I’ve struggled quite a bit thinking of a recipe for this blog and then, when I was almost ready to call it a day, my father showed me a market stall where some extra gorgeous lemon meringue pies were proudly on show. Now, I adore lemon meringue pies, it is one of my favourite desserts and when I see one I have to have it and eat it there and then; however, before I reached my pocket to search for some spare change, my father stopped me and told me that, rather than buying a small one, I could bake a huge one at home… and there, I though “yes, but what if I also do one with coffee instead of lemon curd?”
This should have been published a week ago BUT I got my parents at home and my mum freaks out if you start cooking and getting pans and pots dirty and the first attempt went horribly wrong. Now I cracked the code and I am relieved to say that this recipe is extremely easy to make, it looks stunning even if you are a messy baker like me and, most importantly, it taste heavenly coffee-ish!
Before you brace yourself for the worst, let’s talk about the good old shortcrust pastry for a minute. Now, here is the deal: if you tell me to do puff pastry, fillo pastry or any other pastry under the sun, my answer would be “to hell with that – I’ll buy it ready made”; come on, unless you want to be a Great British Bake Off contestant, you won’t spend ages trying to master the art of making the perfect puff pastry. However, when it comes to shortcrust pastry, I have to make it at home. It takes minutes to make, it is very easy and, if you follow few simple steps, it will be perfect every time you do it. Plus, you can always freeze it, guaranteeing yourself some delicious, home made shortcrust pastry every time you fancy a hassle-free pie!
For the shortcrust pastry
- 150g flour
- 2 eggs
- 75g butter cold from the fridge
- 65g caster sugar
For the coffee custard
- 4 egg yolks
- 40g caster sugar
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 300ml double cream
- 120ml milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp. instant coffee
For the meringue
- 4 egg whites
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 200 grams caster sugar
To make it easy, I’ll divide the recipe into 3 steps. Follow them in the exact order and nothing will go wrong (hopefully).
Step 1: the shortcrust pastry. If you have a food processor, making a shortcrust pastry will be a walk in the park: put flour, sugar and the butter cold from the fridge into it and start mixing it up using the pulse button; add the eggs and keep mixing using the pulse button until you get a dough or something very close to it. Don’t mix it too much or you’ll warm up the butter and you won’t be able to do anything with it. Place your dough on a lightly floured surface, work it gently with your hands just enough to ensure all ingredients are incorporated, wrap your dough with cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a food processor like me (mine broke down recently), place all your ingredients into a bowl and mix by hand till all is incorporated into a dough. Here is the trick to make things quick: to avoid spending hours workin, you can either cut your butter in small pieces or, even better, grate it. Again, don’t work your dough too much or the butter will melt.
After 30 minutes (or more) take your shortcrust pastry from the fridge. Now, if you have a loose-bottom fluted flan tin, line it and place your rolled shortcrust pastry into it; don’t worry if it cracks, the pastry is rich and will allow you to mend the messy bits. Trim the edges and prick the base with a fork. Cover it with cling film and chill again for another 30 minutes. If, however, a flan tin is nowhere to be found, you can use a normal cake tin to bake it; roll your shortcrust pastry on some greaseproof / baking paper and then place it in the tin, ensuring you leave enough paper to then lift the pastry once cooked (or the dreaded soggy bottom will ruin the party).
Pre-heat the oven at Gas Mark 6. Take your tin from the fridge and blind bake the pastry for 15 minutes. To blind bake means that you cover your pastry with some baking parchment and you fill it with dry beans (or some cheap rice). After 15 minutes, remove the beans / rice and bake for another 8 minutes or till golden in colour. Tip no.1: it takes the blink of an eye to go from gold to burned. Check it carefully!!! Tip no.2: if, once you lift the beans, the pastry is quite wet, put it back in the oven and keep blind baking it for another couple of minutes. Once cooked, leave it to cool.
Step 2: the coffee custard.
On a bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar and the corn flour until everything is well incorporated. Pour your double cream, milk and instant coffee into a pan over a gentle heat and bring it to just about simmering point, stirring here and there to ensure the instant coffee does not form lumps.
THIS is when you need to be VERY careful. Take the pan off the heat and gently pour everything into the bowl whilst whisking. You need your bowl to stay firm on your work surface because you have to whisk with one hand and pour with the other; a damp table cloth underneath your bowl will do the trick. The real deal to ensure your custard won’t split is to NOT pour everything in one go and to not pout the egg mixture into the cream&milk mixture.
Once you have incorporated everything, place the pan back over the same gentle heat and pour everything back into it. Keep whisking till the custard thickens; you should start noticing it when the mixtures reaches simmering point. Do not overheat it or it will looks lumpy and grainy; if this happens, pour everything into the bowl and keep whisking till it goes back to a nice, smooth texture.
Leave it to cool for a bit, stirring from time to time so you don’t end up with an annoying film on top it. Once is lukewarm, pour into your shortcrust pastry tin and leave it to set.
Step 3: the meringue. Making meringue is the easiest thing in the world. Arm yourself with a handheld electric whisk and start whisking your egg whites and corn flour with full power. Once you get a cloudy-like consistence and the whites starts forming soft peaks, gently pour the sugar and keep mixing till everything is smooth and thick. if you want to do it in a fancy way, you can put your meringue into a piping bag; if you want to channel your inner bricklayer like myself, use a spatula; in both cases take some greaseproof paper and draw a circle as big as the tin you used to make the shortcrust pastry base. Pour the meringue and shape it as you prefer, than place in the oven at Gas Mark 3 for 20 minutes or until the meringue is starting to get that golden shade. Take it off the oven, leave it too cool a bit then GENTLY peel the greaseproof paper and lay onto your pie. DON’T cook the meringue on the pie or your custard WILL SPLIT. This is the reason why this recipe has not been published last week!!!!!!