We had about half a cup of lemon juice left from the Meyer lemons we’d found in the surplus basket at the CSA the other week. We thought about making a Lemon Sabayon Tart, but decided, instead, to make Individual Lemon Meringue Tarts. It isn’t much more difficult, and it uses those pesky egg whites left over from making the Lemon Sabayon.
We also considered making the full-up version of Thomas Keller’s Individual Lemon Meringue Tarts from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, which is very similar. The crust is identical; the lemon curd is nearly the same (the other has a bit of gelatin to firm it more), and the meringue is pretty much the same, other than the quantity. The big difference between the two recipes is that the one in the cookbook adds a thin layer of cake between the lemon curd and the pudding. We just didn’t want the additional work of baking a thin cake.
We’ve made everything for this before, so the recipe is straightforward. The Pâte Sucrée and the Lemon Sabayon are the ingredients for the Lemon Sabayon Tart. When we make the meringue, we’re really making a Swiss meringue, which we’ve made dozens of times as the first step in Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. If you wish, you can make the sabayon the day prior and refrigerate; just place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. We think the only key is to use good eggs, and those eggs come from pasture-raised hens.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or baking parchment.
Roll and fit crust. Divide the crust into 6 equal pieces. Work with one piece of crust, and use your hands to shape it into a rough circle. Place on a lightly floured work surface, and gently roll into about a 5-inch circle. Okay, now comes the tricky part. Use a spatula to transfer it to a 3.5 x 1 inch tart ring and carefully fold and press the crust into place. It’ll want to tear, but be gentle, folding as you go, and get the crust pressed into place. Trim the excess crust from the top, and, if needed, patch up the sides by pressing bits of dough into place. Use a spatula to support the bottom of the crust when you transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
Line and weight. Carefully line the crusts with a piece of parchment (or aluminum foil), and fill with weights. We had the best luck by pressing the parchment down with one hand and adding weights while we held it in place. If you don’t have pie weights, you can use dried beans or rice. This weighting will help keep the crust from puffing on the bottom and the sides from slumping down.
Blind bake. Place the crusts in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully lift out the parchment and pie weights. Place the crusts back in the oven and bake until the crust is dry to the touch and golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Let crusts cool completely.
Fill crusts. Once cool, carefully slide the tart rings off the crusts. If you need to, make the Lemon Sabayon curd, then fill each tart crust. If you have a spoonful or two of curd left over, use that to feed the chef. We won’t tell.
Cook meringue. Construct a double boiler from the mixer bowl of a stand mixer and a saucepan with about an inch of water in the bottom. Don’t let the water touch the bowl. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl and place over the simmering water. Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves and liquid is hot (170°F if you use a thermometer) to the touch, about 5 minutes.
Whip meringue. Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on high until the meringue is light, fluffy, and cool to the touch, 5 minutes.
Top tarts. Use a small offset spatula to apply the meringue to the tops of the tarts. The curd is soft, so be gentle, and use a deft touch. As you work, make sure to form some peaks in the meringue.
Broil (optional). Preheat a broiler and place the tarts under it, with the door of the oven open, sliding and moving around the tarts continuously until the meringue is browned to your liking. Cool completely.
We like making these lemon meringue tarts. It’s only slightly more difficult than the Lemon Sabayon Tart, which we think is wonderful, and we don’t end up with extra egg whites (which freeze well, and we always figure out something to do with them), which is nice. In eating them, we did find that the sabayon was quite soft — perhaps a bit of gelatin or agar-agar would be just the thing — but, as always, smooth and tangy. Five bright yellow stars to match the lemon!