Wednesday 3 June 2009

Is it a Tart or a Pie?

I couldn't help but grabbed 6 lemons when I saw them on the supermarket cart two weeks ago. They look so fresh and are much larger than the usual ones I bought. It was such a good deal, I got them at 35 cents each, almost half of what I usually have to pay.

With such beautiful lemons, I thought I should really get my hands to work on this Lemon Meringue Pie recipe which I have been keeping for the past two years. I didn't have the courage to take up the challenge to make such a pie as the recipe looks so intimidating which entails putting three totally different parts together. I am comfortable with making the crust, but the lemon fillings requires the use of the stove, something which I am really bad at it; and till now it remains a mystery whether I have been beating the egg whites correctly? On top of that, I have never even tasted a lemon meringue pie!

Anyway I felt very brave the other day, and went ahead to give it a try. After looking through the recipe, I didn't like that the pastry crust requires more butter than the usual tart recipe that I am familiar with. So I made the crust by adapting the peach tart recipe, which is a good thing, since I do not own a pie pan or a dish, I could turn it to a tart instead of a pie.

As usual, before I jump-in to make something alien, I looked up the internet for more information. It is interesting to learn that besides the type of pan to use, there are other differences between a lemon meringue Pie and a lemon meringue Tart. The filling of a lemon meringue Pie comes in the form of a custard, made with little or no butter and uses cornstarch or flour for thickening. While a lemon meringue Tart is filled with lemon curd which does not contain cornstarch or flour. The filling for the Tart contains more lemon juice and zest than the custard filling of a Pie. The lemon curd is made with butter which makes the texture smoother and creamier.

Another general difference between a Pie and a Tart is the amount of filling that goes into it. A Pie will hold more filling as compared to a tart since it is baked in a deeper pan. With the sheer amount of filling, the sides of a Pie would collapse if it were removed from its pan, and for this reason, pies are usually served from their baking pans. With less filling in a Tart, the crust plays a more prominent role in terms of texture and flavour, and so, it is important to make sure the crust is tasty.

With the above findings, I realised that what I have made is neither a Lemon Meringue Pie or a Lemon Meringue Tart :')

The filling is meant for a pie but since I used a tart pan, it is now a tart. Other than the crust, I followed the rest of the recipe rather closely. I even attempted to pipe a 'decorative' border around the rim of the tart. I have meant to pipe 'shells' just like the ones in the recipe, however, with zero skills and knowledge on piping, I ended up with just a border of undulating waves!

If you were to do a search on lemon meringue pie, it is inevitable that you will come to know that the meringue can actually "weep". Although I tried to follow some of the tips here, here and here to prevent my pie from crying, my tart still weeps a little. It also doesn't help that the meringue in this recipe is made the "Italian way"...that is, a hot sugar syrup is added to the beaten egg whites to cook it...this is suppose to make the meringue more stable. Well, besides my lousy skills plus my unreliable oven, I have nothing else but the humid weather to blame for my sobbing tart.

Other than the weeping bit, I really like the taste of this dessert. I am also surprised at the interesting flavours it offers...a combination of a little sweetness and a little tartness. The meringue on top is pillowy soft, fluffy, and sweet, very much like biting into cotton candies. The custard filling is very refreshing with the right tartness that balances well with both the sweet meringue and the crust. I'll have to classify this tart under the category: 'can't stop at just one slice'.

Lemon Meringue Tart/Pie

(makes one 18cm tart)

Pastry Crust:
100g cake flour
30g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter , soften at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15g) lightly beaten egg

250ml milk
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g cornstarch
30g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
zest of 1 large lemon
juice of 1 large lemon (about 70-80 ml)
(use a strainer to remove any seeds and pulp from the juice)

