Beneath the groves
Where lemons yellow
Where swaying shades of
Green softly cast
Lays a sweet sleeper
Unbeknownst to the sun
Lulled heedless and mild
Into brief slumber
Many of you asked me for the lemon tart recipe, so here it is. I assure you none of the parts are particularly difficult, but where there are key tips I will boldly point out. An additional note, while Swiss meringue is notoriously stable, meringue inherently cannot retain its structural density and smoothness over extended periods of time without the help of stabilizers (gelatin, gums, etc). So be warned, and don’t come to me asking for your ingredient fees back when you find your meringue isn’t as smooth (as pictured here) two days after you make it. For reference, this picture was taken immediately after I applied the meringue. That is to say, if you want the best taste and presentation, meringue won’t wait.
Almond Pate Sablee – for 1 9-inch tart
- 250g all purpose flour
- 125g white sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 125g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp almond extract or liqueur
- 2-3 tbsp cold water
- In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until thoroughly combined.
- Add the cold cubes of butter and pulse until the mixture is completely homogeneous. It should look like really fine almond meal, without any chunks of butter and a very pale beige throughout.
- Lightly beat the egg with the almond extract in a small bowl and add to the food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. If it doesn’t begin to gather into a ball, add in 1 tbsp of water at a time until it comes together.
- Dump the mixture onto a clean surface and firmly knead 4-6 times just until the dough comes together into a homogeneous mass. Unlike pate brisee, you don’t need to worry as much about overworking the dough since step 2 ensures that the flour is well saturated with fat, which prevents the development of gluten. Shape the dough into a 6-inch disc, wrap in beeswax wrap or clingfilm and chill for at least 2 hours in the fridge or up to two days.
- 30 minutes before you want to roll out the crust, take out the chilled dough and let it warm up slightly at room temperature. This makes the dough more pliable and keeps it from cracking when you roll it out.
- Lightly dust your working surface and both sides of the dough disc with flour. Using a rolling pin, gently apply pressure from the middle of the disc and roll away from your body. Turn the disk clockwise by 30 degrees and repeat the same rolling motion. Repeat this turning-and-rolling process as many times as needed to get a 12-inch round. Be sure to dust both sides with more flour to prevent sticking.
- Remove the bottom of a fluted 9-inch tart tin and slide it under the rolled-out crust. Fold in the edges of the dough lightly so that they’re not hanging off the edge. Lift and place the rolled-out dough and tin bottom back in the tin. Unfold the dough and press into the corner and sides of the tin. Trim off any overhang by rolling over it the tin with a rolling pin. Using the fleshy part of your thumb, press the dough firmly but gently into the sides of the tin so that it stands about 0.4cm taller than the tin. (While pate sablee doesn’t shrink as much as pate brisee, this small detail acts as insurance and overall just gives you a more handsome result in my opinion. I’m all about tall desserts.)
- Dock the crust with a fork and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes while you clean up and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with the rack placed at the bottom third of the oven.
- Blind bake the crust for 20 minutes. Remove the pie weights (I used rice) and parchment paper (it helps to crumple it before using so it fits to the crust easier). The baking powder will make it puff quite a bit, but for this pie you want a more solid bottom, so press it down flat with the back of a spatula and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges and pale golden in the middle without looking wet.
- Cool completely.
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large lemons, zest and juice (should yield 250 ml, if not, use more lemons)
- 4 large eggs
- 3 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 2/3 c unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar lemon zest, lemon juice, corn starch, and eggs.
- Stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Stream in the heavy cream and continue stirring for 5 minutes, keeping it on the verge of boiling.
- Strain the mixture into a large bowl and whisk in the butter until the mixture is completely smooth. ALWAYS strain your custards, because chalazae are the worst. You have been warned.
- Pour into the cooled pie crust and bake at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until the filling is set around the edges but still jiggly in the middle.
- Cool completely to room temperature and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight in the fridge, covered.
Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue
- 4 egg whites
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
- Heat the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer over a simmering pot of water, stirring the mixture constantly until the mixture is very loose, the sugar is completely dissolved, and hot to the touch.
- Add the vanilla bean paste and whisk the egg white-sugar mixture at medium-high speed for 6 minutes until glossy soft peaks form.
- Switch the speed to high and continue whisking for another 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is dense, stiff, and resembles marshmallow fluff.
- Take the chilled tart from the fridge and blot off any condensation on the surface with kitchen paper. Scrape the meringue onto the tart and swirl it however you like before torching it and serving.
- This will keep decently for up to 3 days in the fridge, but like I said, it’s best on day 0. With the obligatory black coffee, obviously.