Today is my sister Marta’s birthday. She enjoys cooking and eating even more than I do. She is a great baker. Since baking requires exact measurements and I prefer a rather free hand when it comes to cooking, I don’t bake too often. (But I must admit that since starting this blog I do pay closer attention to the amount of seasonings I use and have my little notebook with me when working on a recipe). Marta lives in Poland and visits us annually typically during the summer months. Last year she spent a couple of months here while trying to figure out which college to go to and what to study. She made this tart a few times then and it was an instant hit. So, while she is now studying hard to become a veterinarian at a great vet school in Poland I made her Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart to celebrate her birthday from far away. I’ve never made it before so I was a bit nervous but everything turned out great and I’m nibbling on it now as I write this post. So, happy birthday sis!
Marta’s Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart is delightfully light with a perfect combination of sweet and lemony. The crust is very buttery, with a slight crunch but not too hard. The filling is very, very lemony and oh so smooth. The meringue is light, sweet, crispy on the outside but soft inside and compliments the lemon flavor very well. It’s a perfect dessert to celebrate any occasion, like Easter, Mother’s Day, brunch with friends or BBQ on a hot summer day.
The Meyer Lemon Meringue Tart has 4 steps: make and bake the tart shell, prepare the lemon filling, whip the meringue and finally bake the assembled tart. The first step, making and baking the tart shell can be done 1-2 days in advance ( store it covered in the fridge).
Tart dough and pie dough are two different things. Tart dough should be buttery, crunchy and firm, resembling a shortbread cookie. Pie dough should be soft, light and flaky. When making a pie dough it’s important to keep small butter pieces in it. The melted butter will create air pockets in the dough and give a flaky dough.
To make the tart shell you need to use cold butter and icy cold water. You need to form the dough rather quickly and cold butter and water will make it less sticky. To make the dough you can use a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a food processor. If using the mixer, start with flour, sugar and salt. Then add the cubed butter and beat on a medium speed for 3-4 minutes. You should be able to see small, rice-size, pieces of butter. Add the egg mixture and stir a few times. Place the dough on the counter and form into a ball. To roll it out, place the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. This way you won’t need to add any flour if the dough gets too sticky. Roll it out into an 11-inch circle. Chill, wrapped, for 30 minutes.
If using a food processor, place flour, sugar, salt and cubed butter in it and pulse 10-15 times. Watch it closely since you want to have small pieces of butter left in it. Add the egg mixture and pulse it 3-4 times more. Proceed as described above.
After some chilling, remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature until it softens a bit. You can roll it out a bit more, if needed. Remove from the plastic wrap and transfer into greased tart pan by keeping it loosely rolled around the rolling pin. Gently push the dough down and onto the sides of the pan. Remove any extra dough and use it to patch some thinner spots. Next, prick the dough with a fork to keep it from puffing up.
I like to par-bake or blind-bake the dough. It keeps the dough from getting soggy and it gives it some time to firm up a bit. When par-baking you need to cover the dough with aluminum foil or parchment paper and use beans, rice or pie weights to prevent rising.
Bake it in an oven pre-heated to 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and pie weights and bake an additional 13-15 minutes, until the shell is golden brown. Cool down.
To make the lemon filling, in a medium pot combine lemon juice, lemon zest, water, sugar and corn starch. Stir well until the corn starch dissolves ( you don’t want any lumps in there) and boil the mixture up. Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cubed butter. Stir until butter dissolves. Add an egg and egg yolks. Stir well. The filling should be rather thick. If it seems too runny, gently heat it up and it will thicken. Don’t cook it for too long, maybe 2 minutes or so, otherwise the eggs will be cooked. Set it aside.
Some recipes suggest making the meringue before the filling. This way you can fill the baked tart shell with a hot filling, put the meringue on top and bake it right away. It is supposed to keep the liquid from the meringue from pooling out since the hot filling will cook it from the bottom and the oven’s heat from top. I haven’t had any problems of this kind with this recipe. I have a small piece of this tart left (it was made 3 days ago) and there is no liquid.
To make the meringue, simply whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until they get foamy and thick. With the mixer going, start slowly adding sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time (don’t rush this step) and let the sugar dissolve before adding more. When the egg whites are glossy and stiff add 2 teaspoons of corn starch. It will keep the moisture out of the meringue and prevent it from getting soft. Beat the mixture for another minute or so.
Pour the lemon filling onto the blind-baked shell, cover with the meringue and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until the meringue is golden brown on top. Cool down and serve.
Tart dough: ( from Williams-Sonoma)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons icy water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cubed
- 3/4 cup lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons ( about 3 juicy lemons), poured through a small sieve
- lemon zest from 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup +1 tablespoon water
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, cubed
- 1 egg
- 3 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites ( 3 left from the filling and 1 left from the dough)
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- Dough: in a bowl of a stand mixer combine flour, sugar and salt. Add cubed butter and, using a paddle attachment, beat it until well combined but some butter pieces are still visible. In a separate small bowl combine egg yolk, water and vanilla extract. Add them to the dough and beat well, but briefly, 3-4 times. Form the dough into a ball. Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and roll it out to about 11 inches circle. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes, until it softens a bit.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease the tart pan with butter. Transfer the dough into the pan and press it gently down and onto the sides. Remove any extra dough. Prick it with a fork. Cover with some aluminum foil or parchment paper and some beans or rice for extra weight.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and the pie weights you are using. Bake another 13-15 minutes until golden on top. Cool down.
- Lemon filling: in a pot, place zest from 2 lemons, lemon juice, water, sugar and corn starch. Stir without heat until corn starch dissolves, then heat it up and bring to boil. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes on medium heat. Remove from heat and add cubed butter. Stir well and add 1 egg and 3 egg yolks. Stir again. If the filling seems too runny return to the stove and heat up gently until it thickens more. Remove from heat.
- Meringue: in a stand mixer bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until quite firm. Start adding the sugar, only 1 tablespoon at a time (don’t rush). When the egg whites are firm and shiny, add the corn starch. Beat for another minute or so.
- Assemble the tart: in the baked tart shell, pour the filling then add the meringue. Make some decorative swirls on top if you like.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Cool and serve.