Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk

For the filling:
2 level tbsp cornflour
100g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
125ml fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
Juice of 1 small orange
85g of butter, cut into pieces
3 egg yolks, and 1 whole egg

For the meringue:
4 egg whites, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour

For the pastry, put the flour, butter, icing sugar, egg yolk (save the white for the meringue) and 1 tbsp cold water into a food processor. Using the pulse button so the mixture is not overworked, process till the mix starts to bind. Tip onto a lightly floured surface, gather together till smooth, then roll out and line a 23cm loose bottom fluted flan tin. Trim and neaten the edges. Press the pastry into the flutes, if it cracks, just press it back together. Prick the bse with a fork, line with foil, shiny side down, and chill for ½ to 1 hour, or overnight.
Put a baking sheet into the oven and preheat to 200c fan 180c gas. Bake the pastry case “Blind” (filled with dry beans) for 15 min, then remove the beans and foil, and bake for a further 5-8 minutes, until the pastry is pale golden and cooked. Set aside, and lower the oven to 180c fan 160c gas
While the pastry bakes, prepare the filling: mix the cornflour, sugar, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Strain and stir in the lemon juice gradually. Make the orange juice up to 200ml with water and strain into the pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Once the mixture bubbles, remove from the heat and beat in the butter till melted. Beat the egg yolks (save whites for meringue) and the whole egg together, stir into the pan and return to a medium heat. Keep stirring vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and plops from the spoon. (It will bubble, but doesn’t curdle). Take off the heat and set aside while you make the meringue.
Put the four saved egg whites in a large bowl. Whisk to soft peaks, then add half the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition without overbeating. Whisk in the cornflour, then add the rest of the sugar as before till smooth and thick. Quickly reheat the filling and pour it into the pastry case. Immediately put spoonfuls of meringue around the edge of the filling (if you start in the middle, the meringue may sink), then spread so that it just touches the pastry (this will anchor it, and help to stop it from sliding). Pile the rest into the center, spreading so that it touches the hot filling, then give it a swirl.
Bake for 18-20 min, until the meringue is crisp, and slightly colored. Let the pie sit in the tin for 30 minutes, then remove and leave for at least another ½-1 hour before slicing. Eat the same day.

Apparently the real key, is that the filling has to be hot when you put the meringue on top. If the filling is not hot, then the underside of the meringue will not cook correctly. This will lead to a thin layer of liquid developing between the filling and the topping. This liquid, destroys the texture of the meringue. Even if it’s ok in the beginning, it is what makes it an eat only on the day it was made dessert. The hot filling solves that problem.

That’s what I learned from The Ultimate Recipe Book. This is a cool book. The author picked a list of dishes. Then she went around and asked advice from all of the most knowledgeable chefs in the world (she’s been a food writer for her whole life apparently, so she has access). Then she cooked many many versions of each dish, taking all the advice into account, and figuring out which tips worked best with which other ones, till she figured out the best way to make it. She describes the whole process before each recipe, who she talked to what each one said, what combinations she tried, and then finally, the recipe. I find this book fascinating.

The pie was really good too. The meringue fell a little as it was cooling, but it was not only tasty, it was still just as good, maybe even a little better, the second day.


Jax said...

I found your recipe in an online search, and made it for Christmas dessert. Yummy! Thanks for that. I hope you don't mind I have linked you and nicked your photo for my own blog records. Please check if you want to and if you object, let me know:

Jax said...

OK, I'm back. You know I loved this pie as is, but I finally made it again, and replaced the orange juice with the juice of 2 limes. Wow! Rave reviews! Very very tart, which I love as a contrast to the meringue. If you do too, give it a try next time and see what you think.