Letting the creative juices flow: Lemon Meringue Pie

When you’ve gone dark for a while and you want a smooth comeback on the culinary scene, my advice is : pick an inspiring recipe, a lenient audience and let the creative juices flow. Lemon juice that is.

Yesterday was my comeback. Here I was, all set with the recipe I had picked 5 days ago and read times and times again until I almost knew it by heart. The kitchen worktop is clean. My ingredients are prepared. I’m like a child on the first day back to school with mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety ( will I make it ?)

With such a clear sketch*, it should be easy as pie !

This is the plan !

As the drawing shows, this recipe is the addition of 3 preparations which can all be used separately or to prepare different desserts. So once you master them, you can let your creative juices flowing.

 

  1. The dough: it should be prepared the day before and is a good base for various kinds of sweet pies. Strawberry pies, raspberry pies, apple pies… you name it.
  • 110g butter
  • 80g powdered sugar
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 200g flour

This is really easy to prepare especially if you are the lucky owner of a food processor with a spatula hook: it’s going to do the dirty work for you. No more manual mixing, no more cleaning your nails and rings afterwards.

Take the butter out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before starting. You want a real soft butter to mix it with the powdered sugar. Add the egg and pinch of salt. Add the flour and ground almonds. Mix with the spatula. Mash the dough with the palm of your hand a couple of time to check its homogeneity.

Wrap the dough flat in cling film and let it rest in the fridge at least one hour & ideally until the next day.

You’ll take the dough out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before laying it on the mold. To be honest, this time it was not perfectly sticking together the next day, so it was not very handy to lay as one big piece on the mold. But my little fingers work wonders when it comes to patching up dough… (#homemadestyle) Then prick with a fork all over the dough before coloring it for 30 minutes at 170 degrees. It should be regularly colored. You can use beans on a layer of baking paper to maintain weight on the dough and avoid that it rises.

  1. The lemon curd: it can also be used as a nice spread on your morning fresh bread or as macaroon filling.                                       
  • 140g of lemon juice ( 7 lemons )
  • 160g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4g gelatin
  • 80g butter

 

Lemon pie 2
Yummy fresh lemons
  • Prepare the zests :

Wash the lemons in hot water. I always prefer to pick organic lemons, to reduce the risk of having pesticide on the skin. Another option is to use baking soda to clean the lemons.

Peel the skin of the lemons and boil them for 30 seconds in water.

  • Prepare a syrup to infuse the zests :

100g water + 50g sugar that you mix and bring to the boil. Then remove from the stove and let half of the zests rest in the mix for at least 1 hour. You’ll use them later on top of the lemon curd.

  • Prepare the lemon curd:

Hydrate the gelatin in cold water: it was a first for me so I’m afraid I don’t have any pearls of wisdom to share about this one…

Press the lemons to get 140g of juice.

Break the eggs in a bowl and mix them gently.

Pour the remaining half of lemon zest, the juice and sugar in a pan. Whip gently to dissolve the sugar in the mix, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Pour on the eggs and whisk vigorously. Pour back in the pan on medium heat and keep whisking until it boils again. Then remove from the heat, add in the butter in small dices and the gelatin and mix for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour the lemon curd on the colored dough and let it rest for 30 minutes in the fridge. Then add the zests from the syrup on the pie. You’re ready to move on the meringue if you feel adventurous. The lemon pie can also be served ‘naked’, without its meringue.

  1. The meringue: this one is said to be Italian. It turns out there are different meringue nationalities: French, Italian and Suiss…
  • 50g egg whites
  • 40g water
  • 125g sugar

This is basically a meringue made with sugar syrup. If you want to go down the professional route you will need a thermometer. I don’t have one so I just used an old trick to check the temperature of the syrup.

Pour the water in a pan, and add the sugar. Turn on the heat and check the cooking with your thermometer. When it reaches 114 degrees, start whisking the egg whites full blast. (Here the food processor comes in handy as well and it’s going to do the job by itself). When the syrup reaches 121 degrees, remove from the heat and wait for the bubbles to stop before pour gently on the egg whites. Keep whisking until they’re cooled.

The low tech way to manage the syrup without thermometer is to pour a drop of syrup in a glass of cold water; when the temperature is ok it should make sort of a soft ball. It’s not super accurate but did work out well for us.

Put the meringue on the lemon pie, put under your oven broil for 30 seconds. Be careful this is the final homerun, keep a close look on this one not to ruin all your efforts and get a burned meringue !

Lemon pie 1
Meringue or not meringue ? That is the question.

 

Lemon pie 3
Bon appetit !

It’s a rich dessert and individual pie molds could come in handy to make smaller portions.

* Le Grand Manuel du Pâtissier by Mélanie Dupuis. This is a great book which provides lots of explanations and the reasons why getting you to understand what cause produces what effect so that freestyling with recipes can be done with damage control.