Pumpkin meringue pie. At long last, a slice of pumpkin pie can be considered stunningly sophisticated as well as complete in and of itself—no dollop of whipped cream required.
This pumpkin meringue pie juxtaposes traditional pumpkin pie filling with an ethereally airy meringue topping. Pumpkin and meringue. So happy together. And so much more sophisticated than a dollop of faux whipped cream from a tub. [Editor’s Note: You can actually make this pumpkin pie minus the meringue and still have a magnificent pumpkin pie experience. But c’mon. Make the meringue.]–Renee Schettler
HOW DO I MAKE STIFF MERINGUE?
Meringue, a combination of foamy egg whites and sugar, makes up the dramatic topping on this pumpkin pie. If you’re not used to making meringue, you might shy away from giving it a try. But fear not–it’s not too hard.
In order to achieve the lofty heights shown in this recipe, you’re going to need to make sure that your meringue is stiffer so that it keeps that height until baking. Be gentle and avoid overbeating them at the beginning. Just beat until they look foamy, like soapy water. It will be easier to add the sugar to egg whites that haven’t been whipped too thoroughly at this point.
Once you’ve added the salt and cream of tartar, you can increase the speed of your mixer. Slowly add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating well to combine. After you’ve added the sugar, you can stop worrying about overbeating the eggs. Continue beating until glossy stiff peaks form.
To test the consistency of your meringue, lift the beater out of the bowl. The peaks of the egg whites that rise as you lift should stand straight up (and the ones on the beaters should stick out, too). Tilt the bowl–properly beaten eggs won’t slide around and you shouldn’t see any clear, watery egg at the bottom. Pinch some meringue between your fingers to double-check that the sugar is dissolved—it should feel silky smooth.
Once you’re certain your meringue is stiff enough to reach as high as you want, work quickly to get it on the pie and in the oven. Time will just make it soften and sag (same here, meringue. Same here).
Pumpkin Meringue Pie
For the pie crust
- Flour for the work surface
- Dough for single 9-inch pie crust
- 1/4 cup heavy cream for glazing
For the pumpkin pie filling
- 1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin purée
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
For the meringue topping
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the pie crust
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On a clean, lightly floured work surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it forms a 10-inch circle. Fold the circle in half, place it in a 9-inch pie plate so that the edges of the circle drop over the rim, and unfold the dough to completely cover the pie plate. Using your thumb and index finger, crimp the edges of the pie shell. Lightly brush the edges of the pie shell with heavy cream (this creates a perfect, golden-brown finish). Set aside while you make the pumpkin pie filling.
Make the pumpkin pie filling
- Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the pumpkin purée and eggs until really well mixed. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Mix the ingredients together, scraping the bowl down several times. Add the heavy cream and mix once again, until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the unbaked pie shell. Carefully slide the pumpkin pie onto the baking sheet.
- Bake the pumpkin pie for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the filling is firm in the middle but still soft to the touch. Move the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours. (You can loosely cover the cooled pumpkin pie and refrigerate it for up to 2 days before topping it with the meringue.)
Make the meringue topping
- Just before serving, preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C).
- Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue mixing until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat for 30 more seconds. It should be light and fluffy. To test it, insert a spatula into the mixture and quickly pull it out. If it forms little peaks but does not fall, you have achieved the desired consistency.
Assemble the pumpkin meringue pie
- Using the spatula, spread the meringue on the pumpkin pie, mounding the meringue in the center of the pie and lifting the meringue into swoops and swirls and peaks. Take care to spread it generously all the way out to the edges of the crust to completely cover the pumpkin pie filling because the meringue will shrink during baking.
- Place the pumpkin pie on the middle oven rack and bake for 6 to 10 minutes, or until the desired brownness has been achieved. You’ll want to check the meringue frequently, keeping an especially careful eye on it as soon as the tippy tops of the peaks begin to turn brown. (If you have a kitchen torch, you can also use this method as an alternative, but be careful to spread the flame evenly across the entire surface to achieve a uniform look.) The pumpkin pie is best served the same day.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
What a delicious twist on pumpkin pie. We—myself, my husband, and our two French guests—LOVED this pumpkin meringue pie. It wasn’t too sweet or too heavily spiced but perfectly pumpkin-y and light from the meringue. I could’ve baked the pumpkin pie longer so that it was more set, like traditional pumpkin pie, but the texture was actually really nice as custard and pudding.
The pie dough was easy enough to prepare in the mixer; I had no problems with it at all. The meringue was also simple to prepare. What surprised me was that the meringue actually shrunk as it cooled. Initially, it extended to the end of the crust, but as it cooled, it pulled in so that you could see the pumpkin pie filling. It shrunk maybe 2 inches all around. Still, this was an amazing dessert!
I’m not a pie expert, but this pumpkin meringue pie recipe changed my relationship to pies, it was that good! I left the pumpkin pie in the oven for 55 minutes, until the center was set. I baked the pie the day before, refrigerated it overnight, and made the meringue topping the next day about 2 hours before serving. The meringue-topped pie needed about 8 minutes to become a nice brown. As I said before, I’m not a pumpkin pie expert, but I followed this recipe to the letter and it turned out great.
This pumpkin meringue pie recipe is a keeper—quick to put together, the ingredients are readily available, and the finished product makes a beautiful presentation. The recipe was easy to put together. I used pre-made (gasp!) pie crust, which didn’t detract too much from the finished product. I browned the meringue with a torch, which was quicker than the oven method. The pie was quite tasty and the meringue added a nice finish.
I made this pumpkin meringue pie with fresh pumpkin—a Long Island Cheese picked just a few days ago by a local farmer. I roasted the pumpkin, cleaned out the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and then I puréed it and measured out the amount for the recipe. The pumpkin pie portion of the pie was fantastic. I really didn’t miss ginger or cloves.
While the meringue on top of the pie was good, to me it seems seemed extraneous. The meringue took about 5 minutes. Remember not to touch the pie plate with your bare hands, because even though it’s only been in the oven for 5 minutes, the plate becomes very hot.
Originally published November 13, 2015