Lemon meringue tart
This recipe uses the Italian method for cooking the egg whites, which produces the fluffiest meringue. Overall, it’s a more failsafe version of making meringue – which can often be tricky. The whites are cooked by pouring hot sugar syrup into the bowl while whisking, and all it needs is a short time in the oven to produce golden-brown peaks and to firm it up enough so it can be sliced with a knife. If you’ve never made it before, I would recommend using a thermometer, just to see what the syrup looks like at the correct temperature.
And the beauty of making tarts is that you can make the pastry and line the shell the day before, which almost halves the preparation time.
Makes one 23cm tart
For the pastry:
- plain flour 140g
- unsalted butter 75g, very cold and cut into small pieces
- icing sugar 40g
- egg yolk 1 (save the white for the meringues)
- cold water 1-2 tbsp
- flour for rolling
For the filling:
- fresh lemon juice 200ml
- caster sugar 160g
- cornflour 25g
- egg yolks 3 (save the whites for the meringue)
- unsalted butter 25g, cut into small pieces
For the meringue:
- caster sugar 200g
- golden syrup 1 tbsp
- egg whites 4, at room temperature
- cream of tartar 1 tsp
- To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add the butter and mix together, using a food processor or your fingertips, until the mixture resembles rough breadcrumbs. Sift in the sugar and mix briefly. Stir in the egg yolk and just enough water to bring the mixture together to form a firm dough. If I’m using a food processor, I often do this final part by hand, to make sure I don’t add too much water and make a sticky dough. The firmer the dough, the shorter the pastry will be. Wrap it in clingfilm and pat it into a disc shape. Let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- (If you’re making this the day before, you can then roll out the pastry and line the tart shell. Keep covered in the fridge until ready to use.)
- Heat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and line the tart shell. Press it into the bottom corners and trim off any excess around the sides. (Save this for later in case you need to patch up any cracks.)
- Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans (they’re not essential, so don’t worry if you don’t have any, but this can help prevent shrinkage). Bake for 20 minutes then remove the paper and beans, if using, and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes or until the base is golden and feels firm and sandy. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
- To make the filling, put lemon juice, sugar and cornflour into a small pan and whisk to combine. Bring to the boil, stirring, while the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, then add the butter, stirring until it melts and the mixture becomes smooth. Pour into the tart shell and allow it to cool and set while you make the meringue.
- To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Put the sugar and golden syrup in a small sau cepan and just cover with water. Heat, undisturbed, until all the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil, without stirring, until the syrup registers 120C on a thermometer (firm- ball stage). This will take a couple of minutes, so in the meantime you can get the egg whites whisking.
- Whisk the egg whites with a mixer on low speed until starting to get foamy, then add the salt and cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium, and whisk just until soft peaks are starting to form. Turn off the mixer at this stage while the syrup reaches the right heat.
- When the syrup is ready, start whisking the whites again on a low speed while pouring hot syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream. When all the syrup is added, increase the speed to high and continue whisking for about 10 minutes, or until the bowl feels cool to the touch. During this time, the whites are cooking in the heat of the syrup and they will become voluminous, thick and smooth looking.
- Spread the meringue all over the top of the tart right up to the sides, and make some little peaks on the surface with a knife for decoration.
- Cook for 15 minutes, or until the top has slightly browned and the meringue feels a little firm. Remove and allow the tart to cool slightly before eating.