The classic lemon meringue pie stays a popular treat world-wide. North Americans in particular enjoy it as a tradition.
The pie as we know it today - because there were other versions before - is a 19th century creation. With the earliest recipe by chef Alexandre Frehse from the french speaking part of Switzerland.
250 g all purpose flour
80 g powdered sugar
125 g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp milk
Zest of 1/2 lemon (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1 bean
Pinch of salt
Juice and zest of 6 lemons
6 large eggs
250 g cane sugar
60 g unsalted butter
6 egg whites
280 g powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine flour with sugar, add cold butter in small pieces. Crush butter into flour-sugar mix with a wooden spoon or spatula.
When mixture has a crumbly texture, add vanilla, salt, milk and yolks.
Briefly mix with spatula and continue blending with fingers (not with hand palm).
The blending shouldn't take too long, just until the dough is homogeneous. This is done to maintain the dough cold and avoid gluten formation.
Make a ball and wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
Roll the dough in different directions to a thickness of 3 to 5 mm. Wrap it around the rolling pin and unfold the dough layer over the pie pan.
Press in the corners while lifting up the edge of the doug. If it's a flared baking pan gently press dough against the pan wall to take flared shape.
Using the rolling pin, go over the edges of the pan to cut the excess dough.
Make sure the dough layer is well flattened against the pan bottom and wall. Poke a few holes on the bottom using a fork.
Lay in a sheet of baking paper and spread the baking beans over it. Be careful not to squash the dough on the pan walls while layering the baking paper.
Bake for 10 minutes at 170°C, remove baking paper with beans and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Peel the lemons with a thin peeler. Avoid the white of the skin as much as possible to avoid a bitter after taste. Cut the peel into small pieces.
Juice the lemons, pour it in a pan with the sugar and cut lemon zest. Bring to boil and turn of the stove. Let it infuse 10 minutes, stir to dissolve sugar.
Set up a bain-marie, the water should NOT boil, but close to it!
Beat the eggs. Pour the lemon juice and beaten eggs in the bain-marie.
Stir every now and then. The curd is done when it has the consistency of a heavy cream with a shiny surface. Do not overcook as it may develope lumps. Stir with a whisk to help avoid these.
Take bowl with curd out of the bain-marie. Put it in cold water and stir the curd while cooling. When it reaches a temperature of 55°C, throw in the cut butter. Stir until it's completely dissolved. Butter must be at room temperature.
Pour lemon curd in shortcrust base, even it out. Bake for 15 minutes at 130°C.
Leave to cool in the pie pan. Then refrigerate until cold.
Sift the icing sugar.
Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat at highest spead until very firm.
Add sugar gradually while beating. Also add vanilla extract.
Continue beating until all sugar is dissolved. The meringue is done when it's shiny.
Fill a piping bag with wide nozzle with the meringue and top lemon pie with it. Decorate to your liking. I covered the lemon curd with small lumps of meringue. Some people don't use a piping bag at all. A silicone spatula does the job too.
To finish off the lemon meringue pie, carefully burn the meringue with a pastry torch.
Tools used: Hand mixer, piping bag, pastry torch, pie pan, rolling pin, whisk, baking beans, silicone spatula, wooden spoon, sieve.