We’re more than halfway through January – did you make (or break) any new year’s resolutions? We’ve been having a ‘Dry January’ and other people may be having a ‘Veganuary’. I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years (and vegan at one point) so I thought that the former would be much more of a goal. Nevertheless, I thought I should try a vegan Cakes & Bakes dish to say that I got into the whole January swing!
This lemon meringue pie is surprisingly completely vegan. No butter in the pastry, no eggs or gelatine in the filling and no eggs in the meringue. Brilliant!
Despite being veggie for most of my life, I’ve only recently heard about aquafaba. It’s a versatile egg substitute that was ‘discovered’ by a French chef in 2014. It’s the cooking liquor from (usually) white beans such as butter beans, chickpeas or cannellini beans. If you’re using tinned, buy ones that are unsalted. If you’re making your own, it’s not the water that you soak dried beans in – that contains toxins and gets discarded – you use the water in which the beans have been boiled. I made my own and used the ‘discarded’ chickpeas to make a batch of hummus.
Many of the vegan lemon meringue pie recipes I found on the ‘net included a pinch of turmeric; I obliged but found the resulting filling to be on the orange side and resembled pumpkin pie. It didn’t affect the flavour, however. If preferred, you could use a tiny amount of yellow food colouring.
Making the meringue was a bit tricky. I think I under-whipped my first batch as the lovely peaks softened and sank in the oven. Some people prefer to pipe the mixture on to a lined baking sheet and cooking it separately. I did this with some of the leftover mixture and I couldn’t tell the difference from egg white meringue! It was soft and gooey and cracked when I broke into it.
I quickly & carefully blow-torched the top before it went into the oven on the lowest setting for at least 2 hours. This seemed to help it keep its shape. If you go with latter cooking method, The meringue doesn’t get as cooked thoroughly and will sink and begin to liquefy. It will be best eaten on the day you make it.
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- 70g/2½oz 'tant pour tant' (35g/1¼oz icing sugar + 35g/1¼oz ground almonds)
- pinch of salt
- 100g/3½oz very cold vegetable spread (e.g. soya, olive) or coconut oil
- 550ml/19fl oz milk substitute (e.g. soya, almond, hazelnut, cashew, coconut, oat, rice)
- 80g/2¾oz custard powder (Bird's is vegan)
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 125ml lemon juice
- 100g/3½oz caster sugar
- small pinch of turmeric
- 125ml/4⅓fl oz aquafaba
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 110g/3¾oz caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Put the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds and salt in a food processor. Pulse a couple of times to combine
- Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture begins to get lumpy - like dry scrambled eggs
- Empty the pastry on to 2 lengths of cling film layered one over the other at right angles
- Bring the dough together into a ball by lifting & bringing together the 4 ends of the cling film. Flatten and chill in the fridge for an hour
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
- Once chilled, generously flour a work surface and roll out the dough to ½cm thick
- Line the pie dish with the pastry so that it has some overlap all the way around.
- Put a length of parchment paper on top of the pastry and fill the pie dish with baking beans
- Blind bake for 15-20 minutes, until the edges begin to turn golden brown
- Remove from the oven, remove the beans and parchment paper and allow the pie case to cool
- Combine ⅓ of the milk with the custard powder, sugar and turmeric
- Whisk to remove any lumps
- Pour into a saucepan with the remaining milk and lemon zest
- Heat, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken
- Add the lemon juice, and continue to stir until it thickens further
- Pour the lemon mixture into the pastry case and allow to cool and solidify while you make the meringue
- Preheat the oven to 90ºC/200ºF/gas mark ¼
- Using a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment or an electric hand whisk (on a high setting), beat the aquafaba for 5 minutes
- Add the cream of tartar and beat again until soft peaks begin to form
- Add the vanilla extract and continue beating for a few seconds
- Add the sugar, in stages, one tablespoon at a time, continuing to whisk on the high setting
- Continue whisking until you reach the stiff peak stage - this could take 10-20 minutes
- Spoon or pipe the meringue evenly over the top of the pie filling
- At this stage, you can (if you have one) carefully blowtorch the top of the meringue to get attractive brown bits
- Bake in the oven for 2 hours
- Allow to cool completely before slicing & serving
One of the first things I remember baking as a kid in Trinidad are soupies. Plain meringue rounds, usually with a good dash of garish food colouring. I don’t think I’ve made meringue since then, so this dessert is a long time coming! This time the recipe will be a bit more sophisticated; I’ll be making a lemon and blueberry Pavlova. I’m not a great fan of dry, chalky meringue so I’m making it with a just about baked, soft, chewy Swiss meringue.
For a successful meringue you need to ensure you do a few things. Firstly, use the freshest eggs possible. Next, separate you eggs – one by one – not into each other to ensure none of the yolk gets into the mix. If you don’t, the yolk of the last egg you crack splits, that would be all the egg whites ruined!
It’s also important to make sure that your mixing bowl and your whisk or whisk attachment are clean as a whistle. If they have any sign of oil or grease it will affect how well the egg whites form those all-important stiff peaks.
Success on that front – so I was off to a good start!
I decided on three graduated layers with whipping cream swirled with the gently simmered blueberries – and a small batch of my freshly made lemon curd.
The flavours worked so well together – the sweet meringue combining beautifully with the slightly tart blueberries and the sweet, unctuous lemon. A real triumph!
Other great Pavlova fillings you could try are the classic strawberries, passion fruit & kiwifruit; mandarin; peach, pomegranate, banana & toffee (banoffee) or black cherry & chocolate (black forest). Or flavour the actual meringue with cocoa powder, fine ground coffee beans or – my new favourite – cardamom.
- 4 egg whites
- 200g/7oz caster sugar
- pinch of cream of tartar
- 150g/5oz blueberries
- 300ml/10½fl oz whipping cream
- 50g lemon curd
- Preheat the oven to 100ºC/200ºF/gas mark ½
- Line a large oven tray with baking parchment
- In a heat-proof mixing bowl, gently mix the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a simmering saucepan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water). Keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved
- Remove the mixing bowl from the saucepan and, using an electric mixer, beat on a slow speed rising gradually to a high speed. Continue for about 3-5 minutes until the meringue forms stiff peaks
- Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle
- Pipe 3 graduated circular shapes and 6-8 meringue kisses on to the parchment paper
- Bake for 1-1½ hours depending on how sticky or hard you want the finished meringue
- Put the blueberries into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and cook on a low heat for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool
- Beat the whipping cream until thickened and forms peaks. Set aside
- When cooked, remove the meringue from the parchment paper (you may need to use a palette knife) and allow to cool completely on a wire rack
- Put the largest meringue round on to a large plate and top with ⅓ of the whipped cream, ⅓ of the blueberry mixture and drizzle with ⅓ of the lemon curd
- Repeat with the two other circles of meringue (the smallest goes on the top)
- Decorate with the meringue kisses