It was The Scientist's birthday on Monday. I asked him a few days beforehand what he would like for a birthday cake, but it was a fairly academic question - I knew the answer would be lemon meringue pie. He surprised me though - he said lemon and lime meringue pie. I ran a few recipes by him and he picked a totally decadent one by Rosemary Shrager - the deputy head on one of the few reality tv shows we watch, Ladette to Lady. She teaches cooking at the finishing school on the programme and I like it that she's an old-fashioned sort of Home Economics teacher like the ones I had at school. I did HE for years but the only dish I remember making was lasagne, and that's because I had forgotten to bring any lasagne sheets and had to go round borrowing one spare from all of my classmates. I must have learnt something else though because those classes are how I know how to make a roux sauce - but I wasn't sorry to drop it, and the teacher didn't seem particularly sorry to see me go either. Must have been the lasagne melt-down.
Rosemary Shrager's pie was amazingly decadent. A ton of eggs, butter, cream (yes cream - I've never seen that in a meringue pie filling before), and caramelised sugar in the meringue. I was particularly pleased with the pastry, which I made from a recipe in my standby Women's Institute cookbook (the recipe said to use shortcrust pastry but I went for an enriched flan pastry). The middle layer was fairly involved, partly because it involved a lot of zesting and juicing - thank heavens for the juicer attachment on my food processor, but after that it was straightforward. Getting it into the baked pastry case on the other hand - it took two of us and a lot of careful lowering and tilting but we got it in the oven intact. So far, so good.
The meringue, on the other hand, was a real challenge. The recipe said to heat the sugar gently until it dissolved. This really foxed me as 'dissolved' surely meant that it should be in water? After some discussion we decided that it was ok as long as she meant 'melted', but it took mine an age to melt completely and I ended up turning the heat up quite high. I kept stirring and stirring, but in the time it took to whisk the egg whites (during which time the sugar was off the heat) it burned and made the meringue mix taste just awful. By this time I was very fed up and we decided to abandon the top layer for now. Lemon and lime pie it was.
Despite this setback it was a really successful dessert. I don't like lemon meringue pie but it's largely because I think that the meringue layer is pointless. Without it it was a lovely, rich, soft tart, with soft and decadent pastry. The citrus taste was gorgeous - really tangy without being overpowering (the cream, I suppose). I confined myself to licking the knife - the old 'if it's not mine it doesn't contravene my (no dairy) dietary rules' rubbish, though the knife probably didn't strictly need licking as often as all that :) The Scientist loved it, which is just as well as our lunch guests turned out not to like lemon pie! Luckily I'd made some krispie banana muffins as well, as they had a young child with them. The Scientist enjoyed the naked pie so much that he didn't even request a meringue layer the next day and I think it will go down as the new special occasion lemon dessert. I've tried freezing half of it since we had so much, and The Scientist has a plan to try eating it frozen. I'll keep you posted :)
Rosemary Shrager's lemon and lime (not) meringue pie: recipe here