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Lemon meringue pie

Sweet but tangy, there's no denying the pull of this retro classic.

By Rodney Dunn
  • Serves 8
Lemon meringue pie

Nothing quite says 'truly, madly over-the-top frothy fun' like lemon meringue pie, yet it started, in a way, with the Quakers, a group more typically associated with sobriety, broad-brimmed hats and oats. The Quakers, you see, are widely credited with inventing lemon custard in the late 18th century; no lemon custard (or curd), no lemon meringue pie.

The term pie is used somewhat unusually here, as a pie is typically covered with a lid of some sort, while a tart is open. The argument among pie authorities, then, is whether meringue constitutes a lid.

The hair-splitters say a classic lemon meringue pie has lemon custard as its filling, thickened with cornstarch, while the same dish made with a sharper lemon curd filling is best termed a lemon meringue tart. The recipe we present here is a hybrid, the best of both worlds, if you will, so call it by whichever term takes your fancy.

A tart by any other name…

Where to try it

Daniel Alps at Strathlyn
Lemon curd topped with slow-baked meringue, served with zest-spiked lemon syrup. 95 Rosevears Dr, Rosevears, Tas, (03) 6330 2388.

Le Paris Brest
Tarts with buttery lemon curd on sweet shortcrust pâté brisée. Shop 9, Kalamunda Village Shopping Centre, Kalamunda, WA, (08) 9293 2752.

Humid
In Noosa we find this cracker, replete with fired Italian meringue on top. 195 Weyba Rd, Noosaville, Qld, (07) 5449 9755.

Ingredients

Lemon curd
  • 3 lemons, juice and finely grated rind only
  • 45 gm cornflour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 150 gm caster sugar
  • 80 gm unsalted butter
Shortcrust pastry
  • 150 gm (1 cup) plain flour
  • 55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 75 gm cold unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
Italian meringue
  • 330 gm caster sugar
  • 4 eggwhites

Method

  • 1
    For pastry, blend flour, sugar and a pinch of salt in a food processor until combined, add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add 2 tbsp iced water and pulse until mixture comes together. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • 2
    Roll pastry onto a floured surface to 5mm thick and use to line a 2cm-deep x 24cm-diameter cake ring placed on a heavy-based oven tray or a shallow 24cm tart tin. Trim and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 180C. Line pastry with baking paper, fill with pastry weights or rice and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove paper and rice and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool to room temperature.
  • 3
    Combine lemon juice and rind in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. In a separate bowl, combine cornflour and 2 tbsp water and stir to combine, then add to lemon mixture and whisk to combine. Add 1 cup boiling water and whisk over simmering water until thick. Remove from heat, whisk in egg yolks,
    sugar and butter until combined and refrigerate until cold. Spoon mixture into pastry case and smooth surface.
  • 4
    For Italian meringue, place sugar in a heavy-based saucepan, add ¼ cup water and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook until syrup reaches 115C on a sugar thermometer, then remove from heat. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, then, with motor running, slowly add hot syrup and whisk for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low until ready to use.
  • 5
    Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 2cm plain nozzle and pipe 3cm high peaks over lemon filling. Place pie under a hot grill or using a blowtorch, toast meringue until evenly golden.
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  • Author: Rodney Dunn