In a moment of familial synchronicity I called The Oracle on Saturday in order to summon her for lemon meringue pie making, only to find she already had one in the oven. Luckily for me (less so for my Pa) she forgot to set the filling properly and collapsed the meringue with cornflour so was happy to regroup the next day and start again. We used Nigella’s ‘foolproof’ sweetpastry recipe and Angela Nielsen’s filling, before reverting back to Nigella’s meringue topping (from her rhubarb pie). I’d have been Team Nigella all the way but I couldn’t find a lemon meringue recipe for her, though I fail to believe she doesn’t make them.
Lots of putting the ingredients in the freezer and back out, refrigerating, mixing and I had a dough, albeit one that didn’t look right to me. Now, another trait I have inherited from The Oracle is my positive outlook in the face of disaster and ability to swear that black is white. She insisted that the fact the dough was still flecked all the way through with butter was no problem. Maybe not in a sponge I thought, but surely this won’t end well? It was also slightly wet as I totally ignored Nigella’s ‘add water drop by cautious drop’ instruction but improved on rolling out with lots of flour. We had to wing it on the tin size, on reflection maybe a little smaller than 21cm next time, as the pastry was quite thin. We added tin foil and baking beads and I baked it blind – another kitchen first for me.
The filling bubbled away, a custardy cauldron gently plopping in the background, and we turned our attention to the meringue. Much debate abound over how many egg whites to use, but 2 won the day and it was plenty. The Oracle, destroying all kinds of happy childhood delusions, mused that she did used to make us lemon meringue pie as children, but it came out of a packet mix. The woman I had come to, to teach me all about pastry once again clearly stated she had never been any good at it and didn’t see why you just wouldn’t buy it out of a packet.
It came to time to get the pastry out the oven and we hit a problem, the sides were all crumbly and had shrunk back in places where the tin had cut into the pastry at the edges. I felt totally disheartened by this point, but The Oracle was decidedly more positive and saw that the situation was rescuable. I guess this is where kitchen experience comes in hand as I was wailing and threatening to lob it in the bin. They’d chuck it in the bin on Great British Bake Off I cried, prompting odd looks. “You know you can buy pastry cases don’t you?” came The Oracle’s voice. Anyway this wasn’t tv and I wasn’t cooking in a glorified tent so we carried on and I am so glad.
As you can see, a bit of careful application of the meringue and the side bits that were missing were covered. There was no leakage, and it all held together when cut and tasted really sharp and lemony. “Why are we having lemon meringue pie again?” came my Father’s voice, sometimes I think he just doesn’t understand!
Kitchen wisdom gained:
- Follow your instincts, if something doesn’t look or feel right, it is probably in fact WRONG.
- I think in future I’ll make the pastry by hand not in the food processor, so I can feel how it is shaping up, rather than rely on my eyes.
- Never declare a member of your family an expert in something, when they loudly protest otherwise, no matter how true you want it to be!
The Oracle may know as much about pastry as I do about wig making but co-baking with her is my favourite time of the week (especially the celebratory G&Ts) and I am learning all sorts, long may it continue. Next time we are moving on to rough puff pastry and custard slices, watch this virtual space!