Lemon meringue pie

By Barry Bryson Jack

Sunday Herald Life - - Food & Drink -

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

In­gre­di­ents:

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

Method:

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

In­gre­di­ents:

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

20g corn­flour

120g cubed un­salted but­ter 3 free range eggs, and one yolk

Method:

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

In­gre­di­ents:

3 room tem­per­a­ture egg whites 100g caster sugar 100g ic­ing sugar ½ tea­spoon vanilla ex­tract

Method:

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

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