Lemon meringue pie
By Barry Bryson Jack
The height of summer is, for me, the perfect time to create this classic taste of sunshine. I make the dish in three sections; first the pastry, then the lemon curd, and finally the meringue. I love good tart lemon curd, and these crisp, chewy meringues work so well with the buttery pastry base. Scrumptious!
In his 2003 cookery novel, Toast, TV cook, author and journalist Nigel Slater describes so brilliantly his pursuit of the perfect lemon meringue pie. As the play Toast arrives in Edinburgh this week, running from the August 7-26, it’s a huge privilege to be collaborating with Nigel and the production team on creating a version of this wonderful pie for the show’s run at the Traverse Theatre.
My recipe here will make one large pie for 12 portions, 24 cupcake-sized pies, or 48 bitesized canapes.
For the pastry
125g cubed unsalted butter at room temperature
270g sifted plain flour, plus a handful for dusting
50g icing sugar
1 large free-range egg, at room temperature
2 extra egg yolks
A splash of cold water
1 Rub the butter and flour together to form a breadcrumb type mix. Add the icing sugar, make a well in the middle, and add the whole egg plus one yolk.
2 Mix with a knife into a dough ball, adding a splash of cold water to bring the dough together.
3 Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough into a smooth ball, making sure all the ingredients are worked in evenly. Wrap the pastry ball in clingfilm and place into the fridge for one hour to firm up.
4 Once the pastry is nice and firm, remove from the fridge, unwrap it, and again lightly flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Press down gently into the pastry ball with the rolling pin, making ridges and turning the ball as you go, pushing the pastry into a circle shape. Evenly pin the pastry out in larger strokes, into a large circle about 13 inches in diameter. The pastry should be about half a centimetre thick at this point.
5. If you’re making cupcake-sized pies (2 x 12 cup muffin tin) or canape-sized ones (2 x 24 mini muffin tin), roll out and use the appropriate cutter and cut discs approximately ½ centimetre thick. Otherwise, gently flour a 10 or 11-inch fluted pastry tin. Use the rolling pin to roll and pick up the pastry circle, gently place it into the tin, and press down into the fluted edges carefully. You should have around two inches of overhanging pastry over the top of the tin, which you should leave in place.
6. Return the pastry to the fridge for 20 minutes. 7. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. 8. Remove the pastry from the fridge, and prick the pastry base all over with a fork, placing into the oven for 15 minutes.
9. Remove the pastry from the oven and brush with the remaining egg yolk.
10. Return to the oven for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Place in a cool spot while you make the lemon curd and meringues.
For the lemon curd
Zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons (a top Nigel Slater tip is to leave your lemons in warm place for a few minutes before you zest and squeeze them)
220g caster sugar
120g cubed unsalted butter 3 free range eggs, and one yolk
1. Place the lemon juice and zest, cornflour, sugar and butter into a heatproof glass bowl and set above a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water.
2. Using a whisk, gently combine the ingredients until the butter has melted.
3. Whisk the eggs and yolk together and add to the lemon butter mix, allowing to cook for 8-9 minutes as it thickens. Keep whisking gently the whole time. 4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool with a layer of cling film over it.
For the meringue
3 room temperature egg whites 100g caster sugar 100g icing sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Whisk the egg whites using an electric hand whisk until the whites are peaky, stiff and glossy.
2. Warm the caster sugar on a tray for a couple of minutes in the oven, then start adding it a tablespoon at a time into the egg whites, whisking constantly until all the caster sugar is incorporated. Add a dash of vanilla extract.
3. Using a Maurice rubber spatula, gently fold in the icing sugar in batches, being careful to keep the mix light – don’t beat it in.
4. Place the meringue mix into a piping bag and line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 120°C degrees.
6. Pipe the meringue into a 10 inch circle on to one of the lined trays, making nice peaks. On the other tray, pipe the rest of the meringue mix in smaller circles and rounds (if you’re making cupcake/canape pies, pipe the meringue the size of your pastry bases).
7. Bake the smaller meringues for 1 hour and the large ones for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
To assemble the lemon meringue pie
1. You now have the three parts of the dish, ready to assemble. Use a pastry knife to trim all the cooled overhanging pastry from the tart tin, so that you have nice neat edges.
2. Remove the pastry base and place it on to a flat plate. Gently dollop the cooled lemon curd onto the pastry base and evenly spread it out – it should be around 1.5 inches thick. Place the large meringue on top.
3. Use the remaining curd and smaller meringues to garnish the plate and, if you can still get them in season, some lovely Scottish strawberries to finish. Serve with cream, crème fraiche or yoghurt.
Barry Bryson Jack is owner of Cater Edinburgh