There's something special about lemon meringue tarts. When I delivered these beauties to my chums at Madgex there was a veritable sugar ecstasy in the air. I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't swoon at the site of these. Maybe it's the decadent piles of lightly caramelised meringue. Maybe it's their tangy summery-ness. But the baking scientist in me suspects that the appeal is down to a trifecta of textures: crumbly crust, creamy custard, delicate foamy meringue. The LMT has it all.
This recipe worked a treat, and I'm never quick to praise my own baking efforts. It has been loosely adapted from Joy of Baking and made about 7 tartlets. It all depends how generous you are with your custard filling and how thinly you roll your pastry.
For the pastry base:
- 200g plain all purpose flour, sifted
- 85g icing / confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 100g (3.5oz) chilled unsalted butter
- 1 egg yolk, whisked gently with 1 tablespoon of ice water
For the lemon custard:
- 3 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk (save the white for the meringue)
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
- 150g caster sugar
- 60g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon (4 grams) lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the meringue topping:
- 4 large egg whites
- 130g caster sugar
- Pinch of salt
1. Pulse flour, sugar and chilled butter in a food processor just until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk/water mixture and pulse again just until the dough starts to come together. If it doesn't, add a little bit more water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and press into a flat, round disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refridgerate for 30 minutes. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out thinly and cut out circles a bit bigger than your tartlet tins. Place the dough into the tins, pressing in gently, then prick the bottom of each with a fork to allow the air to escape.
2. At this point, preheat the oven to 200C. While the oven is heating, place the tartlet tins on a baking sheet and pop them back into the fridge. When the oven is ready, bake the tartlets for 10-15 minutes until a nice golden colour.
3. Meanwhile, set about making the custard. Place the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cook in the bain-marie, stirring constantly, until the mixture is quite thick. At this point, feel free to strain the custard through a fine sieve into a bowl, to avoid any lumps getting through. Me, I'm less fussy. Stir in the butter until completely combined, then add the lemon zest and vanilla. Pour the custard into the pre-baked tartlet cases and pop into the oven at 180C for about 10 minutes, until the custard is almost completely set, but still a bit wobbly in the middle.
4. While the custard is baking, place the egg whites in a clean bowl with a pinch of salt and beat until soft peaks form. Start adding the sugar bit by bit and beat until stiff peaks form. Remove the tartlets from the oven and, using a metal spoon, pile them high with meringue, making sure you cover every last bit of the still-warm custard. Pop them back into the oven for 10 minutes, until the meringue is beautifully browned here and there. Remove and leave to cool while you gloat at your marvelous tangy creations.
- I had to cook these in batches, as I have a tragically tiny oven. The cooked custard can wait quite patiently while you're baking additional tartlet cases, so this didn't seem to be a problem.
- These are nice warm but definitely work best as a chilled dessert!