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Three Lemon Pies

Lemon Meringue Pie, Lemon Chess Pie and Lemon Chiffon Pie


Dyed-in-the-wool chocolate lovers often fail to properly acknowledge the many desserts not calling for any derivative of the cocoa bean. Therefore, this month's Desserts feature article deservedly falls upon not one, but three luscious lemon pies, all of which have been popular favorites for years.

A major theme of Texas Cooking, of course, is to encourage cooks to seek the benefits of cooking from scratch those things many of us are accustomed to grabbing off the supermarket shelves. Do not allow your taste buds to fall victim to the mediocre.

"Why pies?," you say. "They are so much trouble, and I can't make pie crust."

"Pshaw," I say. To my way of thinking, pies are the perfect dessert. They only make 6 to 8 servings, depending upon the generosity of the slicer, so they are usually gone within 24 hours or less (or at least they are at my house). So they stay really fresh, and there is less for me to eat (not wise for me to eat pie every day). And besides, they aren't hard to make. Many people think pies have to win beauty contests. They are missing the point, and the point is TASTE.

Of course, it's quicker to use frozen pie shells. But I imagine that anyone who has gotten this far into a cooking website is interested in more than speed. Certainly, frozen pie shells are okay in a pinch, but I encourage those who consider themselves pastry-challenged to give a chance to the simple pie crust recipe listed below. Get yourself one of those hand-held pastry blender gadgets and some waxed paper. That's all the equipment you will need.

The first of our Three Lemons is Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie. This pie attains the perfect balance between tart and sweet, and is a real beauty. It looks impressive, and it is (meringue can cover a world of flaws). The recipe for the pie, the meringue and the pie crust is listed below. Our other two lemons are just a click away.

The Lemon Chess Pie is so easy and good. To my mind, this is an old fashioned pie. The ingredients are so simple. You just mix it up, pour it in the pie shell, and bake it.

The third jewel in the spotlight is Lemon Chiffon Pie. This pie may look intimidating, but it really isn't. I do recommend that you have a really good electric mixer, however. Light, high and fine textured, this pie is a delightful ending to a spicy meal.

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie

"They are so much trouble, and I can't make pie crust."
  • 1-1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1-1/2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 baked, cooled 9-inch piecrust
Combine the sugar, flour, salt and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir constantly over medium-high to high heat (depending upon your cooktop, especially if it's electric) until mixture boils. Boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Slightly beat the egg yolks in a bowl with a fork. Mix half the boiled mixture with the egg yolks. Then put the egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the boiled ingredients, and cook for 1 more minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter.

Grate 1 lemon and add the grated peel, together with the juice of 1-1/2 lemons. Mix thoroughly.

Pour into the cooled, baked piecrust. Put the meringue (recipes follow) on the filling while the filling is hot to prevent weeping, and seal meringue to edge of pastry. Bake in a 375°F oven 10 to 12 minutes or until nicely browned.


  • 3 egg whites (from extra large or jumbo eggs)
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Have egg whites at room temperature. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with electric mixer on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in vanilla. Bake at 375°F 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Generally speaking, the proportion of sugar to egg whites is 2 to 1 (e.g., for a 4-egg meringue, use 8 tablespoons of sugar; vanilla and cream of tartar can remain the same).

Also, remember that meringue pies cut better with a wet knife blade.

Standard Pastry

For a single-crust pie
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1/2 cup Crisco or other good shortening
Place the Crisco in a bowl. Over it, pour 1 cup of the flour and the salt. With your pastry blender (some old timers use a fork), cut the flour and salt into the Crisco until somewhat mixed. Mix the 1/4 cup of reserved flour with the 2-1/2 tablespoons (estimate, or, if you must be exact, a half tablespoon equals 1-1/2 teaspoons) in a small cup to make a smooth paste. Pour the paste over the pastry mixture and continue cutting in with the pastry blender until incorporated. The less you work the dough, the better the pastry.

Form pastry into a ball of dough, flatten and roll between sheets of waxed paper (you may see little veins of Crisco here and there, but that's okay) to a thickness of about 1/8 inch and 1 inch wider than pie pan. Peel off top piece of waxed paper (tear off in pieces, if you like), invert pie pan on dough surface, turn over, center dough on pie pan, and peel off second sheet of waxed paper. (If any little tears in the dough result, it's okay, just pinch it back together.) Trim dough to a 1-inch overhang, then turn under to make an edge. You can put a fancy crimp in the edge at this point, if you wish.

For a pre-baked pie shell, prick bottom and sides of pastry with a fork to allow steam to escape (those pie pans with the holes in them are good for this purpose), and bake in a 425°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is nicely browned.

For a two-crust pie, simply double this recipe.

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