Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lemon bliss

In her short story "The Garden-Party", Katherine Mansfield wrote of two sisters eating cream puffs "with that absorbed inward look that comes only from whipped cream". It's even better if it's on top of a slice of lemon meringue pie.
         We never had it at home, and when I first made it, I didn't understand that you were supposed to leave it until it was cold. So I cut it too soon, and the lemon filling oozed out all over the plate.
          It's one of Harvey's favourite desserts, and soon after he came to live with me, he bravely set about making it one Saturday. He made quite a good job of it, and when his fellow bureaucrats asked him what he'd done in the weekend, he said proudly, "I made a lemon meringue pie." "Why?" they said. "Can't Anne cook?"

For years I used Nancy Spain's recipe. The only problem is that it's designed for rather a small dish. So this time I went on-line and found a recipe on NZChef that's almost exactly the same, but with one more egg and a little more of everything else, so it neatly fits a 23cm fluted tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie
550g (or two sheets) sweet shortcrust pastry (bought, I'm afraid - I'm still working on finding the perfect recipe and technique for homemade)
juice and zest of 3 large lemons
60g cornflour (the recipe says 65g but that seemed to be slightly too much)
75g caster sugar
4 large eggs, separated
another 200g caster sugar

*Preheat oven to 190C. Butter the tin very lightly but thoroughly. (Mine has a removable base, which is useful.)
*Either defrost or roll out the pastry. Line the tin carefully, making sure there are no holes or cracks. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. (if you don't, the sides shrink down when it cooks.)
*Blind bake the pastry until cooked and lightly golden, about 25 minutes. (I have those ceramic baking beads, so I use them on top of a circle of baking paper. But what I've never quite figured out is how you're supposed to remove them without doing any damage to the pie shell - especially as it's best to take them and the paper out ahead of time and put the hot shell back to finish baking. All suggestions gratefully received!)
(PS: See Grizabella's comment - she says use a square of paper with the corners sticking up, so you can easily lift it out with the beans or beads in it afterwards. Excellent, thank you!)

*Place lemon zest in a medium saucepan with 600ml water. Bring to the boil, remove pan from heat, and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
*Blend cornflour with a little lemon zest liquid in a bowl to make a smooth paste. Add to pan of zest and water, add lemon juice, and stir well. Bring mixture back to the boil, stirring continuously. Reduce heat and cook, stirring, until it's thickened.

*Remove pan from heat, leave to cool a little, and stir in the 75g sugar. Taste it to see if the balance of sweetness and lemon is what you want - if not, add either more sugar or more lemon juice. It should be quite sharp, to contrast with the sweet meringue.

*Add egg yolks and mix in thoroughly to combine. Set aside while you make the meringue.

Whisk egg whites until stiff. Gradually whisk in the 200g sugar until the meringue is very stiff and shiny.

*Set oven to 100C. This recipe says 190C, but I prefer a crisp meringue, not a soft one, and for that I think it works better to bake the whole thing at no more than 100C.

*Place tin with pastry shell onto a baking sheet (easier to handle). Carefully pour in the filling. Spread the meringue over the top so that no filling shows, and gently fork it into little peaks or ridges all over. Bake until the meringue is just very lightly coloured, about 30 minutes or more (but watch it). Leave to cool before serving.

And after that opening, I forgot to take a photo of a slice with cream! But here's the last (slightly soggy) bit, just before I ate it for breakfast next day.


Plain Jane said...

Oh Anne - this is sheer lemony pornography. I can't stand it. I'm going mad over here.

Sophie Leloir said...

Hi Anne, I have only just discovered your blog but I'm very impressed with the beautiful recipes and photography! This lemon meringue pie makes my mouth water :)

Grizabella said...

I just don't like the meringue on top, the pastry and lemon combo...yum, but the meringue, not so much.

Re: the baking blind, I use a square of baking paper and just push it into the corners of the pastry shell lightly, with the corners of the square poking up, then you just lift the paper out of the shell with the beans still on the paper, tip the beans into a container for another day and Bob's your uncle.

Mary McCallum said...

Lovely. The recipe, the photos, the lot. Must try it one day soon...

Laura @ Hungry and Frozen said...

What a beauty of a pie!

That quote of Mansfield's is one of my favourite, favourite pieces of writing - I'm glad you brought it up here :)

AnneE said...

Jane, that's a real compliment!
Nice to meet you, Sophie and Grizabella.
Mary, your poetry site makes Harvey's day.
Laura, I've been wanting to use that quote for years and have just managed to work it in...