3 egg whites
50g caster sugar

sugar syrup:
3 tablespoons water
100g caster sugar

    For Pastry Crust:
  1. Lightly grease an 18cm tart pan, set aside. Sieve flour, set aside.
  2. With a manual whisk, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Dribble in the egg, whisk and mix well. Sieve over the flour in 2 to 3 additions into the batter. Fold the mixture gently with a spatula each time the flour is added.
  3. Form and shape the pastry into a round disc. Roll out the pastry in between 2 sheets of baking paper or 2 sheets of cut-out plastic bags, to about 23cm in diameter. Remove one side of the baking paper. Carefully flip the pastry over the prepared tart pan. Remove the other baking paper. Mould the pastry into the tart pan, smoothing the edges and the rim carefully. If the pastry is too soft to handle, chill it in the fridge for 10~15 mins.
  4. Chill the moulded pastry in the fridge for 20mins. (This helps to prevent the pastry from shrinking too much after baking.)
  5. Use a fork to prick holes on the pastry surface. Brush the top of the rim with egg wash. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degC for 10~12 mins until the edges turned slightly browned. Let cool completely.
  6. For Filling:
  7. In a mixing bowl, with a manual whisk, whisk egg yolks with a little bit of the milk. Add in sugar and corn flour, mix well.
  8. In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the hot milk gradually to the yolk mixture, whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over a sieve and return it to the saucepan. Boil the mixture on Low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture just starts to boil. When it boils, continue to stir constantly for another 1 minute, the mixture will become very thick and very difficult to stir. It is important to stir the mixture constantly as it cooks so that it thickens but doesn't turn lumpy or get burnt at the bottom.
  9. Remove mixture from heat and whisk in the butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the filling into the baked pastry crust and smooth the top. Chill tart in fridge.
  10. For Meringue:
  11. To make the sugar syrup: in a saucepan, stir water and sugar and bring the syrup to a boil. Turn to low heat.
  12. In a clean mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip at the same time until stiff peaks form.
  13. Slowly drizzle it the hot sugar syrup into the beaten egg white in a steady stream and continue to beat the mixture at the same time until the egg white becomes thick and glossy.
  14. With a spatula, pile the tart surface with about 2/3 of the meringue. Shape the meringue into a tall dome and gently press down on the meringue to get rid of any air pockets. Make sure the edges are all covered with the meringue, leaving no filling exposed. Work quickly before the meringue starts to cool and set, make a few decorative swirls and peaks with the back of a spoon. Place the remaining meringue in a piping bag and pipe a decorative border on the rim of the tart. Bake the tart in a pre-heated oven at 230 degC for 2 to 3 mins or until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served on the day it is made.


Baking gal said...

This is one of my favourite dessert and it looks really yummy! Afraid I don't have the guts to try even your peach tart/triple almond tart. =(

Great one HHB! Can only envy your creations from afar.

The Little Teochew said...

Doesn't matter if it's a tart or pie, it looks AMAZING!!! YOU are amazing! Wow.

Anonymous said...


Just passing by..GREAT looking tart/pie. It's one of my faves too! Good job.


May said...

What a gorgeous dessert! Absolutely one of my favorite. My mother used to make it as a cake.
Well done for being brave and trying new stuff! :)

Kanadisches Mädchen said...

Being a Canadian who has enjoyed many Lemon Meringue Pies I must commend you on your work. That looks delicious and would love to dig in right now!

Yuri said...

Good job, HHB, I really admire your work. I've been eyeing this one for so long, each time I buy lemons I would think of this. However, haven't summoned enough guts and determination to attempt it.

ann low said...

Have tried to make this recipe before but not as good as yours...nice job!

Kitchen Corner said...

WOW! Really admire you could bake such a beautiful tart. I keep a few meringue pie recipes but just do not have the courage to make it. Your works really encourage me to try it. Thanks for sharing!

agapejen said...

Amazing HHB. I have been waiting for your post for the Lemon Meringue Tart since the day I saw that beautiful picture in your blog.... Very delicious but seem too difficult for me.

Is school holiday for your children... maybe you wanna take this time to consider selling your bakeries...

If you do, please accept my order for the Lemon Meringue tart....

Anonymous said...

Pie or tart, it looks stunning! I've always marvelled at photos of it, but have never given it a go myself. You just gave me the nudge I need!

Pink Lavender 10 said...

Hi HHB, noticed that your recipe didn't mention that you heat up the pie and fillings before you spoon the meringue on top. Could this be the reason for the weeping? I read in those sites that you linked that the filling has to be piping hot to ensure that the meringue cooks properly and no weeping.

I'm not an expert but just thought that you might have overlooked this point?

Anyway, it's sure looks good, I'm gonna try it too! Wish me luck!

Small Small Baker said...

This is pretty!

I always thought pies and tarts are almost the same. I didn't know the differences between them. Thanks for sharing the info.

I have never made meringue before. Looks difficult. I shall see when I'm courageous enough to try this recipe. :)

Happy Flour said...

Hi Happy Home Baker,

This is tempting. I can imagine the citrus taste of lemon. Yummy. :)

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Yuri, Grace, Ovenhaven, do try make a lemon meringue pie, I would love to learn from you :D

Hi agapejen, thanks for your comments, I am not qualified to sell my bakes. I am sure you can make your own lemon meringue tart, it is not as difficult as I thought.

Hi Pink Lavender,
Yes, I read the tips on keeping the filling Hot before piling on the meringue. However, I followed the method stated in the recipe since it was the first time I made this. For this recipe, the filling has to be chilled, and it uses Italian meringue. It is almost the same as the recipe posted in, which will prevent weeping. I suspect it was largely due to my oven temperature. The pie should be baked at a high temperature, however, my oven temperature drops by 20 degC once I put in the pie, and it took longer than required for the meringue to brown. I am looking forward to reading about your lemon meringue pie, I am sure I will be able to learn something from you :)
Good Luck!

ReeseKitchen said...

