Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

It’s my birthday tomorrow and as such I’ve decided to bake myself a cake pie.

Originally I had big plans of layered French cakegasms, but after my last cooking adventure I decided to play it safe, do something nice and simple and start rebuilding my shattered self-esteem. (In my defence, for Christmas I made my boyfriend’s family a delicious French Yule log... definitely of cakegasm calibre).

And so I decided on lemon meringue pie (I was also considering sticky date pudding but given the sudden MEGAHEATWAVE that’s been piled on top of an already hot Queensland summer, I decided something light and airy and cool would be more appropriate).

PhotobucketI accidentally zested myself as well as these lemons...

PhotobucketThis was 125 grams of butter, but I have a feeling it may have been a little too much. I’m not sure whether to blame the recipe or my scale...

PhotobucketAs you can see, a nifty ‘patting into place’ technique had to be utilized.


Now please ignore my old/dirty/gross stove and concentrate for a moment on that beautiful yellow. The colour of sunshine, sunflowers, happiness and uh...lemons!


Mmmmm, yellow..... Isn’t the colour just lovely? By this stage I was starting to feel a little more confident, after the pastry crust fiasco.

PhotobucketI love the contrast between the bright white meringue and the delicious lemon yellow. It looks so good! I have to admit, there were a few poking fingers going on during this final stage of assembly...I couldn’t help myself!

PhotobucketTen minutes to go!

Anyway, I used a recipe from Bron Marshall, which I tweaked a bit.

This is the recipe:

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the Pastry:

200 grams / 7 oz of all purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a good pinch of salt

125 grams /4¼ oz of butter

50 grams / 2 oz of castor sugar

1 egg

(I also added a dash of vanilla essence)

For the Lemon Curd Filling:

1 cup of sugar

½ cup of cornflour/cornstarch

1½ cups of cold water

3 to 4 lemons, the juice and finely grated zest (I used 4)

3 egg yolks, beaten (I used 4)

50 grams / 2 oz of butter

For the Meringue topping:

5 egg whites

½ cup of castor sugar

a good pinch of salt

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (392°F)
  2. WASH THE LEMONS. You have no idea what crazy chemicals these have been sprayed with, and if that’s not enough to encourage you, just think of all the grotty hands that have been fondling them!

To make the pastry crust:

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl or food processor Aw, come on guys! Getting your hands dirty is the fun part! Also, the rest of the recipe didn’t mention what to do with the baking powder so I also sifted it in here.
  2. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour either with your hands or using your food processor, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs This is where I started to notice something going wrong, my mixture looked too much like batter and not enough like breadcrumbs. Not enough flour or too much butter is the culprit, methinks.
  3. Whisk the castor sugar, eggs together (and vanilla essence) and add to the mixture to make a firm sloppy dough. My pastry was much too wet so I made up for it by heavily flouring my work bench. Could have made a whole other cake with how much flour I loaded on to it!
  4. On a lightly (heavily!) floured bench or board knead the mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
  5. Handle as little as possible to prevent the pastry from becoming hard when baked.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. I like to refrigerate my pastry much longer than this. 45 minutes at the very least.
  7. On a lightly floured board or bench carefully roll out half of the pastry until it’s approximately 5 mm thickness.
  8. Line a 23cm pie dish and prick the surface with a fork, line the inside of the pie shell and fill with baking beans or rice. Although I tried as hard as I could to roll the pastry out, it really just wasn’t happening for me. In the end I used the old ‘pat it into place’ method whereby I rolled as much as possible and then jst patted extra pieces in where they were needed (they were needed in a lot of places....) I also refrigerated mine before baking it for another 30 minutes...just because.
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden and cooked through. When I took mine out, the base hadn’t cooked at all and the sides, though browned weren’t too much better. I ended p removing my baking chick-peas (yeah, well, I didn’t know what else to do with them!) and baking the whole thing for an extra ten minutes, turning halfway through so that it didn’t burn).
  10. Remove the baking beans and set aside.

To make the Lemon Curd Filling:

  1. Place the sugar, cornflour, cold water and finely grated zest in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Over a gentle flame heat the curd, stirring continuously until it begins to thicken.
  3. Add the beaten eggs and butter and continue to heat and stir through until very thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice, adding more to taste as desired. I added all of the lemon juice and skipped out on a bit of the sugar. I like my lemon meringue to be quite tart, and not too sweet like those awful store-bought sugary nightmares.
  5. Pour the lemon curd into the cooked pastry shell and top with the following meringue.

To make the Meringue topping

  1. In a very clean and large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer place the 5 egg whites and a pinch of salt.
  2. Whisk until soft peaks form and then gradually add in the sugar a little at a time until the meringue is thick, smooth and glossy and all of the sugar has dissolved I sometimes add a dash of vinegar to cut back the eggy taste of the meringue, though I didn’t in this instance and it turned out just fine.
  3. Spoon or pipe the meringue over the lemon curd filled pie shell and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes until the meringue is golden.

  4. Cool slightly before serving.
  5. Serves 8 to 10

PhotobucketAnd the final product! A little bit ugly, but full of personality and love!

The verdict:

Despite the numerous little surprises that I encountered, overall I’m quite happy with how it turned out. The pie weeped (ewwww, I hate that word), but apparently this can be fixed if you mix some cornstarch and a bit of cold water into the meringue. Besides, I didn’t mind this overmuch as I thought the crust was a little bit too dry. It had a similar texture to shortbread, which wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but the weeping fixed that! It didn’t however fix the fact that upon attempting to remove the pie from the pie dish the crust crumbled and broke, and unfortunately so did quite a few pieces of the meringue. Still. No affect on the taste, so we’ll just pretend like it never happened.

I really liked the lemon curd. It was beautifully zesty and citrusy and I enjoyed being able to feel the bits of lemon zest in my mouth. Sure beats the store bought stuff!



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