Generally speaking, I love all things ‘Citrus’. Madeira Cake, Lemon Pound Cake, Lemon Tarts, and of course the infamous Lemon Meringue Pie.
I have to admit that the first time I made a Lemon Meringue Pie, I was feeling quite daunted by the prospect; I didn’t have much experience in baking pies or meringues. However I was happy to discover that they are really pretty straight forward, and will never fail to impress your dinner guests.
The recipe that I use is from the Edmond’s Cookbook. It’s important to note at this point that the Edmond’s Cookbook as evolved over the years, and sometimes they change their recipes. The newer versions tend to state something along the lines of “zest and juice from 3 lemons”. The problem with this is that it depends on how juicy your lemons are on how much juice you get. And of course, the size will tend to dictate how much zest you get from them. Essentially you risk not having a very ‘lemony’ filling. The recipe in my book says 2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind and ½ cup of lemon juice and produces a very nice lemony flavour.
Ok, first step is to take your eggs out of the fridge (cold egg whites just won’t cut the mustard here!), the next step is the pastry. Let’s be realistic about this one. Either you’re in the mood to make pastry or you’re not. Or maybe you just don’t have enough time. So, go on…..get the store bought pasty out of the freezer…I won’t judge. (…really, I won’t…..I have store bought in my freezer too!). For this pie I use the sheets of short sweet pastry. One 12” square sheet will be enough. I do roll it out a bit so that it fits my tin.
If, however, you are rubbing your hands together in anticipation of making pastry, here’s the recipe that I use. It’s the one that my mother uses, and she is a “never-fail-pastry-maker” extraordinaire! You can tell it’s old school with the ounce measurements, so I’ve converted them to grams too.
Short Sweet Pastry
4oz Butter (113gm)
8oz Flour (226gm)
1 T Sugar
3 T Chilled Water
Combine flour in a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (or use a food processor to do this). Add the sugar.
Add enough water to combine into a firm dough. (if using food processor, use the Pulse function)
Knead lightly to bring mixture together.
There are some general rules around pastry making that my mother has taught me:
1: Use chilled butter chopped into small cubes
2: Sift the flour to incorporate air
3: Use chilled water and only add one tablespoon at a time….some days you’ll need a little less, some days a little more…..Don’t add too much water or the dough will be tough.
4: Handle as little as possible – especially important if you are making this by hand
5: Let it sit wrapped in plastic wrap for 20-30 minutes before rolling out (pop it in the fridge if it’s a hot day)
I had a quick Google and found that the wonderful Delia Smith has written up some advice on her website.
Ok, now onto the actual pie making bit. The recipe that I use is posted below. If you want to have a little bit of fun with the meringue ‘look’ try popping half of it in a piping bag. Spread half of the mixture over the filling, then go crazy with an interesting nozzle and pipe the remaining meringue on. When it browns up it can look really pretty.
The recipe says it serves 6, but I find that I can easily get 8 slices out of it. It’s a pretty full on pie and sometimes a little can go a long way. This recipe can also be spread over 6 mini meringue pies.
One last tip…….put your finished pie in the fridge and make sure that it is chilled before you cut into it. If you don’t, the filling will flow onto the plate where you just cut a slice.
Lemon Meringue Pie
Short Sweet pastry for pie shell.
¼ C cornflour
1 C sugar
2 t grated lemon rind
½ C lemon juice
¾ C water
3 eggs, separated
1 T butter
¼ C caster sugar
¼ t vanilla essence
On a lightly floured board roll out pastry to 5-6 mm thickness. Use to line a 20 cm flan ring (You can use a 23cm spring-form cake tin if you want)
Trim off any excess pastry (If using a cake tin, I push the pastry up the side an inch or so, then tidy up with a knife)
Bake blind at 190°C for 15-20 minutes.
Remove baking blind material.
Return pastry shell to oven for 1 minute to dry out pastry base.
If I haven’t used a spring-form tin I let the pie shell cool a bit then tip it out of the tin and place it on a baking tray before putting the filling in.
Blend cornflour, sugar, lemon rind and juice together until smooth, then add water.
Cook over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens, stirring constantly (I tend to let it boil for 2-3 minutes to make sure it really thickens up)
Remove from heat.
Stir in yolks and butter until melted.
Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry
Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until very thick and glossy.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour filling into cooked pastry base.
Spoon meringue topping over lemon filling.
Return to oven and bake at 190°C for 10 minutes or until golden.