This is my favourite pie! Actually i've bought a pie recipe book last 2 weeks but haven't got the courage to bake it. hee hee! I think i should give it a try after seeing urs, it really look nice!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Beautiful! Your first time ever? Seriously?? This looks like a professional pie/ tart. There's nothing you can do in humid weather to stop a meringue from weeping. Except it it all up quickly.

Wen-Chi said...

Hi.. nice meringue! One tip, no matter what they say in the recipe, Italian meringue or not, always spread it on HOT lemon filling, then immediately into the hot oven, I always go about 25 degree F higher than the recommend since home oven doesn't hold heat as well as the commercial one. Hope this help!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

What a terrific post! I was just at Borders the other day and picked up a book titled "Pies," but when I looked at the pics, they all looked like "tarts" to me. I think the type of dish matters too, which gets to your point about the amount of filling. Thanks!

Aimei said...

I have eaten lemon meringue tart before and just like what you described, it's pillowy soft and sweet, like biting into cotton. Thumbs up for your first try!

Anonymous said...

the pie looks stunning,so beautiful.It's my favourite dessert but till now still didnt have enough courage to try baking it, everytime I bought lemons, I will think of making lemon pie but end up making cheesecake isntead.

Missy said...

Pie or tart.... i think it looks stunning and awesome! as long as it tastes great, who cares :)

Passionate About Baking said...

It was said any baker to be successful, can bake a nice lemon meringue tart. Need I say more about you? ;)

agapejen said...

Thanks for your encouragement and tips. I tried it last evening, and it turn out quite nice except the peaks of a few tall dome was slightly burnt, which I will of cos blame the oven for uneven heat :P.
It taste nice and refreshing, like you have said and my son asked for a second helping!
But I have not tasted a Lemom Meringue tart/pie before, is it supposed to be very sour (filling), moderate or just mild?

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi agapejen, glad to hear that you have tried this! Did you have a great sense of achievement when the finished pie/tart was taken out of the oven? I did!

It was also the first time I tasted a lemon meringue pie. So I really do not know what a 'standard' pie should taste like! If I were to eat the filling alone, I found it to be quite sour, but if I have it one mouthful with the meringue, then the sourness is just moderate to mild. What about you?

Baking gal said...


I was wondering where you bought your 18 cm pan? I have been trying to look for it but Phoon Huat only sells the 20cm one. Does yours come with a removable base?


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Baking gal, I got my 18cm tart pan from Phoon Huat, it comes with a removable base.

Baking gal said...

Thanks HHB!

I'll go and look for it. =)

agapejen said...

Ya, I had a great sense of achievement when I took out my tart... I felt like a great baker! ha ha..
It taste just right if you eat the '3-layers' together. Unfortunately, my son ate the meringue - he said it taste like cotton wool and 'force' the lemon filling into my mouth...he said he loves me so must share-share. Not a fair deal though :(

Fai said...

Hi HHB, impressive looking pie/tart. =p I must give the lemon meringue pie a go some day... but I feel a bit intmidated as I've never made one before. Oh well, there's a first time for everything!

About whipping the egg whites, according to the 'How To Bake' book found on,

'At a soft peak stage, the tips of the soft peaks will bend over.'

But, in the stiff peak stage, 'the meringue should be glossy and the tips should stand straight up.'

Hope this helps you to determine if the egg whites have been whipped correctly next time. ;)

Fai said...

Check this out:

They have a lil section on how to prevent weeping meringues. =)

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Fai, thanks so much for your useful tips, it certainly helps :D

Anonymous said...


May I know, how you mould the pastry ?

Do you roll out first ?


Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Ling, please refer to Step 3. The pastry has to be rolled out first.

Rachel said...

Is it a pie or tart ?
I had thought about this question b4, too :P

For my own explanation, I think mostly the filling in a pie is covered with sth on top like lattice top, meringue, whipped cream, etc, but not fruits, and importantly the filling of a pie is always quite liquid/wet.
On the other hand, fillings of tarts normally are not covered and are quite solid.

I tried lemon meringue pie last month, it is quite sour and I think the lemon zest & butter combination makes the custard taste a bit funny like some kind of washing liquid thing haha :P
Just the lemon creamy smell was so hard to remove after eating it.

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Rachel, I have the same thinking as you :) I associate those "open" ones as tarts and "covered" ones as pies. I think the type of pans also makes a difference...pie pans are ususally deeper and the sides are not necessary fluted.

Ronni said...


I am so glad you made this. Cos of your research, I was more confident of doing this and did it! Unfortunately my meringue got slightly burnt in the oven and did not turn out to be as nicely browned like yours. :P

Still nice though and we finished it in 10mins.



i've never been able to find a recipe that turns out well for me. You and your little oven have inspired me lol Hope my turbo oven won't kill it. I'll report back lol :)
Love the way you write about your cooking adventures..I'm now a follower.