This isn’t your grandma’s lemon pie… And my Southern grandmother made a delectable lemon meringue pie. The classic French lemon tart does not have meringue, however, but I like this one because it reminds me of Grandma’s.
This lemon tart that my sweetheart made is his own creation with inspiration from Philippe Conticini of La Patisserie des Reves in Paris, among others. The take-away here is the unique way the meringue sweeps up to a peak. This is achieved by turning the tiny tart upside down and dipping the top into the freshly made meringue; when you pull it away with a little twist, the point is formed.
Here is an excellent recipe for the lemon curd, which is more tart than sweet. It is translated from Jacques Genin’s Le Meilleur de la Tarte Citron, in which measurements are given in grams. I have used my kitchen calculator app to convert to the American system, but, for pastries, weighing in grams is much more accurate. Kitchen scales are cheap; in fact, here is an example:
3/4 cup + 2 teaspoons (180 g) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (170 g) sugar
14 tablespoons (200 g) softened unsalted butter
Zest 6 lemons into a sauce pan [use organic lemons to avoid pesticides trapped with wax on the peel]. Add the eggs and sugar and mix, and then incorporate the lemon juice. Place on low heat and stir until thick; strain after cooking, if there are any lumps. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Mix in the butter and beat until emulsified. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours before filling prebaked tart shells.
You can use any pastry dough, including frozen. If you want to make individual tarts, you can use round metal cookie cutters on a sheet pan to form the shells. Pierce the bottom with a fork to prevent bubbles and bake until golden-brown. Cool completely before filling.
When the tarts are assembled, you are ready to make the meringue. The one mon amour uses is Italian:
1/3 cup egg whites (80 g)
2/3 cup sugar (145 g)
1/8 cup water (40 g)
Bring the water and sugar to 250 degrees F (118 degrees C) or just to a boil, and remove from heat. Whip the egg whites until frothy, and then pour slowly the hot syrup into the egg whites while continuing to whip. When the meringue forms peaks, it is ready.
Dip the top of the cold tarts in the meringue immediately to achieve the point on top. Brown the meringue with a torch or under the broiler.
Grandma would be proud…