Other than a crispy base – and that could be anything from a French pâte brisée (shortcrust made with butter) to Tennis biscuits crumbled and mixed with melted butter – a lemon meringue pie has two elements, which are made separately and rather painstakingly: a lemon curd layer topped by piled-up, fluffy meringue.
You can buy a boxed mix, and until last weekend those are the only ones I’d ever made, many years ago. But there’s nothing like a challenge, so I set about making one from scratch, and (after much googling) I scribbled down a recipe based on all sorts I had read. I tried to find ways to simplify the recipes I found, which were pretty cumbersome. This is a tad simpler, but it’s still full of steps and requires focus.
A pie crust base of your choice. I used shop-bought puff pastry but granny’s Tennis biscuits-and-butter should be just fine.
Yolks of 5 large eggs, separated (reserve the whites)
5 heaped Tbsp cornflour (eg Maizena)
1 ⅓ cups sugar
Pinch of salt
375 ml cold water
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp cornstarch
80 ml cold water
Pinch of cream of tartar
½ cup + 2 Tbsp of granulated sugar
The 5 egg whites from the eggs you separated in preparing the filling
If using a pastry base, line a greased pie dish, fill with baking beans and bake in a 200℃ oven for 20 minutes. Remove, prick the base with a fork, and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove and set aside.
Whisk the 5 egg yolks and set aside.
Put the water, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan on a moderate heat, whisk immediately until combined and allow to simmer until it thickens, while whisking. (It should thicken very quickly so this might take hardly any time at all.)
Add a tablespoonful of this mixture to the beaten egg yolks and, while whisking constantly, add the remainder a spoonful at a time.
Return the mix to the saucepan and cook on a moderate heat for a minute or two.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and zest and the butter. Set aside.
Stir a pinch of cream of tartar into a half-cup (and 2 Tbsp) sugar. Set aside.
Whisk the egg whites until fluffy, then start adding the sugar and cream 0f tartar a little at a time until it reaches stiff peak stage.
Heat the lemon curd filling and spoon into the pastry base.
Spoon the meringue all around the edge, covering the pastry, then spoon to fill the centre and pile it high. Use the back of a spoon to make little peaks all over. Bake at 170℃ for about 20 minutes or until the higher points of the meringue have a lovely tan blush. Remove and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until super cold. That’s when to eat it. DM/TGIFood
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