This little dessert is a very small twist on a classic one. It was born mostly by accident once using the wrong type of sugar. What resulted was a richer, more caramelised citrus custard than usual, but one that was definitely appreciated by everyone. This time I made it for a birthday celebration so spent some time prettying it up a little.
The most important part of a tart in my opinion is the pastry. This is something me and my S.O. definitely disagree on. But for me it doesn’t matter what’s in the middle if the pastry lets it down! One of my favourite types of pastry is shortcrust.
It’s the most simple pastry, but because of that it’s really easy to mess up by overworking it. You need to do as absolutely little as possible work to this dough to maintain the shortness and avoid developing the gluten. It’s the blessing of shortcrust, but the curse if you don’t know!
While I set the dough to chill in the fridge I started working on the filling. Or in this case the topping! I took one of the egg whites left over from the custard to make tiny little meringues. I wanted to give the meringue topping two different textures to liven it up a little.
While they baked cold and slow, I set about making the custard. Here I cooked the brown sugar with the lemon juice, then gradually added in the butter to start on the custard. I used the mixture to temper the eggs and cooked it together until it made a thick, golden custard.
I blind baked the pastry to make sure it cooked through properly, then added the custard mixture to the middle.
Next you’ll add the merignue. You can simply spoon it on top, but I used my favourite 2D piping tip to pipe a bunch of swirls, being mindful of where I would later place the baked meringues.
A short time in the oven will cook the meringue, but I wanted to make it contrast a little more so I took my blowtorch to the highest swirls and gave them a little extra colour.
I placed the baked meringues on top and dotted blueberries and rosemary flowers from the garden on the top.
The result is a smooth but bitey custard, offset by the light and fluffy meringue. Those little dollops of baked meringue bring a bit of an extra crunch to all that topping. But of course my favourite part is that golden crumbly shortcrust that brings it all together.
Here’s how to make yours!
Golden Lemon Meringue Tart
A rich, caramelised lemon custard topped with fluffy and crispy meringue.
• 175g plain flour
• 100g butter, chilled and cubed
• 1 tbsp icing sugar
• 1 egg yolk
Golden Lemon Custard
• 2 tbsp cornflour
• 100g brown sugar
• grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
• 125ml fresh lemon juice
• 1 orange, juiced
• 85g butter, cubed
• 4 egg yolks
• 1 egg white (for baked meringue)
• 50g caster sugar (for baked meringue)
• 4 egg whites
• 200g caster sugar
• 2 tsp cornflour
- For the pastry, place the chilled butter and flour into a food processor; pulse until mixture is just combined and resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Add the egg yolk and icing sugar and pulse until mixture just comes together, taking care not to overwork the dough
- Gently flatten the dough into a disc; place between two sheets of baking paper and roll out to about 3mm thickness.
- Use pastry to line a 23cm tart pan; prick the base with a fork and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Place a sheet of foil or baking paper over the pastry and fill with pie weights (you can use rice if you don’t have pie weights).
- Blind bake the pastry at 200°C (180°C fan-forced/390°F) for 15 minutes; remove the pie weights and lining and continue baking for 6-8 minutes, or until edges of the pastry are starting to brown.
- Baked Meringue
- Preheat oven to 120°C, line a baking tray
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg white to soft peak; turn mixer to low and gradually beat in caster sugar
- Whisk on high for 3 minutes, or until stiff peak stage
- Pipe or dollop small rounds of meringue onto the baking tray; reduce oven temperature to 90°C (or the lowest your oven can go) and bake for approx 1.5 hours (turn off earlier if meringues are browning on the outside. Allow to cool in the oven, then store in an airtight container
- For the custard, preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced/355°F); have your pre-baked tart case ready
- Combine the cornflour, brown sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Add enough water to the juiced orange to make 200ml of liquid and add that into the pan too.
- Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to thicken. Just before mixture starts to boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter a little at a time.
- In a small bowl, place the 4 egg yolks; add a small amount of the custard mixture to the bowl and whisk. Repeat a few times to temper the eggs.
- Add the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and return to a medium heat; stir constantly until mixture starts to thicken. It should coat the back of a spoon when it is ready. Remove from heat.
- Meringue topping and assembly
- Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl until soft peak; reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the caster sugar. Add the cornflour then continue to beat until stiff peak stage.
- Pour the warm lemon custard into the tart case; pipe or spoon the meringue onto the top beginning from the outside and moving into the middle to prevent the meringue from sinking.
- Bake tart for 20 minutes, or until meringue starts to brown and custard is set; allow to cool completely before removing from the tart case
- Decoration: add the baked meringues to the top of the tart. You may also wish to top with fresh berries or other decorations as well.