Am I the only one who thinks that pie crust is often the worst part of the pie? Even the best pie crusts can be a little underwhelming since they’re so often overshadowed by the filling inside.
Enter: shortbread pie crust!
Shortbread, in all its crumbly, buttery goodness, lends itself perfectly to supporting pies, bars, and pretty much any dessert you can think of. It’s thicker than pie crust and, in my opinion, a lot more flavorful.
I chose lemon meringue for this pie because I think all the best desserts have a non-sweet element to them, such as acidity, salt, or bitterness – think key lime, salted caramel, or dark chocolate. I love adding citrus to desserts, so lemon filling was a no-brainer.
This pie has distinct layers that each bring something different to the table. The shortbread is buttery, crumbly, and perfectly salty. The lemon layer is smooth, bright, and very rich from the addition of an egg yolk. The meringue on top is simple, chewy, and very sweet – kind of like marshmallow. Biting into it gives you a medley of beautiful textures that work perfectly together.
Lemon Meringue Pie with Shortbread Crust
- 1 ½ sticks (12 tbsp) cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 6 tbsp lemon juice not from concentrate
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 ½ tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 egg whites
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- Preheat the oven to 350º F and grease a 9" pie pan. Line the pan with parchment, pressing it into the sides so it keeps the shape of the pan. Trim the parchment so there's about 1" of overhang all around.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Use your fingers to work in the cold butter until the mixture is coarse, crumbly, and fully combined.
- Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan, using your hands or a flat surface (like the bottom of a glass) to smooth it out evenly. Use a fork to prick holes all around the shortbread.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden. Let cool slightly before adding the lemon filling, 5 minutes or so. Keep the oven on.
- While the shortbread bakes, whisk together all the filling ingredients until no lumps of flour remain. Pour the mixture over the cooked and cooled shortbread, then return to the oven.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the lemon filling is firm.
- While the lemon filling bakes, prepare the meringue. Heat a double boiler with a heatproof glass bowl. Add the egg whites and sugar to the bowl and whisk over the simmering water until the sugar dissolves, a few minutes. This ensures the egg whites are safe to eat.
- Remove the bowl from the double boiler and add the cream of tartar. Use an electric mixer to beat the mixture until stiff peaks form, about 15 minutes on high speed.
- Heat the oven to low broil. Use an offset spatula to spread the meringue evenly over the top of the pie, leaving a small border. Broil for 3-4 minutes, checking every 30 seconds, until the meringue has dried slightly and taken on a little color. Alternatively, heat the oven to high broil and broil for 20-30 seconds, monitoring it constantly. This option creates deeper color and softer meringue, but is prone to burning.
- Let the pie cool for 30-60 minutes at room temperature, then transfer uncovered to the fridge to chill completely, about 4 hours or overnight. Do not slice the pie until it has chilled completely.