The Midnight Meringue

Midnight Meringue Pie

Wotchers!

Cor! It’s been a while since I made a post – apologies for that, but it’s been a bit hectic since the final of The Great British Bake Off aired.

Now I know this is still a Bake Off recipe, but I wanted to make it a blog post just to fill in some background on how I put the recipe together. I did actually go through the reasoning behind the recipe on camera, but obviously it never made it into the edit. To me, at least, it therefore seemed like I’d just given a pie a bit of a poncy name for no real reason. So for those interested, here is the background and how I put this dessert together. Feel free to skip down to the recipe.

Still here? Awesome! Ok, so the recipe request for the Week 5 Showstopper Challenger was for: A Unique Meringue Pie. The guidelines were very specific in two respects:

  1. It had to be something much more than a regular Lemon Meringue Pie, and
  2. It had to be big. Huge, even. At least 30cm diameter across the base.

Obviously the size was going to test our skill in baking such a large pie, and the filling stipulation was going to test our creativity. So all this got me pondering how I could do something that was original, unique and achievable within the time limit of 3 hours.

Now when I think of a meringue pie, I naturally think of lemon meringue pie – and it just reminds me of a bright, sunny day: the circle of yellow like the sun, the mounds of fluffy white meringue clouds. So I thought it would be fun to make something that was a contrast – involving dark and light, very Ying/Yang. Then I thought about it a bit more and decided it wasn’t going to work – Ying Yang Meringue? Please.

So I crossed over to the Dark Side (Luke I am your father) and The Midnight Meringue was born!

Dark chocolate pastry, rich mocha filling and a dark meringue made with…..well, it went through several revisions, including (as some of you might remember) right down to the wire on the day itself! Treacle meringue, molasses meringue, coffee meringue – but on the day, brown sugar meringue won out.

I also decided to ‘assemble’ rather than bake the meringue, reasoning that less could go wrong that way – I could concentrate on each component individually and not have to worry about something over-cooking. The final dish consisted of a cooked Italian meringue made with brown sugar, a thick and rich custard filling flavoured with coffee and dark chocolate and a blind baked chocolate pastry case.

The meringue was piped in a huge swirl and finished off with a few blasts of the blowtorch to toast the edges.

The meringue was a little softer than the standard meringue topping because of the brown sugar, but I still think it was the right choice and really made the pie stand out.

This recipe is for a single large pie, but you could just as easily bake mini pastry shells and create individually-sized pies for a special occasion – and would probably be less stressful than worrying about one big pie. The fact that at least 2 of the components can be made in advance just makes it that much easier.

The Midnight Meringue

Chocolate Pastry
300g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180 Fan.
  • Grease a deep, loose-bottomed, 30cm tart tin.
  • In a food processor, mix flour, cocoa and sugar.
  • Add butter, cut in small cubes. Blitz.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of milk and blend again until mixture resembles coarse, damp sand.
  • Press the mixture into the base and sides of your pie tin. Alternatively, press mixture together and roll out using a rolling pin. It’s quite crumbly, so this is rather tricky and best done between sheets of cling film. Depends how critical your guests are going to be 😉
  • Line with baking parchment, fill with rice/beans/baking bead and bake blind, 200°C 180°C Fan, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove beans, cover edge of rim with foil to prevent burning and return to the oven until fully baked (10-15 minutes).
  • Allow the pastry to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then ease out of the tin and cool on a wire rack

The mocha filling
250g dark (70%) chocolate, chopped
6 large egg yolks
225g caster sugar
65g cornflour
1 litre milk
2 tbsp espresso coffee powder

  • Melt chocolate in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds to prevent burning.
  • In a bowl, whisk together yolks, sugar and cornflour.
  • Add the coffee powder to the milk and heat, stirring until the coffee has dissolved.
  • Whisk hot milk mixture into the egg/sugar mixture.
  • Return the custard to the pan and continue to heat, stirring, until it has thickened.
  • Stir in the melted chocolate until fully incorporated.
  • Check flavour. Depending on the strength of your chocolate, you may need to add more coffee powder.
  • Cover with cling film to stop a skin from forming and chill until required.

The brown sugar Italian meringue [1]
150g egg whites (5 large)
pinch of salt
few drops of lemon juice
45g granulated sugar
15g powdered egg white
150ml water
300g dark muscovado sugar

  • Put whites, salt and lemon juice in a mixer bowl.
  • Whip whites slowly until frothy, then fast until stiff peaks.
  • Gradually add granulated sugar and egg white powder (mixed together). Allow each spoonful to dissolve before adding the next.
  • Whip to stiff, glossy peaks.
  • Heat sugar and water to 115°C
  • Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside.
  • With the beaters running, pour the sugar syrup into the whipped whites in a thin stream, then continue whisking until bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue is stiff. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.

To assemble

  • Place the chocolate pastry case on the serving dish.
  • Whisk chilled custard filling and pour into the pastry case.
  • Spoon (or pipe) over the brown sugar meringue. Make sure there are no gaps between the meringue and the pastry shell, and that the filling is completely covered.
  • Use a blowtorch to lightly toast the meringue. Serve.

[1] This quantity makes enough meringue to cover a single large meringue pie. If you want an awe-inducing mountain of meringue like the picture (although I feel obliged to point out that the picture is actually of a mini, 8cm pie), you might want to make double the quantity. If so, then I would suggest making two batches, because a single batch fills a standard mixing bowl.