As you know, it’s one of our slightly less mental traditions at English Towers that the birthday person gets to choose whatever they like for their birthday cake. Usually, da brevren compete with each other to find the most complicated (The Mad Professor), chocolate-filled (the Death Wish Child), or retro (English Dad) recipes they can possibly find. And then, of course, when it’s my birthday, I just make whatever I fancy.
This year turned out to be a bit different. ‘I’m going to make your birthday cake’, said the Death Wish Child, confidently. ‘What would you like?’.
‘Well’, said I, ‘what I would really really like is lemon meringue pie. No, lime meringue pie, but don’t worry, I’ll help’.
‘Nope’, said the small confident one, while imaginary fireworks and laser beams went off behind him. ‘*I* shall make the pie’. So sit back and enjoy, while my wonderful offspring takes you through his birthday pie:
First you need a pastry bottom (although I suspect that I might already have one):
For the pastry, you’ll need:
200g cold butter
400g plain flour
1tbsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk
4 or 5 tbsp cold water
Firstly, preheat the oven to 180/gas 4. It’s easiest to do this in the food processor (the pastry, not the preheating. That would be silly. And anyway, you’d never fit the oven in there), but you can do it by hand if you’re not as lazy as us.
Chop your cold butter into squares and add it to the flour, salt and sugar. Process it until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Now plop in the egg yolk and pulse slowly, adding tablespoonfuls of water until it just comes together.
Flour the work surface (and your trousers, and your mother, and the floor) and squish the mixture together into a ball. Roll it out to about 5-6mm thick, then roll it onto your rolling pin and unroll over your flan dish or baking tin (about 24cm should do it). When it all breaks apart, swear a bit and kind of patch it together. Nobody will notice. Push it in to the edges and trim the top.
Now to bake it blind: scrunch up a bit of greaseproof paper, then smooth it over the pastry and pour in some baking beans – you can use ceramic or whatever. I’ve got some old dried beans – for about 15 minutes.
Then take it out of the oven, remove the baking beans and put it back in to cook the bottom (ooer) for about another 5 minutes, then take it out and leave to cool. Turn the oven down to gas 2/150 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the lime curd. We use bottled lime juice in this house, but if you want to juice several limes, be my guest:
6 tbsp lime juice (or for lemon curd, 2 lemons, zested then juiced)
150g caster sugar
2 eggs plus 1 extra yolk (keep the white for the meringue)
Take a saucepan and bung in the butter, juice, zest and caster sugar. Melt it all together slowly until the sugar is all dissolved.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until well combined. Now, take your warm, limey, butter mixture and gently pour a little bit into the egg, whisking all the time, then a bit more, then a bit more, until you’ve combined about half of it with the eggs. Now bung that lot back into the saucepan and keep whisking and simmering until the mixture thickens. Make sure there’s someone behind you at this point shouting ‘WHISK! WHISK FASTER!’.
Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Remember to just stir it occasionally to keep it from getting a skin on. When it’s about room temperature, pour it into the pastry case and pop into the fridge to cool.
Finally, for the meringue:
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
Whisk the eggs in a very clean bowl until they form firm peaks, then keep whisking while you add the sugar, spoon by spoon, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is thick and glossy. Pile it all on top of the lemon curd and fluff it up a bit (or you can pipe it like my man here):
Bake in the very low oven (gas 2/150 degrees) for about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on how squelchy you like your meringue. If it’s a Special Birthday Meringue Pie, you can decorate it and add candles.
Then sit down with some pink champagne and blow your candles out, wishing with all your heart that you get to spend every birthday just like this, with the people that you love.
Thanks, Charlie xxxx