Speaking of inspiration (picking up from where I left off at my last post), I often have ideas for my next bakes from films or TV programs I’ve recently watched. The Great British Bake Off naturally springs to mind – I’ve learnt a lot about baking techniques and where things can go wrong from avidly following this brilliant show since the second series. I love it. It makes me happy. Everyone should watch it. The other night I watched the 2007 film Waitress; mainly about a woman escaping from her extremely controlling husband, but also about the wonderful pies she creates every day. It’s a great film, but it also made me want to make and eat pies, so that is partly (the other part was a fortunate coincidence of having nearly all the necessary ingredients to hand or finding them in the reduced aisle) why this post features…Lemon Meringue Pie! Here’s a lovely picture to show you that it did turn out a success!
And without further ado, here is the recipe I used, from Mary Berry herself – I hope I did it some kind of justice!
For the pastry
- 225g plain flour
- 175g butter
- 45g icing sugar
- 1 large free-range egg, beaten
For the lemon filling
- 6 lemons, zest and juice
- 65g cornflour
- 250g caster sugar
- 6 free-range egg yolks
For the meringue topping
- 4 free-range egg whites
- 225g caster sugar
- 2 tsp cornflour
Step 1: Make the pastry. Rub the butter and flour together between your fingers until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, without any big lumps. Add the icing sugar and beaten egg, combine with your hands, using a tablespoon or so of water if needed, to bring the pastry together into a soft ball. Turn out onto a very lightly floured surface (if you can, use greaseproof paper or similar to stop the dough drying out with the added flour) and roll out. Mary recommends a 3mm thickness. Line your flan dish, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Step 2: Bake the pastry case. Put greaseproof paper over the pastry-lined flan dish and weigh it down with ceramic baking beans (these are pretty pricey so I usually use dried pulses or rice – you can’t eat them afterwards but they can always be reused for blind-baking things like this). Bake for 15 minutes with the greaseproof paper, then 5 minutes without, at 180C/Gas Mark 4.
Step 3: If you’re a time management whizz you can do this one whilst Step 2 is happening. Make the lemon curd. Zest all 6 lemons, and squeeze out the juice through a sieve to catch all the pulp and pips you don’t want. Stir in the cornflour, then bring 450ml water to the boil in a pan on the hob. Once boiling, add the lemon and cornflour mix and stir til thickened. Thoroughly mix egg yolks and caster sugar in the bowl, then whisk into the hot lemony sauce in the pan. Make sure everything is combined with no lumps, stirring for at least 5 minutes over a medium heat to cook and thicken. (My curd was slightly runny and wouldn’t set firm when baked – I think this was because I didn’t cook it for long enough here so take your time on this step!)
Step 4: Pour your cooked curd into the pastry base after leaving for a few minutes so its not so hot. Leave the half-finished pie to cool before adding the meringue topping. Make the meringue. Whisk egg whites until your arm drops off. You need to get to the stage where they pull up into soft peaks with the whisk, then you’re ready to add the sugar BIT BY BIT – don’t deflate the air in the egg whites by whacking it all in and ruining your poor arm’s hard work. Whisk after every addition of sugar, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t feel grainy, then finally whisk in the cornflour and your meringue should be glossy and stiff.
Step 5: Assemble and bake the pie. Scoop the meringue evenly on top of the lemon curd layer and swirl around a bit so it gets pretty peaks in the oven. Bake for around 15-20 minutes at 170C/Gas Mark 3 1/2 until your meringue is browned (but only lightly) on top and sounds crisp when you tap it. The filling should be set, and the pastry bottom shouldn’t be soggy but goodness knows how as I’ve never managed that one so far. Sorry, Mary.
So there it is. My lemon meringue saga ended happily, and deliciously. You can eat this warm or cold (I tried both today, just to be sure) and keep it in the fridge for a few days – the meringue probably will deflate a little and get watery though. Best to have people around to eat it all on the day!
Recipe Source: BBC Food, by Mary Berry (from the Great Comic Relief Bake Off)
With thanks to my boyfriend who got very into helping me take the pictures with the proper lighting, and for trying the pie even though he doesn’t really like tart things and the lemon curd in this is about as sharp as they come!