Recently, I was lucky enough to fly over the ditch to Melbourne for a short break away. While I was there, I sampled Lemon Meringue Pie from the famous Hopetoun Tea Rooms and thought I’d died and gone to heaven! Instead of the standard starchy, firm set lemon custard they used a seductively soft and tangy lemon curd and on top a heady cloud of marshmallow dreaminess. I couldn’t wait to get home and give it a try. So, here’s my humble attempt; I can’t say I reached the same level of perfection, but it was still divinely delicious. Thanks to Alton Brown and Food Network for the lemon curd recipe and Grace’s Sweet Life for the meringue recipe. I chose to make an Italian meringue, as it cooks the egg whites and is considered the most stable of the French, Swiss and Italian methods.
MINI LEMON MERINGUE TARTS
Makes six tarts
Pastry: Normally I like making all the components of a recipe. However, being time challenged on this occasion, I used ready rolled sweet short-crust pastry – enough to fill six shallow 12cm tartlet pans. If you’d prefer to make your own, either use your own favourite recipe or perhaps try the pastry used by Grace in the link I’ve included above.
Lemon Curd: See recipe here
1 cup caster sugar
1/3 cup water
4 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Place the sugar in a small saucepan. Add the water and set saucepan over low heat. Swirl the saucepan over the burner to dissolve the sugar completely – do not stir. Increase the heat to medium-high so that the sugar syrup starts to cook quickly. Attach candy thermometer to pan and cook the sugar syrup to a soft-ball stage, 113° C to 116° C (235° F to 240° F). If you don’t have a candy thermometer, test the syrup by dropping a little syrup into a bowl of cold water – a firm ball should form. To prevent sugar crystals from forming, use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pan as it cooks.
- When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 100° C (212° F), begin beating your egg whites on low speed in your electric stand mixer. When the egg whites are foamy, add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Decrease the speed to low-medium and with mixer running gradually, in a steady, thin stream, add the sugar mixture along the side of the bowl (making sure the hot syrup doesn’t touch the whip attachment). Add the vanilla and increase speed to high and whisk until thick and glossy.
- Assembly: To fill the pastry shells, spoon the curd into the pastry shells. At room temperature, the curd will likely be of a consistency that it levels out slowly, so don’t over-fill the tart. To top the tarts, dollop the meringue onto the lemon curd and use the back of a spoon to create peaks. If you prefer, you can pipe the meringue on instead.
- As Italian meringue is cooked already, you don’t need to further cook the meringue in the oven. You could leave the meringue as is – like pure white clouds – or you could brown the tips for a bit of drama! If you have a Crème Brûlée torch, simply run it across the tips and sides of meringue peaks; be careful, the mixture burns easily. If you don’t have a torch, just place the tarts on a baking sheet and place in a preheated oven set on broiler/grill setting. Watch the tarts carefully as the meringue can brown very quickly. You may need to turn the baking sheet a few times to ensure even browning.
Note: This is best to serve this on the same day – this is due to the meringue eventually breaking down. However, I refrigerated an extra portion overnight and had it the next morning and it was absolutely perfect with no change to the meringue at all – go Italian meringue!
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting