A complete dessert
Lemon meringue pie. To my mind it’s a complete dish, a complete dessert. The reason? No eggy leftovers, no carefully pouring egg whites into ice cube trays only to have them dribble all over the counter-top and have no idea really how much egg white you’ve actually frozen, nor what state it will be in when you finally unfreeze it and stride into a whole new area of fancyness and try and make macarons (it’s macaron, not macaroon, don’t you know). Can you tell macarons are still on my to-make list?
Anyway, lemon meringue pie. You make it from scratch and you use five eggs, all of them; the yolks go in the lemon curd, and the whites in the meringue. Perfect balance. The naysayers may question why you can’t use store-bought lemon curd, but it’s nicer when you’ve made it yourself, and besides, if you’re going to make this, you should make all of it. Otherwise you may just as well go out and buy one. Not that I’ve seen gf lemon meringue pies anywhere, but they can’t be far off. Surely.
Lemon meringue pie
Adapted from BBC Good Food
The original recipe I found in BBC Good Food, but as with a lot of their recipes it had a few steps, and ingredients, that puzzled me, so I ignored them, most notably the addition of cornflour to the meringue. If anyone has any idea why they may have suggested this do let me know, I am all ears. But I made mine without and it seemed to pan out just fine. They also added icing sugar to the pastry, which helped it achieve a really fine texture, but for me the end product was just too sweet, with the lemon curd and meringue on top of that as well, and next time I wouldn’t use it. I added a pinch of salt to the pastry too, just to bring out the flavours a little more. The pastry itself held together quite well, with just a hint of crumble. Finally, maybe my lemons are just a bit small but I needed to top up with bottled juice (gasp) to make the required 125 ml. Turns out you don’t need that exact amount as you top it up with orange juice anyway.
175g gluten-free flour blend
100g cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
100g golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons of cornflour
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated (it’s really noticeable in the otherwise smooth curd if it’s not grated quite small)
100ml fresh lemon juice (took me 3 lemons)
100ml orange juice (from a carton is just fine)
85g butter, cut into pieces
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
4 egg whites, left over from your egg yolks
200g white sugar
1. For the pastry, cut the butter into small pieces, and rub in the flour and salt until it looks like breadcrumbs. With a fork, stir in the egg yolk and the tablespoon of water until it starts to come together. Then ditch the fork and get your hands in there and work it for a minute or two until it forms a cohesive ball.
2. Unless your kitchen is quite warm (in which case pop the pastry in the fridge for 10 minutes or so to make it easier to work with), roll out the pastry on a lightly floured counter so it just lines a 9-inch tart tin. Carefully fit the pastry into a tin, and then chill for an hour or so so it’s nice and firm.
3. Preheat your overn to 200 C while the pastry’s cooling. Once the pastry’s chilled, blind bake it for 15 minutes, then take it out, remove the baking beans and parchment, and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes until nicely light brown on the bottom.
4. While the pastry is in the oven, make the lemon curd. Stir together the cornflour, sugar and the grated lemon zest into a smooth paste in the bottom of a saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and and a splash of orange juice and heat until thickened. It should be thick but stirable – if it is too thick or lumpy, add more orange juice until it coats the back of the spoon.
5. Add the butter, then take off the heat and stir until the butter has melted. In a small bowl beat the egg yolks and the whole egg together well, then stir quickly into the curd – keep stirring all the time so you don’t end up with scrambled egg. Put the saucepan back on the heat and stir slowly as the mixture thickens. Once it is thick and starts bubbling take it off the heat and put to one side.
6, Put all 4 egg whites in a clean, dry large bowl. With an electric whisk (or a balloon whisk and strong arms) beat eggs into soft peaks. Add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, and whisk into stiff peaks.
7. Pour the lemon curd into the cooked pastry case. Quickly spoon the meringue on top of the lemon curd. Start at the edge of the pastry with small spoonfuls all around the outside, to keep the meringue in place, then fill in the middle. Then put the complete dessert back into the oven at a lower heat, 160 C for 20 minutes, or until the meringue is crisp on top, but still a little gooey inside. For more colour on top pop it under the grill for 30 seconds (keep a very close eye on it though or it’ll burn).
8. Cool the pie in its tin for at least half an hour before removing it, and wait until completely cold to serve.
NOTES: You can make the pastry in advance and cook it, up to a day ahead, or make it and freeze it uncooked, for up to a month, then cook the base straight from frozen (line it with foil, shiny side down if doing this). The pie itself doesn’t keep very well and is best eaten the day it’s made otherwise it goes a bit gloopy in the middle and soggy underneath. As a result it’s a pretty good dish for a party, summer barbecue, or that strange American invention a “potluck”. Or of course, a complete dessert to be eaten in its entirety at one sitting.