Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Cheat lemon and meringue pie

If you read my last post, you will know that I cooked a three course meal last weekend. Sometimes it's just nice to have a nice long eating feast, with proper china, wine and nothing that is being microwaved. However, managing three courses in the world's smallest kitchen also requires some cheats here and there. Although this is not much of a recipe really, I still thought I would post it, as it turned out so great. And maybe a useful tip on how to make a minimum effort pudding.

The whole idea was that I needed a pudding that had lemon in it, could be prepared well ahead, and then just served right out of the fridge. I made the pastry crust the night before, and then just popped it in the oven on the morning of the dinner party. Adding the filling and whipping up the meringue only takes a few minutes, and after another round in the oven, the pie can be left to itself in the fridge. And actually, it was still perfect the next day, so you could even make it the day before. 

The pastry crust is really not even a pie crust at all, it is from a recipe for a Finnish sweet pastry called Alexander's cakes (sorry, recipe in Finnish but I'm sure Google translate will help if you want to check it out). I'll be writing a post about them sometime in the future, as they are possibly my favourite sweet pastries ever. For some reason, the pastry turns out better with Lurpak organic butter than any other butter (and no, I'm not getting paid a penny to say that, and I have no idea why, but for this specific recipe it makes a world of difference). The only problem I had with pre-making the pastry the night before is that I had to have a few tasters as the dough is just so yummy. Good thing it was a generous serving for my 23 cm pie tin, so there was still enough left the next day for the actual pie. In fact, all recipes should have a 30% excess in them to account for the cook eating part of the dough unbaked. Everyone knows that's the best part of baking anyways...

I also have been sampling different lemon curds, as lemon curd is one of the culinary geniuses of British cuisine I had never tasted before moving over here. First of all, you do get what you pay for, so stay away from those horrid cheap 'value range' concoctions which have no resemblance whatsoever with real lemon curd. For this pie, you want a nice, tangy curd with lots of flavour. Again, unfortunately I'm not sponsored by anyone and don't get any perks from saying this, but my favourite lemon curd of the ones I've sampled so far is Tesco Finest. But I have to admit I haven't had a double blinded placebo controlled study, which I'm actually rather looking forward to doing, maybe next weekend I should take a tour through all the major grocery stores as well as the market place and systematically test which is the best lemon curd. Only, then I would be left with oodles of lemon curd in my fridge, and I'm afraid I'd eat it all up, just straight out of the jar in one sitting. Not very helpful when trying to get back on track with eating as I have been slipping way too far from my usual rather good nutrition plan. And I can feel it too, my body is quite upset, and I'm feeling a bit fluish. I don't think it's a coincidence I perform much worse when doing sports and get flu-like symptoms as soon as I slip back to eating carbs, sugar and other horrible things. I need to take better care of myself, my body certainly deserves it. Just ran into a pin of a image saying "Nothing tastes as good as fit feels". Have to keep that in mind. Which of course is the perfect bridge to a horribly unhealthy, but oh so delicious recipe for...

Cheat lemon and meringue pie (serves 8-10):
For the pastry crust:
125 g butter
70 g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
200 g white flour
1 tsp vanilla paste

For the pie filling:
1 jar (around 300g) lemon curd
100 g white chocolate (my favourite is Green&Black's)

For the meringue:
4 egg whites
100 g caster sugar 
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (can be omitted)

The howto:
To make the pastry, use an electric whisk to mix butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add the yolk, vanilla paste and flour, and give a quick mix. The result will be a slightly crumbly dough (which is at least as good as cookie dough to just eat as is...). Wrap in clingfilm and keep in the fridge until you are ready to bake the crust. Bake in 175 degrees C for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust starts to turn a bit golden. Let cool.

With lemon curd and white choc,
still waiting for the meringue topping

Fill the crust with the lemon curd, melt chocolate and drizzle on top. For the meringue, whip the egg whites until they form soft tips, then add sugar and cream of tartar in three or four batches. The result should be a soft and glossy meringue. Spread on top of the pie filling, making swirls with a spatula as you spread the meringue. Make sure you spread the meringue all the way to the edges of the pie. Bake in 175 degrees C for about 30 minutes, or until meringue is golden. Let cool for at least an hour in room temperature and another two or three hours in the fridge. 

Made some flowers from sugar paste for decoration.

The verdict:
Well, I basically ate half a pie all by my onesies. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, when it comes to sweets, there are no limits to how much I can eat. It's unreal how good the combo of the tart lemon curd is with the crumbly pastry, the sweetness from the white choc and the fluffy meringue. And it was as good the next day, the meringue stayed nice and crunchy on top despite being in the fridge, and I had no problems with the meringue "sweating". I read somewhere that you should always spread the meringue on a hot pie filling, but I couldn't be bothered to heat the lemon curd. And seems like I was lucky with this recipe, as it turned out great despite me being too lazy to do things properly. I have also wondered about the amount of sugar in meringue. The recipes seem to range from just a small amount (25g or so) to several hundred grams. I took the middle ground here and used 100 grams, and it seemed the meringue turned out very nice and crunchy so I think I'll stick to this recipe, but I'm sure any other would work great as well. I also think the recipe would work great with lime or orange curd, maybe I'll give one of those a try in the future. 

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