:: I realise the irony in posting a recipe here with the prefix, ‘Do not attempt this recipe if you value your sanity’…
I had friends A and J coming over for dinner on Saturday night and as their favourite desserts are lemon tart and cheesecake, I figured I’d split the difference and make lemon meringue pie.
As much as I love eating it, I’d never attempted making it before – so after comparing notes on several recipes, I decided upon famous Australian baker Dan Lepard’s version.
In deference to Mr Lepard – who clearly demonstrates his baking acumen with many awards – something was clearly amiss with my pastry, which was so wet that when I attempted to roll it out the first time, I had to shore it up with cups more flour and then put it in the freezer to try and encourage it to stay in one piece.
What started as an upbeat Saturday cooking session (with David Bowie accompanying on vocals and guitar), quickly descended into all out pastry warfare.
Now I’ve already admitted on this blog that I’m NOT a qualified baker and indeed, from this experience one might label me patisserie-challenged; but in my defense I did follow the directions (this time), only to be rewarded with an incredibly disobedient piece of pastry that broke apart at the slightest touch of my rolling pin.
Midway through the soul-destroying task of getting every one of the raw pastry flakes into my tart case, I not only had the savage desire to punch someone’s lights out but pick up the whole mess and smash it against the kitchen wall (although I didn’t – not wanting to set a bad example to the fur child, who’d cautiously padded over and watched from a safe distance as my continuous swearing punctuated Diamond Dogs and Golden Years)…
‘So,’ you ask – ‘What then are these photos if things went so appallingly?‘
Turns out that persevering with the pastry (which was sheer bloody-mindedness on my part – most normal people would have given up one hour in and nipped down the shops for some pre-made shortcrust) actually yielded very good results.
I don’t know how much I distorted Mr Lepard’s original recipe as I just kept adding flour like a maniac; but the final result was a crisp, golden shell encasing a firm, tart lemon curd and topped with light-as-air meringue. Every component set perfectly and was quite impressive when it finally made its way to the table.
The pie did not defeat me. Not today, sunshine, not today…
Despite the issues, I’ve included the original recipe here. You may want to try another pastry recipe (or maybe it was just me!) but the lemon filling and meringue worked wonderfully and were a breeze to make.
Makes one 20cm lemon meringue pie
125g plain flour, plus extra for rolling ½ tsp salt 25g icing sugar 75g unsalted butter, cubed 1 egg yolk 2 tsp cold water
lemon filling 200ml lemon juice finely grated zest of 2 lemons 50ml orange juice or water 150g caster sugar 25g cornflour 3 egg yolks 25g unsalted butter
meringue 4 egg whites 125g caster sugar
For the pastry, place the flour, salt and icing sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the cubes of butter and rub into the dry ingredients with your fingers.
Add the yolk and water and mix to a soft paste. Wrap well with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Take a 20cm round deep tart case with a removable base and roll out the chilled dough, dusted with a little flour. Roll thinly enough to line the tin’s base and sides with a little overlap to spare.
Press the dough gently into the tin sides and trim the edges then chill until firm.
Heat your oven to 170ºC. Press a sheet of non-stick paper snugly against the pastry in the tin and weigh this down with dry beans or pastry weights.
Bake for about 25 minutes and then remove the paper, baking for a further ten minutes until the pastry is dry and beige. Leave to cool while you make the filling.
Place the juices, sugar, cornflour and yolks in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk until smooth and then add the unsalted butter.
Bring to the boil, whisking carefully and constantly until the mixture thickens. This will happen very quickly, so watch closely.
Spoon the filling into the tart case, leaving a small gap at the top if you can and then leave to cool until it is chilled completely.
For the meringue, beat the egg whites in a spotlessly clean, dry bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.
Gradually add the sugar, a third at a time, beating fast for 1-2 minutes in between each addition, finishing when the meringue is thick and glossy.
Heat the oven to 170ºC and pipe or spoon the meringue on top of the chilled tart.
Bake for about 25 minutes until golden and leave to cool before serving.