I grew up eating desserts like apple crumble, lemon meringue pie or occasionally a vienetta from the shop. Now that’s a blast from the past!. My mum is the apple crumble queen, and I always look forward to going home and tucking into a big bowl. These kind of puddings have almost disappeared recently (perhaps rightly so for the vienetta!), and especially on restaurant menus have been substituted for more technical and ‘pretty’ alternatives. Now I love these refined desserts and the scientific techniques that create them, but I also think that there’s room for the hearty classics.
A well made lemon meringue pie with a crispy coated soft meringue, tangy filling and thin, short pastry is a beautiful thing. It can also be the real centerpiece of a table, looking magnificent with tall rippling peaks... Do you get the impression that I really like them yet!?
This recipe will make one whole pie in a flan dish (one with a flip out bottom is very helpful), or as I have done here, will make a number of individual pies using a muffin tray. When making these and testing the recipe at home, I had one real problem. I only greased each hole in the muffin tray with butter before putting the pastry in, and once they were filled and had set, I struggled to get them out. I ended up popping them into the freezer before very gently easing them out with two knives, but to get around this I would recommend lining each hole with greaseproof paper that comes 1cm over the lip. Then all you have to do is carefully pull on the greaseproof paper to ease out the pies. It will save a lot of stressful moments trust me!
As with the above, this recipe often calls for a lot of care to be taken; making sure the pastry is nice and thin, that the filling doesn’t curdle, the sugar is the right temperature etc. but it is well worth the effort. Once practiced a bit it’s as easy as making anything. As with most things, once you have got your head around the basics, you can change the filling from lemon to blueberry, raspberry or anything else that takes your fancy.
Makes 9 individual pies in a muffin tray
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
125g salted butter
100g icing sugar
255g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp milk
Pinch of salt
For the lemon filling:
3 tbsp cornflour
150g caster sugar
3 lemons zest
220ml fresh lemon juice
1 orange - juice only, mixed with water to make 200ml
130g butter, cut into 1cm pieces
4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs
For the Italian meringue:
(If making one large pie, double the ingredients for the meringue topping)
200g caster sugar
4 egg whites
Pre-heat the oven to 170ºC (fan oven)
First make the pastry:
In a food processor, cream together the butter, salt and icing sugar until light in colour and very soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, milk and flour and pulse until the mixture starts to look like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and carefully pat together until just combined. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for an hour.
In the meantime, grease and line 9 holes in a muffin tray, making sure that the greaseproof paper comes at least a centimeter over the top. You will need this to help ease the delicate pastry out later.
When the dough has rested, take it out of the fridge and using a sharp knife, cut it into thin slices. Line the base and sides of the muffin holes with these slices and push together with your fingers until the pastry is all joined up and completely lined. Prick the bases of each pie with a small fork. Cover the base and sides of each pie with a disc of greaseproof paper and spread baking beans evenly over the top, then put the tray into the oven for 4-5 minutes. When the time is up, take the pastry out of the oven and carefully remove the baking beans and greaseproof from the top, and put the uncovered pastry back in the oven for another couple of minutes or until the base is a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and put aside to cool completely. Note: If your pastry has cracked or has any small holes, you can patch these up carefully with some leftover pastry before returning to the oven for another couple of minutes.
|My pastry cases - remember to line with greaseproof unlike shown here!|
While the cases are cooling down, make the lemon filling. In a bowl, mix the cornflour, sugar and lemon zest before slowly adding the orange/water mix and lemon juice. Tip the mixture into a saucepan and cook on a medium heat until it is brought to the boil, in which time it should have thickened a little. As soon as it is at boiling point, remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then the eggs. Once incorporated, return to the heat and stir constantly until the mixture has thickened. Be careful not to take it too far as you will scramble the eggs. Pour the mixture into a jug, then fill up each cool pastry case to a millimeter or two under the lip, then put in the fridge for 4 hours to cool and set.
Once the lemon filling has set, take the tray out of the fridge for five minutes before very carefully easing each tart out of the holes. Return the loose tarts to the fridge while you make the Italian meringue topping.
To make the Italian meringue, put the sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Add a cooking thermometer and put on a medium heat. While the sugar is heating up, using an electric whisk on a slow speed, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until light and frothy. When the sugar reaches 115ºC, take it off the heat and, whilst beating on a high speed, slowly pour it into the egg whites. Beat for around 5 minutes, or until the eggs are thick and glossy.
Take the filled pastry shells out of the fridge and spoon on the meringue, creating swirls and peaks if you wish. To finish, very carefully brown the edges of the meringue with a blowtorch. Alternatively, put the pies into a preheated oven at 140ºC until golden on the outside.
Serve whilst warm for best results, although the pies will keep in the fridge overnight.