For the crust: Place the all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup rice flour, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cream cheese and pulse until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse to pea-size coarse crumbs. Add the ice water and vodka, then pulse until combined. The dough will be light and fluffy but will not come together in a ball. There is no need to rest the dough or chill it before rolling.
Lightly sprinkle some rice flour on your work surface and empty out the pie dough. Using your hands, form the dough into a round disk. Sprinkle a little more rice flour on top of the dough. Roll out the dough a little, then fold the dough in half. Repeat 2 more times. Roll out the dough into a circle a little bigger than a 9-inch pie pan. Transfer the dough to the pie pan. Crimp the dough edges and place in the freezer while the oven heats.
Place a cookie sheet in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line the pie crust with parchment paper or nonstick foil and weight it down with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and parchment. Dock or prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Return the pie crust to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and sides. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling. Meanwhile, make the lemon filling.
For the lemon filling: Place 2 tablespoons water in a ramekin or small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to bloom.
Place the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Stir together. Add 1/2 cup water and stir until combined. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking often until it reaches a boil and thickens. Whisk in the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute longer. Remove from the heat. Whisk 1/4 of the hot liquid into the egg yolks, a little at a time. Return the tempered egg yolks to the saucepan. Cook, whisking, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens slightly, the mixture will be pretty loose at this point. Strain the lemon filling into a bowl. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Add the gelatin. Stir until smooth, and then stir in the cream. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool at least 20 minutes.
Pour the warm, but not hot filling into the cooled pie crust. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight until set.
For the meringue: Place 2-inches water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Fit a bowl over the pan of simmering water, creating a double boiler. The bottom of the pan should not touch the water. Place the sugar, 1/2 cup egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt into the bowl. Whisk to combine. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the eggs are foamy and warm, but not hot to the touch, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whip the egg white mixture to stiff peaks using a mixer. Mound the egg whites over the pie and spread using the back of a spoon to create peaks.
Brown the meringue using a kitchen blow torch, if desired or place the pie under a broiler to brown the peaks.
Cook's Note: After years of trial and error and trying every recipe imaginable for pie crust and lemon meringue pie, I finally got a no-fail recipe.
Cream cheese and vodka help make an easy to roll and tender pie crust. A little rice flour decreases the gluten and adds a nice texture. There is no need to chill or rest the dough before rolling. Also, it is a breeze to roll out.
Cornstarch prevents the egg yolks from curdling. Knowing when to add the lemon juice prevents a runny filling. A little unflavored gelatin makes the perfect filling... it is easy to slice without being too thick or gelled.
Heating the egg whites and sugar together before whipping makes a more stable meringue and one that does not weep, bead or shrink!