Lemon. Meringue. Two of our favorite words. But add Meyer in…and we’re goners.
These aren’t just your ordinary lemons. Don’t get us wrong, we love your ordinary lemons. But Meyer lemons are a whole other situation. And this year, something extra special is going on with them. We don’t know how, we don’t know why, but every Meyer lemon that we’ve bought this year has been crazy-incredible—so juicy, so sweet. We literally cut one up while baking and ate it like an orange because we couldn’t resist.
Meyer lemons have an slightly orange-y, honey-like flavor to them. They’re more mellow and, yes, sweeter than regular lemons. But that doesn’t quite capture just how exquisite they are. You’re going to have to taste one for yourself. And once you do, you’re going to want to use them in dressings, squeeze them into lemonades, stir them into cocktails, zest them into cakes, drizzle them over fish…it goes on and on. You might want to make some time in your schedule and work your way through this list.
It’s possible that you don’t love lemon meringue pie as completely and unconditionally as we do. Lee even has a special place in her heart for the terrible lemon meringue pie that you find in just about every diner in this country. But the good stuff, the real stuff, is tart and tangy and bright, piled high with clouds of soft meringue. And it’s amazing. (We aren’t the only ones that feel this way—FYI August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day…but we prefer to celebrate year-round, so…) We like our meringue a little golden on the outside, with a hint of sweetness and vanilla. All of these flavors work so beautifully with our olive oil crust—which, if you made our Salted Pumpkin Pie, you might already love. It has the lightest olive oil taste to it, giving the lemon and the meringue a perfect complement.
The whole thing is magic.
Our gift to you on this late-winter morning—the perfect way to celebrate winter citrus and the inkling of spring in the air, however faint: a sunny tart packed with one of the best things these cold months offer. Grab all the Meyer lemons you can while you can! We’ll be using them from now until the last one disappears for the year.
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Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart
Notes: Because the lemon curd gets cooked separately from the tart crust, you’ll be pouring it into a fully baked tart shell when you assemble everything. That means you’ll blind bake (pre-bake) the crust. To do that, you’ll bake the crust first lined with parchment paper and filled with either pie weights or dried beans so the dough doesn’t puff. (We use the same dried chickpeas over and over and replace them maybe once a year, storing them in a Ziplock bag or a jar.) You’ll then finish baking the crust without the pie weights inside so that it gets cooked through and nicely golden.
Curd is super easy to make and this recipe is the least fussy one we’ve ever found. You basically put everything into the pot and stir. BUT, like any curd, it will curdle fast if you leave it unattended. As its over a flame, don’t leave its side or stop stirring, or you’ll wind up with very lemony scrambled eggs. You can make the pie crust earlier in the day so it’s ready when you are.
Using superfine or caster sugar is pretty crucial to making a meringue that isn’t gritty. It also dissolves quicker and undissolved sugar can contribute to weeping. There are three things you should absolutely make sure of, though, one is to use room temperature egg whites and the second is to be certain your bowl is squeaky clean—without a trace of grease. Many chefs will take a paper towel and wipe the inside of the bowl with some lemon juice or vinegar to make sure. But don’t wash the bowl after that. The acid will help stabilize the egg whites. The third is not to get any yolk in the whites—not even a speck.
One last note about egg whites: The FDA recommends that the meringue be baked to a temperature of 160°. So we follow those guidelines.
– An 8-inch tart tin with removable bottom
– An instant read thermometer
For the Crust:
– 1/2 recipe Olive Oil Pie Dough (found on our Salted Pumpkin Pie post)
For the Meyer Lemon Curd:
– Grated zest of 2 Meyer lemons
– Juice of 2 Meyer lemons (Try to pick 2 large ones. You’ll want to wind up with a 1/2 cup of juice. So if the lemons are really small, you might need 3-4.)
– 1 large egg at room temperature
– 4 large egg yolks at room temperature
– 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
– 6 tbs unsalted butter, cut into tbs-sized pieces
– 1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
For the Meringue:
-4 egg whites at room temperature
-1/4 tsp cream of tarter
-6 1/2 tbs superfine sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-pinch of salt
* Preheat the oven to 375 °F.
* As soon as you’ve made the dough, roll it out into a circle so that it’s about a 1/4 inch thick.
* Fit the dough into your tart tin. The dough tends to get a little dry if you let it sit for too long, so you’ll want to do this right after you roll it out. Gently press the dough against the sides of the pan. And trim the excess by pressing it against the top edge or cutting it with a knife. The crust will shrink a little in the oven so don’t trim it below the top. Smooth the edges and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
* To blind bake the crust, cut a piece of parchment paper larger than your tin so it will overhang a bit. Place it on top of the dough and pour the pie weights or dried beans into the center of the paper to fill the pan and weigh down the dough while it bakes.
* Bake the dough with the pie weights/beans in for 20 minutes at 375 °F. (Make sure the parchment paper isn’t sticking up much taller than the tart pan or resting on the oven rack—cut it down if you need, but leave a little extra so you can easily pull it out with the weights.)
* After 20 minutes, take the tart out of the oven. Turn the oven down to 350°. Carefully pick up the parchment paper, gathering all four corners, with the weights inside. The weights are hot! They are sneaky little things and will easily slip off of the parchment—we’ve dropped them all over our kitchen floor more than once. Leave them to cool on a heat-proof surface or rack.
* Pop the tart right back in the oven for another 10–13 minutes. It should be a very pale golden brown and cooked through. Let it rest on a rack until it’s ready for the next step.
* Make the Meyer lemon curd: Off the stove, beat the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt with a whisk in a heavy, non-reactive saucepan. You’re just looking to mix everything together, so just do a quick mix or you’ll add too much air to the mixture.
* Trade your whisk for a wooden spoon and stir in the Meyer lemon zest and juice. Don’t use your whisk or all of that beautiful zest you grated will wind up tangled on the wires. Have your butter handy.
* Set the pan over medium-low heat and start stirring with your wooden spoon. Immediately add all 6 tbs of butter. Cook while stirring constantly until the curd has become lovely and thick. This will probably take about 8-10 minutes. It’ll be pretty liquidy for a while, and then, towards the end, it will get thick very quickly. To test if it’s done, coat the back of your spoon with the curd and draw a line through it with your finger: the line should stay defined without curd seeping back over it. Keep the curd hot. If it cools the meringue will not adhere and slide around after baking. You can place the saucepan in a bain marie.
* Make the meringue. Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they get frothy. Then add the cream of tarter and salt.
* Beat at high speed, watching closely, and once the egg whites are thick opaque white pause to test the stiffness of the meringues—this will happen quickly. You should create soft peaks.
* Once you reach soft peak stage, with the mixer running, add in the sugar about a tablespoon at a time and the vanilla. Beat until everything is incorporated, glossy and beautiful and your peaks are stiff but do not over beat.
* Mound the meringue over the hot filling. With a spatula spread it all the way to the edges so that it touches the crust and creates a seal over the curd. Make swirls and peaks if you like.
* With your oven at 350° bake the tart for 15 minutes, then check to see how it’s doing. Bake for another 5 minutes until the meringue reaches 160* with an instant read thermometer. If your tart is already nicely golden after 15 minutes, tent it very loosely with foil and continue baking.
* Let the tart cool completely to room temperature. After it’s cooled, we like to refrigerate our pie uncovered before serving to set the curd and meringue. This will take a hour or two, but it’s very, very worth the wait.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.