The Martha Stewart Test Kitchen…. and Me.

by longtallyarn

Yesterday I made the Upside-Down Lemon Meringue Pie featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine. The pie caught my attention because it appeared to be a beautiful and refined dessert. It had mild historic interest. It is a “Martha (and test kitchen) favorite.” It sounded delicious. It had a relatively short ingredient list, which is always a plus to me. And it is gluten free.

I obtained the ingredients to make this pie for a party a couple weeks ago but discovered when I reread the instructions that I was hours, if not days, behind schedule. The second ingredient listed is “4 egg whites, room temperature.” Mine were still in the refrigerator at that point. Further down the list were instructions to cool the lemon curd for at least one hour but up to 24 hours. Further down there were instructions to put the pie in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours before topping it with the whipped cream.

I realized that I just didn’t have time for all that waiting. It was 9 pm the day before the party. Fortunately all the ingredients could wait until after the holidays, although the 2 lemons were getting a little wrinkly by New Year’s Day.

Finally, I had time to make the pie. I made a few deviations. I don’t have a 9 inch pie plate so I used a small rectangular baking dish. I found that one lemon contained almost the amount of juice required and I needed zest from the other lemon in a step to be done the next day so I supplemented with a little non-freshly-squeezed lemon juice from the green bottle in the fridge. Otherwise, I followed the instructions as closely as I could.

I made the crust first, which is constructed of meringue. Separating the egg whites was at first tedious but went more smoothly as I practiced. One thing that caught me off guard was that when I checked the meringue in the oven near the end of the baking time, it was huge, standing several inches above the edge of the dish. I was so surprised by this that I opened the oven door, thinking to somehow save it. I don’t know how I expected to push the meringue back into the dish but fortunately I reconsidered before I touched it. Then I realized that maybe it was supposed to expand like that and the recipe said to let the meringue cool for 1 hour inside the oven before I opened the door. Oops. I closed the door as gently as possible. The meringue shrank a good bit during cooling and also pulled away from the pan a little on the long edges of the rectangle (see photo) so I’m not sure if I messed it up or not by rushing to its rescue. One note I’d like to share with the test kitchen is that my meringue browned more than theirs did even though I shortened the baking time by 10 minutes.

Making the lemon curd was easy but involved the separation of more eggs and the several-hour cooling process before adding heavy cream.

I made the whipped cream topping today after work.  I invited one of my neighbors over to have a piece with me, and we admired its beauty and good taste.


The recipe was straight forward and explicit in each instruction. As previously noted it was heavy on processes but light on ingredients. I already had Cream of Tartar in my cabinet from a foray into creating home-made play dough. Sugar and eggs were also present in the pantry. The only things I had to buy out of the ordinary were 2 lemons and heavy whipping cream. I would make this pie again but only if Oso promises me more uninterrupted time in the kitchen.

You might wonder where the preschoolers were during the long baking process. Oso was with them in the basement or in the yard most of the time, but they did appear at the end to help clean up a bit.  And of course they appeared in the kitchen the moment the pie was sliced.