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Today’s bakery effort began with an attempt to find something I wanted to eat that wasn’t chocolate (my blog entries so far have been disturbingly cocoa-obsessed). It proved to be harder than anticipated. Chocolate is safe: even a pudding that goes terribly, horribly wrong will probably still be edible if it’s chocolate-flavoured. But I felt I should branch out, and so a quick flick through my usual recipe sources yielded the rather magnificent-sounding toffee meringue pie.
I’ve had to whisk egg whites before, but have never gone the whole hog (or poultry) into meringue. Whisking is not really my forte, as I’ve mentioned. I tend to over-beat things, and was determined this time to only keep the mixer going for as long as required and no more. So I whisked, my finger poised over the off switch. And whisked. And whisked. And my egg whites still showed no sign of turning into the shiny, stiffened globs I remembered from watching Sophie Dahl’s television series. I sprinkled sugar into the bowl and carried on, stirring the hand-held mixer first with one arm, then the other, then with one arm holding up the other. On a good day, my biceps could perhaps best be likened to damp flannels, and they were not pleased.
Unfortunately this endless task came after a slightly botched pastry attempt (didn’t roll it thin enough) and a toffee filling recipe that, since it includes cornflour, tasted lingeringly of cornflour. I knew it would. One of the fundamental rules of the universe is that putting cornflour in anything will make it taste of cornflour. Ask anyone who’s ever tried to thicken gravy without using Yorkshire pudding mix.
Well, several eons later, I staggered upright and stopped whisking. The hot toffee mixture went on top of the pastry, and then the meringue was spooned onto the toffee. After thirty minutes, it was ready to eat. And, happily, it didn’t taste half bad. The meringue is crackly on top and soft underneath, and the cornflour is entirely disguised by the sugary meringue and base. Next time I will roll the pastry thinner and thicken the toffee sauce more, but for once my ineptitude didn’t really matter.
This is a big, knobbly bruiser of a pie – you can’t cut yourself delicate little photo-friendly slices, because they’ll collapse under their own weight, so you cut them thickly and messily and shovel it down before the toffee sauce splurges everywhere. It’s not pretty, but it is delicious. This is a pie made for greedy pudding-eaters everywhere. As it happens, greedy pudding-eating happens to be exactly what we’re best at.
Deliciousness: It wasn’t chocolate. But it wasn’t bad. Ok, ok, it was great.
Complexity: There are three different stages with a different set of ingredients each time, which made for quite a lengthy preparation. For a more time-friendly version, I’d be tempted to buy pre-made pastry dough.
Washing up pile: Eighteen items. Toffee, egg white and pastry crumbs get everywhere – it’s a bit of a kitchen destroyer.
Casualties: Be prepared to whisk until your arms drop off. My replacement bionic arms are on order.