Some might say that baking is a science. I’d agree with them to an extent, but only about certain aspects. For me, baking is assembly. Think about it. What’s a jam, except fruit and sugar? What’s a cake, but flour, sugar, butter and eggs? What’s a Victoria Sponge, but cake, jam and sugar?
You can make almost infinite variation of bakes with relatively few (and simple) processes. This brought me on to lemon meringue pie: what is it but pastry, lemon curd and meringue? Nothing, is the answer. So if you purchase the pastry and acquire the curd, all you do is leave yourself to whip up a really simple meringue. If you really wanted to cheat, you could substitute even that with a little shop-bought meringue nest.
First, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Grease a bun or cupcake tin with plenty of butter; you don’t want these to stick.
If your pastry has come in a block, flour a surface and place your pastry on top. Flour the top of the pastry, then rub some flour on your rolling pin to stop it sticking. Roll it out until it’s the thickness of a one-pound coin. Turn it and move it a little every few rolls to keep it round and stop it sticking. Add more flour if necessary.
Use a biscuit cutter (or improvise with a small bowl or large mug) to cut out rounds of pastry, just bigger than how big you want your tarts to be. Place these in your greased bun tin – you want 12. Once they are in place, prick them all over with a fork, all the way through.
Bake your pastry for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. This is potentially the only baking they’ll get, so make sure you’re happy with how crisp they’re going to be. Once done, remove and leave to cool.
After a few minutes cooling, spoon your jar of lemon curd evenly between the wee pastry cases. If any of cases have bubbled up, just push the bubbles down.
Make your meringue. To do this, whisk your egg whites in a very clean bowl. If you have an electric one, use this. Keep whisking until your meringue isn’t just frothy, but completely stiff. Once it’s reached this stage, keep whisking and add your sugar, a teaspoon at a time. This will take a while, but you’ll have the biggest, stiffest meringue. You cannot overmix.
Once you’ve added all your sugar, load up your piping bag or freezer bag. Cut a 1cm hole in the end, and practice a few wee spikes or peaks on a plate. Once you’re happy with your practice, start on the pies themselves. Alternatively, just spoon it on.
To finish, I like to blowtorch them until golden. If you don’t have a blowtorch or have been told to avoid uncooked eggs (for example, if you’re pregnant), then crank your oven up to 220C/200C fan/Gas 8 and bake them in there for 10 minutes, checking ever couple of minutes to make sure they don’t burn.