a delicious base for tender tarts, and works particularly well, I find, for lemon tarts in general.
In this recipe, I adapted the pâte sucrée recipe from Shiran Dickman’s blog, Pretty. Simple. Sweet. In my version of her recipe, I call for vanilla paste, rather than the optional vanilla extract. I find that the vanilla flavor really complements the meringue, and I love the added speckles of the vanilla seeds. If you can’t find vanilla bean paste where you live, you can use an equal amount of vanilla extract, or use one scraped vanilla pod.
One of the things to note with the pâte sucrée dough is that it uses powdered sugar, rather than granulated. I find that powdered sugar in tart doughs gives it a bit more flexibility when rolled, and a more tender texture when baked.
This is an almost-no-bake pie, meaning that only baked element is the crust. This is a method called “blind baking”, which means that the tart shell bakes with no filling inside. I recommend using pie weights or baking beans, if you have them. Dried beans or uncooked rice work just as well, if you don’t have any ceramic pie weights. Having some sort of weight inside the pie shell prevents it from puffing up too much while baking.
For this recipe, we are going to fully blind bake the crust, because the filling does not need to be baked at all. You can also use this method to partially blind bake tarts and pies to help prevent soggy bottoms when working with very wet fillings.
How to make the best Meyer lemon curd
I love making lemon curd. I think it’s an incredibly easy way to make something incredibly delicious. If you can’t find Meyer lemons where you live, you can of course make the curd with regular lemons. However, you may need to use a few more to get the required amount of juice. Meyer lemons have a slightly sweeter flavor, thinner, deeper colored rind, and very juicy fruit compared to regular lemons. If you can find them, please use them! I promise you’ll be hooked. They’re the best for baking and cooking alike!
Many lemon curd recipes call for the use of a double boiler, or tempering the eggs. I personally do not find either necessary. Lemon curd is very easy to make: everything goes into the pot at once, and it only takes about 10 minutes in total. Make sure you whisk your eggs well before you add them to the pot. To ensure even cooking, continue whisking the entire time the curd is over heat. To guarantee an extra silky smooth lemon curd, simply pass it through a mesh strainer before using.
In this Meyer lemon Italian meringue pie, I added a smidge of cornstarch to the curd to help it thicken. If you want to simply enjoy the lemon curd portion of this recipe and forgo the rest of the tart, you can omit the cornstarch. While the pie is delicious and you should definitely make it all… I can’t judge if you just eat the curd on its own. It’s that good!
Italian vs. Swiss vs. French meringue
This Meyer lemon meringue pie calls for Italian meringue. This is a very stable type of meringue that does not need to be baked. All meringue has the same fundamental ingredients: egg whites, and sugar. Italian meringue is great for non-baked applications, because it uses a hot sugar syrup drizzled into egg whites as they are whipped in a mixer. The heat from the syrup essentially cooks the egg whites, making them safer to consume without further baking. It also makes for a very stable meringue that doesn’t collapse as easily.
Swiss meringue is similar, but uses a method where the egg whites and sugar are heated together to a food-safe temperature before whipping. It is a bit denser than Italian meringue, and is a common type of meringue used in buttercream. And finally, French meringue is the simplest meringue to make, as it is just egg whites and sugar whipped together. It’s also the least stable, and is most commonly used for baked meringue cookies or pavlovas.
For extra stability, I’ve added a touch of cream of tartar to the meringue. If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can also use lemon juice. The acidity helps to stabilize the whipped egg. If you like to make a lot of meringue desserts, I highly recommend adding cream of tartar to your pantry.
Tools for making this pie
I recommend using a food processor to make the pâte sucrée. You can also make it by hand, but just make sure that the butter is thoroughly cut into the flour and you do not over work the dough. I also strongly recommend a stand mixer or electric beaters for the meringue portion of this recipe.
The meringue portion calls for a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature while making the sugar syrup. Sugar is finicky, so it’s important that you use a thermometer during this step. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, an instant read meat thermometer or kitchen probe thermometer will work too.
This recipe calls for a 9″ loose bottomed tart tin. It could make 4-6 mini tarts instead, depending on the size of your tins. For the blind baking, you will need enough pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice to fill the tart tin to the top.
The finishing touches on this lemon meringue pie call for a kitchen torch. As always, when working with potentially dangerous kitchen tools, read all of the manufacturers’ instructions, and use caution and common sense. That said, most kitchen torches are very user friendly and easy to handle. If you don’t have a torch, or prefer not to use one, you can toast the meringue under the broiler in your oven. Just be sure to keep a watchful eye that it does not burn.
How to store this pie
This pie keeps very well in the fridge, covered carefully, for up to 3 days. The meringue keeps nicely, but you can re-toast it, if desired, before serving.
I hope you give this Meyer Lemon Italian Meringue Pie a try! Be sure to tag me on instagram so I can see your bakes, and leave me a comment below! Your feedback helps other bakers who are giving this recipe a try, and I love hearing about your bakes!