My mother, ironically, was better at opening cans for dinner than just about anything else, other than making wonderful bread. But, without a single doubt in my or others minds, she made THE BEST Lemon Meringue Pie on the planet! Beyond the best tasting lemon curd I've ever known, it was her meringue...thick, mile-high and never, ever weeped. Guess what? It is also weather-proof!
My husband's mother made a pretty good one, too. And he always raised his eyebrows at now my technique at making meringue...right up until we watched the America's Test Kitchen episode on making the World's Best Lemon Meringue Pie. Their recipe and method? A precise and exact duplicate of my mother's. According to them, this is a "pro secret" to stabilizing a meringue. (That quelled the raised eyebrows hence!) My mother finds their "pro secret" hysterically funny. She says hers came about as a total happy accident one day with some cornstarch...
There are two parts to her meringue. Here's what you do:
Part 1: Combine 1/3 cup water and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into a saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until the stuff thickens and clears and vaguely resembles Vaseline. (No. Not kidding here.) Allow the stuff to cool completely to room temperature.
Go ahead and pull out 4 large eggs from the fridge, separate and set the whites aside to come to room temperature, too. Reserve the yolks for another use.
In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Mix well and set aside.
When the cornstarch mixture is cooled...:
Part 2: Place the egg whites and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla into a scrupulously clean mixer bowl. Begin whisking slowly at first until it begins to foam, then increase speed to high and begin adding the sugar mix one tablespoon at a time, whisking until the sugar is dissolved before adding more. Repeat until all the sugar is aded and whip until soft peaks form. Now, turn down the speed to medium and begin adding the cornstarch mix in spatula-sized globs (half to a third at a time) and incorporate. Raise speed to high and whip until you reach a very stiff, thick peak. They will be firm, rigid and glossy.
Dollop about 2/3 of the meringue around the pie perimeter and spread toward the center, then add the remainder to the center building a dome. Then spike with the back of a large spoon.
Bake in a 325-degree (F) oven for 20-30 minutes until the meringue is a light brown.
This one's just right for you, PA. I've made it many times in absolute downpours with narry a disappointment!
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