When life gives you lemons, make these lemon meringue pie éclairs
For the baked éclairs:
• 200ml cold water
• 95g unsalted butter
• large pinch salt
• large pinch sugar
• 15g skim milk powder
• 110g plain flour, sifted
• 4 eggs
For the lemon curd:
• 4 eggs
• 3 lemons, finely grated zest
• 3 lemon, juiced
• 130g unsalted butter, softened
• 200g caster sugar
• 4 gold-strength gelatine leaves, soaked and drained
For the Italian meringue:
• 200g caster sugar
• 4 egg whites
• white chocolate shavings
1 To make the éclairs, put the water, butter, salt and sugar in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and bring to the boil, ensuring the butter has melted. While boiling, whisk in the milk powder to dissolve it.
2 Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour to the pan all in one go then stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
3 Place the pan back over medium heat. Continue to stir with the spatula and cook the mixture for around 2 minutes until the dough starts to form a ball and leaves the side of the pan.
4 Transfer the dough to a freestanding electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
5 Mix on medium–high speed for 20 seconds to release some of the steam and cool the dough slightly. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter should be thick and glossy.
6 Transfer it to a shallow container and cover with plastic wrap. Chill the pastry in the refrigerator for 1 hour before transferring it to a piping bag fitted with a large fluted or plain nozzle.
7 Using a ruler as a guide, pipe the choux pastry into lengths of 26 cm onto a tray lined with baking paper.
8 Pipe all of the choux and place the tray in the freezer to chill for a couple of hours until hard.
9 Remove from the freezer and transfer each piece of choux onto a chopping board. Use a knife and ruler to cut two 12 cm lengths from each piece. Discard any trim and store the éclairs back in the freezer.
10 You can now pull out as many as you want to cook.
11 Preheat the oven to 165°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
12 Place six éclairs on the prepared baking tray, spaced evenly apart, and leave them to thaw.
13 Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the door while baking as this may cause a collapse in your pastry. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C and bake for a further 20 minutes.
14 Turn the oven off completely and leave the éclairs in the oven to dry out for a further 20 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place them on a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
15 For the curd, place all the ingredients, except the gelatine, in a bowl and whisk well to combine.
16 Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the mixture constantly.
Continue to cook and heat – being careful of the steam, which can burn – and check your water does not run dry in the pan.
17 Top up the water if needed. Heat the curd until it reaches a temperature of 82°C, using a digital thermometer to accurately check the temperature.
18 Once the temperature has been reached, remove the bowl from the water bath and add the gelatine, mixing well to dissolve it before straining the curd into a bowl.
Prepare a large bowl of iced water
19 Place the bowl of curd in the larger bowl of iced water to cool the curd down quickly, stirring the mixture occasionally. Store in the refrigerator until needed.
20 To make the Italian meringue, place the sugar and 150 ml water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
21 At the same time, put the egg whites in a freestanding electric mixer and start to whisk slowly on low speed.
22 Bring the syrup to the boil then continue cooking until it reaches a temperature of 112°C, using a digital or sugar thermometer to check the temperature. Turn the electric mixer speed to medium–high.
23 Continue cooking the syrup, using a digital thermometer to accurately check the temperature. When the temperature reaches 121°C, remove the pan from the heat and slowly trickle the syrup down the side of the whisking bowl, ensuring it does not hit the whisk. Once all the syrup is in, beat the meringue on high speed for 10 minutes to cool. The meringue should be thick and glossy.
24 To assemble, remove the top one-third of each éclair using a sharp paring or serrated knife. Discard the tops and scoop out any excess moist pastry from the bottom of the éclairs to leave a clean cavity.
25 Beat the lemon curd by hand until smooth, using a spatula. Transfer it to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe curd into each of the éclairs to fill the cavities.
26 Transfer the Italian meringue to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and decorate the éclairs.
Lightly glaze the meringue using a blowtorch to caramelise the edges of the piping. Serve garnish with white chocolate shavings.
Recipe courtesy of Darren Purchese, extracted from Lamingtons & lemon tart