If you love jumbo slices of lemon meringue pie from the diner like we do, then this is going to be your new favorite recipe. From Stella Parks's new cookbook, BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts, this pie adds the richness of coconut and brightness of lemongrass to the classic lemon meringue. A tart custard fills the all-butter crust before getting topped with double the amount of marshmallow-like meringue—our preferred ratio of custard to topping.
It may look like a beast of a recipe, but it's by no means difficult. Follow a few key tips, and you'll set yourself up for success. First, you must use nonreactive equipment throughout the recipe; otherwise, the acid in the custard will cause the pie to take on a harsh metallic flavor. Second, follow precise temperatures; they're the best tests for achieving the right consistency in many of the components, like the meringue, for example. Finally, patience is key. You're going to spend a lot of time making this pie, and you'll need just as long to let it chill before slicing it if you want to make sure it sets properly.
To learn more, read "American Beauty."
Coconut-Lemongrass Lemon Meringue Pie
Recipe adapted from 'BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts,' by Stella Parks (W. W. Norton & Company)
Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 1 hour, plus cooling and chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, plus cooling and chilling time
For the Crust:
1¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon (8 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon (½ ounce) granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup (4 ounces) cold water
For the Lemon Custard:
1¾ cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (2½ ounces) cornstarch
½ cup (about 8 each/5 ounces) egg yolks (reserve whites for the meringue)
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup (8 ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup coconut water
One 14-ounce can (1⅔ cups) coconut milk
For the Meringue:
1 cup (about 8 each/8 ounces) egg whites
1¾ cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1. Make the crust: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and toss to break up the pieces, using your fingers to smash each piece into the flour. Stir in the water and knead until a dough forms.
2. Transfer to a generously floured work surface and roll into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle. Fold each shorter end toward the middle and fold the dough in half at the middle seam like a book. Fold the top to the bottom to make a thick block, then cut it in half. Using as much flour as needed, roll one piece of the dough into a 14-inch round.
3. Brush off the excess flour and drape the round over a 9-inch glass pie plate, making sure the dough is flush with the pan. Trim the excess dough to a 1¼-inch overhang, then fold that over to create a ¾-inch border on the rim of the plate. Crimp the border, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Reserve the additional round by repeating this process, then cover in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer (up to 3 months) for another pie.
4. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the chilled crust with a sheet of foil and fill with rice or beans. Place the pie plate on a sheet pan and bake the dough until golden brown, 1 hour. Remove the foil and let cool completely.
5. Make the custard: In a food processor, pulse the sugar and lemongrass until the lemongrass is finely chopped. Transfer the sugar-lemongrass mixture to a 3-quart saucepan and add the salt and cornstarch, whisking to combine. Whisk in the egg yolks, lemon zest and juice, and coconut water and milk. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking gently, until the custard is steaming hot and has reached 135°, 5 to 7 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and continue cooking until the custard is thick, about 3 minutes more. Once thickened, whisk 2 minutes more to neutralize a starch-dissolving protein found in egg yolks.
6. Remove from the heat and strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing with a flexible spatula to push the liquid through. Discard the lemongrass left in the sieve.
7. Scrape the custard into the prepared crust, spreading it into an even layer, and let cool on the counter until a skin forms over the surface, about 30 minutes. Proceed to the next step, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed, up to 24 hours.
8. Make the meringue: Fill a 3-quart pot with 1½ inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla seeds. Place over the steamy water, stirring and scraping constantly with a flexible spatula until thin, foamy and 175° on a digital thermometer, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on high until glossy, thick and quadrupled in volume, about 5 minutes. Use immediately.
9. Finish the pie: Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread the meringue over the custard, working gently if it’s still warm and ensuring it meets the crust all the way around. Sculpt into swoops and swirls with the tines of a fork.
10. Line a sheet pan with a wire rack, place the pie on top and bake until the whole surface is light gold with slightly darker peaks, 20 minutes. Cool for 1 hour at room temperature, then wrap loosely in plastic and refrigerate until cold (60° on a digital thermometer), 4 hours if the filling was warm or 1 hour if it was cold to start.
11. To serve, cut the pie into wedges with a chef’s knife, rinsing the blade under running water between each slice. Pro tip: After cutting the first piece, leave it in place to hold its neighbors secure, preventing the meringue from toppling over while you slice the rest. Use an angled pie server to lift out each piece.