My favourite pie

I used to belong to a pie club. We called ourselves PMS (which stood for Pie-Making Society) and we'd assemble, bake and impatiently wait for pie to cool at each official meeting. Over the years Jesse, Patrick, (sometimes Karl) and I made strawberry, apple, sweet potato, chocolate pecan, buttermilk and apricot pies. The best of 'em all was the rhubarb meringue pie.

Maybe it was the evening - golden, dusky light dangled in the warm summer air. Maybe it was the gin and tonics - of which, knowing us, there were quite a few. Maybe even it was the sheepishness with which we bumbled through the recipe as quickly as we could - we hoped to eat our slices and stash the rest away before our friend Andy arrived. 

Whatever it was, the pie was amazing. Rhubarb shone tartly next to rich, buttery crust and sweet, sticky meringue. It was the first time I'd had warm meringue pie and I was startled by how tremendous it was. But even that was nothing to how absolutely, breathtakingly perfect it was for breakfast the next morning - cold, straight out of the pan. I, for one, had no regrets about not sharing.

Rhubarb Meringue Pie
Adapted from How to Eat

Since Nigella hails from England this recipe is in metric. Personally, I have a scale and like measuring by weight rather than volume. If you don't have a scale, you should get one. But, if you don't have a food processor make the dough by first using your fingers, two knives or a pastry cutter to work the flour and fat together then use a fork to add the orange juice. Actually, I can't even verify the food processor technique since I delegated the pastry work to Patrick, as I am wont to do. 

For the pastry:
140g all-purpose flour
75g unsalted butter (or 35g unsalted butter and 35g lard), cold and cut into small cubes
juice of 1/2 orange, chilled
pinch of salt

Measure the flour into a bowl, add the fat and put into the freezer for 10 minutes. Put in a food processor with a double blade attached and switch on, until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal. Add tablespoon by cautious tablespoon of chilled orange juice (to which you have added a pinch of salt) while pulsing the food processor on and off. You may need a bit more liquid than normal using this method. If you run out of orange juice, use ice water. When the dough looks like it's about to come together but hasn't actually, stop the food processor, remove the dough, roll into a ball then flatten into a thick disc. Wrap this disc in plastic and put into the freezer for 20 minutes.

Roll out the pastry fairly thinly on a floured work surface, then transfer to a pie pan. Put into the fridge for another 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 400 F and place a baking sheet in the oven. Line the chilled pastry case with tinfoil or parchment paper and fill with baking weights or dried beans. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 15 minutes, then remove the foil or paper and weights. Cover the edges of the pastry with tinfoil and bake for another 10-12 minutes, until it begins to colour lightly. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling:
800g rhubarb, untrimmed
juice of 1/2 orange
2 large eggs, separated
150g plus 120g granulated sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
30g melted butter
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Trim the rhubarb and chop into rough 1/2 inch pieces. If the stalks are wide, cut them in half lengthwise. Put the rhubarb in a saucepan with the orange juice and heat briefly, just to remove the rawness. Remove and drain (but save the liquid).

Mix 150g sugar with the flour and melted butter in a bowl. Beat in the egg yolks then add enough liquid from the drained rhubarb to make a smooth and runny paste. Add more orange juice if necessary. Put the rhubarb in the pastry case then pour the egg-sugar mixture over it. Bake until set, about 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks then add 60g sugar and continue to beat until glossy. Fold in the remaining 60g sugar and the cream of tartar. Spoon this over the hot cooked rhubarb, making sure it is completely covered. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp sugar and put back in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the meringue is bronzy and brown-topped. 

Nigella says and I quoth "I like this cold. But for most tastes, eat it 10-12 minutes after it's been taken out of the oven."

Serves 6.

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