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.