At 4 o’clock on Sunday morning, I couldn’t go to sleep. I was in the midst of making puff pastry for the first time, and if everything went as planned, I would be done by seven, and only then would I take a nap. In the time between turns, I found myself with nothing to do. I had read all my favourite food blogs, Rachael Ray was on Food TV, and every other station was showing infomercials. So what else could I do but cook? Since my fridge was mostly empty except for two lemons, a few eggs, and butter, I decided to try out Maury Rubin’s Manhattan Style Lemon Meringue Tart, essentially a lemon tart topped with a cylindrical dollop of meringue.
I started by making the pate sablée – the delicate, cookie-like pastry that would be used for the crust. It was actually because of this pastry that I bought Maury Rubin’s Book of Tarts last summer. In Jeffrey Steingarten’s It Must’ve Been Something I Ate, Steingarten searches New York for the perfect tart pastry, and Rubin’s is one of only two that he finds to be acceptable. To emphasize his point, Steingarten warns that:
“If a baker, at home or in commerce, cannot make better pastry than Maury’s, he or she should simply follow Maury’s recipe or throw in the towel and find other work.”
Steingarten goes on to recommend the appointment of a “Special Pastry Prosecutor” and a system of graduated fines and short jail sentences to discourage the production of “totally depressing baked goods.”
So obviously, I had to buy this book, and I would highly recommend it if you enjoy making tarts, or if you suspect that your current tart dough may be a catalyst for systemic depression. The recipes are straightforward and simple, the pictures are award-winning, and everything I’ve tried so far has been wonderful.
While I waited for the tart dough to chill, I made the lemon filling, a mix of lemon zest, lemon juice, eggs, sugar, and butter. I then made the meringue, baked the shells, added the filling, chilled them, added the meringue cylinder, froze them, swiped them with a blowtorch, and ate one for breakfast. It was delicious. The cookie-like crust, combined with the tart and smooth filling and the sweet, light meringue tasted wonderful together. Simplistic elegance is how I’d describe it.
I also finished making my puff pastry dough. It’s now sitting in my fridge, and I’m predicting a ‘please try again’ result when I bake it tomorrow, since I didn’t square and line up the edges when making the folds. Hopefully it will rise, albeit unevenly.
In any case, I hope everyone is looking forward to SHF 5. We're now only 11 days away!
Lemon Meringue Tart, Manhattan Style
(adapted from Book of Tarts by Maury Rubin)
Tart Dough - makes eight 4-inch tart shells
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice, strained
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 12 tbsps unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
In a medium bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar. Rub together between your hands until well combined.
In a stainless steel (or non-reactive) saucepan, combine lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, butter, and lemon-sugar. Whisk until combined, and heat over medium heat to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Remove the saucepan from heat as soon as it boils. Strain the mixture into a medium bowl.
Use a ladle to fill the baked tart shells with the lemon mixture. Chill tarts for 30 minutes or until set.
- 6 ring molds, 2 to 3-inches in diameter, 1 to 1½-inches high
- Canola or vegetable oil for the rings
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
Lightly oil the inside of a 2 or 3-inch ring mold. Place one mold at the centre of each tart.
Using an electric mixer, whip the egg whites for two minutes on low speed. Add cream of tartar, and whip on medium speed. When soft peaks have formed, add the sugar and continue to whip until firm and glossy.
Spoon the meringue evenly into the ring molds. Dip a spoon into the meringue and quickly remove to create a peak on each tart. Place tarts in freezer for at least 20 minutes.
Before serving, carefully remove ring molds, and let tarts sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Makes six 4-inch tarts.