Lighter Lemon Meringue Pie

We’ve updated this zesty classic to reduce the fat by about half, and modified the meringue topping so that the egg whites are fully cooked. This pie keeps well in the refrigerator for up to two days. The following changes were made in the recipe to convert it to a low-calorie, low-fat version. We:

  • reduced the amount of egg yolks
  • eliminated the milk, butter and sour cream from the filling
  • substituted a meringue topping for the whipped cream
  • substituted a cholesterol-free pastry for a regular pie crust
Before After
Calories 510 364
Fat (g.) 34 9.8
% Calories from Fat 60% 24%
Cholesterol (mg.) 151 26

No-Cholesterol Pastry
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons canola or safflower oil
1 tablespoon nondiet tub-style canola or corn-oil margarine or butter, well-chilled and cut into small pieces
3 1/2 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pie Filling
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon very finely grated lemon zest
1 large egg yolk
7 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1 1/3 cup boiling water

Meringue
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

To Prepare the Pastry
Combine the flour and salt in a food processor. Process for 10 seconds. Sprinkle the oil and margarine or butter over the flour. Process just until the mixture is the consistency of coarse crumbs; don’t overprocess. If necessary, stop and scrape the bowl bottom and sides once or twice. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. (Alternatively, place the flour and salt in a large bowl. Use a pastry blender or forks to cut in the oil and margarine or butter.)

In a cup, mix the water and lemon juice. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of the lemon water over the flour. Mix gently with a fork until the flour is moistened and holds together. If necessary, add a bit more lemon water until the mixture is evenly moistened but not wet.

Knead the dough briefly with your hands until the flour particles are smoothly incorporated. Shape the pastry into a smooth disk. Lay the dough between 2 sheets of wax paper. Using a rolling pin and working with a pressing motion, roll the pastry into a circle. (For a 9-inch pie plate, form a 12-inch circle. For a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate or a 10-inch pie plate, form a 12 1/2-inch circle.) As you work, check the underside of the dough and smooth out any wrinkles that form. Patch tears as necessary. Peel off the top sheet of wax paper. Center the dough, paper side up, in a pie plate that you’ve coated with nonstick spray. Gently press the dough into place. Peel off the other sheet of wax paper. If any tears develop in the pastry, patch them. If the dough feels soft or warm at this point, refrigerate it for about 10 minutes. Trim the dough so the edge is even and overhangs the plate by 1/2 inch all around. Fold the overhang back into the plate to form a plump edge. Decoratively crimp the edge with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Cover the pastry with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

To Prepare the Pie
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pastry and fit it into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie plate. Prick it all over with a fork. Cover the pastry with a large sheet of heavy-duty foil and firmly smooth the foil over the pastry. Fold down the edges to completely encase the dough. Fill the plate with dry beans, uncooked rice or pie weights to weigh down the crust.

Bake on the center oven rack for 18 minutes. Remove the foil. Bake for 6 to 9 minutes longer, or until the crust is nicely browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, thoroughly combine the sugar, cornstarch and lemon zest. Add the egg yolk, lemon juice and orange juice. Whisk until smooth. Whisk in the water in a thin stream. Place the pan over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil. Continue to whisk, scraping the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Pour the mixture into the prepared crust.

To Prepare the Meringue
Place the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in large mixer bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium- low speed until frothy. Raise the mixer speed to medium and continue beating just until very soft peaks begin forming. Beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and stands in soft peaks.

Spread and swirl the meringue over the filling, being sure to seal the edges all the way around. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the meringue is nicely browned all over. Transfer to a wire rack. Let stand until cool. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Makes 6 servings.

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