Lemon meringue and shortbread pies

Good homemade lemon meringue pie is one of my greatest childhood memories but these days I find plain pastry a little boring. I thought shortbread might be a good alternative but wasn’t sure whether it would stay crispy when you add the lemon mixture. Well I’m pleased to report that it works just as well. I topped with Italian meringue – an excuse to try out my new blow torch.

Lemon meringue pies

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

Shortbread:
150g softened butter
70g caster sugar
220g plain flour (you can use a mix of 2/3 plain flour, 1/3 semolina if you like)

Lemon filling:
1 tbsp cornflour
50g caster sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon, grated finely
70ml lemon juice (1-2 large lemons)
Juice of half an orange
40g butter
2 egg yolks plus half the white of one of them, beaten

Meringue:
150g caster sugar
1 tbsp glucose syrup
2 egg whites

Method:
Cream butter and sugar in a food processor, add the flour and a pinch of salt and whizz again until you have a crumbly mix. Bring together with your hands to form a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees centigrade. Line two small tart cases with the shortbread, it will quickly soften so you just need to take blobs of the mix and keep squishing them, making it as even as possible. Chill again.

Line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes then carefully remove the beans and paper and bake again for another 5-10 minutes until golden. It may seem a little soft but it will crisp up on cooling.

Next, make the filling. Stir the sugar, cornflour and zest in a small pan. Strain the lemon juice through a tea strainer or small sieve and then add it to the pan gradually, stirring well in between each addition. Make orange juice up to 100ml then strain into the pan. Stir again. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until nicely thickened and smooth. Once bubbling, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the butter, cut into cubes. Next whisk in the beaten egg with a ballon whisk, return to the heat and cook until thickened. You don’t need to worry too much about it curdling. Set aside to cool.

For the meringue add sugar, glucose and 2 tbsp water to a pan. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and, using a sugar thermometer, monitor the temperature.

Once at 110 degrees centigrade add your egg whites to a food mixer or food processor with a whisk attachment and set running until stiff peaks are formed.

Once the sugar reaches 118 degrees, remove from the heat, set your mixer or food processor running again and very carefully pour, in a thin stream, the sugar mix into the eggs. Doing this cooks the eggs so there’s no need to bake later. Keep the mixer running for about 20 minutes until the meringue is cooled. Transfer to a piping bag with your choice of nozzle.

Spoon your lemon filling into your shortbread cases until it almost reaches the top. Pipe on your meringue then use a blow torch to brown. If you don’t have one of these, put them under the grill but watch the shortbread, and the meringue for that matter, doesn’t burn. Eat the same or following day.

Any meringue or shortbread mix you haven’t used will keep in the fridge for up to a week if covered/wrapped in cling film.