One of my favourite desserts, so long as it’s not overly sweet and stodgy. This one isn’t.
I got an order for it, and took a punt; I’d never made a GF version before, all previous efforts had been with ‘proper’ pastry. Because this was an order and I wanted to be sure it would work, I cheated and used a commercial ready-made GF sweet shortcrust, but I’ve given a recipe for a perfectly suitable GF pastry below as well. Just be aware that GF pastry is cranky: brittle, sticky and easily overworked. Of course, there’s no need to make it gluten free if you’re OK with regular pastry. Use a rich sweet shortcrust for best effect.
For the lemon filling:
1 cup (225g) caster sugar
½ cup (75g) gluten free cornflour
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice (about 2 large or 3 medium lemons)
1 ¼ cups (310ml) water
Finely grated zest of 3 large lemons
3 large egg yolks
60g (2oz) butter
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
good pinch of cream of tartar, say ¼ tsp.
½ cup (225g) caster sugar
Line a 21cm fluted flan tin with your pastry, thinly rolled. It’s there to hold the sweet stuff in and shouldn’t be too assertive. Bake blind for 10 minutes at 200°C/400°F, remove baking paper and baking beans from base and bake for another 3 minutes till pale golden. Keep an eye on it during this time; ovens vary and you don’t want it too dark before the final baking. Put aside to cool in the tin.
Put the cornflour and sugar in a medium pan, mix together and slowly blend in first the lemon juice and then the water, stirring thoroughly till smooth. Put onto a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. As it gets hotter, you’ll see dark blobs appearing in the milky coloured mixture. Do Not Panic. It’s supposed to do this. Keep stirring, and quite soon, the whole thing will darken, become slightly translucent and shiny, and thicken. Once the mixture is blooping volcanically, reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, egg yolks and butter. Stir well until everything is well mixed in and the butter has melted. Work fast, you don’t want scrambled egg. Set aside to cool. Once completely cool, spread this filling in the pastry shell, smoothing the top. You’ll be wanting to lick the spatula, I suggest…
Making the meringue really needs a stand mixer or it’ll take you a long time. Wipe the bowl out with a little lemon juice or vinegar to get rid of any fat or grease, which will stop the meringue thickening. Beat the egg whites till softly peaked. Gradually add the sugar and cream of tartar, beating till the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is shiny and forms stiff peaks. At this point, you can also beat in 2 tsps cornflour for a firmer meringue. It depends on how much wobble you like; I prefer it a bit firmer.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/350°F. Top the lemon filling with the meringue, making decorative swirls. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. I think this is best eaten chilled, but most people prefer it warm from the oven. Why not eat half warm, the other half chilled, and form your own opinion?
GF sweet pastry, if you need it:
1 cup (150g) rice flour
1/2 cup (75g) gluten free cornflour
1/2 cup (60g) almond meal
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
160g (5oz) chilled, chopped butter
2-3 tblsp iced water
Process all the dry ingredients and butter in a food processor till the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, gradually add iced water until the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto a clean work surface and shape into a ball and flatten. Cover with plastic wrap or put in a ziploc bag and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Roll the dough out between 2 large sheets of baking paper. Job done.
This dessert doesn’t keep well; the meringue tends to absorb moisture and get soggy, so make it the same day you want to eat it, if possible.