Wednesday 23 September 2020

Vegan Custard Meringue Pie

What's better than a homemade dessert? When the craving kicked in for something sweet, I initially fancied making a lemon meringue pie. But upon discovering that we were all out of lemons, I had to rethink my plan. I opened up one of the kitchen cupboards - the one that holds the baking ingredients, dried goods, teas and whatnot - and spied a tub of custard powder in the corner. Bingo. I'd spent the day boiling the life out of a pack of chickpeas so all that aquafaba liquid was sitting there, waiting to be whisked into a light marshmallow fluff. There was a pack of ginger nut biscuits that hadn't been torn into yet. I had all the elements to make the pie of my dreams come together. 

It might look like hard work, but in reality this is one of the easiest desserts you could possibly make. There are three main elements to consider: the crust, the custard filling and the meringue topping. Each step is easy as pie, as you'll see below.

The crust: I've used store-bought ginger nut biscuits but other crunchy biscuits will work well. You may even want to make your own homemade ginger biscuits from scratch. If you're up for that additional step, go for it.

The custard filling: Store-bought custard powder is perfect in this - for the colour especially. I grew up on the Bird's brand (as I'm sure many Nigerian kids did) and have fond memories of topping cakes and puddings with it. If you choose to make custard using regular white corn flour, you may wish to add a dash of turmeric to get that bright yellow colour. 

The meringue topping: if you've never made vegan meringue using aquafaba then you are in for a treat because it is absolutely wonderful to see unassuming chickpea water transform into a creamy, thick bowl of fluff. As well as using the liquid from boiled chickpeas or tinned chickpeas, this also works with liquid from a tin of butter beans. I highly recommend refrigerating the liquid overnight as this improves the viscosity. When whisking, ensure that no oil comes into contact with the liquid as this can affect how well it whips up. The addition of cream of tartar also helps with the viscosity. You will notice that I did not bake the pie or use a blowtorch to add colour to the whipped meringue topping. If you are looking for that browned meringue look (you know the look I mean - the one you see on traditional lemon meringue pies), I recommend using a blow torch to gently blast around the peaks of the meringue until lightly browned. Otherwise, keep as it is and top with some fresh fruit.

Equipment-wise, you'll need a 25cm loose base tart tin for this recipe. Click here to see the type I used.
The meringue can be made using a whisk, but just a fair warning that it will take a much longer time to whip up and your arms will hurt like crazy. If you have a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, that would be ideal.

Where possible, I have included links below in the ingredient list to some of the brands that I used for this particular recipe. Feel free to click if you're curious.

As always, I hope you actually try this recipe. If you do, I'd love to see your creation. Take a snap and share on Instagram or Twitter. Tag @VeganNigerian and I'll be sure to repost it! :)

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(serves 8-10)

For the crust
- 250g ginger nut biscuits
- 2 tbsp vegan margarine, melted

For the custard 
- 4 heap tbsp custard powder
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups dairy-free milk (e.g. soya or coconut milk)

For the meringue
- 150g chickpea water, or liquid from 1 tin of chickpeas (a.k.a. aquafaba)
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp caster sugar

- mixed berries and fresh mint, to garnish


To make the crust, seal the biscuits in a freezer bag, lay it flat on your kitchen counter, cover with a thick napkin and use a rolling pin or bottle to bash the biscuits to form fine crumbs. Alternatively you can place the biscuits in a food processor and blend until you have crumbs. 

Place the biscuit crumbs in a mixing bowl and pour over the melted vegan margarine. Mix until well combined. Line your tart tin with some parchment paper, pour the biscuit mixture in and spread/flatten to create a pie crust. 

To make the custard, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat on medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard starts to thicken. 

Pour the custard into the pie crust and use a spoon or spatula to smooth out the top. It doesn't need to be too perfect as it will be covered by meringue anyway. Place the pie in the fridge until you are ready to serve the dessert.

[I recommend making the meringue topping just before you serve the dessert as it has a tendency to start drooping and sinking after a while.]

To make the meringue, place the aqauafaba in a mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer). Whisk on full speed for 2-3 minutes until it starts to get thick and foamy. Add the remaining ingredients (cream of tartar, lemon juice and sugar) and whisk on full speed for another 6-8 minutes until stiff peaks form.

When you are ready to serve the dessert, take the pie out of the fridge and scoop the meringue on top. Use a spoon to make swirls and peaks. If you have any fruit lying around, feel free to garnish. I used blueberries and raspberries on mine.

Soft peaks...

Creamy custard...

What a beaut...

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