New Lemon Meringue PiePosted: September 5, 2015
Despite the title, this post is actually about three recipes, which involve looking differently at something familiar to create something new, and how those recipes can also be combined to create something new. This all came about when I saw a competition to re-imagine a classic dessert. Ultimately, I was ineligible due to geographic location *shakes fist in exasperation*. Nevertheless, I’m more than just a little pleased with the end result. Go me.
50g (2 large) egg-whites
75g caster sugar
Very much the least used of the meringues, and hardly ever in the context of actual meringues. Most recipes that call for Swiss meringue use it as a base for some kind of frosting, which is a real shame since it is actually probably the simplest of the meringues to make, and provided you have a stand mixer, definitely the easiest. It is also excellent at holding it’s shape when piped, making it ideal for creations that aspire beyond the blobby.
The sugar and egg-whites are placed in a metal bowl over simmering water and whisked lightly until the sugar is dissolved and the egg-whites reach a temperature of between 50°C and 71°C. The temperature is important depending on the use you intend your meringue, the higher temperature is for meringue that will not be cooked further (for use in buttercream, etc). Since that is not the intent here, I’m going to suggest whisking to a temperature of 60°C. This doesn’t take very long at all – 2-3 minutes at most. You can check that the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a little of the mixture between your finger and thumb: if you don’t feel any graininess, you’re good to go.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with a balloon whisk (I actually whisk the egg whites and sugar in the metal bowl of my Kenwood), and set the motor running. Whisk the mixture until it is cooled and firm – between 5-8 minutes. And that’s it. Fantastically firm meringue that holds its shape magnificently, ideal for all your fluted piping needs. Today, however, we have another use for it.
I chose the name for these from their cooking method, although it was a close call between these and 10-second Meringues, because that’s how long they take to cook. The only reason I didn’t go with this as a name was because in the recipe below, due to their shape, they actually take 15 seconds. Setting aside the why’s and wherefores of 5 seconds between friends, here’s how it works.
Pipe your meringue mixture into silicone moulds, ensuring they are filled completely, with no air bubbles. Smooth over the surfaces and then zap them in the microwave. Despite the short amount of time, the meringue cooks through and, most importantly for what I have planned for later, holds its shape. What you end up with is a cooked meringue that is borderline ethereal in texture, but which doesn’t subsequently collapse, making it ideal for enrobing in numerous flavoured glazes or coatings before combining with other ingredients into an infinite number of delicate desserts. It is like biting into a cloud, frozen in time.
You are only limited by the size and shape of your silicone moulds. I must confess, I ordered the barque-shaped mould used in the photo above, but you can play around with whatever shape you have – cupcake, mini muffin, hemisphere, etc. Loaf-shaped silicone moulds might work well for larger desserts. The possibilities are endless.
This is the third and final recipe revisit I have for you today. You might think crème patissière is pretty much one-dimensional, but not at the hands of Monsieur Philippe Conticini, whose recipe this is. I will confess to being a long-time admirer of Chef Conticini, and if you are unfamiliar with him or his illustrious career, I can recommend it as well worthy of a Google Search. He has great skill in re-imagining classics of French patisserie and I came across the result of him turning his attention to crème patissière on YouTube. It is not a huge departure from the classic recipe: more vanilla, fewer eggs, the use of gelatine – but the result is astonishing in both texture and flavour. Feel free to substitute your own favourite recipe if you prefer, but his is worthy of at least a trial, I assure you.
Here is the original recipe, with vanilla. I shall actually be using lemon as flavouring, but the method is the same. You can view the original video – in French – here.
250ml semi-skimmed milk (can also use whole)
6g vanilla seeds (3 pods)
2 large yolks
42g caster sugar
10g plain flour
2 sheets gelatine
20g unsalted butter – diced and chilled
- Put the milk and vanilla into a saucepan together with 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and cover with clingfilm.
- Heat gently until bubbles are visible around the edge of the pan, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
- After this time, carefully remove the clingfilm and make sure any condensation on the plastic falls back into the pan, to preserve as much flavour and aroma as possible.
- Set the gelatine to bloom in cold water.
- Put the yolks into a bowl with the remaining sugar and whisk to a light froth.
- Mix the flours together then add to the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly.
- Pour a little of the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly, then pour everything back into the pan.
- Whisk over medium heat, until the custard has thickened – 2-3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatine and cold butter.
- Cover a plate with cling film and pour the custard onto it. Cover the surface completely with more cling film and chill in the fridge until cold and set – about an hour.
- When ready to use, tip the chilled custard into a bowl and whisk briskly for about 2 minutes.
The result is so light, so delicate, silky-smooth with an almost intoxicating flavour. A real revelation.
New Lemon Meringue Pie
So here is my re-imagining of the classic Lemon Meringue Pie. It is assembled, rather than baked whole, and employs steam meringues coated in a glaze of rich honey lemon curd, over a lemon custard in a sweet shortcrust pastry shell. To finish, the edge between the meringue and the custard is disguised with a string of freshly whipped cream ‘pearls’.
You will need:
- Sweet pastry shortcrust tart shells: I used this cornflour shortcrust, but you can use your own favourite. Fully blind bake your pastry shells in whatever shape you please and set aside to cool.
- Lemon-flavoured crème patissière, chilled and whisked: Use Chef Conticini’s recipe above, substituting the zest of 1 large lemon for the vanilla seeds.
- Steam Meringues: made with the Swiss meringue above and cooked in silicon moulds of your choosing in the microwave. Mini-muffin-sized hemispheres will need only 10 seconds, larger moulds will require longer. Practice first before filling the whole sheet with the meringue.
- Honey lemon curd: Using this recipe. For an exceptional variation, you can find make it with lemon-blossom honey from the Pyrenees.
- 300ml double cream – whipped.
- Strips of lemon zest, tied in a knot, as garnish
NB If you want to make these ahead of serving, consider painting a layer of melted white chocolate inside your pastry shells, to prevent them from becoming soggy from the crème patissière.
- Fill the pastry shells with the lemon crème patissière. This is probably easiest done with a piping bag and a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Arrange the cooked meringues onto a wire rack over a tray. Pour the honey curd evenly over the meringues until fully coated. This is easiest done when the curd is slightly warm and therefore flows a little more smoothly. The excess curd will drip through and onto the tray, from where it can be re-used if required.
- Using a thin slice or small offset spatula, lift the coated meringues from the rack and lay them onto your filled tart shells.
- Pipe a border of cream pearls around the edge of the meringues to cover the join.
- Garnish with the lemon twists.
I have tried to introduce an elegance of presentation, whilst still retaining the essential elements of this classic dessert. Obviously, it can be varied by using different flavours of citrus fruit, or even stepping away from the tradition and using freeze-dried fruit powders to flavour the custards with fruits such as strawberries, blackberries and cherries, and different flavours of curd. I do hope you will have a go trying at least the steam meringues – I’d love to know how your experiments go!
Happy Baking! 😀