My gran’s lemon meringue pie is hands-down the best lemon meringue pie I have ever tasted. For a lemon meringue pie, every bite has to scream lemon at you, and this is certainly not a lemon meringue pie for anyone who does not love lemons! I prefer, unashamedly, a rustic appearance for these: their elegance lies in the flavours within!
I stick to the approach my gran took with her lemon meringue pies several decades ago in that the whole lemons get used (they get blitzed in a food processor before getting strained, sweetened and thickened) and a little freshly-squeezed orange juice is added. The orange juice adds an extra citrus kick and takes away just a little of the lemon’s bitterness, although the overall bitter-sweet sharpness is crucial here.
You might not use all of the filling but the surplus can be put in a screwtop jar and refrigerated for about a week. This filling is also great to sandwich together macarons or mixed with beaten double cream as an indulgent filling for a Victoria Sandwich or a swiss roll.
A sweet, short pastry is excellent here: the crisp butteriness is a perfect accompaniment for the sharp lemony filling and the fluffy meringue. I bake the pastry cases blind for about 15 minutes.
Shortbread, rolled thinly to line the cases, is an excellent alternative to pastry and I tend to use either shortbread or all-butter puff pastry if I am making bite-sized portions of this.
The addition of a little cornflour to the meringue gives it a crunchier exterior and a chewier, more marshmallowy interior. You can pipe the meringue over or pile it on with a spoon and swirl the surface.
You can make one large pie but I love even smaller versions of these pies as a zingy one-bite treat: perfect as petits fours or with Afternoon Tea.
For one-bite servings, roll out the pastry or shortbread and cut into small circles with a cutter. Bake for about 10 minutes at 170C (fan) until mostly cooked through. Leave to cool and then place a small spoonful of the filling in the centre of each. Pipe or spoon meringue around and over the filling, making sure there are no gaps, and bake for about 10 minutes.
A passionfruit meringue pie is a lovely variation: wonderfully sharp with a sublime fragrance. For this, replace the lemons with the juice of about 14 passionfruit.
Lemon Meringue Pies – makes 8 individual pies
- 350g plain flour
- 175g unsalted butter
- 40g icing sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- cold water to mix
- 4 large unwaxed lemons, washed and with the tips cut off and pips removed
- 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 50ml water
- 4 egg yolks
- 120g caster sugar
- 90g unsalted butter, roughly cubed
- 20g cornflour
- 4 egg whites
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornflour
- Make the pastry: mix the flour and icing sugar together and rub in the butter. Add the egg yolks and stir in with the flat blade of a knife. Add water, a little at a time, until it forms a soft but not sticky dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170C (fan). Roll the pastry out thinly, line 8 small tart tins or one large one with it and chill for at least 30 minutes. Bake blind for about 15 minutes and leave the pastry in the tins.
- Chop the lemons roughly and put in a food processor, along with the water. Blitz until smooth. Strain into a saucepan, pushing well to extract as much of the liquid as possible and whisk in the sugar and the cornflour. Add the orange juice and bring the lemon mixture gently to the boil, stirring all the time. Let it bubble for about a minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks and butter, whisking in well. Return to a gentle heat, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes (the mixture will splutter in a volcanic way).
- Pour into the pastry cases until just below the rim and leave to cool. It will cool to a nicely set, but not rubbery texture.
- Make the meringue: whisk the egg whites for a few minutes until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time, and keep whisking until all the sugar has been added and firm peaks are formed. Add the cornflour and whisk a minute or so further until the meringue is very thick and glossy.
- Pipe or spoon the meringue over the lemon filling and bake at 170C (fan) for about 15 minutes until the meringue has turned golden. You can serve warm or chilled.