Calling all lemon lovers! A buttery shortbread crust, super smooth lemon curd filling and golden swirls of meringue come together in this sweet and tart lemon dream.
Sometimes you hear a song or smell a smell or take bite of something and you’re instantly transported to another time or place. To a memory so vivid and sharp that you’re actually living in it again for a spilt second.
One bite of lemon meringue pie and I am ten years old, sitting on our back porch on a warm summer evening digging into a tart lemon pie piled high with swirls of fluffy meringue. We’ve got a house full of family, Frank Sinatra crooning in the background and pot after pot of coffee perking on the stove. I had been dreaming of dessert all day after watching my mom roll out the dough, stir the warm lemon filling and whip the egg whites. I knew she was making my dad’s favorite, lemon meringue pie.
Finally when the dinner dishes were cleared and stacked and coffee cups filled, it was dessert time. Sandwiched between plates of iced Italian cookies on the table stood the pie, just waiting to be sliced. When I got my slice I made sure that my first bite had a little bit of everything; buttery crust, lemon filling and sweet meringue. It was worth the wait.
But that memory isn’t just about the taste of the pie, I also remember feeling so happy and excited on those summer nights when family gathered. The smell of the air, the whirr of the blender if the grown-ups were on a frozen cocktail kick, the sound of laughter. My dad was as happy as you’d ever see him, laughing easily at my uncle’s jokes with that glint in his green eyes reserved for nights like this.
My dad is always at his best when surrounded by family. He’s a man of fierce tradition and loyalty, but has a much softer center than his tough exterior let’s on. I see a lot of my dad in myself as I grow older…a stubborn streak, the desire to perfect a craft, the expression of love through food and hosting. We also share the way we experience our favorite foods, especially sweets. We get almost giddy before the first bite of a hot fudge sundae or have the eagerness of a child when freshly baked cookies are pulled from the oven.
I know my dad was just as excited as I was to take that first bite of lemon meringue pie all those years ago. In fact, every time I make a lemon dessert I think of my dad. Before my parents came down to watch the kids last weekend I knew just the way to celebrate his recent birthday and an early Father’s Day…a lemon meringue tart. It’s an updated version of the classic pie from my youth with buttery shortbread crust and a silky lemon curd filling topped with peaks of meringue, golden brown from the oven.
That lemon tart said more than a sappy greeting card ever could. It was baked full of memories, love and respect. I hope his first bite transported him to that same place it brought me…warm nights filled with family and easy laughter. Happy Father’s Day Dad.
- 6 oz Lorna Doone shortbread cookies or similar brand
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter melted
- Lemon Curd Filing
- 1 cup lemon juice from 4-5 lemons
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 12 Tbsp unsalted butter cold and cut into 12 pieces
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- *9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom
Crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Process the cookies in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until finely ground. (Alternatively you can smash them with a rolling pin or mallet inside of a plastic bag.) Mix in the melted butter and press the crumbs into the bottom and up the side of the tart pan.
Use the bottom of a glass or a tamper to firmly press the crumbs down. Bake for 8 mins and remove to a wire rack to cool.
Lemon Curd Filling: Combine everything except the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until thickened, about 10 mins.
Add the cold butter, one piece at a time and whisk until blended before adding the next piece.
Remove from heat and pass the lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
Pour the lemon curd into the baked shell and smooth the top.
Meringue: Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature while you make the lemon curd.
Whip the egg whites and cream of tarter on high speed until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the sugar while whipping and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
Spoon or use a piping bag fitted with a star tip to pipe the meringue over the top of the lemon curd and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
Cool completely before slicing and serving. Pie may be refrigerated overnight, although the meringue may weep slightly.