lemon meringue pie bars

When I opened my copy of 'Love is a Pink Cake' by Claire Ptak and saw a photo of the lemon meringue pie bars, I knew I had to make them. I've been making lemon squares for at least 20 years and love lemon meringue pie, so this recipe seemed to combine the best of both worlds. My friend Liane, who passed away last year, loved my tart lemon squares and I just know she would have loved this lemon meringue version.

This is not the original recipe, which you can find hereI made a half batch of the lemon meringue bars which I baked in a 7 inch square tin. I used my own tried and true shortbread base and cut down the sugar in the filling substantially because I wanted the filling to be quite tart. I also lined the base with lightly greased non-stick foil rather than baking paper and while it worked well, it retained heat so the edges were a little too brown. I just trimmed the edges a little but next time, I'd reduce the bake time by 5 minutes or so.

Here's my version of Claire's recipe for lemon merigue pie bars which yields 8 bars. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Lemon meringue pie bars - makes 8 
Shortbread base 
150g plain flour
40g icing sugar
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
110g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes

Lemon filling
25g plain flour 
¾ tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
2 eggs 
2 lemons, zested and juiced (you need 85g lemon juice)

Meringue topping
2 egg whites
100g caster sugar 
3 tsp golden syrup
Pinch of salt 
3 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 190°C, conventional and grease and line a 7x7in tin with baking paper or non-stick foil. Do not cut the corners of the paper to fit the tray, just line as tightly as possible so that the paper comes above the edge of the tray on all sides. If using foil, lightly grease the foil.

Put the flour, icing sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine, then add the vanilla and the cubed butter and pulse until it comes together in a ball. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking tray, then bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

To make the filling, put the flour, baking powder and caster sugar into a large bowl and use a whisk to combine. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk again. Strain the mixture into a clean bowl and stir in the lemon zest.

As soon as the base is baked, remove from the oven, carefully pour the filling over the base and return to the oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 170°C, conventional and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is set; it should be slightly firm and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow the slice to cool completely.

Meanwhile, put all the ingredients for the meringue topping into a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of boiling water (do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl or it will cook the egg whites). Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very warm to the touch. If using a sugar thermometer, whisk continuously for 2 minutes, or until it reads 70-75°C, whichever comes first. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to whip the mixture into stiff, glossy peaks.

Put the marshmallow into a piping bag fitted with your favourite nozzle. Pipe or spoon the meringue onto the cooled lemon filling. You can either cover the entire tray or slice into 8 bars first and then pipe each one individually, as we do at the bakery. If you have a blowtorch, torch the top of the meringue, or if you're brave you can pop it under the grill for 30 seconds or so to get the same effect.

These are best enjoyed on the same day but will keep at room temperature for 24 hours.

As expected these were very good - melting shortbread base, tart lemon filling and fluffy meringue. If you look closely, you'll see the meringue has split a bit. This has nothing to do with the recipe but with the cook whose arms gave out after 7 minutes of whipping the meringue using electric hand beaters. I reckon the meringue needed 10-15 minutes of whipping to be stable. Memo to self - remember to use a stand mixer next time.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



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