Battle Of The Pies: An Excess of Lemons

What do you do when life gives you lemons…?

Make lemon meringue pie of course!

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Last week I found myself with an excess of lemons and all I could think about was my mother’s lemon meringue pie… which, I was shocked to realise, I had never made myself!

So I decided it was about time.

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There are a couple of different ways you can make lemon meringue pie – using a pastry base or a biscuit base, and filling with the traditional lemon curd, or the more modern condensed milk filling. My mother makes her lemon meringue pie with a biscuit base and condensed milk filling, and as far as I can remember, this is the only way I have ever had it.

And so the Battle Of The Pies commenced.

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I decided to make mini pies so that I could try the different combinations in bite size.

Pastry Base, Lemon Curd Filling
Biscuit Base, Lemon Curd Filling
Pastry Base, Condensed Milk Filling
Biscuit Base, Condensed Milk Filling

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The biscuit base was a little messy to get out of my seriously miniature tart tins (I’m sure it would work better with loose bottom tins!), so I only made a couple of these, and then made a large pie the old fashioned (mum’s recipe) way.

The Results

Hubby says: Pastry Base, Condensed Milk Filling
I say: Biscuit Base, Condensed Milk Filling

Sigh* I guess my childhood has biased me.

The Lemon Meringue Pie Challenge

Note: To make a lemon meringue pie/mini pies, you will need

1 base recipe (pastry OR biscuit)
1 filling recipe (lemon curd OR condensed milk)
1 meringue recipe

Directions on assembling your pie are at the end of this post.

Pastry Base

Yield: 30 mini pastry cases

Ingredients

350g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
230g cold butter
60g (4 Tbsp) icing sugar
2 egg yolks

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C/400° F/Gas Mark 6.

Grease your mini tart tins – loose bottom are the easiest to use, but I used these 6cm fluted tart tins and they were great. Make sure you grease them very well and dust with flour so they don’t stick!

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture begins to come together. Set the left over egg whites aside to use in your meringue.

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Tip your pastry onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together until smooth. Do not over work the pastry with your hands, the warmth can cause the butter to melt which will give you a poor textured pastry.

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Roll your pastry out to 1/2 cm – 1cm thickness and, using a glass, cut out small circles a little wider than your tart tins. Press the pastry circles into your tart tins, cutting off the edges that overhang, and place the filled tins in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Place a sheet of baking paper in each pastry case and fill with dried beans or rice, this serves as a weight to prevent bubbles forming in the base of your pastry case.

Bake in your preheated oven for 10 – 12 minutes, then remove the baking paper and weights and bake for a further five minutes.

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Biscuit Base

Ingredients

200g shortcake biscuits
100g blanched almonds
120g butter melted
2 Tbsp icing sugar

Method

Grease a 23cm loose bottom tart tin or pie dish – I didn’t have a large loose bottom tart tin, or a pie dish (eek!) so I used a springform tin. It worked, but it won’t give you a perfect finish on your pie as the sides come up past the meringue so don’t do this! Unless you have to… at least you know it works!

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until your left with a good chunky crumb.

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Pour the mixture into your chosen tin and press into the base and up the sides. If it seems crumbly just keep pressing, it should come together, but if it doesn’t just tip the mixture back into your bowl and add a little more butter.

Refrigerate your base for at least 20 minutes before filling.

Lemon Curd Filling

Ingredients

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
20g (2 Tbsp) cornflour
zest of 2 lemons
200ml lemon juice, about 4 lemons
120ml water
6 egg yolks
150g butter

Combine the sugar, cornflour and lemon zest in a saucepan. Strain in the lemon juice slowly, stirring to remove any lumps, then add the water.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and there are no lumps.

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Remove from heat and add in the butter, stirring until melted.

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Beat your egg yolks, reserving the whites for the meringue, then stir into the saucepan and return to the heat. Stir vigorously until nice and thick, and when it starts to bubble take it off the heat and set aside – you don’t want your lemon curd to curdle!

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Lemon Condensed Milk Filling

Ingredients

1 can (397g) of sweetened condensed milk
zest of 1 – 2 lemons
200ml lemon juice, about 4 lemons
4 egg yolks

Method

Beat the egg yolks until pale and creamy, reserving your egg whites for the meringue.

Add in the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest and beat until combined.

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Meringue

Ingredients

4 large egg whites
200g (1 cup) caster sugar

Tip: use whatever egg whites you have left over from your filling, and add 50g more caster sugar per extra egg. Four egg whites should be the minimum for these recipes, depending on how tall you want your meringue to be!

Method

Using a super clean and super dry stainless steel or glass bowl, beat your egg whites until peaks begin to form, then add the sugar a few spoons at a time and continue to beat until your egg whites are stiff and glossy.

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Assembling Your Pie

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350° F/Gas Mark 4.

Pour your chosen filling into your chosen base, leaving a small gap at the top of the base.

For the larger pie: spoon the meringue mixture onto the filling in large dollops, starting at the edges and working your way in, then use a palette knife to bring the meringue together and seal the edges of your pie.

For the smaller pies: I used a piping bag for the meringue to get the swirl effect, but you can also spoon the meringue on as in the larger pie.

Bake the smaller pies for 10 – 15 minutes, and the larger pie for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the meringue has turned lightly golden.

Leave your pie to stand for at least 30 minutes, then serve hot or cold with cream or ice cream!

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Enjoy… x

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