I’ve been dying to make a lemon tart for some time now.
Since Spring is here and for some reason lemon meringue feels so very Spring to me, it was time to make it happen.
What makes a really nice lemon meringue tart?
A crisp, snappy, buttery crust that holds up to a heavy filling and loads of meringue while being easy to cut through.
A silky smooth lemon filling that is tart, but not too tart, and not too sweet either, seeing as the meringue topping will offer up enough sweetness for all the components when combined.
A meringue that can be piled high yet hold it’s shape, preferably a cooked meringue with all the stability.
I realized that my favorite lemon bar recipe met two of these three requirements, so I transformed into a tart and added a luscious pile of Italian meringue to the top.
This tart has a simple shortbread crust that is simple to make and has the perfect texture.
The filling is tart lemon curd that is cooked on the stove top first, then has cream and vanilla mixed in to cut the tartness down to just the right level. It is then baked to set it into the crust and then chilled before the meringue topping is added.
The meringue may just be my favorite part, and that’s saying something seeing as super sweet things aren’t really my jam.
The sweet clouds of marshmallow-like fluff make such a lovely foil to the crisp buttery crust and the tart filling. All together it’s nothing short of magical.
There are a few types of meringue that you can make. A traditional baked meringue wouldn’t have worked very well for this as the bake time is too short for the setting of the curd.
A swiss meringue would work nicely, but I love to make Italian meringues. Some will say that Italian meringue is the most difficult to make, but I don’t agree. An Italian meringue is made by beating hot sugar syrup into egg whites, and continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. This meringue is nice because it’s very stable as well as safer to eat, seeing as boiling hot syrup essentially cooks the egg whites as it’s beaten into them.
Most Italian Meringue recipes will call for a candy thermometer. I don’t use one when I make it – I prefer to test the syrup as it cooks by adding a little bit to a cup of room temperature water. When the syrup hits the water and cools down, it firms up. As soon as the syrup is firm yet still very pliable, I take it off of the heat.
If you prefer to use a thermometer for accuracy, do it! You’ll want to take the syrup off of the heat as soon it reaches 240 degrees, in that case.
This tart will keep for several days, covered and refrigerated. As rich as it is, a little goes a long way so share share share!
Mile High Meringue & Lemon Tart
Recipe type: dessert
Serves: one 9" round tart
- FOR THE CRUST:
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup Salted Butter (12 tablespoons), cut into cubes and semi-soft
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 7 large Egg yolks
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 cup Sugar
- ⅔ cup Lemon juice (from about 4-5 medium lemons), strained
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 4 tablespoons Butter, cut in to 4 pieces
- 3 T. Heavy cream or Coconut Cream
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- FOR THE MERINGUE:
- ⅔ cup Egg Whites
- 1⅓ cups Sugar
- ½ cup Water
- pinch of Cream of Tartar
- FOR THE CRUST:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Put the flour and powdered sugar in a food processor and process briefly, about 2 seconds. Add the butter pieces and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then process until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into a 9 inch round tart pan with removable bottom and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom and up the sides.
- Lay a sheet of parchment paper over the crust and fill it with beans.
- Bake the crust in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Take the tart out of the oven and remove the beans and parchment from the crust. Place the tart back in the oven and continue to bake the crust until the edges start to brown, another 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- FOR THE FILLING:
- In a medium saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, whole eggs and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice and salt and whisk until well combined, about 30 seconds.
- Add the butter pieces and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the curd thickens, about 6 minutes.
- Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla and then pour the curd into the warm crust.
- Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. When cool, cover and place in the refrigerator to chill.
- FOR THE MERINGUE:
- When the lemon tart is chilled, make the meringue.
- Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat with electric mixers until they develop soft peaks. Set aside.
- Place the sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover the pan with a lid. Let boil for 2 minutes, then remove the lid (this helps the steam to run down the sides and wash any potential sugar crystals back into the water).
- Continue to boil for another minute - Drizzle a bit of the syrup into a cup of water. Touch the sugar to see if holds its shape. You may need to test this a few times. As soon as the sugar holds is shape but is still soft and pliable (soft ball stage), remove it from the heat.
- Slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the egg whites while beating them at medium speed. Once the sugar is fully incorporated, up the speed to medium high and continue to beat the egg whites until very stiff peaks form.
- Spoon the fluffy meringue over the top of the tart and swirl as you spread it over the top in a mound.
- Toast the top of the meringue with a culinary blow torch, if desired.
- Serve chilled in small slices.