I have become more adept at recreating these older recipes, but it does often require quite a bit of tweaking, as well as the realization that the final result may not be what was expected. For example, this recipe yielded a pie with richer and more custardy lemon filling - deliciously good, just different. And since it wasn't a very thick layer, when I added the meringue topping, the pie was not as generously sized as the typical sky-high lemon meringue pies we think of today.
I actually embrace these differences between the old and new. In fact, I often prefer the older recipes - for example, Mrs. Rorer's Chocolate Cake and Mrs. Goodfellow's Jumbles. I am now adding this lemon pie recipe to this list. It is easy to make and I love the fact it is so easily replicated from a recipe over 125 years old!
I feel lucky to have discovered it through my experiences testing and writing about the recipes from Anna Maxwell's Victorian- era journal for a new blog on the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion's website. Also known as “The First Lady of the House,” Anna Smith Maxwell (1831-1912) moved into the Mansion with her husband Ebenezer and their family in 1859.
I have been fascinated with lemon pudding and its metamorphosis into lemon meringue pie since I started researching Mrs. Goodfellow and America's first cooking school. Prior to this I was not aware that this beloved dessert had its origins in Philadelphia, a creation developed from one of Mrs. Goodfellow’s signature confections, a rich lemon pudding. The custardy pudding was either spooned into a pastry crust before baking (like a pie), or simply poured into a dish and baked without a bottom shell. At some point she cleverly thought to top her famous pudding with fluffy meringue. Thank goodness she did otherwise we would not be celebrating Lemon Meringue Pie Day today!
Grate the rinds of three lemons, and the juice of one. 8 tablespoons of sugar, the yolks of six eggs, 1 tablespoon of flour, 6 of sugar 1 cup of cream. Line the pans with crusts and pour in the mixture and bake. Take the six whites of the eggs and six tablespoons of sugar mixed well together and after the pies are baked spread it over them and return to the oven until brown.
And here's the modernized version:
Lemon Meringue Pie
- 3 lemons
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 6 tablespoons
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup cream or milk
- 1 prebaked pie crust (or use recipe below)*
- Pinch cream of tartar
- Preheat over to 350F
- Grate the rinds of the lemons, and extract juice from one.
- Combine with 1/2 cup sugar, 6 egg yolks, flour and cream.
- Pour mixture into the pie crust-lined pan and bake at 350 for a half hour. Cover edges of pie crust with foil to prevent burning.
- Beat 6 egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy
- Add cream of tartar and continue beating until whites form softly curling peaks
- Slowly add 6 tablespoons sugar and keep beating until whites form fluffy, firm peaks that curl slightly at their tips when the beater is raised.
- Spread the meringue over the baked pie and return to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned on top.
- Remove and let cool on a wire rack for about an hour and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
(I prefer all butter pie crusts to those that use vegetable shortening - I think they have more flavor for one thing. This one is very easy to work with and works very well in a food processor. It is from Greg Patent’s amazing cookbook, Baking in America. Another reason I really like this recipe - I think the cake flour makes the dough a little softer and the resulting pie crust more tender).
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cake flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/4 cup ice water
- 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
- 1 large egg yolk
- Place the flour in a food processor with the salt and pulse. Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the flour. Pulse 4 to 6 times to break them up.
- Combine the vinegar and egg yolk in a measuring cup and add enough ice water to bring the volume up to ½ cup. (You may not need to use all of the liquid, unless your flour is very dry.) While pulsing, add the liquid in a steady stream until the flour looks crumbly and damp. Between 25 and 30 pulses should be enough. Don’t let the dough form a ball. The crumbs should adhere when you gather them in your hand. If not, add a few more drops of ice water.
- Turn out the dough and divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and press it into a disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour before rolling.
- Roll out and place in a 9-in pie plate. Refrigerate for one hour.
- Adjust oven to center position and preheat to 400F.
- Line chilled past shell with a square of aluminum foil and fill with dried beans. Bake for 20 min. Remove from oven, take out foil and beans and prick all over with a fork. Return to oven and bake for about 10 more min. Cool completely on wire rack before filling.
For more on lemon meringue pie and its history as a Victorian-era creation, see the blog post on the Ebenezer Maxwell Mansion website: Lemon Pie