With the arrival of warm weather in Wisconsin, I’ve moved on to lighter, less filling desserts. These lemon tarts are an inspiration from a favorite French restaurant in my city. These lemon meringue tarts can be a time-intensive dessert project, but they are definitely worth the effort. If you are up to the challenge, you can make these tarts in stages, or over a day or two. The end result is a light, sweet and tangy tart. The buttery crust is the base for a creamy lemon curd, all topped off with marshmallow-like sweet, Swiss meringue. Give them a shot- enjoy!
Lemon Swiss Meringue Tart
Recipe adapted from: Lecole de la Maison
Yields: 12- 4 inch tarts or 2- 8 inch tarts
Ingredients for Tart Dough:
- 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 oz powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
- 1 lb all-purpose flour
Ingredients for Lemon Curd:
- 125 grams of fresh lemon juice (approximately 4 lemons)
- 75 grams granulated sugar
- 95 grams unsalted butter
- 75 grams sugar granulated
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 6 egg yolks, room temperature
Ingredients for Swiss Meringue:
- 1 cup egg whites, at room temperature (save from making the lemon curd)
- 10 oz of granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Directions for Tart Shells:
1.) Combine butter, powdered sugar, salt, egg, lemon zest and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.
2.) Next add in the flour and mix until well incorporated.
3.) Divide the dough evenly in half and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours until rolling out.
4.) To bake the shells, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Kneed the dough until it becomes pliable (but not too sticky).
5.) Sprinkle the work surface and rolling pin with a small amount of flour, and work quickly to roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Be sure to pick up the dough after a few rolls to ensure it’s not sticking to the work surface.
6.) Lay out the tart pans about 1 inch apart. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and lay out over the top of the tart pans. Push the dough and the molds inward towards the center of the pile (this helps to force the dough into the pans). Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pans to trim off extra dough from the pan edges.
7.) Lightly press the dough into the pans. Prick the bottom of the tarts with a fork to prevent the dough from bubbling when baking. Bake until the dough on the inside of the crust is lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Cool the tart shells in the pan and then remove when cool.
Directions for Lemon Curd:
1.) While the tart shells are cooling, start on the lemon curd. In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice, 75 grams of sugar, and 95 grams of butter. Bring this mixture to a boil.
2.) Next whisk together the second measure of sugar (75 grams) and the cornstarch.
3.) Add the eggs and egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture and beat until well combined and free of lumps.
4.) Whisk the egg mixture into the hot lemon juice mixture. Cook over low heat until thick. Cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature before filling the tart shells.
Directions for Swiss Meringue:
1.) While the lemon curd is cooling, start on the Swiss meringue. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl of stand mixer (or use electric hand mixer). Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.
2.) Cook the egg whites to 140 degrees, stirring often.
3.) Return the bowl to the stand mixer and add cream of tartar and whip on medium-high speed until mixture is light, shiny and holds a firm peak.
4.) Transfer the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip.
To Assemble the Tarts:
1.) Take the cooled tart shells and fill with lemon curd.
2.) Pipe the Swiss meringue onto the top of the filled tarts in tall peaks or rosettes if making a large tart.
3.) Place tarts under oven broiler for 30 seconds-1 minute or use a kitchen torch to brown the top of the meringue.
Notes and Tips:
- This recipe uses grams as a measurement to help with accurate amounts of ingredients. You can use an inexpensive kitchen scale to help with the measurements. You will also need a candy thermometer for the Swiss meringue.
- Using fresh vanilla bean in the tart shells creates great flavor and will create pretty flecks of vanilla bean.
- Keep the tart dough refrigerated until ready to roll out. The dough is easier to work with when it’s cold. If the dough gets too soft when you are working with it, pop it in the ‘fridge for a few minutes and take it out again.
- Use fresh lemon juice for the lemon curd. It’s more work to juice the lemons, but it’s well worth the fresh flavor.
- You don’t need the professional pastry bag set for this recipe. I found an inexpensive kit for $5 that used disposable bags and plastic tips that could be reused.
- When browning the Swiss meringue, be light handed. You want a brown color, not black. If using an oven broiler, it can go from brown to burned within a few seconds so keep a close eye on it!
- Store finished tarts in airtight container, in cool place for up to one week.