I decided to make a meringue after having made a lemon curd as a hidden filling for some cupcakes. It’s difficult to make a really small batch of curd, so I had enough left over to a medium-sized meringue.
The ingredient quantities for the meringue are slightly smaller than normal too. I’d suggest if you have a typical 23cm round flan case you want to fill then double the lemon curd and meringue quantities, but the pastry recipe should just about be enough (as this gave me a little extra over which I put in the freezer).
heavy based saucepan
electric hand mixer or stand mixer
flan tin – rectangular / medium sized
baking beans or dried beans for blind baking
jar/bowl (sterilised glass jar if you intend to keep the lemon curd for a while)
a sugar thermometer if you have one (you can do this by eye but it’s less reliable)
For the pastry
260g plain flour
110g unsalted butter or cooking margarine
20g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
For the Italian meringue
170g caster sugar
3 egg whites
¼ tsp vanilla extract/seeds
Plus one jar of lemon curd – please see my blog post on lemon curd for the recipe
Preheat the oven to 155˚C fan or 170˚ conventional oven.
Mix everything together either using your fingertips to rub the butter into the sugar and flour or put into a mixer with a paddle attachment.
Add water little by little until the dough comes together – about 1 tablespoons (try to add as little as you can).
Rest in the fridge as long as you can – at least 15 minutes.
Butter and flour the flan tin.
Roll out on a mat or floured surface to about 3mm thick. Line your tin with the pastry and gently press it into the edges and the flutes. Prick the base with a fork, line it with the parchment and line with the beans.
Put in the oven for 10 minutes (I turned the flan after 6 minutes as my oven cooks a little unevenly), then take out, remove the beans and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
Take out and leave to cool while you prepare the meringue.
Preheat the oven to 140˚C fan or 150˚C conventional.
Put all the sugar in your saucepan and put enough water into it to just cover the sugar. Turn the heat up to medium and leave it to boil – don’t stir it.
Whisk the egg whites up until they are fluffy, but they don’t need to be as stiff as for Swiss meringue.
This next bit will be easier if you have a stand mixer, but not impossible with a hand mixer…
When the sugar syrup reaches 115˚C (the softball stage) it’s ready. You can gauge this without a thermometer: softball is an early stage so doesn’t take long to get to and the syrup won’t have changed colour at this stage. It’s ready when the bubbles change from being very liquid to being more sirupy. You can test this by dipping a spoon or spatula-end into the syrup and dropping the syrup into cold water. The syrup will harden a little but you’ll be able to squidge it between your fingers. Test it early as you don’t want to let it go from softball to hardball as this is too much and this can happen very quickly.
You now need to slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the meringue, while you are still whisking the meringue (medium speed). Clearly this is easier with a stand mixer as you have two hands free, but I have done it with a hand mixer. Just be very careful with the hot syrup and put a wet tea towel under the meringue bowl to stop it from moving. If you’re worried, you can wear your kitchen rubber gloves to protect your hands (and give some extra grip!)
Once it’s mixed in, you need to start whisking very vigorously to fluff up the meringue to about 2 – 3 times it’s original size.
Assembling and cooking the pie
Spread the cooled lemon curd over the cooled flan case.
Spoon the meringue over the lemon curd and make peaks in the meringue with the back of a spoon.
Pop in the oven for 15 – 20 mins. You need to keep looking at it because when it starts to brown it goes quite quickly. I normally turn the pie just after it starts browning to make sure it colours evenly all over. The meringue will be slightly crispy.
Leave to cool thoroughly. The lemon curd can stay hot inside for a long while. It’ll ooze out, spoiling the look of your lovingly made meringue if you rush the cooling stage.