Not that I'm, er, looking for ideas, or anything. Various friends have proposed to me that I could work in a bakery, or open my own cake-and-teashop, or generally pipe buttercream for a living... but I've always thought I'd probably get bored (and/or obese) too easily. The truth is, I not-so-secretly want to be a pirate, or possibly a hired assassin.
I also want to be several inches taller and married to Johnny Depp, but it turns out we don't always get what we want. Sigh.
Yeah, I really wasn't qualified to make this tart, on reflection.
But I'm so glad I did, because as I piped swirls of Italian meringue over the lemon filling (piped being a term used loosely, since I left my piping bags at uni and had to use a plastic sandwich bag from my mother's kitchen drawer... which inevitably burst midway through and forced me to blob the rest of the meringue onto the tart with a teaspoon. But I digress) I really thought that I wouldn't mind a future in this sort of thing. When I realised it had all actually worked, and come together, and I didn't even have to call it 'rustic' for a change... I saw the appeal of a little shop of cakes and patisserie; all neat and pretty and professional.
AND THEN I GOT TO BLOWTORCH IT.
Maybe I'll be one of those pirates who attack people with blowtorches... and then make creme brulee afterwards. I'm pretty sure there's a job market there.
Lemon Meringue Tart
Adapted from Pierre Herme, via Foodbeam.
Tart crust adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Makes enough for one 9-inch tart
I was so proud of how pretty this looked that I've barely even talked about the taste - but for the record, this kicks the arse of any lemon meringue 'pie' I've eaten previously; turns out the french-style lemon cream is absolutely the way to go. This is impossibly light, crisp and delicate, and was devoured (at a family gathering; I'm a show-off) to rave reviews. For all the effort, this is definitely my go-to recipe; it's just the best there is.
210g (1 1/2c.) plain flour
90g (1/2c.) icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
130g (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in the bowl of a food processor. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in. (You’re looking for some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.) Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses–about 10 seconds each–until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change–heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for (ideally) about 2 hours before rolling.
2. To roll the dough: Butter a 9-inch removable bottom tart tin. Roll out chilled dough on floured surface to 12-inch round, lifting and turning dough occasionally to free. (Alternately, you can roll this out between two pieces of plastic, though flour the dough a bit anyway.) Turn dough into case and aeal any cracks . Trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in, making double-thick sides. Pierce crust all over with fork.
3. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking.
4. To fully or partially bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 190C. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or use nonstick foil) and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake the crust about 10 minutes longer to fully bake it, or until it is firm and golden brown, brown being the important word: a pale crust doesn’t have a lot of flavor. (To partially bake it, only an additional 5 minutes is needed.) Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature, and proceed with the rest of your recipe.
for the lemon cream:
200 (1c. + 2 tbsp ) sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons - I used a microplane zester for this, because apparently I'm a total idiot. I lost hours of my life straining big pieces of zest from my cream; don't be like me. Use a fine zester.
4 large eggs
130ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
300g (10 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into big chunks
(This amount of filling is enough for 1 8" tart + 4 3" tartlets; I just made one 9" tart and had a little filling leftover - which worked for me cause I lost some when straining, sigh.)
1. First thing: fill the sink with 3-4cm of cold water. Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl (I use the bowl of my kitchenaid stand mixer) that can be set over a pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.
2. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and start stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 85°C (ahem), stirring constantly – be prepared, as it can take quite a lot of time. As soon as it reaches 85°C, remove the cream from the heat and place the bowl into the sink and allow to cool down to 60°C. Gradually incorporate the butter, whisking after each addition (at this point, I used my kitchenaid fitted with the whisk, hence the use of the kitchenaid bowl…).
3. When all the butter as been used, blend the cream with a hand-held blender for 8 minutes. It might sound long, but will ensure a too-smooth-to-be-true lemon cream. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of cling film against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate overnight. And again I say, ahem.
4. The next day (or later, as the cream can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days), whisk the cream to loosen it and pipe it into the tart shell and refrigerate for at least an hour before starting with the meringue. Oh, I actually did this one!
for the Italian meringue:
2 egg whites
35g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
50g (2 oz) water
150g (5 1/2 oz) sugar
Make the meringue just a little before you serve to avoid weeping. I mean the meringue weeping, not you. Well, maybe you.
1. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at slow speed until the foam throughout, add the sugar, gradually increase the speed to fast, and beat to soft peaks. Turn the machine to slow as you complete the sugar syrup.Bring the sugar and water to 115°C. Beating the egg whites at moderate speed, pour the boiling syrup into them. Increase the speed to high, and beat until the bowl is no longer hot (it should still feel slightly warm).
2. Pipe the meringue onto the lemon cream and caramelise using a blow torch.