Finally I have some time to share this beautiful and special recipe with you. But let me tell you a little story first! A couple of weeks ago I was organizing a 3 course dinner at the Dermalogica Studio in Cape Town. Check out my post for pictures and more infos. The idea was to bring people together to have a healthy dinner, get pampered with facials, buying grooming products and have a good time. Myles and I were organizing the dinner, cooked and served everyone. What looked like a childs play wasn’t one at all! One of the greatest challenges was to decide on the dessert. I don’t find it very difficult to choose a starter or a main course, deciding on a dessert however, always causes me a headache. After a couple of sleepless nights browsing through mountains of Woolworth’s Taste Magazines, Food and Homes and my whole range of cookbooks I still couldn´t find the perfect dessert that suited a light and healthy dinner. I just didn’t find the right one! I wanted something that is fun to prepare, makes an impression and is special. It was frustrating. Then something unexpected happened. I went to work in the morning and my colleagues were organizing a potluck. A little event at my office where everybody brings something small to eat, everything will be placed on top of a table and then people can help themselves. My colleague Marcel de Klerk baked the most delicious Lemon Meringue Pie I ever had. He didn’t even work that day and only came to the office to drop off the pie. Later I found out that he was a notorious baker! After I had the first bite, I knew I found the perfect dessert for our dinner! Suddenly I had an image in mind, something like a lemony little cloud with a hint of vanilla! That was it! Simple and yet divine. At least the penny dropped!
There was just one tiny problem! A Lemon Meringue Pie is very difficult to cut and how could I possibly be able to present it nicely on a plate and serve it to my guests without making a mess – how could I turn this massive pie into tiny little clouds?! I am not a very experienced baker at all. But I believed that it would be somehow possible to create little tarts, all I needed was someone with experience and enough skills to teach me. I couldn’t wait for Marcel to return to our office and ask him. So the next day, I walked over to his desk, looked at him and asked: “Would you be interested to come to my house and bake with me?” Sounds a bit odd, I know, but he didn’t have a problem with it at all. I was lucky. Eventually, we had two baking sessions at my house and he taught me how to bake little Lemon Meringue Tarts, that are easy to serve and decorate on a plate. I find they look actually really cute and you don’t need much to decorate them at all, simply a little bit of icing sugar and lemon peel or even little yellow edible flowers and that’s it. Lemon Meringue Tarts are the perfect dessert if you want something different for (delete) than another malva pudding, chocolate brownies or cheesecake. (Don’t get me wrong, I love malva pudding, chocolate brownies and cheesecake!)
Don’t be afraid to try something different. Have some courage. I just talked to someone from Lazari, in Vredehoek. They are selling a Lemon Meringue Pie which looks lovely. She told me how difficult she finds it to prepare it. Well, I absolutely agree. It took me three attempts, three nights of baking until I got it right. Have a look at the pictures below. The curd is the most difficult part. But it’s not impossible. My house-mates and colleagues at work were happy about me trying it out three times and taking the test models with me to work. And I think there is nothing better than surprising your dinner guests with something home-made that actually cost you some effort. Far too often we choose the safe option. Sometimes we should start to come out of our comfort zone sometimes (delete). Lemon Meringue is not that hard to prepare, it consists of three parts, which is the base, curd and meringue. And this is how it works:
The base is the easy part. A very basic biscuit dough. All you need is 250g butter, 250ml sugar, 1 egg, 675ml of flour and some vanilla. It is up to you if you want to use extract or fresh vanilla. First mix butter and sugar together until smooth. Then whisk the egg and vanilla to the creamed butter simple biscuit dough. (Was meinst Du damit?) until it forms a simple biscuit dough.
Okay, the curd needs a little bit of practice and conviction – if I can do it, you can also do it, believe me 🙂 So let’s do this. Warm 300ml of the milk in a pot, while simultaneously whisking the rest of the milk with 300ml flour until it forms a paste. Add flour paste, 250ml sugar and 1ml salt to the heated milk. Before the mixture is too thick, add 60ml butter and 75ml lemon zest. Place on the stove and boil until thick. Remove from stove and add 3 separated egg yolks and keep the egg whites!
Whisk egg whites until stiff, add 5ml lemon juice (I like a bit more) and 100ml white sugar and whisk again until stiff, white and glossy.
Bake the base in the oven for about 30 minutes, remove and add the curd. Top with meringue and back into the oven for about 2 minutes.