In preparation for some more adventurous tarts (stay tuned), I am paying homage to the first time I ever baked (as far as I can remember), when I made Joanne B. Chang's lemon bars from her Flour cookbook. I actually may have made her chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting. I can't remember. But lemon bars was definitely one of the first things I ever baked. Ok anyway, I've changed the shortbread to a buttery tart crust and added crunchy vanilla meringues for some texture, and here is the result!
The curd filling is super easy to make and so tart it will make you make a fish face all about it. It will give your molars a headache. But that's the way I like it so that's the way I'm telling you how to make it. The crust is buttery and the right amount of savory. The meringues add a nice crunch, but for me are a little too sweet. Next time I'm going to add salted tequila-infused whipped cream instead to cut the sweetness and add some more depth. Knowing me, I'll probably just use lime curd as well, to make it a straight up cocktail...
Butter Count: 18 Tbsp
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1. Whisk the heavy cream and egg yolk together in a large bowl.
2. Add the flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture becomes a coarse meal. Transfer the dough ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix it all together with fingers until a dough forms.
3. Press the dough down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat six fluted tart pans with removable bottoms with cooking spray.
5. On a floured work surface, divide the dough into six equal portions. roll each portion into circles to about 1/4 inches thick. Ease the dough circles into the tart pans, gently pressing it into the corners. Use a pallet knife or a rolling pin to remove the excess pastry from the corners of the tart pan. Refrigerate for 10 more minutes.
6. a. If available, line the tarts with parchment paper and fill with dried beans. Bake on the center rack about 10 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and beans and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden and completely cooked. Allow the tart shells to cool completely.
6.b. If dried beans or pie weights are not available, just bake the tarts on the center rack about 15 minutes until golden and completely cooked. The pastry will puff in the center, causing the tart walls to sink down the pan. This is essentially fine, it just means you won't be able to fit as much curd into the shell after it's baked (I prefer it this way because I don't have much of a sweet tooth).
4 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice (5 or 6 lemons worth)
1/8 tsp salt
10 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1. Set a sieve over a bowl near the stove. In a heavy pot, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and salt until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. The mixture should coat the back of a wooden spoon so that when you slide your finger across it, distinct custard lines form and the mixture does not bleed into the finger trail. It should be quite thick.
2. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the butter, a little at a time, and whisk until the butter is melted and fully mixed into the rest of the filling.
3. Strain the filling into the prepared bowl. Divide the filling evenly into the tart shells (do not overfill them. You might have leftover curd) and refrigerate until chilled, two or three hours. The tart can be refrigerated overnight, or left out on the counter in a cool area (the latter option tends to prevent condensation from forming on the top of the tarts after removing from the refrigerator).
2 egg whites, weighed
Granulated sugar, 2x the weight of the egg whites
1. In a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites at the lowest speed about 2 minutes, then increase the speed to high and whisk another 10 minutes. When the whites are doubled in volume, add the sugar little by little and continue to whip until firm peaks form.
2. Place the mixture in a piping bag and pipe the meringues onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (it is helpful to pipe some of the meringue mixture under the corners of the parchment paper to keep it flat).
3. Bake at 150F (90C) for 2 hours. Check every 15 minutes after that. The meringues are finished when they easily detach from the parchment paper.
4. Top the tarts with the meringues immediately before serving (or photoshooting).