August 15 is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day and Julia Child’s birthday! I’m a lifelong Julia fan. She was on the fuzzy little television in my kitchen when I stood on a chair beside my mom at just three years learning to make scrambled eggs, telling us to have no fear and just enjoy. I was even on a Food Network series earlier this year that was centered around her passion for cooking and life. So I’m celebrating both occasions by making my family’s Lemon Meringue Pie with Toasted Swiss Meringue, and following some of Julia’s iconic advice for being in the kitchen while I prepare it.
Such as…always read the recipe first.
Be sure you have all of the ingredients to make this sweet summer dessert, and have your mise en place ready to roll because this recipe, while fairly simple and easy to follow, needs to move smoothly, like a dance.
Remembering that there’s no end to imagination in the kitchen, or in life.
Julia didn’t just talk the talk, she walked the walk. She lived a life that broke barriers, paved new ways for opportunity, and wrote new rules for women because she never acknowledged or believed in limits. She began cooking in her 30’s, wasn’t afraid to start something new or constantly learn, grown and evolve, and worked passionately at what she loved until the very end.
My personal favorite: every woman should have a blowtorch.
You’ll need a kitchen torch for toasting this meringue topping. Plus, this is literally one of the MOST fun tools you will have in your kitchen arsenal.
And, most importantly, to have no fear, tons of FUN, and make no apologies when you're in the kitchen!
Perfect example: I sometimes get called out about the shell for this pie. This is a family recipe, and calls for a prepared pie shell. It brings back beautiful family food memories of being in the kitchen together and my journey as a lifelong home cook. For us, the heart of the matter is that we’re a long line of home cooks, and not bakers first. We enjoy baking, but never mind little shortcuts like this if it makes baking together more enjoyable and stress-free. We all know it, and we’re ok embracing it (by the way, Julia was totally ok with using a prepared pie shell...just saying).
More than anything, Julia wanted us to feel confident and enjoy our time exploring in the kitchen. If that means homemade pastry for some, and a prepared pie shell for others, then that’s cool! Create an experience in the kitchen that sparks joy and invites you to create food memories with the people you love most.
Happy National Lemon Meringue Pie Day, and happy birthday, Julia! I continue to be grateful for the impact you’ve had on the world of food, cooking, and finding joy not just in the kitchen, but in life. Bon appétit!
Shop Heilala Vanilla Extract and more in the Feedfeed Shop!
- 1 prepared frozen deep dish 9-inch pastry pie shell
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 1/ 2 cups cane sugar
- 1/ 3 cup plus two tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 1/ 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons unsalted, softened butter
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 1/ 2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 3 lemons)
- 3 drops yellow food coloring, (optional for intensified color)
- 8 egg whites, (zero trace of yolk)
- 2 cups sugar
- pinch kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Prepare as instructed on package, poking bottom of crust with a fork and baking for recommended max time, usually 12 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F degrees.
In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with a whisk or fork. Place aside. In a large, non-stick saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar and cornstarch, adding water gradually, whisking constantly until mixture thickens. Once at a boil, stir 1 minute more.
Add half of the mixture to the egg yolks, whisking constantly for 30 seconds to temper. Add mixture back to yolks. Bring to a boil and stir 2 minutes.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and optional food coloring until combined.
Pour hot mixture into pie shell. Bake 22-25 minutes, until center jiggles slightly and outer perimeter remains still.
Cool 20 minutes. Place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.
In a large bowl, whisk to combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Fill a medium pot with 2-3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl over simmering water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Add mixture to the bowl, stirring gently and consistently until the sugar has dissolved and it reaches a temperature of 175F degrees on a candy or laser thermometer. Mixture should have no grains of sugar in it.
Pour the hot mixture into a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer. Using whisk attachment, beat on medium-low utility foamy, 3-4 minutes.
Gradually increase to high speed, until stiff peaks form, resembling that of marshmallow fluff, drooping only slightly when lifted from the mixer.
Add vanilla extract. Mix 1 minute on medium speed just until incorporated.
Pour over chilled pie. Toast immediately with a kitchen torch. Serve immediately. Store in refrigerator.