I’ve never been a fan of traditional lemon meringue pie – the filling is always too tart, and the topping over-baked or slightly weepy. Since I do loved lemon-flavored sweets, and meringue is always an added bonus, I found a way to remedy this problem. Borrowing from a lemon bar recipe I made for years at a local coffeehouse, I made the lemon filling on the sweeter side, and then after the bars baked, topped them with fresh meringue. The toasted meringue makes for a little extra work, but highly worth it in my opinion.
Two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup oats
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 large egg whites
1 cup (198 g) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan and line it with a parchment sling.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, zest, heavy cream, salt, and vanilla until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the oats, flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt to combine. Add the butter and mix on medium until the mixture is crumbly.
Press the oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully spread the lemon mixture over the crust. Bake 8-12 minutes, until the mixture is firm and does not jiggle.
For the meringue
Put about an inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites, sugar, and salt to combine. Place the bowl over the saucepan, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted and reaches a temperature of 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes. While you are stirring, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula—this will ensure no sugar grains are lurking on the sides and also help prevent the egg whites from cooking.
Remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. The bowl should have cooled down to room temperature at this point. Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, then chill the bars. Remove the bars from the pan using the parchment sling (it’s much harder to remove the bars from the pan with the meringue topping). Top the chilled bars with meringue and toast the top of the meringue (if desired) with a kitchen blow torch. Slice bars and serve.