As a kid, I have always been impressed by the texture of the meringue covering the lemon pies that my mum is fond of.
As an adult, I have tried to understand that mystery and I have rolled my sleeves many times to get to the right result.
There is so many recipes for the lemon and meringue pie…. the lemon curd can be cooked in the oven or in a bain-marie, the meringue can be french or italian, you can also have two types of lemon curds in the same tart…..
As I tried many recipes, I ended up with my own recipe which is a selection of my favorites elements picked in each recipe.
I added poppy seeds and lemon zest to the sweet pastry to make it more tasty and give it some extra crunch!
I have chosen Eric Kayser lemon curd for the filling of the tart because his recipe is tasty and simple in term of ingredients and technique.
And for the meringue, I finally tried the Italian meringue and I have to say…. the consistency is much better. Because the sugar is cooked, the meringue is dense and firm and very important, if you keep your tart in the fridge, it will hold perfectly.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE POPPY SEED AND LEMON PASTRY DOUGH (Makes 1 large tart or 8 individuals)
- 250g of flour
- 5g of salt
- 100g of icing sugar
- 1-2 tbsp of poppy seeds
- 1 lemon zest finely grated
- 125g of butter cold and diced
- 1 egg whisked
- Plain flour to roll out the dough
- Iced water if necessary
INGREDIENTS FOR THE LEMON CURD
- 1 unwaxed lemon zest and juice
- 240g of caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 300g of butter cold and diced
INGREDIENTS FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
- 4 egg whites
- 250 g of caster sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 10 cl of waterof caster sugar
METHOD FOR THE SWEET PASTRY
By hand: Place the flour, icing sugar, salt, poppy seeds, lemon zest and cold diced butter in a bowl and start bringing the ingredients together until they form a light bread crumb consistency. Now, add the egg and combine completely. Add a little water if the dough is to dry. Shape the pastry into a bowl slightly flatten and wrap it into cling film. Let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour. This freezes beautifully.
With a Magimix: Sift the flour, salt, poppy seeds, lemon zest and icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and add the cold diced butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg and add to the pastry mixture and stir well to bring together, adding a little more iced water if necessary. Bring the pastry together into a flat disc and wrap it into cling film. Chill it for 30 minutes before rolling out.
To roll the pastry, dust a clean and wide enough surface with flour and place the dough in the middle of it and start rolling until you get a dough 2-3 mm wide.
Check that it’s big enough to fit into your case. To do that, place the case in the middle of the dough. There must be enough dough all around to cover more than the edges of the case.
Now roll it on your rolling pin and unroll it on top of the pastry case or fold it into 4 and unfold it on top of the pastry case. Gently push the dough at the bottom of the case and press it with the back of your fingers to make it fit perfectly in the pastry case.
Put it back in the fridge or the freezer for at least 30 minutes. It will prevent the dough from shrinking when you blind bake it in the oven!
In a preheated oven (200°) blind bake the pastry case for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the edges and at the bottom as it won’t go back to the oven. Remove the shell from the case and let it cool down on a rack.
METHOD FOR THE LEMON CURD
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar. Once it’s getting white and foamy, add the lemon zest finely grated and the juice.
Put the bowl on top of a bain-marie and cook the lemon curd until it gets thick and creamy. This process may take a while (30-40 minutes) and you HAVE to keep on whisking the curd all along!
If you feel confident enough, you can skip the bain-marie step and cook it in the pan at a lower temperature but be careful as the curd can easily burn!
Once the lemon curd is cooked, take it off the fire and incorporate the diced butter. Mix it until completely incorporated.
Pour the lemon curd in the tart shell and let it cool down.
METHOD FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
Pour the sugar and the water in a medium pan and start to cook gently. The sugar will melt and turn into syrup. If needed, brush the edges of the pan with a pastry or silicon brush to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.
Using a thermometer, bring it to a boil and keep cooking it until it reach 121°.
At that step, if your egg whites are already whisked with the pinch of salt, pour the syrup slowly on the edges of the bowl while it’s still whisking.
Otherwise, plunge the bottom of your pan in very cold water to stop the cooking of the syrup. While the syrup is cooling down, pour your egg whites and the pinch of salt in the bowl of your Kitchen Aid and whisk them until firm then pour slowly the syrup on the edges of the bowl while it’s still whisking.
The egg whites will become thight and silky. Keep on whisking until the meringue cools down.
You can either pour the meringue in a piping bag with the nozzle of your choice and pipe it on top of the lemon curd otherwise you can spoon it straight away and create nice shapes with the back of your spoon.
Let’s have fun with the blow torch now and give the meringue peaks a nice dark brown colour. To do that, use the blow torch as if it was a brush and quickly bring it close to your meringue without touching it.
If you don’t have a blow torch, you can obtain the same result with the grill of your oven but be careful, depending on the oven, it can take only a few seconds!