Easy As Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Whoever popularized the expression “easy as pie” clearly didn’t bake.  Making the perfect pie can be tricky; there are so many ways it can go wrong.  In honor of the pie-baking season, here are some of my solutions for the most common pie problems.  While pie isn’t always “easy,” these tips should keep you, and your meringue, from weeping this holiday season. 

How do I keep my pie crust from shrinking?

Cut parchment paper to the size of the Pie Plate and lay inside the crust, then fill completely with dried beans and/or rice.  The weight of the dry goods will keep the crust from changing shape.  Remove halfway through cooking, or once the sides have cooked, to allow the bottom of the crust to cook through.

How do I keep the edges from burning?

When baking a filled pie, coat the edges of the crust in a thin layer of oil and then wrap in foil to prevent burning.

 How do I make a meringue that doesn’t weep or shrink?

There are two common types of meringue: Swiss and Italian.  Swiss meringues are whisked gently over a water bath until warm, typically 130F, then whipped until completely cool.  This creates a smooth texture and glossy white finish that is cooked enough to avoid weeping and violent expansion/contraction when torching.  Italian meringues are created by whipping egg whites and streaming sugar, candied at 240F, into the mixture as it whips.  This is a fully cooked, stable meringue that won’t change shape and will not weep.  The procedure for this meringue can seem daunting, but is actually very simple and straightforward.  Many meringues just lack starch.  Simply fold about 10-20% cornstarch (by weight) into a beaten meringue for a drier, more stable, meringue that won’t shrink or swell.  Another great technique is to apply your meringue to a textured surface.  Sprinkle a thin layer of finely-crumbled cake or bread crumbs on top of the pie filling prior to applying the meringue.

What exactly is a “stiff peak?”

Stiff peak for a meringue topping should be glossy, thick, and stable.  When you lift the beater out of your mixture, you should see a tall spike that holds its own shape when shaken gently.

Holiday Meringue
Author: Joe the Baker
  • 4 ounces egg whites
  • 7 ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  1. Combine the whites, sugar, salt and extract together in a bowl of a stand mixer over a pot of water.
  2. Heat the pot while constantly whisking the meringue, with the machine's whisk, until warm to the touch and all the items have dissolved together. Don't try to incorporate air at this point, just move it enough it won't cook.
  3. Once completely dissolved and warm to the touch, remove from heat and place on a stand mixer. Whisk on high for one minute.
  4. After one minute, add the vinegar in a stream down the side of the bowl and allow to mix until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch.
  5. Remove from the machine and fold in the cornstarch and powdered sugar until smooth and homogenous.
  6. Pipe or spoon onto your pie.
  7. If torching the meringue, simply torch evenly and ensure the meringue has enough torching to set evenly.
  8. If baking the meringue, bake at 350F until the meringue browns gently and sets from movement.
  9. Allow to cool completely then serve.

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