I had a hankering. A hankering for crisp pastry and rich, thick lemon curd. Lemon meringue pies up until recently had never really floated my boat. Sure they were nice but often it was just a sugar fest with some half assed lemon curd trying to convince you it was a classic worth remembering.
I had an excellent lemon meringue pie at Little and Friday the other day, I think this is what set me off. After failing to find the recipe in either of their two cookbooks I began my furious research. I wanted a pie with guts, I wanted a filling that was yellower than American mustard and a pastry that was crisp and satisfying. I came to find myself in my copy of the Depot cookbook by Al Brown.
The curd called for 8 egg yolks. Now we're talking. This is what I had been searching for.
I was lucky enough to be bestowed a carton of beautiful free range eggs by a friend of mine. I didn't want to use their glowing yolks in any boring old cake. Using these in the curd not only made it the most vibrant of yellows but also made the curd super creamy and lush.
A handsome young gentleman also raided his neighbours lemon tree for me. Seriously, the way to my heart is through stolen, juicy lemons. Having a great lemon tree is on my 'future husband must have' checklist. No joke. Ok sort of joking, but not really. I really like having an abundance of lemons at all time.
So all in all this was a very much old fashioned forage and gather type dessert. I feel almost colonial, next thing you know I'll be churning my own butter using the milk from the cow I don't have. I could probably even use the hastags #organic #freerange #foraged if I wanted to be really lame. Could this technically be #paleo??
You really do want a blow torch for this as it creates a much more golden finish. Also burning things with pretty much a handheld Bunsen burner is fun. For those lacking a torch you can crank your oven up to its hottest grill setting and use that. These are also best made up the day you intend to eat them as the meringue tends to condense back into its sticky, sugary liquid state.
I halved the original recipe for the pastry and the curd so that my curd only used four of my precious golden eggs. It made the perfect amount for 12 muffin pan sized tarts. Between the pastry recipe and the curd recipe I ended up with exactly five egg whites which was the full amount required for the meringue. I didn't use all the meringue mixture but I was generous. I am always a big fan of over the top meringue application, it looks ridiculous but I rather like that.
I know I have asked for some pretty obscure measurements like 3/8ths of a cup of icing sugar but just estimate. Its just slightly less than half a cup, she'll be right #YOLO.
Little Lemon Meringue Pies
Adapted from Al Brown's Depot
For the pastry
1 1/4 cups plain flour
110g butter, cubed
1/4 cup white sugar
3/8 cup icing sugar (just under half a cup)
1 small egg
1 egg yolk
Rice and muffin cases to blind bake with
For the lemon curd
4 free range egg yolks
1/2 cup white sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 medium sized lemons
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/8 cup cornflour
75g butter, cubed
For the meringue
5 egg whites
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups white sugar
Start by prepping the pasty. Place the sugars and flour in a food processor and pulse to aerate. Add in the butter and continue to pulse until a fine crumb has developed. Crack in the whole egg and pulse (or just full on whizz) the pastry until it comes together to form a dough. Tip the dough out onto a floured bench and bring it together to form a smooth disc. Wrap this in glad wrap and leave to chill in the freezer for half an hour to an hour.
Whilst the pastry is cooling start making the lemon curd. In a small saucepan, whisk together your egg yolks, lemon zest and sugar together (I used my electric hand mixer) them mix in the lemon juice and salt. Whisk together the cornflour and water in a separate bowl s that there are no lumps. Mix this into the egg and lemon saucepan. Heat the curd to be over a medium heat, blasting with the hand mixer every few minutes until it starts bubbling away. Be really careful to keep scraping the curd off the bottom of the pan with a spatula. Keep the curd on the heat for another two minutes so that it becomes thick and almost paste like. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter cubes until they have melted through. Add in a little more lemon juice if you think it needs a bit more punch. Leave to cool.
Grease a muffin tray with butter and dust lightly with flour. Cut small rough squares of baking paper and place one in the bottom of each muffin pan. Now that the pastry has rested, roll it out on a floured bench until it is around 3mm in thickness. Take a bowl or something else circular with a diameter of approximately 10cm (basically a circle slightly larger than the two sides plus the base diameter of the muffin pan) to cut circles of pastry. Gently lay each circle over a muffin pan and press it inwards, lining the pan. Use a tart tamper if you have one to press the pastry in evenly. Repeat this for all 12 muffin pans then return the tray to the fridge (or even better the freezer) for another half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees on bake. Remove the pastry from the fridge and place a cupcake case inside each pastry shell. Fill each case with two tablespoons of uncooked rice. Blind bake the cases for 20 minutes until the edges start turning a light golden brown. Remove the rice and the cupcake cases from each pastry shell. Whisk together the egg yolk and brush the inside of each pastry shell thoroughly with the yolk. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before popping the pastry shells out and leaving to cool on a wire rack. If serving immediately don't wait for the pastry to cool completely before filling.
To make the meringue, boil the sugar and water in a saucepan together to form a soft-ball syrup. This is 120 degrees C when using a candy thermometer or approximately ten minutes on a high heat. Just before the sugar is ready, whisk the egg whites in a standing mixer until they have formed soft peaks. With the mixer still set to a fast whisk, gently pour a fine stream of the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Continue to whisk on high until the bowl feels cool and a thick, glossy meringue has formed (around 10 to 20 minutes of mixer whisking).
To assemble, divide the lemon curd evenly between the 12 pastry cases. Either pipe on the meringue or just dollop and smooth a spoonful of it onto each pie. You can take a blow torch and use it to brown the meringue by gently running the flame evenly over the tops until golden. Alternatively place the pies on a baking tray and pop in the oven set to 250 degrees on grill and watch carefully until the meringue turns golden brown. This should take only a couple of minutes.
Serve immediately (seriously, who could wait any longer?)