The dreaded man ‘flu + lemon meringue pie

My husband has that dreaded yet totally legitimate disease, the man ‘flu. He won’t take any medication, claiming he can fight it off on his own, yet every day the moaning and complaining gets worse. I find the easiest way to force a load of vitamin C into him is via this pie.

The pastry is from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and I’ve adapted it slightly. I have just started to use this recipe and it works fantastically. The mix of butter and shortening helps to keep the pastry tender and flaky,  and there is no sugar in it so the filling really shines. For some reason, I always have trouble with ‘normal’ meringue so I’m using the Swiss meringue from the Bouchon cookbook. As I mentioned in a previous post, I love the preciseness of baking, and there is no one more precise than Mr. Thomas Keller.

Ingredients

Pastry (see notes for quantity)

315g flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
90g butter, cut into cubes and chilled
148g vegetable shortening, chilled (I used Kremelta)
120ml ice water

Filling

2c breadcrumbs
1½c sugar
8oz butter, cut into cubes
rind and juice of 3-4 lemons
4 tablespoons cornflour whisked into 1½c water
4 egg yolks

Swiss meringue

You’ll need a candy thermometer

150g egg whites
300g caster sugar

Method

Pastry

In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, butter and shortening. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. A few larger pieces of fat is ok.  (You can also use a pastry cutter.)

Tip the mixture into a bowl and drizzle over the water, 1 tablespoon at a time. I use a butter knife to ‘cut’ in the water. You could also stir it with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stop adding water when the mixture begins to form large clumps. You may need up to ¾c, depending on the weather. (I use less in summer when it’s humid, more in winter when the weather is dry.)

Tip the dough out onto a floured benchtop. It shouldn’t be too sticky. Fold the dough into itself until the flour and fats are fully incorporated. Form it into a ball and flatten it slightly.

Wrap the dough tightly in plastic then pop it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to roll, lightly flour your benchtop and preheat your oven to 180°C. Be gentle when you roll your pastry, it’s your friend! Roll from the centre and give your dough a quarter turn every couple of rolls. When you have your dough at the right measurement, place it in your tin and gently press it in with your fingers. Dock the pastry by pricking all over the base with a fork.

We are going to blind bake the case, so place a sheet of baking paper over your pastry and fill it with rice, ceramic baking beans etc. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edge starts to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and carefully take out the baking paper and weights. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes, until the base is also golden brown.

Filling

Add all the ingredients to a medium sized pot and stir together. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir continuously until the mixture boils and thickens. Add more lemon juice to suit your taste.
Allow to cool completely and then stir in the egg yolks.

Swiss meringue

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and set it over a pot of simmering water. Don’t forget your candy thermometer!
Whisk until the mixtures reaches 160°F/71°C, then immediately put the bowl on the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, until the whites hold stiff peaks and are cool.

whisk

Assembly

Spoon the filling into the pie case and top with meringue, using a palette knife to make peaks.
You can pop it in the oven at 150°C to brown the meringue, or use a pastry/culinary torch.

pie top

Notes

  • Having larger lumps of fat is what makes the pastry flaky. These melt during baking and create steam, making the pastry puff. That’s why it’s important to be gentle when you’re rolling the dough; if you squash the fats into the flour, they won’t steam as much.
  • You can make the dough and filling ahead of time. The dough will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, tightly wrapped in plastic. The filling will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.
  • The pastry recipe is American and makes enough for 2 standard US pies. I used a deep 10″ pie dish, so reduced the ingredients by ¼.
  • If you assemble the pie ahead of time, you can warm it in the oven at 150°C, making sure the pie is on the bottom oven rack so the meringue doesn’t brown too much.

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