Traditional Lemon Meringue Pie (or Pies)
Lemon meringue pie made properly has the perfect balance of everything you need from a dessert. This is in my top ten ! A slice of my lemon meringue pie has a thin light crust, tart smooth lemon custard and topped with a pillow of meringue which has a thin crispy shell. Perfect.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees c (fan)
Begin by making the pastry. Either in a food processor or by hand – mix the flour and salt with the butter and rub together with the hands or blitz in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add all of the water in a thin steady stream and allow the mixture to come together in a ball. Wrap in greaseproof paper or beeswax wrap and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll the pastry out thinly (about the thickness of a £1 coin) and line the tin allowing surplus pastry to hang over the edges. Line the pastry shell with greaseproof paper and baking beans after pricking the base with a fork. Bake blind for 12 minutes until the pastry is golden in colour.
(If you prefer to make individual tarts. Use a 9 cm cutter and cut out 9 pastry circles. Brush 9 holes of a deep muffin tin with lining paste then line with the dough then prepare to bake blind by lining each pastry shell with a paper bun case filled with lentils. After baking – Remove the pastry shells from the muffin tin using the papers to lift and this has to be done as soon as the shells come out of the oven. Pop the empty shells onto a baking sheet then back into the oven for 1 minute to dry completely. Fill with the lemon custard and top off with meringue, baking for 30 minutes in the reduced temperature oven.)
Remove the paper and baking beans then pop the shell back into the oven for a further 3-4 minutes to ensure the base is fully dried out and set.
Take from the oven and trim the rough pastry edge and set aside. Turn the oven down to 130 degrees c. (fan assisted)
Whilst the pastry case is baking make the lemon filling. In a small saucepan place all the filling ingredients and place over a low heat and stir continually until the butter and sugar dissolve and the mixture starts to thicken. This will take about 4-5 minutes.
Transfer the thick lemon filling into the cooked pastry case and smooth over with the back of a spoon or palette knife. Allow to stand a few minutes in a cool place to form a skin whilst you mix the meringue.
In a spotlessly clean, greasefree bowl whisk the egg whites until they are fairly thick and stand in peaks when the whisk is removed. Sift the icing sugar and cream of tartar together then add this one large spoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition. The final meringue will be very thick, glossy and luscious.
Pipe or spoon the meringue onto the lemon filling ensuring it covers all of the lemon cream (see tip below) then bake in the low oven for 40 minutes or 30 minutes for the individual tarts.
The finished lemon meringue pie can be served warm or cold.
TIP When piling or piping the meringue onto the pie start at the outside and work inwards making sure you seal all the way around the edge of the pie. Finish in the middle. That way you will not get any of the lemon leaking out of the pie.
TIP I find sifted icing sugar with cream of tartar whisks to a very thick smooth dense meringue which dries out perfectly in the oven giving a crispy top but then a light mousse like meringue layer underneath.
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