French Lemon Meringue Tart
(Tarte Au Citron Meringuée)
This is based on a similar tart made by Philippe Conticini at his Pâtisserie des Rêves shop in Paris. I was struck by a photo of the tart topped with a wave of meringue. Fortunately M. Conticini was forthcoming with his method for achieving this unique effect.
Makes 10-inch tart, 8 to 10 servings
One blind-baked 10-inch tart crust made from Sweet Pastry Dough (see below), fully baked
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup lemon juice, strained before measuring
2 large egg yolks
1 cup Lemon Curd (see below)
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
- For the lemon cream, whisk the milk and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over low heat. Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch, lemon juice, and yolks smooth in a small bowl. When the milk boils, whisk it into the lemon mixture. Strain back into the pan, and cook it over low heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and boils for 2 minutes. Scrape it into a small bowl, press plastic wrap directly against the surface, and chill thoroughly. This can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.
- To assemble the tart, pipe the lemon curd in a spiral on the crust. Cover with the lemon cream, filling the crust to the top; use a metal spatula to spread the top smooth and flat. Cover and freeze the tart solid.
- Finish the tart at least 6 hours before serving. Set a rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
- For the meringue, combine the ingredients in a mixer bowl and set it over a pan of boiling water; whisk until the mixture is hot and all the sugar has dissolved. Whip on medium-high speed until the egg whites have risen in volume but are still creamy and not dry.
- Scrape the meringue onto a cookie sheet, forming a 10-inch disk. Invert the frozen tart into the meringue and gently press to adhere. Pull the tart away sideways, leaving a tall point at one side. Bake until the meringue is golden, 7 to 8 minutes, then keep the tart at room temperature until fully defrosted.
- Unmold and slide the tart onto a platter. Use a thin, sharp knife to cut it, and wipe it with a wet cloth between cuts.
This makes rather more than you need for the lemon tart, but it keeps for weeks if tightly covered and refrigerated. An enameled small Dutch oven is perfect for preparing it.
8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter
5 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice, strained before measuring
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- Melt the butter in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
- Set the pan over medium heat and whisk until the curd gets hot and steam starts to emerge. Decrease the heat to low and continue whisking until the curd thickens. Take care not to let the curd come to a boil; move the pan on and off the heat as needed.
- Strain the curd into a stainless-steel bowl or clean plastic container, press plastic directly against the surface, and chill until cold.
SWEET PASTRY DOUGH
Makes enough for 2 single-crusted pies or 1 double-crusted pie
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
8 tablespoons/1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 12 pieces
2 large eggs
- Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse several times at 1-second intervals to mix.
- Add the butter cubes and pulse again until the butter is finely mixed throughout the dry ingredients and no visible pieces remain.
- Use a fork to beat the eggs enough to break them up, and add them to the bowl. Pulse again until the dough almost forms a ball; avoid pulsing too much or the dough might become too soft.
- Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it together 3 or 4 times to make it smooth.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces, form them into disks, and wrap each one in plastic. Chill the dough for a couple of hours before rolling.
- Before rolling the dough, place it on a floured surface and gently knead until smooth and malleable. Form into a disk again before beginning to roll.
To mix the dough by hand, stir the dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients, occasionally using your hands to scrape the bottom of the bowl and incorporate any unmixed flour. Once the butter is finely mixed throughout and no visible pieces of butter remain, use a fork to beat the eggs to break them up; add them to the bowl. Use the fork to scrape up from the bottom of the bowl and incorporate the eggs. You can also stir with the fork while using the other hand to move the bowl back and forth on the work surface. Once the dough starts holding together, continue with step 4 as described.
To mix the dough in a stand mixer, combine the dry ingredients in the mixer bowl and place it on the mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on the lowest speed for a few seconds, then add the butter and continue mixing until it begins to break down into smaller pieces, about 30 seconds. Stop and scrape the bowl and beater, then repeat 30 seconds of mixing, followed by stopping and scraping, until the butter is finely worked into the dry ingredients and no visible pieces remain. Whisk the eggs to break them up; add them to the mixer bowl. Mix again on lowest speed until the dough begins to hold together, then continue with step 4 as described.