Friday, 31 July 2009

french lemon meringue tart

lemon meringue tart 1

What did you always want to be when you grew up?

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.

lemon meringue tart 3

This lemon meringue tart got me thinking, for several reasons. Firstly; I'm not going to pretend that I'm all experienced with patisserie, because I'm not, but though I know this is by no means perfect and I would probably be laughed out of cookery school -- hooboy, was I proud of it. I've never made a French-style lemon meringue tart before (LM tarts have a lemon cream filling, with a texture which reminded me of swiss meringue buttercream; whereas the more common (to me) LM pies have a lemon filling made with egg yolks and cornflour), and the several components of this are rather intimidating - not to mention all the 'chill overnight' and 'let rest for two hours' type instructions (all of which I entirely disregarded), and the demand for a sugar thermometer (which I similarly ignored, on account of not having one).

Yeah, I really wasn't qualified to make this tart, on reflection.

lemon meringue tart 4

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?



lemon meringue tart 5


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
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.

For pastry:
210g (1 1/2c.)
plain flour
icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
(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 )
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
(2 tbsp)
caster sugar
(2 oz)
(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.

lemon meringue tart 6


Rhyleysgranny said...

Oh I am laughing at your Ahems LOL. The tart looks amazing. I would love to try this. Makes a change from the usual LMP. I really must try this. Your pics are lovely.

Helen T said...

Looks fab, although meringue tends to definitely leave me weeping. Although thats only the time I left it in the over to cool overnight, and then turned the oven on to warm up for the next days cooking. Burnt sugar never one of my fave smells. Great photos by the way!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

LOL great story! And I love your piping work too, it doesn't look blobbed at all. Blow torching is fun indeed :)

grace said...

if this is what you produce after making all those sacrifices and substitutions and alterations, i'm unbelievably impressed. boundless potential, i say.

Julia @ Mélanger said...

Blowtorching is the best bit. This looks fantastic. I've never made a lemon meringue tart before. I'm inspired!

Poorni Pillai said...

Har, Har! I'll follow your lead Cap'n, if I get to wield a blowtorch too!

Seriously, that's a fine looking tart- professional and all...yummm.

Adam said...

Pirate? Oh, totally. Then there's 007 secret agent, dinosaur hunter, Spaceman Spif... all good stuff. I'm am pretty happy with where I ended up though.

Just wanted to let you know this is probably the prettiest tart I've ever seen. You have nice torching skills, the golden peaks are caramlized awesome.

If I open up a bakery in a few years I'm hiring you as the torchbearer. Which might go with disciplinarian too :)

ovenhaven said...

"Maybe I'll be one of those pirates who attack people with blowtorches... and then make creme brulee afterwards."

I'm sure there's a market for a Wii/Playstation game right there! And for a first time with the blowtorch, you did absolutely great. You should just start blowtorching anything you possibly can get your hands on!

morgana said...

Wow! What can I say? It looks just PERFECT.

Ingrid_3Bs said...

LOL, I smiled the whole time I read your post! Looks fabuous!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous tart! I think being a hired assassin while married to Brad Pitt who is also a hired assassin would be cool. :P

Irina @ PastryPal said...

I think anyone in cookery school would throw their arms around you as this looks spot on.

Anna said...

Alas, pinkstripes - I think someone's already had that idea! XD

PG said...

Well - looks good to me. I've made a lemon tart using the lemon cream recipe before. I used Meyer lemons and it turned out too sweet. But, I'd like to try with regular lemons. I also recent received a torch and really want to try doing a meringue top. I had to laugh at the comment about your piping bag at school. I can only imagine why you brought it there.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Karine said...

I love your pics and your tart! Your tart is browned so nicely!

The Caked Crusader said...

Piped meringue always looks beautiful...just stay away from me when you're in piratey mood and holding a blow torch!!!

Hilary said...

You would so NOT get laughed out of culinary school for this - this looks like A+ material.

Love your blog!

Dewi said...

My heart go boom ... boom... when I see this meringue topping. Its gorgeous and delicious looking!

Lori said...

Very beautiful. You should be proud. It looks very professional and you could so have a future of a Baker! Chef! Whatever you want Indigo. Okay so maybe not a pirate because you might get shot and then who would give me a recipe like this one?

I had dreams of being a Marine Biologist, Horse Farm Owner, Doctor, Civil Lawyer, Psychotherapist...

I became the psychotherapist/social worker. I should have known when as a kid I use to Psychological Asessments.

Clair said...

This looks sooo GOOD! I <3<3<3 Lemon Meringue!

Jane said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful tart. Makes me want to run out and buy one of those little torches right now. I'm not a fan of the typical American LM pie, so this recipe is a refreshing alternative.


Apocalypse Cakes said...

Those meringue peaks are so buxom and nubile! Yum. Thank you for posting!

Carolyn Jung said...

Frankly, I'd like to be taller, too, and married to George Clooney. Hah! Good thing my husband knows and doesn't mind my obsession with George. ;)

Sihan said...

i love my blow torch too! anyway, great job with the tart. It really looks professionally done.

Anonymous said...

I love the way you write. Like, crazy love it. You are awesome, these pictures are awesome, and I can attest for the fact that this recipe is awesome!

To sum up:


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Ange said...

I just saw this recipe word for word on another blog with a different photo, on Pinterest. All the while looking for a different recipe to compare! A girl from the French Riviera… Etrange! Must be good then if you both do it that way :)