I haven't had a lemon meringue tart in ages. So long, in fact, that I can't actually remember the last time I had one. Which is kind of strange since it's one of my favourite desserts. A while back I posted about Swedish Cinnamon Buns and said that I'd never had much success making dough. I hold pastry up on the same level. I think sometime - long, long ago - I made pastry and maybe it didn't turn out so well and it put me off making it again. But this week I wanted a lemon meringue tart so decided that I would make a Pâte Sablée base for my tartlets.
Now if my first attempt put me off for what may be years, my following attempts were certainly character building and taught me a lot about perseverance. I decided to make Will Torrent's version of Pâte Sablée which has a very high butter content. He suggests leaving it in the fridge for at least three hours after making it, but ideally overnight. I, of course, needed the speedier option but did ensure that I waited until the full three hours was up. It was a hot day (one of the few we've had here of late) but I managed to get it successfully into a large tart tin, covered it with greaseproof paper and ceramic balls and popped it in the oven. After the required ten minutes cooking time, I checked on it and the sides of the pastry had started to melt down the insides of the pan so there was no hope of my perfectly neat sides. Sigh. The only redeeming thing was that it tasted good. Very good.
So a day later, I tried again. Maybe I hadn't got one of the stages quite right. Or chilled it for long enough. I started again from scratch and created what I felt looked like a superior version of my first attempt. Into the fridge it went and it was left for longer this time. The weather wasn't quite as warm but it transferred successfully into my tin again. I had high hopes. Ten minutes passed and I checked it with bated breath. Yet more drippy sides. Sigh (again). With a heavy heart I rolled up my leftover pâte sablée and tossed it into the fridge.
Back to the drawing board. Nothing in Will Torrent's recipe mentioned drippy sides. And of course, his photo shows a stunningly perfect specimen. Harumph! So I started to google it and youtube it. Eventually I figured that there were two things I could pay more attention to and try. I mean, third time lucky, right? I had enough pastry left from my second attempt to make some mini tarts.
So the first thing I tried was re-chilling my pastry after it was in the tin. That's not mentioned in the original recipe but I thought it might help before it went into the oven. The second thing I thought was that maybe the ceramic balls weren't filling the tin high enough and providing enough support (I only have 1 tub of them and it's a large tin). So I tried three variations: greaseproof paper with ceramic balls to the very top; clingfilm with ceramic balls to the top; and clingfilm with rice to the top. Now all three options left slight indentations in the bottom of the pastry case but I think the best result was the clingfilm with rice. And in any case, you can't see the bottom once it's been filled.
So there you have it. I got there in the end! I filled the tart cases with store bought lemon curd (if you want to use a homemade version then try this Lemon Curd but double the quantities) and then topped it with freshly made italian meringue which was then scorched with the blowtorch. The Pâte Sablée is fantastic. The high butter content and wonderful taste of vanilla (from seeds scraped from the vanilla pod) really make a difference, I think. The pastry shell would be fanastic with egg custard in it too (one of my future posts, I hope!)
This would be brilliant for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea. But then, as I'm such a fan, I could eat it any time of the day or night!
Lemon Meringue Tart
Pâte Sablée Ingredients To make a 20cm tart (from Will Torrent's recipe for Pâte Sablée)
- 200G SOFTENED BUTTER
- 100G ICING SUGAR
- PINCH OF SALT
- I VANILLA BEAN
- ZEST OF 1 LEMON, FINELY GRATED
- 2 EGGS, LIGHTLY BEATEN
- 250G PLAIN FLOUR
- 25G MELTED WHITE CHOCOLATE
- Beat the butter, sugar and salt together in a standing mixer until pale in colour which should take around 5 minutes
- Split the vanilla bean lenthways and then scrape the vanilla seeds out of the pod using a sharp knife and add them to the creamed butter and sugar
- Add the lemon zest and then beat the mixture again until throughly mixed throughout
- With the mixer running, slowly add the beaten eggs, mixing well until fully incorporated - you may also have to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that all the butter is mixed through
- Gently mix through the flour until just combined - if you over-mix this then you will toughen the pastry
- Bring the pastry together into a ball and flatten it slightly into a disc shape, then wrap it in clingfilm and chill it in the fridge
- Leave it in the fridge for at least 3 hours or perferably overnight
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)
- Lightly grease a 20cm pie tin and then lightly dust it with flour
- When you're ready to use your pastry, roll it out gently on a lightly floured surface to around 25cm diameter (it's very forgiving and if you do find it tears then you can just squeeze it back together)
- Lossely wrap the dough around a rolling pin and then unravel it into the tin coaxing the dough neatly into the edges of the tin
- Press the pastry lightly into the sides of the tin to ensure that it takes the shape of the tin (mine was fluted)
- Roll your rolling pin across the top to cut off the excess
- Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes or until the pastry is properly chilled
- Remove from the fridge, put a piece of clingfilm over the top and then fill the pastry shell with rice to the very top
- Bake for 10 - 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 160 degrees
- Remove the clingfilm and rice and bake again for a further 5 - 10 minutes
- Remove it from the oven and allow it cool completely
- Before adding your filling of choice, paint a thin layer of melted white chocolate across the base and side of the pastry case
Italian Meringue Ingredients
- 200G CASTER SUGAR
- 75ML WATER
- 80G EGG WHITES (I use Two Chicks Egg Whites available in cartons from the supermarket)
- Put 40g of the egg whites into a mixer with the balloon whisk
- Put the caster sugar and water into a saucepan and heat without stirring to 95 degrees and then start the mixer on a low speed
- When the sugar syrup temperature reaches 105 degrees, increase the speed of the mixer and beat the egg whites to a stiff peak
- When the sugar mixture reaches 114 degrees, remove from the heat and pour the syrup in a slow, steady stream down the side of the bowl (not into the middle as you don't want to remove all the air) with the mixer still running
- Continue beating for 5 to 10 minutes until the outside of the bowl cools down
- To assemble, fill your pastry tart with a filling of your choice - mine was Lemon Curd
- Then using a piping bag and round tip (you can choose a star tip or other type if you prefer), pipe the meringue onto the top of the lemon meringue
- Blast the top of the meringue lightly with a blowtorch (or pop under a very hot grill keeping a close eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn)
- Enjoy (a lot!)