Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

When I was in second grade my classmates and I were assigned a book to read. I remember very little about the story, just that at the very end the main character tied up all of the loose ends by baking a lemon meringue pie for all involved. Why do I remember this? I remember this because upon completing the book, an 8 year old Fatboy turned to his classmates and teacher and declared that his mom would, quite happily, spend that evening baking that same pie for everyone to enjoy. Well, it turned out that my mom had better things to do with her evening and so we ended up settling for a delicious pre-made option from the local supermarket (lazy). I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned in there...anyway, almost two decades later here's my HOMEMADE version, just in time for your 4th of July BBQ.
Start by making your pastry base, for which you'll need about 180g plain flour and 110g cold, cubed butter. Mix in a food processor with one egg yolk (save the white, man), a tablespoon of granulated sugar and the same of cold water. Pulse the mixture just until it starts to come together, then tip onto a floured work surface, bring it all together then roll it nice and flat.
Transfer the flattened pastry into a loose-bottomed pie tin. This is tricky, I'm not going to lie. If it breaks in pieces don't worry about it, just use the excess dough to patch it up. Pies shouldn't be perfect, they're made with love and sometimes they look a bit scruffy. It's all good. Trim the edges, then prick the bottom with a fork and stick in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
Once the pastry has cooled, line with foil or baking parchment and fill with ceramic beans. If you don't have ceramic beans you can always take next month's rent, change it into coins and use them instead. Blind bake at 200C for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans/coins and foil and bake for another 10 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it so that it gets nice and golden but doesn't burn.
For the filling you're basically making lemon curd. 'How do you make lemon curd?' you ask. Well sit down and I'll tell you. In a saucepan combine 100g caster sugar with the zest of two lemons and two tablespoons of cornflour. If, like me, you forgot to buy cornflour then just, like me, run across to the petrol station in a mad panic and pick some up. Mix in 150g of cold water and the juice of three lemons and cook over a medium heat until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and stir in about 90g of butter along with a beaten mixture of three egg yolks and a whole egg. (Again, save the whites homie.) Stick it back on the heat and keep stirring until it all thickens. You want a semi-viscous filling...if it's too liquid add some cornflour mixed with water, if it's too thick add a bit more water. I'm sure you can figure it out. Once ready, set this aside.
Remember those egg whites you kept? To make the meringue, add those to a clean (super-clean) metal bowl and whisk, preferably with an electric beater. Once peaks have formed, add 200g caster sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of cornflour, tipping in a little at a time. Careful not to overwork the mixture, you want a nice soft meringue for this. None of that chewy nonsense.
Reheat your filling and tip into your pre-baked pastry base. How good does that look? The father of a friend of mine once told me that he survived his entire first year at uni eating only lemon curd. I thought he was crazy at the time. Now I'm beginning to see where he was coming from...
Take your meringue and spread over the filling. This is easier said than done, so start on the outside and use the edge of the pastry kinda like an anchor. Take it bit by bit until you've got a nice big lemony, eggy, masterpiece. Bang it back in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes until the meringue has a nice golden touch to it.
And that's a job well done. A delicious lemon meringue pie perfect for any July 4th BBQ. In fact, perfect for any day of the week. And it was incredibly easy right? See mom...I still don't get what I did wrong. Just kidding.

Ingredients
Pastry
1 egg yolk
180g flour
110g cold butter
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Filling
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 3 lemons
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
90g butter
150ml water
Meringue
4 egg whites
2 tbsp cornflour
200g caster sugar

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