This is a Christmassy version of the summer classic, lemon meringue pie. I made it for my Thanksgiving dessert this year, I always try to find lighter alternatives to the traditional heavy festive puddings that tend to be served after an already rich and heavy meal.
This has a lovely buttery-crisp pastry, a tart, refreshingly fruity filling and chewy, fluffy, crisp, sweet meringue billowing over the top.
If you plan on making your own pastry case then it does take a little more time and effort (worth it though) but otherwise it’s a fairly straight-forward dessert and it can always be made a little ahead of time and then warmed up a bit before serving.
200g plain flour
30g icing sugar
4 tbsp (ish) milk
250g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
juice of 3 oranges
3 tbsp cornflour
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
4 egg whites
1 tbsp cornflour
To make the pastry, combine the sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and lightly rub this into the flour mix with your fingertips. Work quickly and gently. Delicate fingers make delicate pastry. Once it starts to look like fine breadcrumbs use a little milk to bring it together to form a soft ball of dough. Only add as much milk as needed, one tablespoon at a time. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap it in cling-film. Put this in the fridge to relax for 15 minutes whilst the oven pre-heats to 220°c.
Roll the dough out so that it is large enough to line your pie tin. I like to do this on a piece of parchment paper so that I don’t incorporate any extra flour into it, which can make it tough. Lightly grease your pie tin and place the dough into it. Gently push the dough into the nooks and crannies of the tin and prick the base all over with a fork. Cover with foil or parchment and fill the tin with baking beans. Blind bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, uncover and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until it’s golden and cooked through. Leave to cool on a wire rack whilst you make the filling.
Simmer the cranberries in a large shallow pan with a couple of tablespoons of water for 15 minutes. Remove them from the heat and squash all of the un-popped berries. This is very therapeutic, it’s like fruity bubble wrap. Push this pulp through a fine sieve to leave you with several tablespoons of thick purée. Discard the remaining skins and seeds.
Whisk together the orange juice and cornflour in a large, heavy based saucepan. Stir in the cranberry purée and the sugar. Place the pan on a low to moderate heat and stir constantly until it has thickened, like custard. Remove the pan from the heat and cut the butter into small pieces before adding to the fruity mixture. Beat this in well, ensuring that it has all melted before adding the egg yolks, one at a time. Make sure that the mixture isn’t still too hot before you do this or you’ll get fruity scrambled eggs, not nice! Finally beat in the whole egg and return the pan to a very gentle heat. Continue to stir/beat the mixture until it becomes very thick then set aside to cool a little whilst you make the meringue topping.
Place the egg whites in a very large clean bowl and whip them until they hold stiff peaks. Whisk in the sugar in two or three batches. Make sure that each addition has dissolved into the egg white before moving onto the next. Just rub a little of it between your fingers to check that it doesn’t feel gritty. The meringue should become thick and glossy. Finally sprinkle over the cornflour and whisk it in, this is what helps to give the meringue its chewy quality.
Pour the fruity filling into the tart case and spread it out in an even layer. Top this with the meringue, spreading it right out onto the edges of the pastry. Try to create a ‘peaky’ effect in the meringue so that it is quite tall with lots of points and spikes that will become golden and crisp.
Bake the pie for 20-25 minutes, until the meringue has coloured a little and become crisp on the surface. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.
My dad will always claim that he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. That is until you open a box of Malteasers. So much so that it has become a running joke that someone has to buy him some every Christmas.
He has, however always lamented the fact that they don’t do a dark chocolate version. Milk chocolate? Yes, very good. White chocolate? Yes, though it’s an abomination in my dads eyes. But sadly no dark chocolate variation.
I have endeavored to set this right with my homemade version. I knew I was never going to be able to make something exactly like the genuine article. Mars have a factory, I have a hand whisk and slightly inefficient electric oven.
This said though, I’m really pleased with the results. Crunchy, crispy malty centres covered in smooth dark chocolate – yummy.
I’ve always assumed that it would be tricky to make my own and that malt extract was some sort of mystical ingredient that would only be available to big industrial manufacturers. It turns out that I was just looking in the wrong section of the supermarket. It tends to live with the vitamins and supplements rather than the baking section if you do go hunting for it.
1 egg white
50g icing sugar
2 tsp malt extract
Any type of chocolate you like for coating (if you use white I promise not to tell my dad)
Preheat your oven to 110°c and cover a couple of large baking sheets with baking parchment or silicone sheets.
Whisk the egg white until it holds stiff peaks then add the icing sugar and whisk again until it becomes stiff and glossy. Finally whisk in the malt extract.
Transfer the meringue mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe small blobs onto the prepared baking sheets. Remember they will expand a little so space them apart.
Bake the meringues for 60-70 minutes. Try not to let them colour too much. Once they are firm turn off the oven and open the door a jar. Leave them in the oven to cool and dry out completely.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. Once it’s melted turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the hot water to stop it from re-solidifying.
I like to stick the meringues together with a blob of chocolate to make them more rounded but it really depends on how big you want the finished product to be. If you do this then give it couple of minutes to set before covering the outsides.
Coat the tiny meringues in the chocolate. Try to cover them as fully as possible to make the filling air-tight, they tend to go soft quite quickly otherwise.
I find it easiest to use a couple of thin wooden skewers as ‘chopsticks’ when I’m coating the filling but do whatever you find easiest.
Pop the finished ‘malteasers’ on wire rack or sheet of greaseproof paper to allow the chocolate to harden.
Our last guests of this year visited us for our first Thanksgiving. I have done a bit of research into traditional Thanksgiving dishes to give me some inspiration for what to cook on the big day. To be honest some of the dishes scared me a little bit – I’m not really convinced that mini-marshmallows should ever be part of a main course.
Pumpkin pie seems to be the traditional pudding for the day but I think a lighter after dinner treat will be more popular following a hearty roast dinner. I often feel the same way about Christmas Pudding after Christmas dinner.
I still wanted to make something appropriate to what is essentially a harvest festival though. I have many fond memories of spending early Autumn days blackberry picking with my Grandma and they lend wonderful colour to this dessert. The pears add a little bit of freshness and textural interest and also seem suitably Autumnal.
I love the idea of using brown sugar instead of white in Pavlova. It gives it a really lovely toffee flavour and an extra chewy texture which, again gives a really nice seasonal twist to this classic summer dessert.
2 egg whites
50g castor sugar
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbs port
2 tbs + 1 tsp sugar
300ml double cream (whipped)
Pre-heat the oven to 130°c.
Using a large, spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Mix together the two types of sugar and whisk them into the egg whites in three or four batches. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved into the egg and it is smooth, glossy and stiff.
Pipe or spoon the meringue into a large circle on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper. Bake for two hours and then leave it on the tray to cool and dry completely.
Peel and core the pears and cut each into eight pieces. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water and simmer the pears in it for about 5 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
Cook the blackberries in the port for a few minutes then remove from the pan and mix them with the pears. Reserve the juice and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to this cooking liquor and reduce it until it is thick and syrupy.
It’s best to wait to assemble everything until just before serving, or it can go a little soggy. Fill the meringue base with cream and pile on the fruit before drizzling on a little of the syrup. Elegant, and more importantly, yummy!