This afternoon I decided to stay inside and bake.
When I start my new job I won’t have time to do this sort of thing very often. So I’m making the most of my free time by doing things I would never normally do. Like make lemon meringue pie.
I’ve made a few pretty good cakes and usually fancy myself as being quite good at baking, on the whole. But for the past couple of months I watched the Great British Bake Off and realised that there’s a hell of a lot more to baking than making a cake. Cakes are pretty easy. You just bung all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it all up together and stick it in the oven. As long as you weigh all your ingredients up properly and put it in the oven at the right temperature and for the right amount of time, you can’t go too far wrong.
Watching those contestants baking such a diverse range of things made me realise that I need to expand my repertoire a bit. I know very little about bread, pastry, custard, or any of the things they are expected to whip up in a couple of hours.
So today I decided to have a go at lemon meringue pie, as it’s one of my dad’s favourites.
How hard could it be?
I’ve blind baked a pastry case a couple of times before, and once you’ve done that all you need is some lemon curd and a bit of meringue. It’s not rocket science. I looked up Mary Berry’s recipe, and I was ready to go.
So I made my pastry and rolled it out. The last time I made a pastry case I followed a tip I read online and rolled it out between two floured pieces of baking parchment. That worked really well, so I did it again, and soon I had lined my tin with pastry. I chilled it in the fridge for half an hour, then lined it with baking parchment, filled it with baking beans and baked it until it was crisp.
The next step was to make the lemon curd. I’ve never made lemon curd before but I followed the instructions to the letter and it seemed to be going ok. I was supposed to stir it over a medium heat until it was “thickened”. But how thick is thickened? I didn’t want it to be too thin, but I didn’t want it to turn the consistency of toffee either. So I used my judgement and stopped when it looked lemon-curd-y. Following the recipe, I waited a few minutes for it to cool a little, and then poured it into the pastry case.
Now for the fun bit… the meringue!
I’d never made meringue before as I’ve only just bought an electric whisk. This bit was brilliant fun! It took no time at all and came out exactly as the recipe said it was supposed to. Excitedly, I spooned the meringue over the lemon curd until it was completely covered, and then put my pie in the oven.
It looked awesome, even if I do say so myself. Ignoring the chaos in the kitchen, I sat by the oven like a lunatic, watching the meringue slowly brown and congratulating myself on having made what looked like a pretty perfect lemon meringue pie on my first attempt. Maybe I should apply to be on the Great British Bake Off, I thought to myself, smugly.
When it came out, it looked like this:
But then, something terrible happened…
As I was moving the plate, I tilted it slightly to one side and a trickle of liquid came out.
Uh oh… I thought. I don’t think it’s supposed to have that much moisture in it…
The bottom of the pie dish was still on, so I thought I’d better remove it and see what the pastry looked like underneath. Easier said than done. As soon as I tried to take it off, the meringue broke, the pastry disintegrated and there was soon a puddle of lemon curd all over the kitchen counter. The words “soggy bottom” do not even come close.
My perfect pie was not so perfect after all.
At this point, I would like to take the opportunity to say, “Mary Berry, I don’t care how much of a baking goddess you are. This is not a good recipe! A good recipe is idiot proof!”
(Jamie Oliver’s recipes are idiot proof, which is why I like them.)
Sadly, I spooned it into a casserole dish. Not quite so pretty any more, is it?
Still, the bits I licked off my fingers tasted pretty good. And the meringue is still crunchy.
Actually, this kind of reminds me of earlier in the year, when my dad made a chocolate cake for my birthday. It rose beautifully, and when he took it out of the oven he was beaming with pride. But then a few minutes later, it collapsed spectacularly in the middle. My dad looked completely crestfallen.
I picked a bit out of the pan and tasted it. “You know what?” I said. “This isn’t a chocolate cake any more, it’s a chocolate brownie. Still tastes delicious.”
So, following my own logic…
It’s not a lemon meringue pie; it’s a lemon meringue pudding. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.