Classic tart and sweet Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Pie with a simple cookie crumb crust, smooth and creamy lemon curd, and topped with a fluffy toasted meringue. Baked in jars, or the traditional way.
If you look at the calendar (at least), spring is here! It may still be bone-chilling cold here in New York, but the days are longer and the light seems, well, lighter. Oh, and I’m already running from one part of town to another in the afternoons to get everyone to their respective spring sports practices and lessons and general merry goings-on. All this means that I’ve got lighter fare on my mind, like these gluten free lemon meringue pies (baked in jars!), crepes and light-as-air Japanese cheesecake. You too?
I went with lemon meringue pie in jars, rather than, well, as a traditional pie, and I did it for a few reasons. Let’s discuss.
Traditional lemon meringue pie is a wee bit fussy. If you want a clean slice of pie (and let’s be honest who doesn’t?), you need to get the lemon curd filling just right, and your meringue must sit directly on top of the still-hot filling. Plus, you must create a proper seal between the crust of the pie and the meringue while the meringue is baked, or the pie will fall and weep. So sad! Those elements all play a role in this pies-in-jars situation (or ramekins if you don’t have mason jars), but since you’re not slicing anything there’s a larger margin for error. And who doesn’t like a little margin for error? No one, that’s who.
In case you’re wondering, though, the answer is yes! You absolutely can use this very same recipe and turn it into a traditional pie. You can make a bottom crust out of pie crust, too, if you like (use one-half the pie crust recipe from my favorite apple pie), or stick with the graham cracker crust. Either way, you’ll need to par-bake the crust and then let it cool. Then, pour the hot lemon curd in the cooled crust, and top immediately with the already-prepared meringue. You want the bottom of the meringue to begin to cook the moment it touches the hot filling. Be sure to create a seal between the meringue and the crust by spreading the meringue all the way to the edges of the pie. Allow the pie to cool to room temperature after baking, and then chill for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving. Or … just serve it my favorite way, in individual jars or ramekins.
Gluten Free Lemon Meringue Pie—in Jars
For the Crust
8 ounces gluten free graham crackers or other crispy gluten free cookies (*I used the gluten free Nabisco Honey Maid-Style Cinnamon Graham Crackers from page 195 of Gluten Free Classic Snacks* Too mean?), crushed into crumbs
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Meringue Topping
4 egg whites (about 4 ounces), at room temperature
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons (75 g) granulated sugar
For the Lemon Curd Filling
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (26 g) basic gum-free gluten free flour blend (17 grams superfine white rice flour + 6 grams potato starch + 3 grams tapioca starch/flour), or an equal amount of superfine sweet white rice flour
3 tablespoons (27 g) cornstarch
1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) milk
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
4 egg yolks (about 4 ounces), at room temperature
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom half of four 16-ounce mason jars (or other similarly-sized heat-safe containers, like 16-ounce ramekins). Place them on a small, parchment-lined baking sheet, and set the baking sheet aside.
First, make the crust. Combine the crust ingredients in a medium-size bowl until all of the crumbs are moistened by the melted butter. Divide the crust evenly among the prepared jars or ramekins, and press the crust into an even, compact layer on the bottom of each container. Place the baking sheet with the containers in the center of the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set the jars aside to cool.
Make the meringue. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large bowl with a handheld mixer. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat until frothy. Add the lemon juice, and continue to beat until the mixture has nearly doubled in volume. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the sugar in a slow, steady stream. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until glossy soft peaks form (soft peaks stand up and then slowly fall over on themselves). Set the meringue aside while you make the lemon curd.
Make the lemon curd filling. In a medium-size, heavy-bottom saucepan, place the sugar, flour blend, cornstarch, milk, lemon juice and lemon zest, and whisk to combine well. Place the egg yolks in a medium-size heat-safe bowl, set next to the stovetop. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. In a very, very slow trickle, pour about half of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This step will temper the eggs so they do not scramble. Pour the warm egg yolk and milk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk mixture, and return to the heat. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened enough that the whisk leaves a very visible trail in the mixture.
Assemble the pies and bake. Working quickly, divide the hot lemon curd filling evenly among the jars, right on top of the crusts. Divide the meringue topping evenly among the containers, gently pressing the meringue down on top of the lemon curd. A large ice cream scoop is useful in placing the meringue. Place the baking sheet with the pies on it back in the center of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. The meringues will expand a bit, and the tops should brown lightly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for as long as you like before serving. You can serve these pies chilled, at room temperature, or even warm. To serve them chilled, allow the pies to cool for about an hour at room temperature, and then place them in the refrigerator to chill for about 2 hours.